Balancing Business Success with Good Business

by Ken Mueller on September 11, 2012 · 10 comments

Cool Dollar Sign Hoodie at Café des 2 Moulins ...

When you’re in business, your goal is to make money. When you are hired to work for a business, you are hired in order to add something to the business so that the business can maximize profits. Plain and simple. If you don’t add to the bottom line, you’ll find yourself out of work rather quickly.

In the digital age, this presents a bit of a problem. Because not only are there the internal expectations to maximize profit, there are external expectations as well. Your customers, potential customers, and the general public at large have interests and desires related to the way in which you conduct business. One aspect of this that is that businesses are expected to conduct themselves in ways that are both green and fair trade. We are expected to minimize our impact on the environment, while engaging in business practices that don’t exploit children to take advantage of those who might have no choice but to accept long hours of work for very little pay.

But the expectations go beyond our carbon footprint or the way we treat workers. We are also expected to treat our customers well, in ways that perhaps we hadn’t thought. For instance, one way that businesses work to maximize profits is to gather as much data as possible about customers and prospects. This helps them to better understand what products to make, how to make them, and how to market them. The problem is that there is often a balance we need to strike between this idea, and the concept of maximizing profits.

Geoff Livingston addressed some of this in his post yesterday about facial recognition ads and the issue of privacy. On the one hand, the businesses using these types of technology are merely trying to maximize the data they collect so they can market better to us and provide a more personalized experience. On the other hand, there are serious privacy issues at stake. We allow giants like Google and Facebook into our lives in return for all sorts of information, and most of us have no clue as to how much they really know about us.

But at what point does the need for profit end? At what point do things like doing good and protecting the privacy of customers take precedence? At what point do we sacrifice profit for being “green” or paying a fair living wage to workers?

There are no easy answers, but I think that at some point, the market will dictate this as consumers continue to vote with their wallets. I try hard to give preference to products that I know aren’t built on the backs and sweat of child laborers. I like to see companies making an effort to be responsible, and putting people ahead of money. And as more people do that, businesses will understand that we mean…well…business.

I love a good bargain. I try to buy things as inexpensively as I can, but I also want to make sure that the companies I support are ethical in the way they do business. I try to keep this in mind as I conduct my own business. I want to do the best possible work, in the best possible way, while putting others first. For me it’s not an issue of employees, or how I produce a product. It’s about how I treat and respect my customers. Are there short cuts? Are there things I could be doing to gather more data? Of course. But I need to choose wisely when I make those decisions.

How important is it for you to put others first (your employees, contractors, customers) even if it’s at the expense of maximizing profit?




@mjgottlieb Thanks for the RT MJ! How are things? :)


It can be complicated, as well. 

Do you want to tell residents in a gang-ridden neighborhood that they can't own a gun?

Do think that a Chevy Volt is superior to my traditional car, when the Volt is powered by coal powered electric plants?

Is it wrong to buy something from China, with its human rights abuses and currency manipulation? Or are you giving poor Chinese a chance at a better life? 

This world doesn't come in black and white. 


As Mark said, I agree, you cannot sacrifice the integrity of your customers for a quick buck. It's usually a bad road for a brand.

This post also reminds of the old ATF discussions from my "agencies owned by others than me" days.  We would debate alcohol, tobacco and firearms, each proceedingly regarded as worse in the eyes of the agency heads.  Of course, I ended up doing defense work and repping a couple of spirits over the years. The worst was when I had to council Philip Morris on social media as a result of a business partnership I made.  It totally sucked.  Today, I don't work with any of those types of companies, but would again if I had to feed the family. It's a tough thing to decide.

Thanks for the link and including me!


Howdy Ken!

 Taking profits over your service, responsibility and interity to employees and/or customers is ALWAYS bad business.

 This line of thinking will always come back to bite you in the butt. And those who practice business in this manner deserve it.


@DanielGHebert doing okay thanks my man :-)

KenMueller moderator

@Mark_Harai You know that, and I know that, but apparently a lot of businesses don't. It is truly amazing how greedy we can become. 

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