“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.”It’s worth noting that the phrase was coined by mob accountant Otto Berman.
By age 15, Berman had been charged with rape. He subsequently met his death at the hands of Lucky Luciano in a hail of bullets.
I bet those bullets felt pretty personal.
I’m with John Schonegevel when he counts the phrase as among the worst 5 a leader can use, not to mention cowardly.
He believes when someone says “It’s not personal,” it’s often just an excuse for bad behaviour. Truth is, they’ve probably made a choice they’re ashamed of.
All business is personal:
All business is about people.
As a culture, we have spent decades trying to automate, digitize and sanitize. But in the end, whatever processes or decisions are made, people buy from people. And people align with your values more than anything else.
That means what you do and how you behave as a corporate culture is more important than what you tell people to believe about your organization.
Talk is cheap:
You can tell the world you value honesty and integrity but if your actions are underhanded or sneaky, nobody will be buying what your PR is trying to sell.
You can talk about how wonderful your product is and how much you value your customers but if the experience doesn’t live up to expectations, the best your PR and marketing can do is keep you in the game. It won’t help you move product.
PR can’t replace a faulty core:
The same is true if customer service isn’t where it needs to be or if any other core of your business is out of whack. Just ask McDonald’s.
No one said it would be easy:
A strong business culture means having the basics in place. And it means doing the right thing, especially when it’s hard.This worked:
Michael McCain of McCain Foods came face to face with the fact that his product had caused death and illness across Canada in 2008. He immediately decided to ignore the lawyers and accountants who were counselling him to admit nothing. He listened to his PR team and his conscience instead.
He hung his hat on the company’s values, did the right thing, and let the chips fall where they may.
This not so much:
Conversely, in the wake of the Lac Megantic tragedy, Edward Burkhardt, the CEO of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway company listened to the lawyers and accountants.
If Burkhardt or the company had values, they weren’t visible. Anywhere.
A Tale of Two CEO’s:
McCain was chosen Business Newsmaker of the Year for his excellent handling of the Listeria disaster. He returned his company to profitability a year after the crisis.
Burkhardt was vilified and the company went under.
Is there a future in law? Absolutely. At least for the ones who reclaim their humanity and recognize that all business is personal.
But that goes for us all.
As an aside, I was supposed to be on a panel with Linda Smith who stick handled the Listeria McCain crisis. Teaching Assistants at York University, however, are on Strike for a living wage and I’ve made the decision to not cross the picket line.
I’m sorry to withdraw because the event is going to be wonderful. But crossing the picket line on this issue goes against my values. And your values are your values not just when it’s an easy or a pleasant choice.
On a more upbeat note, I’m working with Tim Hurson on a project and very excited about it. His book is wonderful and he’s a gem.