Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It's Not Personal, It's Business

That's one of my favorite lines from You've Got Mail. In a way, I believe it to be true. After all, business in a free-market economy (certain presidential candidates may want to look up the definition for that) is nothing more than a chess game. You plan, maneuver, go on the attack, and try to take as much of the market share away from your opponent as possible. Life is temporary anyway, as is any business. Nobody is physically or emotionally hurt. Most of the time.

My problem is that there are those who would use this mantra as an excuse to sink an opponent by any means necessary, much of it slightly left of honest. And when you peer into a business and find that it's not a boardroom of cigar puffing millionaires, but a group of men and women with families struggling to get by in a very unforgiving world, suddenly it feels very personal.

This creates a quandary for the Christian. Competition must exist for a free market economy to work. But you must be willing to sink an opponent and, in the process, destroy the lives of everyone working there (admittedly "destroy" is an exaggeration, these conditions are also temporary).

So, as someone who loves the Lord and wants to do His will, how do I operate as a businessman in this kind of ruthless environment?

I think the basic principles of Christianity apply here. First, I must forgive those who've dealt unfairly with me. No, The Donald wouldn't approve. He'd say I should sink 'em fast and let them be a warning to anyone else who'd trifle with my business. But the Lord trumps Trump. I'll go with forgiveness and move on.

Second, the golden rule needs to be put into play. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That goes for customers, employees, and competitors. The golden rule may result in bronze profits in the short run, but faith will never let me down in the long run.

Third, it's not personal, it's business. Wait! Isn't that where we started? Yes, it is, but it needs to point to me, not to my opponent. If I fail, if the business fails, life will go on. I'm still saved by grace, this is still temporary, and, honestly, I and everyone in the company will move on to bigger and better things.

Because success and failure are not just measured by wealth. If a man makes millions at his business, but his marriage is in shambles, he's a failure. If a woman has all she ever wanted, but has lost the love of her husband or the respect of her children, she's a failure. Would I go so far as to say The Donald is a failure because his first wife divorced him? Let's just say I wouldn't trade what I have for what he has. I have great respect for his business savvy, but I'll take a rain check on that marriage advice.

I could go on with this, and maybe I will in a book someday (I know, some day is today!), but I have to convince myself of these principles first. I do that by writing them down. To see it on the screen makes it more than a hidden belief. It's here for my friends and family to see. So when I get obsessed with my business, one of them can give me a gentle kick in the pants and remind me what's important.

Life is personal, and it's my business.

No comments: