As a new business owner and solopreneur, I am embarking on a fantastic adventure. I want to do everything I can in order to solve my customers' problems, I want to delight them and make it right if they are unhappy.
I have been learning value creation, marketing, sales and systems from business gurus like Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuck, Zig Ziglar, Ramit Sethi, Iron Fist, Josh Kauffman and Marie Forleo.
I’ve got a mission, a platform, a product and…wait a second, did I just say Iron Fist from the Netflix Marvel Superhero series?
Yes, I did.
Iron Fist (whose special power is that he has developed a killer right hook through his warrior monk training), is not a figure that immediately comes to mind when thinking of famous business gurus. He does, however, espouse a philosophy that I subscribe to wholeheartedly that is illustrated by this scene from the TV show.
A bunch of executives are sat around a table discussing the pricing strategy of a new anti-parasitic drug which could save 50,000 lives per year.
Iron Fist: So you're saying we can save lives at $5 a pill but you want to raise the price to $50? We should sell at cost price.
Businessman: I know how this looks, but this is how business is done. This is normal business.
Iron Fist: Then normal is not the best path to take. No one should make a profit off the misery of others, it's wrong. We can make our profits elsewhere."
Knowledge bomb or what?!
In my business, I’m making the conscious choice to choose people over profits.
I don’t want to spam your inbox.
I don’t want to give you the hard sell.
I don't want to make promises that I can’t keep.
Instead, I want to help you get something that you want, and earn my living from doing this. I want to earn my profit with pride and integrity.
I’ve learned that not all businesses share the Iron Fist philosophy, however.
Take three organisational giants, Uber, the NHS and Pedigree Chum, each of whom have made business decisions that result in a win-lose strategy for their employers or customers in ways that vary from the insidious to the downright indefensible.
Uber has come under some bad press recently for attempting to manipulate their drivers. For example, this article by the New York Times highlights how Uber has employed a team of behavioural scientists to experiment with techniques and tactics to "encourage" drivers to prolong their shifts and incentivise them to drive more. These include cueing up the next ride before the current one is over, giving feedback to show how close a driver is to reaching an arbitrary goal and earning badges for achieving certain milestones.
"No big deal", you might think. "These drivers choose to work for Uber and probably want the extra money", and that may well be the case for some drivers in some situations. But what if it was not in the driver's best interest to keep working, perhaps due to the time of day or type of location. The driver then finds that they are nudged to do something that they wouldn’t ordinarily have chosen.
An example to illustrate this and one that you probably have more experience with is when you binge-watch a series on Netflix. It's probably not in your best interest to keep watching past 11 pm if you are tired and have to get up early tomorrow. Yet you keep watching because you're hooked on the story and Netflix autoplays the next episode. Before you know it, it is 2 am and you've been watching the Walking Dead for five hours straight, which is rather apt because it perfectly describes how you will be feeling in the morning. Both Netflix watchers and Uber drivers can stop at any time, but somehow you're both nudged to stay.
2. The NHS
The NHS is an amazing and free healthcare system. Most employees work for the NHS because they want to help people get better. Alongside firefighters and policemen, these people literally save lives. Yet staff find themselves trapped having trained in the noblest of professions.
The Government capped pay rises at 1% in 2010, but when you take inflation into account this is equivalent to a pay cut! This is how some of the most valuable members of our society are treated. Ironically in an organisation whose entire objective is to make people well, staff are going off sick due to stress, anxiety and depression and they are unable to feed their families.
3. Pedigree Chum
Before I was a dog owner, I used to watch the Pedigree Chum adverts on TV and see happy, healthy dogs having a fantastic time running around with their tongues lolling out. I thought that this will be the brand that I feed my pet pooch on. That is until I started researching it and realised that it is all marketing lies.
The ingredients listed on a can of Pedigree chicken dog food show that it contains 4% chicken. This is chicken dog food remember, so what else makes up the 96%? Reading further down the list there are cereals, animal derivatives (as in an unknown part of an unknown animal) and oil. None of these sound particularly tasty to dogs, however, the makers of Pedigree do something to those ingredients that make it the equivalent of doggy crack cocaine.
This is no exaggeration. I once dog-sat a friend's dog who eats Pedigree and my little pup managed to steal some of his food. My puppy went ballistic. He was aggressive, extremely hyper and weirdly once I took the food away, he just stared at the spot where the food was…like a psycho. The next time I dog-sat this same dog, my now one year old literally ate the poop of this dog just to get a taste of the Pedigree goodness. Yuck! That blue badge on all of their products means nothing.
It seems sad that all businesses can’t/don’t/won’t operate under win-win conditions where all parties benefit. Perhaps like Iron Fist, I am living in a fantasy world?
One thing is clear, however. All organisations have a responsibility to make decisions, some of which could have an enormous and unquantifiable impact on people's lives, their health and wellbeing and even their pets.
If you are an entrepreneur please consider your intentions, do they pass the superhero test? Or do you intentionally/unintentionally profit off of pain and suffering?
Thank you for reading! If you have enjoyed this post please share it with a friend and let me know in the comments below, how do you feel as a customer (or employee) when you hear this? Have you ever boycotted an organisation because of their questionable business practices?
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