The Non-Financial Side of Business

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The Non-Financial Side of Business
A call with an industry colleague last week set in motion, thoughts on how we measure individual or business success.
As a kid growing up in India in the 80’s, studies used to be quite a tricky part of life. Studying history, for instance. We had a ton of dates to remember, and it somehow never made sense. The pointlessness of remembering precise dates of events ranging from a few decades to a few centuries gone by. Instead of, perhaps evaluating people gone by, on the basis of their actions, or the sum of their actions. Perhaps we would have learnt more about values. About actions and consequences. But they would not have it any other way. Events and dates of their occurrence was clearly more important to them.
Then came interesting subjects like physics, and a few deeper questions around it. [Link]
Subsequently, there was the ’Must. Read. Newspapers’ phase. Not just that, I guess people also expected you to remember current events. For someone who is not a keen quiz player, I felt it was pointless beyond just having a fair sense of what was happening. Somewhere I believed storing irrelevant information wouldn’t really matter someday.
Then, thankfully, the internet came to our rescue.
In my adult life, all around, businesses seem obsessed with numbers. Financials. Be it sales and profitability, or costs, or more complicated ones. Cost of acquiring a customer. Shopping cart abandonment. Customer churn rate. Average profit per visitor or Product conversion rate. Among others.
The world became, and continues to be increasingly obsessed with numbers and ratios. And that’s all most businesses focus on. The employee or customer can be at the receiving end of the bare minimum that a tight-margin allowance to appease a ratio will allow. But not more.
The day machines take over a business function, efficiency will jump up dramatically, as will profitability.
But where would that leave us? Put differently, have we always been missing a bigger point?
What will matter when machines take over (finally!), is what customers really want. Because then we won’t be obsessing over the numbers. Hopefully not at least.
And hopefully then, we’ll start to see that it is not a numbers game. That business is about relevance. If it’s useful or good, they will buy. If a process is well designed as per them, they will use it.
Numbers, as I’ve always held, are an incidental, intermittent aftereffect of a non-numerical, ongoing end-user pleasing process.
I’m not saying that top and bottom lines and all those in-between are irrelevant. Sure they help as indicators. But they perhaps help more when we are doing the more important job. Of ensuring the main objective of our business is met. Once you focus on the non-financial aspects that really run your business, you’ll see how the financials catch up. Automatically!

***

Look forward to your views. And if you liked this one, consider following/subscribing to my blog (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Bonded Labour vs Freed Slaves

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bonded Labour vs Freed Slaves

There is a task to be done.

One dependent variable is whether the task is an enjoyable one or not. Then there is the quality of the completed task.

Then there is enthusiasm. The excitement and energy we have and channel towards the task.

And finally, there is, the ability to question the task itself. Or the ability to be able to choose one task over another.

Apologies for the possibly insulting title. But that’s unfortunately how a lot of employees end up becoming. Bonded labour. Either bound by the security of a job, or to the greed of acquiring more. Nothing wrong with either.

However, when it comes to the job, here’s what happens.

Let’s assume that early in one’s career, enthusiasm is often (though not the case with everyone!) high. So any task, irrespective of its higher meaning or goal, gets done reasonably well. However, with time, and a multitude of mundane tasks, the enthusiasm drops. And because the employee feels bound to the company, he or she can’t question or reject a task. Which then boils down to two variables. Either the quality of work improves. The work becomes more challenging and exciting, that is. Everything’s good in that scenario. However, in the cases where it doesn’t, the employee eventually runs out of enthusiasm, and goes into zombie mode. One where they just go through the motions of the responsibility. Either out of personal greed, or fear of the uncertain.

The freed slave could be an employee who does not have, or succumb to, fear or greed. It could also be an ex-employee presently his or her own boss. They often tend to question the task itself. And since they aren’t completely bound to cravings for meaningless assets or illusionary status, they can actually choose the tasks they take. They can therefore regulate and maintain the enthusiasm levels. And thus, be in a better position to deliver above average work.

There’s a reason I said ‘freed’ slaves and not ‘free people”. There are more than enough examples of people who have become great business people with no prior experience. Then of course, there are those who had the privilege of working for great companies, before deciding to better it in their own way. However, with most people, working for at least one company first, helps. It helps to know the difference to be able to make a difference.

***

Look forward to your views. And if you liked this one, consider following/subscribing to my blog (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.