A business can be effective, aggressive and competitive and still be principled. How do you, as an individual, as a business, ensure that in trying to be competitive and achieve success in your chosen profession, you do not lose your principles? Some years back, the World was shocked by the news that News of the World (NOTW), an English newspaper with the largest circulation, was closing down, following a series of revelations that the paper illegally hacked into phones.
The NOTW hacked into the phones of a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, and a parent of one of the Soham murder victims, as well as relatives of the military killed in Afghanistan. As a business entity, the NOTW was doing very well but almost overnight it had to shut down after over a 150 years of operation due this scandal. It is, therefore, very necessary that businesses stay competitive and successful without compromising their principles.
In the last editorial of the NOTW, they wrote “we placed high standards and we demanded high standards but fell shamefully short of those standards. Quite simply, we lost our way.” What then should individuals and businesses do to ensure they don’t get lost in their ways while being effective. It is for this reason that the Springboard, Your Virtual University, a radio program on Joy FM, did a playback of a ‘Festival of Ideas’ presentation of Dr Mensah Otabil, the General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church, on the topic ‘combining speed with principles.’
Citing the story of the News of the World newspaper, Dr Otabil said the newspaper industry and the media industry that NOTW functioned in, operated on speed. “In the media industry, you have to get the scoop and work hard to be the first to come up with information and especially for the tabloid newspapers that focus on sensation, even when the news is not fully investigated, sometimes there is the temptation to put it out,” he stated.
He said that was the kind of industry that NOTW was operating in and they developed a whole paradigm for news reporting which reached beyond England, as a lot of newspapers saw what they were doing as the standard of reportage that you had to hit strong, kick hard and get there first.
“At the end they became successful, made money but they collapsed. The question we should ask ourselves, therefore, is does the end justify the means? In this case they used private investigators to tap into people’s phones, intercept people’s information and did a lot of things just to make sure the news was in their hands. You can tell that what happened is not just something that just happened, but was a habit that had been developed over the years and it was very profitable as it made them a lot of money but it also destroyed them,” he pointed out.
Therefore very important for businesses to ensure that, in trying to make it in what they do, the right thing was done, he noted.
Touching on how businesses could measure their successes as a business, the preacher pointed out that there were two ways of measuring that.
“The first is performance; the performance is basically what we accomplish and every individual hopes to achieve something. I am a preacher and I work hard to get my message across, and people are going to measure me by how many people come to my church,” he said.
He added, “But there is another way of also measuring and that is by principles; principles basically has to do with why and how we accomplished our dreams so performance is not the only measuring line as a matter of fact”.
Best is better than first
Dr Otabil also said that if businesses in Africa were going to really endure and survive, it would be critical that they start building principles centred value based organisations.
He said it was so important for businesses to do the right from the beginning and that “as they build their huge enterprises, the underlining principles are constantly kept in place.”
He stated, “Many times we think that being first is the most important thing as people pride themselves in doing something first, but best is better than first”.
“If you study the development of industries all over the world the first is not always the best. The first company to come up with computers is out of business now. The first software’s we used on our computers are no longer competing. Being the first and getting out there early than everybody is not an indication that you are the best and even in the newspaper industry being the first to come out with the news doesn’t mean that you have the best news. If somebody really takes time to give more in depth presentation, I believe they will be able to preserve their integrity far better than somebody who just wants to be the first,” he added.
What great companies do
Dr Otabil also pointed out that in the pursuit of greatness, there were four important things that great companies work at which are:
1. Getting the right people; people are every organisation’s greatest asset so get the right people and getting the right people is not just a matter of talent but also a matter of values as there is nothing more dangerous than an intelligent crook.
2. Great companies establish clear goals and clear goals have to do with knowing what you want to achieve and focusing on them.
3. Great companies ensure that what they are producing are beneficial to people. It shouldn’t just be about putting out things because you want to make money or you want to be at the top.
4. Great companies are great because they have enduring values and these are what keep them going.— GB