It is said that confession is good for the soul. So, as we move forward during this new century, we should, as businessmen and consultants, take the time to contemplate our role as leaders and decision makers. As the bard once wrote, "the eye sees not itself, but by reflection in some other thing".
For the last decade, there has been a somewhat ingenious transformation of principles, attitudes and ethics taking place around the globe which have ruthlessly impacted the way business is being done and where the end justify the means. Business has been challenging the status quo through a new breed of business leaders who are re-defining the rules and practices of doing business, implementing bold and untested strategies with unsettling speed, opting for business and accounting practices that are often unethical and illegal, introducting new technologies at a breath-taking pace, changing the nature and definition of work and working relationships, forcing political leaders to tow the line, putting more financial power in the hands of bankers and financial institutions, and causing the economic gap to widen between the rich and poor. Globalization is changing business and business is changing the world ...... And we, the people, are caught in the middle! In fact, paul valery, the french philosopher, may very well have been describing the reality of the new mellinium when he said that, "the trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."
Economics addresses the forces of supply and demand and how we allocate the earth’s limited resources to satisfy the needs of our whimsical modern society. In simple terms, economic theory is based on the principle that supply equals demand for a price. A clear understanding of the role of both macroeconomics and microeconomics is important as countries not only seek to preserve their sovereignity and run their own affairs, but must compete for international recognition and markets by encouraging the growth of the free enterprise system.
In today’s business environment, there is intense competition in the marketplace, an avaricious and egotistical attitude by management, turmoil in the workplace, a crisis in obtaining capital for start-up and emerging companies, less available money for research and development, the reality of well organized terrorism, a digital revolution which threatens those that do not embrace the essential advances in the dot.com world while ignoring those that are more hype than substance, and a greater interdependence nationally and globally to ensure survival in a rapidly changing and volatile world economy.
This change in economic and business activity has had no precedent in human memory. We are trapped in the midst of a sweeping and far-reaching global revolution which will constantly transform relationships between countries, governments, business and people. In particular, the centrepiece of this revolution involves the evolution of the corporation during the 21st century and how it will do business in a precarious and disconcerting world milieu of challenges, threats to world security, criminal transgression in the corporate world, corrupt, self-serving politicians, inequitable wealth distribution, inexorable poverty, deprived education standards, dreadful health conditions and decadent living standards.
So too are the ethical implications of business decisions by corporations and their obligations to society, which is often referred to as their corporate and social responsibility. Such issues as the environment, corporate restructuring, downsizing, corporate citizenship, increasing profits at the expense of lay-offs, bribery, rampant greed, dubious accounting practices, employee privacy relating to drug testing, aids and personal security, health and eduction, the diversity challenge in dealing with race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, sexual harrassment and child labor, insider trading, predatory pricing and plant closings or relocations, are all major topics in defining business ethics.
In order to exploit the new global market opportunities brought on by rapidly changing technologies as well as, political, social, economic and world security issues, business, governments and trade unions must constantly rethink and reorganize economic and political activity. New approaches to employer/employee relationships must continue to be developed. Business must focus on their core competencies and strategic alliances to create new products, services and opportunities in order to meet the needs of the marketplace.
The evolution of the corporation is already taking place, albeit in various forms of legal and corporate structures yet to be tested. In the long term. The futurists refer to one aspect of it as the dawn of the virtual concept of doing business. In order to try to understand the concept of the virtual organization, we must extend this idea to encompass what is taking place all around us today, as there is no single definition. However, most proponents of the virtual concept do agree that such an organization is a mosaic of companies and people independently linked together by information technology who have come together to pursue one or more market opportunities.
In essence, the virtual approach proclaimed the dawn of the "dotcom" era, and like most business concepts, it arrived with much fanfare, promised and pioneered many new and exciting prospects for improving mankind, touted the advent of the paperless society, flourished for a while, and then crashed, as many became "dotgones", some even ending up as "dotcons" or "dotbombs".
Business and government analysts and experts, and those in academic circles, will like us to believe that it will take them a long time before they could determine the intrinsic reasons for this sudden collapse and the loss of trillions of dollars worldwide, as (they claim) that the task of sifting-out the underlying reasons for these massive failures and the determination of the genuine dot com players have yet to be fully understood by its gurus and proponents in academia, business and financial circles.
In reality, this is a pitiable attempt to conjure up their own self-serving rationale for poor business ideas, bad strategic planning, pathetic business plans, enormous greed and dishonesty by business promoters and executives, mediocre and deceitful stock market and investment gurus that "threw caution to the wind" for their own self-aggrandizing profit motives and bank accounts, questionable and irregular accounting practices by professionals with a fiduciary responsibility to their clients, politicians that towed the line to justify the legitimacy of their injudicious economic, fiscal and social policies, and investors and "joe public" who believed in the "system" and was duped out of their life savings by those who chose to "make hay while the sun shined". It is the classic example of mans’ inhumanity to man – all in the name of progress and profit.
But there still remain positive advances made as a result of the e-era. The evolution of the borderless world of e-commerce will continue unabated, the fortunes made by many dedicated entrepreneurs will have to find a home in new business opportunities, new strategic alliances by corporations will govern the emergence from an era we would like to forget, the realization that national economies will be increasingly governed by the globalization of trade and commerce and the removal of trade barriers, and the return of the genuine angel investor and venture capitalist who will look closer for the devil in the details, undertake meaningful risk analysis, and somewhere along the line, embrace traditional old world, brick and mortar businesses which will continue to look very lucrative as an investment vehicle to those that once spurned them.
The acceptance of network computing by e-specific businesses as well as traditional ones has allowed companies to receive, deliver and share with anyone, anywhere and at anytime, up-to-the-minute information, resulting in improved customer service and satisfaction, open new markets and expand existing ones, lower operating costs and reduce delivery shedules as well as minimize product development costs. Network computing via the internet has made it possible for many companies to eliminate boundaries between people and countries as well as barriers between suppliers, customers, departments and branch plants. The rapid growth and changes in online technology and digital marketing vehicles such as, web sites, databases, online networks, email, fax-on-demand, fax broadcasting, cd rom and dvd platforms, etc. Will continue to enhance the way we operate and communicate.
In effect, it is helping to address the challenge posed by pursuing the virtual approach, that is, the creation of the virtual enterprise in which a company can conduct business beyond the confines of a brick and mortar structure or a street address. In essence, network computing is part of the future as it will redefine synergism amongst the players to achieve mastery of information systems, strategic relationships, new technologies, research and development, product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, service, distribution, financing, work sharing, etc. To achieve their common goals.
Of equal importance is the "staying-power" of many dotcom companies to prosper and survive in the longer term in the domestic and global market place. In the coming years, many business organizations will be forced to make life and death decisions as corporate directors and entrepreneurs take time out to obtain some perspective on the direction of the evolving internet sector and the cyclical chaos and destruction that will continue during this century.
However, the jury is still out on the real, but lasting effect on human relationships and the resultant "stress factor" as governments, business and society bury their "heads in the sand" and continue to ignore this new "man-made" syndrome. As businessmen and consultants, we still have not found a way to utilize our most important income and idea generating asset – our people.
In spite of these seemingly negative factors, entrepreneurs continue to promote and develop new ventures or expand and diversify existing ones. William shakespeare once wrote that "ambition is made of sterner stuff". He must have been referring to the entrepreneur - the daring risk-taker and eternal optimist!
After all, the entrepreneur is a unique individual - often vilified by customers, squeezed by bankers, over-regulated by government, investigated by the taxman, besmirched by competition, ignored by suppliers, chased by creditors, cheated by debtors and dumped-on by the spouse.
Copyright July, 2005
A. V. (Tony) Narinesingh is a member of the Advisory Board of the American Consultants League. He is fully accredited and a member in good standing with the American Consultants League The Consultants Institute and The Institute of Management Consultants (USA),. He holds the CPC, CC, APC and CMC designations from these professional bodies. Mr. Narinesingh was also the Director of Liason for NBCC and Regional Director of the Affiliated Consultants Group/NBCC in Canada prior to the NBCC’s merger with the IMC.. In 1982, he founded The Cynton Company, an international professional corporate resource and multi-disciplinary consulting firm. He is the author of The Cynton Business Planning and Development Program. He is listed in the "Who’s Who" in Ontario, Canada, and the "International Who’s Who of Professionals".
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