Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

We know society is changing.

We just look at social media, start phone uses (quantity and quality) and politics. The evidence is clear that social values and society are shifting.

And what society expects of business is changing too.

For those of us that are business owners and leaders we need to pay attention to these changing expectations. If we don’t our business might lose a competitive edge – or worse yet – we might lose our entire businesses.

So let’s jump into thinking about how society is changing and what we need to think about in running our businesses so that we can stay relevant in this decade and beyond.

Reality 1: Just Creating Jobs Is Not Enough

It used to be that creating jobs was viewed as an amazing contribution to society. Employers were celebrated for that.

Yet more and more articles – like this one from the New York times – question what the impacts beyond those jobs.

Things like pay level, number of people employed and how well your employees are doing in the community are in question.

Gordon Gekko famously told us that “greed is good.” Now the vogue thing is for people to question impact, motives and community of business actions.

As we are running our businesses we need to think about our total offerings – more than just jobs – and how we are viewed in the community. 

Reality 2: Gifts Are Not Enough

Amazon and other large employers often give gifts to the community. In the New York Times article and others makes it clear that people are looking beyond just what gifts are given.

Once celebrated for businesses doing good people now look at the quantity of gifts given, the size and the community impact. A gift is viewed for what business people have long known it to be – and investment in the community.

The difference is that as we move into the future more and more the gift horse is being looked in the mouth to determine the quality of the gift.

The net effect is that if the community is questioning your motivations giving a few things to the community is not going to make it go away. 

We as business owners need to think about our gifts and our gift strategy to make sure it coordinates with our overall community efforts.

Reality 3: Community Effects Are Considered

Going beyond the jobs created and the gifts large employers give, society is starting to look at how communities are affected. How are the schools doing? Is the community doing well? How are income levels compared to other communities?

Quite simply it looks like in many cases businesses – at least larger business at this time – need to go beyond “mind their business.” Society, or at least a portion of the society, wants businesses to mind the community too.

This, of course, creates a very tricky situation for many businesses. You don’t want to get too controlling or two deep into your employees lives and local politics because you’ll be question on your motives and the power of your money. At the same time the community is expect you to have a positive impact.

This tricky balance is currently being shifted to businesses by some as society is sending mixed messages.

We as business owners of smaller enterprises might need to include a broader set of issues in our planning. We may have to plan not only for our business but also for our role in the community.

Reality 4: You Have To Watch The Backlash

In the “greed being good” days things were clear: do what’s right for your stockholders. If that meant people didn’t like what you were doing they would change the laws, get other jobs or generally not do business with you.

But the way the game is being played is changing. While a local community might say no to an employer or project on a case-by-case basis it seems now that many movements have turned national in scope.

For larger employers this means that what you do today might come back as a larger movement against you. It seems that folks aren’t just questioning local Amazon warehouses but how the entire company operates.

For those of us with smaller companies we need to think about how our individual actions might be viewed when put on a microscope and aired to the world. It is certainly possible – and probable – that at some point reporters and local activists will be looking at the actions of smaller enterprises too.

Reality 5: It’s Hard To Say Where We Are Headed

It’s clear the world is changing. And society’s view of business is something we need to watch.

We certainly seem to be headed into an era of changing regulations. More and more social desires are turned into business regulations. In one of my prior articles on deglobalization we explored how forces are moving against the long-term trend of globalization.

The important thing for us to know in our businesses to today is that the world is, indeed, changing. The currents are getting stronger.

We need to monitor these currents to make sure we know where we are going and to make sure we don’t get caught up in them in unexpected ways.

What To Do Now

In this area, like many others in the future economy, knowledge is power.

Political currents can move rapidly and unexpectedly.

Being transparent can be helpful. If you have intentions and motives that are aligned with the community, let them know. Express your true desire to help and be a part of something bigger.

Beyond that watch what is happening around you and adjust. Political and community perception will likely become more and more important in the future of business.

We’ll be covering this topic, and other topics on the future of business, on the Future Done Right(™) Show over on YouTube.

By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd and long-time business attorney that focuses on changes of ownership in businesses. He works with business owners that know their business is about more than themselves to get ready for their future through keynotes, training and personalized solutions. In furtherance of this he hosts The Future Done Right(TM) Show where he collects, digests and gives lessons and insights on The Future of Business. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.

You’ll quickly notice his unusual suits which he uses open the conversation of how businesses should Do Business Differently™. 

The Our Shawn is based in DeLand, Florida (between Orlando, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida) and Dallas, Texas where he keeps offices. You can also find Shawn on webinars or traveling nationally or internationally for speaking engagements.

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