It’s About People, Stupid

Business is about people, dummy. 

Write it down. Make a poster in your office. Tape it to your mirror in the morning. Or have shirts made.

When you mess up this unchanging principle, you’re ultimately doomed. When people forget it or neglect it, the result is lying, cheating, unfulfilled promises, scandal, and failure. Misalignment of the core “humanness” of business is often at the core of these things.

There should be a mandatory class in business schools, or a requirement for getting a business incorporated that is called “Business is About People, Stupid.” If you don’t pass, you repeat it.

If you are in business JUST for the money, God help you. You’re going to be one lonely, cranky jerk when you’re old and grey. And your fancy swimming pool is going to have moss in it, and no one will want to come swim with you!

Who wants to be Mr. Burns?!

Now, I’m not saying you should do it just for the love. That’s called a hobby.

No. You should be in business because you get to do what you love every day, help people AND be rewarded well for your hard work (with money and lots of it if you do right by the people in it and served by it).

Whenever I get burned out or stressed out from the daily grind of entrepreneurship, and I get all angry and upset and throw things (yes, this entrepreneur like almost every other one can act like a child sometimes), I’m often humbled by the fact that people are the “highs” and “lows” in business.

But the highs are all worth the journey.

I live for those highs in business. And each and every high in business has people in it. It’s the necessary requirement for success.

In fact, if it weren’t for people … I’d have quit a long time ago.

Copyright © 2011 Hymer Photography - Courtesy of Greatest Oklahoma City Chamber
Yes, sometimes I want to quit because of people too. But then I’ll be humbled as I reflect on the times I’ve had with our team, the really special moments of seeing one of them “get it” and learn and grow and be and do something unique and special for us, or the photo above as us geeks in jeans get a cool award. Oftentimes, it’s just a simple email from a customer saying how we helped change their life. Yeah, then I know I’m a dummy. I forget how blessed I am to be around some special people, serving special people!

But let me say it like this …

Your business is about your team, your customer community and you. In that order.

(And by extension the families supported by it and who support you with their livelihoods.)

When you stray from ordering business priorities that focus on those, then I think — I know, actually — you’re on your way to misery and failure for everyone involved.

If you don’t care for those people … your team, your customers AND yourself … the business will suffer and possibly die. And that might be a good thing for humanity overall.

  • If you don’t care for your team – they will find a healthier pasture elsewhere. Abuse your team and they will, at some point, leave. Or sabotage your business consciously or unconsciously. And I vote for the first, they should find a better shepherd and pasture.
  • If you don’t care for your customers – they will vote you out of business. I hope they do. This also means not continuing to innovate, support and serve them better.
  • If you don’t care for yourself – you’ll start abusing the first two. This is something I’m learning. I need to care for myself. Just like your customers and team, you need to be cared for as well. You need time off. You need rest. Often, you need help. Or else you’re ultimately no good for your team or your cusotmers. (Again, something I’m trying to learn.)

The goal of business should be to serve people. Again, it’s about your team, your customers and yourself.

I often tell people that when I am old and grey, I want to reflect on the amazing, innovative, passionate work we have accomplished together for our customer community. I want to tell war stories of how our little ragtag group of committed individuals came together as one unit and accomplished something bigger than ourselves. I want to tell stories of impact and purpose. I want to laugh and cry laughing at the funny stuff that is invariably sprinkled throughout it.

(And yes, we’re already telling some of them now as we add new people to our team and get older as a company.)

Utlimately, I believe this is all about your legacy. And legacy is all about people.

Legacy is never about museums or statues or even organizational structures. It’s definitely not about money. And honestly, at the core, it’s not about actual innovation either.

It’s about the engine that makes them all happen: people.

It’s about the people that do all of that innovation and work. It’s about the people who benefit from all of that innovation and work. And it’s about using your time, talent and treasure for the benefit of them all as the entrepreneur who helped get it all started (and continue to lead), recruited the group together, and pointed them and their skills to a group of people who need their help.

People create the stories. People tell the stories. People are what change the world. People are what shape the world. People innovate. People serve. People benefiting from other people. Together.

Steve Jobs was widely labeled as a visionary. I believe he was. But he too, like everyone else, needed people. He might have dreamed of the innovative products that would become the iPhone or [insert Apple product here], but he didn’t build them. Someone else created the specs, made the drawings and prototypes, assembled the pieces, shipped it … and ultimately delivered it to the customer. He didn’t do it all alone. He couldn’t have. It took people and lots of them to implement all that Apple did under his leadership.

The moments. The experiences. With and for people. That’s what makes a remarkable business. And one I want to be a part of.


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