A Business Can Not Serve Two Masters

A Business Can Not Serve Two Masters

There is an old proverb that tells us that a man can not serve two masters. The wisdom in this advice is as true for a business as it is for a person. Businesses, especially those larger than one or two people, often take on a personality and a life of their own, though the master they serve depends largely on the person or people responsible for directing its actions.

Many businesses mistakenly believe that the master they must serve is profit. While it is thoroughly true that no business can survive indefinitely without making a profit, if this is the dominant aim of the business it will also not last long. The reason for this is that no business can succeed for long if its mission statement says it exists only to make as much money as possible. However, many businesses run their operations this way, showing that the owner or board of directors believes this to be the mission instead of in any case stated mission the business has.

A recent example of the problems this kind of thinking causes can be seen in the financial industry. Many of the mortgage lenders operated as though their dominant aim was to make as much money as they possibly could, which led them to create lending instruments that would bring in greater amounts of profit, already if they did not serve the customer’s interests.

These customers, many of whom may also have allowed greed to cloud their vision, put their trust in these companies who were willing to loan them hundreds of thousands of dollars. This misuse of the customer’s trust is something that will damage the relationship these companies have with their customers, in some situations to the point where they will never fully retrieve.

however, any business who understands its mission to be serving the needs of its customers will find that it has chosen the correct master to follow, and so long as it is managed properly the profits will follow. Any well managed business can define who its customers are and what products or sets it provides to them. In the case of the mortgage companies, they provide a service whereby they loan money to people so that they can provide to buy a home, often the largest buy a person makes in his life. An attorney provides his customers with legal sets, and the restaurant provides a dining experience.

The bottom line for businesses is that their dominant focus can not be on the bottom line if they want to succeed over the long term. While a short term focus on profits may be necessary for a company’s survival, if this is the only thing the owner or directors can see then they are blindly leading their company. A company exists to serve its customers, and when it fails to do that, it ultimately fails.

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