Not so many years ago farming was about producing the best harvest. These days it is more about producing the most harvest. What has happened to the quality there used to be in the world. Everything is about quantity these days. Everything is about numbers. It is all about the bottom line. What about the purpose of what we do? What has happened to the quality of life? Is it really all about money? I don’t really have the answer but I do have more and more evidence these days that money is the only thing on people’s agendas.
To know is to love
Take a look at the stock market indicators… bubble warning! Now, imagine buying shares in a company when you don’t even know what they do, or worse, perhaps you don’t even understand what they do. This is the case with so many IT companies today. When you watch CNN or when you read the newspapers you hear about people who are buying stocks in Internet IPOs without any clue what the company actually does. You might as well go and put your chips down on a casino table and take your chances. How can you own part of something when you don’t even know what they do? Imagine if these unknown ventures sold people rubbish, or worse, imagine if they were evil. Do you want to fund and support an evil organization? Seriously, how can one buy something when they don’t even know what it is? What is the purpose of such a transaction? Or is there no purpose? Perhaps it is all about increasing one’s balance sheet?
On a visit to America once I overheard someone say, “I love drinking Coca-Cola. For generations we have loved Coke and I now love the fact that I own shares in the company that I know we will love for generations to come. I want to own part of the company I believe in and support.” Now this makes sense. A listed company gives us the opportunity to own part of something we believe in. It gives us a vehicle to enjoy in the success of something we love and support.
The reasons for listing a company should be explored in these fiscal times. The reasons for having an IPO should be sound and meaningful, not based on how much money one can cash in by dumping stock onto unsuspecting hard working individuals and pensioners who are looking to make easy money and then fall prey to the hype-masters and financial engineers of the world. If the world carries on in this way I wouldn’t be surprised if commerce becomes a subject at engineering schools – financial engineering is on the up and up in this decade.
I am not saying that listed companies are bad. And I am definitely not saying that big companies are bad either. But I am questioning the motives behind some of the listings that have been occurring around the globe at warp speeds. Surely a company needs a sound track record before someone will want to own a part of it. How can a bunch of guys fresh out of school who have never worked before and who have been in business less than a year suddenly sell people a part of a company for some ridiculous high price? Yes, this is what is going on out there and when you ask about the quality of their products or services what you get back is some answer that relates to their future earnings. I am confused. What earnings? These companies are brand new. And furthermore, when you ask any great institution about their achievements they very rarely speak of these in terms of earnings. They talk about the number of staff they employ and inspire; they refer to the awards they have won; they glow about their contributions; and they pride themselves on their professionalism and level of service. These are real achievements. And if you get them right then the world will conspire to reward you. This is where earnings come from.
I think we need to re-visit the concept of purpose to illustrate how quality has taken a back seat for quantity. Remember that making a difference is what a truly inspiring company is all about. And the greater the difference they make the more the world rewards them. In 1950, George Merck the second, who happens to the son of George Merck the first, the founder of one of the world’s most inspiring companies, said the following about why their company exists, “We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.” Think about why we do the things we do. Think about purpose.
Purpose is something that we can never complete. It is a journey, not a destination. Walt Disney captured the never-ending nature of purpose when he said, “Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination left in the world.” And in the company I represent the same applies - as long as we have imagination then we will always find new ways to engineer software and enhance the quality of people’s lives through information technology. And so it goes for every company out there. Every company that stands for something. Every company that is obsessed with quality, that is.
Use those imaginations. And change the world. And remember, as long as you keep coming up with ideas, you will always find new ways to change the world and live your purpose. Let me end off with one last quote from George Bernard Shaw who said, “The purpose of life is to have a life of purpose.”