Sunday, November 05, 2006

Morality vs. Money

No surprise here, revenue is the number one driving force in business. When we generate revenue we can run our businesses, promote our philosophies, and support ourselves as well as our families. This is the reason we got into the positions we are in, to help others and fulfill our own needs at the same time. On the other hand, success in business is quantified in dollars made, and the general belief is that the more you make the more successful you are, and the more people you can reach. Whether you are in the non-profit sector or the for-profit sector, your impact is only as great as the money you have to continue providing your product. Stating this obvious fact leads to one question: is the quest for financial success causing us to abandon our initial reasons for entering our professions so that we can now make a profitable business?

The answer falls on both sides of the fence. We can take money from investors who don’t necessarily share our same values in order to reach more people in need, or we can stick to what we believe in and struggle to get our message to all those whose lives will be enhanced through our work. We are in the business of changing the lives of others, which is our chosen profession, and we need revenue to reach as many people as we can with our philosophies. This is a moral dilemma; there can be a high cost associated with such comfort.

Take childhood obesity for example. In the US, children are becoming obese at alarming rates and this trend is not slowing down. Statistics for the future of the next generation are bleak; childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past 25 years, with 11 million overweight children in the US today. These children will cost tax payers billions in obesity related illness, and will be the first generation ever to not exceed the lifespan of their parents.

The purpose of this post is to gauge our current philosophies against our initial reasons for getting into these professions. It is intended for us to evaluate where we are receiving revenue, and at the cost of whom? We should take personal inventory and see where we have made hypocritical choices and how that portrays ourselves, our peers, and our businesses.

Watch any major sporting event around the world and it will be hard not to find a fast food chain as its main sponsor. In fact, every major sports league has a fast food sponsor, a cola sponsor, and a chip sponsor, not to mention the alcohol and Viagra ads for adults who accompany their kids to the game. Even the US Olympic Team has a major sponsor whose dollar menu makes it even easier to buy their questionably healthy products. In essence they are promoting physical activity and health through dollars funded by the same products that fatten up society. Television is an accomplice; running the same ads, targeted at the same audience, pushing the same agenda. The revenue from these ads are distributed to teams, players and coaches (as well as colleges) who are growing fat in the pockets while their audience grows dangerously fat.

The health and fitness industry is no better. These clubs accumulate new clientele, who will survive in the club for roughly three months and then continue to pay monthly dues while never setting foot in the gym again. This revenue is used to sponsor athletes, events, stadiums, teams, and TV shows as means to ensure that the steady stream of clientele keeps pouring through the doors. Trainers will continue to be paid for the client who consistently misses his/her training session, sending the obligatory “we missed you today” phone call with no initiative taken to discover why they keep missing sessions. These people will be given promises that they have no means to achieve on their own, and are given service that is over-promised and under-delivered.

This accounts for a group of individuals who pay gigantic fees for a personal trainer who has neither the vision nor ability to deliver on any of the selling points that generated business in the first place. The consumer has the will to make changes in their lives and the seller hasn’t the slightest idea how to make those changes permanent. Or, they do not want to make those changes permanent, because if done correctly they would be working themselves out of revenue (despite creating a self actualized and self sufficient human).

The purpose of this post is not to start a debate on the dangers of marketing and PR, but to expose our greed and lack of morality when it comes to making a dollar. We no longer focus on making an honest dollar, we just focus on how many dollars can we make. This has created hypocrisy of funding; we take money from the rich to make us richer, and in doing so, have lost focus of why we entered our profession in the first place.

To this end, billions of dollars have been spent in order to remove tobacco advertisements from every arena in life; what of these other products that will, ultimately, have a similar effect on the lives of the next generation? Non-profit foundations have been started, and well funded, on the taxing of tobacco products. At their events, targeted specifically for young children, fast food chains are welcomed to sell their product and promote their brand. Television shows created around people losing tremendous amounts of weight air commercials for products with high fat and sugar content. Morals and values out, revenue in. Hypocrisy ignored.

It’s a simple battle of quantity vs. quality. We can serve as many people as possible while holding true to our beliefs, and ensure each of those people received our best. Or we can serve a much larger population with less impact; the people served only receiving a fraction of what we were when we started.

The next time you have your next great idea, the idea that will make a millionaire out of you, consider where that dollar is coming from. Consider who will be affected by that offer. Then go out and make a lasting impression by holding true to your beliefs. Get back to the person who set out to change the world on a personal philosophy. Your legacy will not be carried on by your bank account, but by the impact you have made on the lives of those you served….honestly and with conviction.

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