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Is Business about Dollars or People?

The answer to this question may seem obvious, depending on what side of the proverbial fence you sit on. Traditionalists may say business is fundamentally about creating value and generating profit. Others may say that it’s about being good stewards of the environment, people, and society, creating something of value greater than simply money.

But a business can’t survive without money. In fact, 82% of small businesses fail due to cash flow problems. A business also can’t survive without people. A recent study found nearly 70% of employers worldwide are having a difficult time filling vacancies, causing businesses to fail or cut back dramatically on hours of operation.

When revenue is declining, it’s all about cutting costs. When we’re struggling to recruit talent, it’s all about building culture. But why do we have the mindset that these things are mutually exclusive? Is it that we struggle to grow or that we misunderstand growth?

One of the most amazing and powerful statistics from a five-year study, where 94% of respondents from some of the world’s largest companies said that there are barriers to achieving their growth targets. But it’s not because of a lack of market, market saturation, technologies they couldn’t possibly acquire, unbeatable competitors, or government regulations. They said that 94% of the time it is internal, with the primary reasons being related to organizational complexity.

The traditional issues, including poor communication, unclear roles and responsibilities, senior management distractions, too many middle levels, issues with focus and trust, and everyone spending all their time in meetings/calls – these are both people problems and money problems. These issues waste organizational resources and time, draining bandwidth and costing the company money – even if it can’t be directly seen on a P&L.

I’d love to say these problems can be solved with “strong core values,” but we all know that’s bs. These problems are ignored so long as the money keeps rolling in. As the problems fester, people get annoyed and leave. If organizations really wanted to focus on the dollars, they’d focus on the people.

Slow decision-making, excessive bureaucracy, one point of failure, crappy “me-too” products to ‘make a quarter,’ which cycles over and over — that kills not only culture but the long-term growth potential of a company. True leadership of an organization is not really about hitting targets as much as it’s about harnessing the energy and passion of other people, ensuring they understand the goals and how to reach them. If we solely focus on money, we can’t care about people. But we can’t ignore the money – we just need to have a better understanding of where the money and the people intersect, and how to create a profitable harmony.

Andrea Olsen

Andrea Olsen

About the Author:

Andrea Belk Olson is a keynote speaker, author, differentiation strategist, behavioral scientist, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers, No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing, and her upcoming book, What To Ask, coming in June 2022.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been continually featured in news sources such as Chief Executive Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Rotman Magazine, and more. Andrea is a sought-after speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and startup coach at the University of Iowa, a TEDx presenter, and TEDx speaker coach. She is also an instructor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

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