Kevin has a long history of being a very successful businessman: he’s bought and sold at a price that suits him, he’s had a constant supply of customers, reliable supplies and needs little in the way of a marketing budget as ‘word of mouth’ has generated all the sales he needs and more.
He’s shown entrepreneurial flair in his career, converting his weaknesses to strengths, his threats to opportunities, diversifying when required, building up a healthy balance sheet, investing wisely and recruiting his staff with the keenest scrutiny of their ability to look after his customers confidentiality. His business consequently grew exponentially, turning over just under £6m a few years ago until he got caught by the police in a dawn raid.
The trouble was, Kevin dealt in crack cocaine and whilst he operated as a successful businessman for most of the time, the major flaw in his business plan was the illegality of his trade, and the moral compass which would have indicated that not only was his enterprise illegal, it was also immoral in as much it contributed to huge amounts of personal misery in his customers and their friends and families. His investment portfolio may well have included property, stocks and shares but there was a huge gap in the balance sheet where many of his customers lives had been wrecked by his products, services, credit control procedures, vertical sales techniques and customer after care policy.
Let’s imagine for one minute that the online business dictionary is right when it defines business as being an organisation or economic system where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money. Every business requires some form of investment and enough customers to whom its output can be sold on a consistent basis in order to make a profit.
This covers a whole spectrum of activity and doesn’t differentiate between the drug seller, the human trafficker or the multinational book seller which has avoided paying its taxes over the years.
In this definition, business is a moral free zone with no rights or wrongs other than can it sell? Can it make a profit? What are the loop holes? and is exemplified in Milo Minderbinder’s moral code of ‘there will always be trade‘ as he cleaned up after organising the bombing of his own squadron at Pianosa by the Luftwaffe in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22.
So, if you’ve devoted your life to running a business which has been bereft of any kind of moral compass, how do you step back from flogging crack cocaine and reconfigure your business empire into one that deals with washing other peoples cars?
Valeting your neighbours Ford Escort is unlikely to generate large volumes of cash, property in the Maldives and a fleet of Aston Martins: and unfortunately Joseph Heller never wrote a sequel to Catch 22 which showed Minderbinder turning over a new capitalist leaf and running eco-friendly taxi services for Vietnam vets.
Perhaps the sequel has never been written; but it needs to be if it helps install a moral compass in any new start business which is considering following in Kevin’s tracks.