How do you resolve materialism versus spirituality?

Business Leader Post, April 3, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Believe it or not, I was asked this question by a very religious Business Owning Family. Most family Owned Businesses struggle with this conundrum but express it differently. The goal is to have a successful business at the same time they feel obliged to address the question of the dilemma when the pursuit for profit conflict’s with one’s values system. I guarantee you that this question is not asked in the Board rooms of corporate America and certainly not on Wall Street.

What distinguishes Family Owned Business is that by definition family relationships matter. I suggest that when a business cares about relationships there is a natural extension to caring about the businesses’ relationships to employees, customers and suppliers. Relationship centric entities conduct themselves differently.

They understand that in order to maintain relationships once must behave with integrity and have a strong code of ethics. Inherent in that belief system is that the senior Family Business members are the parents and or the relatives of the next generation. They understand that the core of their success is the value system and the culture of the business and more importantly defines the reputation of the both the Business and the family.

The strength of the ethical code that FOB’s live by helps them to resist the greed and the temptations of quick and easy profits which often occurs at the expense of others. The irony is that ultimately ethical behavior is still consistent with Best Business practices. The goal of the Family Business is sustainability. You reap what you sow. That is why Family Businesses survived the latest economic downturn so well and are performing much better than their counterparts.

When you attend conferences that discuss the financial consequences of the last 4 years, one of the themes that always surfaces is the loss of trust with the people that they did business with. The place to go in this climate is to find people who have demonstrated their ability to sustain relationships over time. People who are concerned with materialism versus spirituality are the ones to trust.