By Alan Louis PhD (Commerce)
Why such an Unkind Commercial Arena?
Consider the kinds of movies that are so popular today. Like most good stories, they require some kind of tension, challenge, turmoil or a ‘bad guy’ to create conflict. In fact, every good author knows he has no story without conflict. If we’re honest, we must admit that we like them because we love to see the good guys win.
However, this is the place where truth and fiction collide; it only appeals as long as it’s happening to someone else and the further removed the better. In reality, we want our business lives filled with peace and quiet, with little in the way of conflict, but that’s rarely the way the commercial market operates – rather ‘dog eat dog’ is the order of the day.
My Own Business Experience
I was brought up in a family business that celebrated its 100th business year, and maybe the reader would find some of my experiences interesting and what it’s like to operate in a graceless environment. I also offer some alternatives (‘Grace’):
- I vividly recall the time my father was struck down with a heart attack while his five sons were toddlers. His bank manager of many years visited him in the hospital not to reassure him but to pitilessly advise him that the bank was cancelling his overdraft protection because his credit-worthiness was now in doubt. Grace should reject this behaviour, instead it should say, “I will reach out to others in their time of need.”
- At one point I spent a long and lonely ten years as a foreigner in a country, building a business, paying high fees to many consultants and staff, yet I was rarely offered a single cup of coffee in return. Grace says no to such behaviour, and “would readily offer anyone something warm to drink.”
- For fifteen years our company made substantial profits for a client, who never offered one word of thanks. But at a client function she publicly expressed her anger after one of her eighteen investments took a small loss. I found it strangely ironic that she never mentioned the massive increases in the other seventeen. Grace must reject such behaviour, and rather say, “Thank you for all your hard work.”
- An employee who I employed for over a decade and looked after like my own family was one of the first to betray my trust in my own time of need. Grace says this behaviour is beyond comprehension but instead it should say, “I will take a bullet for you.”
- When one of our businesses experienced painful setbacks, our auditing firm scrupulously charged us over $1 million in fees for two years oversight (such fees should never have exceeded $250,000). Grace says this conduct is unacceptable. Instead it says, “We will discount our fees in your time of need.”
- At a difficult time when one of our companies was showing steep losses, the Managing Director of the company had the audacity to request a bonus for his services failing which “he will leave the company with its problems.”Grace frowns at this conduct. Instead it offers “to take a salary cut and remain at his post during a vulnerable time for the company.”
- My wife lost her father at an early age, and a few days after his death a neighbour called his widow to say that he had made an unsecured loan to her husband for which he then held her responsible. Grace rejects this kind of behaviour, and says: “I am mourning your loss with you.”
- A disabled employee who works for our company once hitchhiked many miles from his workplace to the head office, just to deliver a box of chocolates to my father as a Christmas gift. This is a stunning example of grace.
- At one time, a swarm of locusts attacked our table grape farm. Contrary to the rest of nature–when a locust swoops down, it strips everything before moving on. Upon seeing this horrifying sight, my father and brother fell to their knees and prayed, and as a result the locusts took flight, leaving minimal damage on the vines they intended to strip.This is a prime example of God’s supernatural grace.
In times of crisis, Grace does not ask, “What can you do for me?” Instead it says, “What can I do for you?” As so aptly recorded in the Word of God in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
An Extra Measure of Kindness
A while back my young son was pacing behind me while I hurried on ahead, into a store, leaving him to drag his toddler sister along. Without warning, he stumbled and fell to his knees in tears. His little sister, who might’ve been all of four years old, knelt down beside him, patted his cheek and said in her baby voice, “Let me kiss it and make it better, okay?” Through his tears, he smiled and nodded, and accepted her simple gift of grace. Not everyone is so blessed; so perhaps we can look for opportunities to fill such deficits just by sharing an extra measure of kindness.