• Sean Lewis

It's Just a New Set of Clothes

Change is a constant. But what we often observe and then label as novel is rarely so.

Beneath what we perceive as new is simply a reorganization of proportion. The perceptions of novel are only so because of the passage of time. Coincidental to this writing, I had recently spent some time with my father, who is young enough to recount personal memories of a time and geography central to World War II.

It presently seems that change is once again in overabundance, and in an era that needs to accommodate people with educations, ideas, and personal maxims that span the days from pre-color-television to space tourism. In and of itself, the squeezing together of these vastly different generations into the spaces we all share for living and working already requires complex compromises for our society to properly function. Adding complexities from the social and economic upheavals over the past three years, it is inevitable that we have arrived at the point where much release of pressure is required. For humans, the release is naturally emotional.

Balance in business has been a topic I have been writing about for some time, and while the ideas are not necessarily new (my father would say that they are simply dressed in different clothes), my hope is that the proportions presented within these ideas can help to spark necessary compromises that can temper business decisions made from an imbalance between emotion and reason. First, it goes without saying that my definition of reason may frequently differ from yours, but when principles can be agreed upon--starting with those that are simply immutable (natural principles)--we can begin to lay the foundations necessary to achieve the compromises that will lead back to balance.

It is fast becoming undeniable (to even the most hardened critic) that the world is growing exponentially in dis-balance. While this is not an article that takes sides (as taking sides is not balance), it is a call for compromise. On Friday, June 24th, I went to bed saddened by the world my daughters are now living in. It is not because the defining of liberties was returned to the states because laws were written (or not written) in such a way that could be legally argued, but because of the manner and reasoning behind not only this change in proportion, but for the culmination of events that are increasingly resulting in a greater dis-balance of emotion over reason. Even more concerning is that we appear to have lost agreement in THE fundamental principle of Democracy: Majority rule, but with political tolerance. In the recent Roe decision, I see neither majority nor tolerance.

With neither majority rule nor tolerance of the minority, the proportions of the elements that have been holding the fragile fabric of our social and economic foundations of our nation are now being reorganized to proportions that are very reminiscent of times not so recently passed. Times where there was not only a far less squeezing of the multitude of generations, and ideas, and educations, and..., but where the dis-balance between the emotional and rational had created social and economic disasters of epic proportions. Times when the violence from emotion prevailed over the peace from reason.

I have often heard musings of how government would be so much better if it was run like a [“good”] business, so the irony is inescapable when viewing the responses of most of the largest businesses in the world to the decisions being made by the same people responsible for those musings. From Amazon and Apple to Microsoft, to Walmart, to Zillow, these companies understand how the social disenfranchisement of more than half of the US workforce (where women are also fast outpacing men in both higher education and job placement) will have far reaching implications to our society and then our economy.

The content here at SLC Advisory Group frequently discusses how businesses with triple bottom line principles, or 3-Ps (people planet profit), are a necessary foundation for our post-pandemic recovery, as well as the preservation of our social contract—where all boats must rise together to ensure sustainable success. The optimist in me is hopeful from seeing businesses of all nature of stakeholder priorities come together to address the reversal of progressions (imperfect as they are) that this nation has so far accomplished. However, the realist in me is also saddened by an understanding of what must change in order to actually stop this regression, and the not-so-slow removal and dismantling of our liberties.

Because our businesses are not Google, Microsoft, or Meta, our segment of small- and mid-size business are far more sensitive to changes in our social fabric. However, because our segment of businesses account for more than 47% of US employment (that’s more than 60MM people), should the 30 million-plus small- and mid-size businesses come together to support the balancing of reason and emotion, compromise and tolerance, profit and people, our Nation as a whole can continue onward the path of social and economic progress, and expand our liberties, collective affluence, and cultural growth.

If we cannot return to better proportions between emotion and reason, I am fearful that only the leaders of government and businesses such as Google, Microsoft, or Meta will.