The Problem with People, The Problem with Business

This piece is about losing sight of what’s really important in our lives. The author writes about people who live their daily lives in the pursuit of making more money and buying nicer things and using material objects as a measurement of happiness. But it’s clear that he knows that is all wrong. It’s about finding worth in your everyday tasks. It’s about learning, loving, and being happy.

Now stick with me, because I promise this relates to our class…

As I was reading this article I couldn’t help but think of shareholder and stakeholder theory. Businesses focusing on shareholder theory think that by bringing more wealth to their shareholders, their company will thrive. But this seems so backwards to me. I will not argue that companies should not be focused on earning money. Of course they should! However, this is a result of their main priority – selling some good or service. Companies need to be focusing on this – selling their product or service in the best way possible. Businesses should be working to make the business the best it can be. The corporate world, much like our social world, has lost sight of the main priority. Businesses work through a tunnel vision to raise shareholder value, thinking of nothing other than that. However, it’s important to step back and reevaluate. Businesses will be far more successful if they consider a holistic approach to their success – not just shareholder wealth. Just like people will be far happier if they consider a holistic approach to happiness – not just money and material things.


5 thoughts on “The Problem with People, The Problem with Business

  1. I definitely agree with what you are saying about happiness, and think it is interesting that you related it back to the stakeholder/shareholder debate we have been discussing. Businesses too focused on making money are probably not providing the best product/service to their consumers, which could end up ultimately hurting them in the long run.

  2. I think it is hard to say believe in shareholderism is not right for the business executives, as it is so popular in the recent years. However, I think it will be easier for people to accept stackholderism if, and only if shareholders could adopt it. When the shareholders start to expect all the benefits a firm could bring to the costumers, the community and the society, instead of only profits, I think it will be no longer that hard for the management team to agree this idea.

  3. This is a great post and touches on the important topic of the natural, humane functions of business in society. I do agree with you that businesses constitute people, and those people would like to improve their standard of living by maximizing wealth for shareholders and themselves. I do, however, believe that the most “successful” people are those that are most engaged and happy in their daily working lives (ie. many professors at Bucknell). This is also reminds me of an article written in the NY Times about money addiction and its terrible, long-term consequences. If you (or anyone) has time, it’s a good read.

  4. I completely agree with your view on what companies should truly “value.” It is sad that many companies in America still believe in the traditional concept of maximizing shareholder value. Companies have definitely exhibited a type of tunnel vision that impedes them from achieving any true successes. In correlation to this, I really like Stout has to say in The Shareholder Value Myth when discussing how corporations should run. She states that there is no single value that a company can focus on because within the shareholder and stakeholder groups, different people possess different goals. Stout believes that managers should be given the discretion to balance different shareholders’ and stakeholders’ competing interests. This, in effect, describes your “holistic approach.”

  5. However, if so many people individually would agree with your core insight- that doing good leads to doing well (financially)- then why does it seem comparatively rare?

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