The Bottom Line Isn’t the Bottom Line

BOTTOM_LINESome of the world’s foremost intellects have told us by way of their arts and mediums that money is the end all of this existence of ours. And even those who might argue that and say that it’s not the end all still often end up making decisions as if it is the sole motivating factor in the world.

bottomlineAnd heck — maybe it is for you. Maybe for you the bottom line is the bottom line. Screw humans and their needs. You’re going to do whatever is most “efficient” and “profitable” and all that jazz. I mean, that’s the point of being in business, right? Making money? So forget about human needs, forget about contributing in some way to human development and happiness. They can get that feel-good crap from Oprah. Work is…well…work. Now hold that thought.

This isn’t some foreign concept. It’s not like folks who buy into this are all cold-hearted bastards. Think about it — Meja told us it was all about the money (dum-dum-did-dee-dum-dum). R Kelly opines that it’s money that makes the world go ’round (probably get pretty dizzy in that closet).

It changes everything, says Daryl Hall. Abba had some (not very) deep thoughts on the matter. In their lyrical masterpiece Money Can’t Buy, Blink 182 provides a compelling framework within which we can construct a robust philosophical position on the role of money in our lives and society. Ace of Bass suggests a stroll through the red light district as something that might provide ideas for what money could be spent on. For the sake of clarity, this is entirely dissimilar from the blue light specials at K-Mart.

biggieThe Beatles disagreed with their Ace of Bass counterparts, however, saying that money could not, in fact, buy them love. Poor Cyndi Lauper — bless her heart — believed that money changes everything. Then there was that god-awful, terribly long song from the Wallflowers about money. I would pay to never hear it again. Nate Dogg, often a companion of one Warren G, decided from a young age that he was going to make his money. Chumbawumba rambled incoherently about having all the friends money could buy. Or something. Run DMC’s advice was simple: Take the money and run. Cher serenaded us with her ideas about what it will be like when all the money’s gone. And who could forget the ageless adage Biggie Biggie Biggie can’t you see, Sometimes your words just hypnotize me, And I just love your flashy ways, Guess that’s why they broke, and you’re so paid.

Bottom line is that it’s all about the money.

If you watch and listen to an organization for a hot minute, you’ll start to notice what their bottom line is. The ones that have absolutely started pissing me off lately are the ones that will say with a straight face that their people are their most important asset (or something along those lines) while treating those very important assets like $*!*.

Now they’ll argue that they don’t treat them poorly, mind you. And in some ways, they’re right. They’re usually not yelling and swearing at their folks whilst whipping them with an Indiana Jones style whip when they foul something up.

But they start making stupid decisions. Someone whose bottom line is simply the bottom line will think to himself, Hmmmm. Self, it seems the quickest way for us to cut cost and become “more efficient” would be to cut staff. Do more with less. That sort of thing. And so that’s what they’ll do. They’ll wear it like a badge of honor when they should perhaps be considering it more akin to a scarlet letter.

We serve more customers per employee than almost anyone else in our peer group! Our ratios show that we’re more efficient than 97.8% of our peer group!

What you’ll notice is conspicuously absent from those organizations’ big fancy reports is anything having to do with how all of that is affecting the humans at the organization. Oh sure, you cut the staff at your location from 12 to four, so you’re super efficient there. There’s also at least a chance that your four are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, under-appreciated, and so on. They’re not excited to come in and tackle the day together as a team; they’re just hoping to survive it. Branches that used to be bastions of fun slowly have the spirit stomped out of them in the name of efficiency or ROI or ROA or some other grouping of letters that’s supposed to sound so impressive that we forget all about the fact that these are human beings we’re dealing with here. Humans. Moms. Dads. Students. People with families.Bills to pay. Lives outside work.

scarface-9054thNo one’s saying that the bottom line doesn’t matter. I’m just saying there has to be more to it than that. It’s not the lone factor in our decisions. If profit was the lone consideration, we’d all be our own versions of Tony Montana or Vito Corleone (if given the choice, you should clearly choose the latter).

One comment

  1. Nancy says:

    Matt, love the message. Seem to me time and time again when companies have pursued the all mighty dollar at the cost of the human side of business it leads to headlines that in the end, cost them even more of the cold hard stuff. Why don’t others learn from these hard lessons?

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