Aug 22

a vehicle for change

I’ve recently been reading a couple different books related to business, one of which is My Life and Work, the autobiography of Henry Ford. His story has inspired me in many different areas related to how I fundamentally think about work and business. He was a man that always thought big and wasn’t afraid of what other people might think of his crazy ideas – which I’ve found inspiring and intriguing. He had this big dream of making a car that would serve the majority of the general public by being a reliable, affordable and easily maintainable mode of transportation. He did not set out first to make money. He set out first to come up with a way to best SERVE the people by means of the automobile industry and the money eventually followed.

In our society we have become so good at compartmentalizing our lives that when we enter different arenas, like the business world, we tend to think that different rules and standards apply. As a consumer, we want to be served in a manner that makes us feel valued and our opinions respected and every whim to be treated as a priority. However on the other side of the coin, we often don’t see our jobs as an opportunity to serve people – we think we are working for a paycheck and to appease those who determine our paycheck.

Henry Ford understood the role of a business within society – service. It is not only a means of serving the consumer but also the employees and society at large. He saw the bigger picture and refused to listen to those who told him to stick to making custom “pleasure cars” for the wealthy because he was set on making something great that would serve the general populous. He knew that he had to devise not only a solid vehicle design, but also methods of manufacturing and metals of proper strength and weight. All of that was standing in his way but he knew where he was going and he was set on service.

So many people want money but they don’t want to serve. The truth is, no matter who it is or what it is, compensation follows service. Ford understood this basic principle and was truly motivated by devising ways of serving the people better. Businesses often think strictly in terms of the bottom line when service should be the guiding principle. A business that serves well is a business that will last.

This principle of service, however, necessarily must include a solid business model with quality, visionary men onboard with the company and all the necessary financing and strategic business solutions put into effect. A business that has a “good heart” but poor financial intelligence and does sloppy work will not be of good service – to their employees or to the public. Their employees will not have a job for very long and will likely earn a minimal wage and the consumer will be unhappy with the product or service they are receiving.

I am only starting to think about this and am excited to see how I can apply this at my own place of employment and even as a consumer. Everyone wants to be served. We want to be served. So why don’t we do unto others how we ourselves want to be treated? Oh right, because at the very core of our being is a nature that is fundamentally opposed to that concept.

So let’s live out a radical form of life – serving every person we encounter – whether you’re making a customer a coffee for the 5th time (because, “It’s too sweet!”) or being patient as a consumer with a stressed out employee. Let’s serve like others don’t and how we ourselves want to be served. We just might be surprised what happens in return for genuine, all-out service. Like Ford, service just might be our vehicle for change.

  • chuckweinberg

    Good stuff. Les Schwab always said, “Take care of the employees, who take care of the customers and you will never have to worry about the profits”. 2 men who were not believers but certainly were ahead of their time and can give good lessons to many believers who tend to be selfish and compartmentalized in their work and service ethics. Great post.

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