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Action versus Words

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A relative of mine once made a comment that actions are the mirror that reflects intent. That phrase comes back to me from time to time when I come across something in the news or on television. Generally speaking, I wait to avoid reacting to things I read about or hear, because early disclosures rarely provide enough truth to assess what is really going on.

Over the past several weeks I’ve thought about the kerfuffle over Chick-fil-A’s decision to re-direct its corporate giving, and more to the point, announcing it would no longer give emphasis to faith based charities such as The Salvation Army. Why announce this change? Who to donate to, how much, where, and when are matters largely discussed and decided internally by the company’s management. These decisions rarely make headlines because they are rarely discussed outside the boardroom.

I have to conclude the decision by Chick-fil-A to announce the new focus of its corporate giving programs is one more example of a company walking into the minefield that is the modern American culture. It is one more company that made a decision based on surveys which, more often than not, began from the wrong premise. This false starting point reflects a failure of critical thinking; a necessary discipline in understanding the relationship between a company’s purpose and its intent.

Intent and purpose have clearly different meanings, and yet, they are also linked. It is the relationship between these two ideas that define a company’s culture. Chick-fil-A’s failure to understand this linkage led it to the inevitable either/or position from which there is no good outcome. Either they continue to operate a company built on faith based values, or jettison many of those values in order to put themselves in a better light in an increasingly secular world.

Integrity is impossible without ethics, and ethics is impossible without a moral foundation. Chick-fil-A may come through this period of controversy positioned to expand and grow; that remains to be seen.  The current leadership asserts publicly that the company remains committed to Christian values.

Yet, because of the public announcements, overtones of appeasement echo as a result of these recent actions, and almost any answer they give for their decisions will smack of moralizing. Just as there is a difference between intent and purpose, so too is there a difference between moral reasoning and moralizing. Understanding that difference also requires critical thinking.

What is missing in all of this is a transparent motive that is separate and apart from the desire to do more business in heretofore unfriendly parts of the country. It may become clearer in the future, but in the short term, I think the company will continue to struggle with the conflict between intent and purpose.

Small businesses and companies escape many of these dilemmas. I think it is because the owners and leaders of smaller business entities live closer to the action. The decisions they make, good or bad, provide almost instant feedback; especially if those actions disappoint the client.

Given the bad rap that business owners and leaders get in the media, entertainment, and across large segments of the government, they do the right thing with more consistency than is generally known. To them integrity is fundamental to who they are and they don’t compromise their fundamental sense of doing what is right.

Exceptions exist in this as in all things. Yet, I am no longer surprised by the fact that, at the small business level, owners and leaders are comfortable talking about ethics and integrity as being key aspects of their way of doing business and, taken as a whole, do not act in ways that compromise those pillars of their business.

Larger business rarely take time to learn about or meet with the owners of small businesses. Yet, opportunities do exist where leaders of large and small companies can meet and understand the many things they have in common.

One of those opportunities is provided each year by the Services Cooperative Association. SCA is a co-operative comprised of business owners that has a purpose that hasn’t varied in 36 years. Through its processes, it assists business owners in Market Expansion, Business Development, Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Education and Professional Growth. It is a set of processes that has led numerous companies to succeed where they might otherwise have failed.

Each year the Services Cooperative Association hosts its Annual Economic Forecast, and on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 the association will host its 37th Economic Forecast. Each year the City Controller, or his or her representative, presents the city’s view of the Houston economy, and Houston Community College provides an overview for the State of Texas.

Mr. Chris Brown, Controller for the city of Houston, has once again accepted the invitation to be SCA’s keynote speaker at this event, and Professor of Economics, Ms. Sophie Haci accepted on behalf of HCC.

As Chairman of the Board for the Services Cooperative Association, I cordially invite those of you reading this who live in the greater Houston Area to mark your calendars and take the time to attend this annual event, meet other small business owners, and gain a fresh perspective on the many issues that impact our fellow Houstonians.

I invite you to visit the website here, and learn more about the event, and while there take a moment to check out some of the other resources available through SCA. Food for Thought:  “We learn to do, we learn by actually doing it; men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave”. (Aristotle)