All companies have one goal: to make money. Strike that. All companies have two goals: to make money and to make even more money the next year. This means that they all must be evil.
All eyes were on Google and Verizon the other week when they bandied together to create a stance on net neutrality and the future of the wireless space (more on that here: Pay Attention To The Future Of The Internet Today). A lot of the conversation and commentary fell back on Google’s informal corporate motto, "Don’t be evil." Some people question – due to both the size and revenues of Google – if that is even possible anymore.
Aren’t all companies evil?
I don’t know where I heard this statistic (and it’s probably more folklore than hard evidence), but someone once told me that about two-percent of the world is evil. The real bad folks. The rapists, molesters, murderers and thieves. Those who seek out to do harm to others. We need to be vigilante to not let those types of people touch us, but we have to be careful that we do not become overly paranoid in the process. I’ve had the pleasure – as an agency owner, journalist, author and professional speaker – to work with a very diverse group of brands from many different industries. Some of those industries include big pharma, wireless carriers, cable companies, airlines, consumer packaged goods, retailers and beyond. Those industries – in specific – are often cited as being evil. The kind of evil where all they care about is making money on the backs of their customers without care. Could these companies do more in terms of charitable work for their communities and the overall environment? Of course they can, but all of us could do a whole lot more.
How much are you tithing?
If you take a second to look up the definition of "tithe" on Wikipedia, you’ll quickly realize that a "tithe" is not just a donation. It’s actually, "a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a religious organization." Are you giving ten-percent of everything your earn away to charity? Don’t answer that. The point is that a company is made up of people. Those people need to lead by example. The company (or government) isn’t going to do this for us… we have to lead.
Back to evilness.
In all of my journeys I (like you) had my own preconceived notion about these big, bad industries and – upon getting to know the people within the organization – I’ve learned a very important lesson: these are all good people. They love the brands they represent. They are trying to do great work. The have family and friends that love them and that they love. They want to do more. They want to share more. They want you to see how good they are and the work they do. They want to make sure that the work they are doing matters.
Greed is (or can be) good.
For years critics demonized Bill Gates because as Microsoft was growing into a behemoth he was not as charitable as hoped, when – in reality – his personal philosophy was to keep his head down, grow the business beyond belief and then do some amazing things that would truly change the world. Mission accomplished (more on that here: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates ask billionaires to give away wealth). Is Bill Gates evil? Was Bill Gates ever evil? Chances are you don’t get that big, powerful and rich by making everybody happy all of the time, but think about the people you interface with everyday… are they evil?
Do no evil.
We’re quick to demonize industries (like Marketing or airlines). We’re quick to demonize corporate leaders. We’re quick to demonize quite a lot. The next time you’re feeling like that, head over to LinkedIn and look to see if you’re connected (in some way) with someone at one of those companies or industries. Better yet, ask you’re following on Twitter or Facebook if anyone works for that industry and company. Connect with them (either online or in real life).
Now, seriously ask yourself if they are that much different from you and I? Are they evil?