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Connecting One's Business & Spiritual Philosophies
Jamie Walters For some people, unifying work with one's spiritual or religious life is the ideal goal to be achieved, and running a small business seems a perfect vehicle through which to serve others and refine one's own spiritual practice, or apply wisdom gained from the contemplative life to the more practical tasks of the active life. We often hear of Mary Kay Cosmetics and Service Master as examples of companies where the spiritual principles of the company founder are deeply ingrained in the day-to-day operations of the company's people. Yet there are countless other businesses, perhaps smaller and less known, that serve as fertile grounds for practices drawn from one's spiritual foundation.

To some, these principles may seem ordinary in today's politically correct world, where the media is full of talk about socially responsible business, and socially conscious undertakings are a crucial element of corporate image campaigns. But if we look beneath the advertising hype and public relations spin, we see a wide gulf between the intentions voiced and the actions taken. According to a study released in June 2000 by the Ethics Resource Center in Washington, a growing number of employees say corporate integrity is as important to them as income, but about one-third of those surveyed said they'd observed misconduct at work, and almost half were fearful of reporting the unethical behavior. A study released at about the same time by consulting firm KPMG found that seven of 10 employees witnessed unethical conduct in the workplace. In an April 2000 article, The Economist suggest that corporate ethics activities, such a growing trends for appointing an ethics officer or providing ethics training, were motivated more by a desire to avoid public-relations fiascos and costly regulation than by altruism. The same article reported, "Small firms, in particular, pay far less attention than bigger rivals to normalizing ethical issues and to worrying about their social responsibilities."

So commitment of some of the smallest businesses to such high principles may be all the more admirable. After all, their tight, often bootstrap budgets and carefully allocated resources could offer a perfectly legitimate excuse to avoid such potentially expensive and time-consuming operating philosophies. Instead, big-vision small-business owners take on, and even enjoy, the challenge of shepherding their ethical principles into action while tackling the more mundane operational issues common to small-business ownership.

Pursuing big-vision values while meeting real-world challenges

As business owners, achieving a balance between lofty values and an inspired vision, and the day-to-day reality of running a business, is no easy feat. Doing so requires total commitment to our guiding principles, even when it would be easier and perhaps even acceptable as the norm, in the short term, to opt solely for personal gain, to maximize our investment, to do the minimum required for our employees and customers, to limit the quality of our product or service to what the market would accept, and to settle comfortably into the status quo instead of doing the work required for a more noble, if more exacting, business tightrope. This is perhaps the real distinguishing factor of the big-vision small-business owner, who has multiple bottom lines and chooses The Work over expediency or short-term material gain, and in doing so allows his business to sand away his rough edges and refine his ability to serve his family, his employees, his customers, his community, and through them and with hi like-minded colleagues, the world.

Excerpt from the book by � Jamie S. Walters
Big Vision, Small Business

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