The Oliver Twist Dilemma
Chief Executives are destined to be unpopular. They are caught between three groups of people who never seem to be satisfied: the shareholders, the workforce and the customers. The shareholders want more profits, the workforce want more salary and the customers want more for their money. The laws of mathematics tell us they can’t all have what they want. So the CEO’s role is to keep these three parties as satisfied as possible with the constant sound of “please sir, can I have some more” echoing all around.
In reality many businesses struggle to be fair and equitable across all three parties and so focus on their priority. Far be it from me to give specific examples. But I am sure you can all think of businesses that fall into the following categories:
1. Businesses who just care about profits for the shareholders. They treat the workforce and customers badly.
2. Businesses who just care about the customers. They treat the workforce badly and fail to make decent profits.
3. Businesses who just care about the workforce. Well paid, slightly spoilt workforce but poor customer service.
If you are thinking the answer to this problem is to work in a high margin category where customers, workforce and shareholders can all be happy, think again. The mathematical problem is relative not absolute. If you take the banking or IT sector you might expect everyone to be happy but sadly how ever much you give one party another will always feels badly done to and so the question keeps on coming “please sir can I have some more”.