How Fair Is Your Trade?

“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process”- Benjamin Harrison

The Startup Business Ross McKenzie Strategy People FairtradestoreIn business we are typically focused on achieving customer satisfaction and we often link customer satisfaction to overall success. However, is this where the focus should be?

In fact, if you Google the key words Customer Satisfaction today, you will get about 95.4 million results. Employee Satisfaction on the other hand, gets you just 10% of that, at 9.6 million results or references.

What about Shareholder Satisfaction? Surprisingly this comes ahead of employees at 20.4 million references, yet Supplier Satisfaction gives you 52.2 million.

Now of course you can extrapolate what you want from that data. It is not real research with any particular hypothesis in mind. However, I wanted to use it to bring up a point that perhaps in business we should continually be looking more broadly across the ecosystem that we are part of and understand how we can have an impact both positively and negatively. With this in mind, we do not have to go too much further from our supply chains and where we source our goods and services.

For me, this is about two important concepts – Fair Trade and Impact Sourcing.

I do not know about you, but I am very uncomfortable to know that modern day slavery is prominent around the world. In addition, there are far too many work places of which may not be classed as modern day slavery, yet clearly provide working conditions for their employees or contractors in which most business owners and managers would find appalling.

Fortunately, though, things are changing and more transparency of the working conditions is being achieved as companies implement social responsibility policies and ethical sourcing practices and even having independent parties audit supply chains. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” just does not cut it these days for most of us. However, it is a very difficult area to continually to monitor.

That said, it is my view that as customers or clients, we have an obligation to ensure we are sourcing from reputable businesses where the rights of individuals and communities are being respected to the same level that the International Labour Organisation would come to expect.

So what can you do?

Well Education Is The First Step

You need to become aware as to what are indeed some extremely poor and cruel practices are out there, maybe by the businesses that you are currently sourcing your goods and services from, but you are just unaware of.

Next Is To Take Action

Develop you own ethical sourcing policies and work with your suppliers to improve theirs as well. If they are not prepared to change, well you can change them and if you need to, report them to the appropriate authorities.

Third, Become An Advocate Or Champion For Fair Trade And Impact Sourcing

Embrace it within your own business. Assist your employees own awareness. Invite representatives in from other organisations to share their stories as well.

Lastly, if you are like me and have become very passionate about the subject of Fair Trade and Impact Sourcing then start you own business supporting it directly! You see, I cannot over emphasise the amount of pride I have today in launching the Fair Trade Store, an ecommerce store supporting micro business startups around the globe.

Would the World miss it, if I had not launched the Fair Trade Store today? Probably not.

However, is it possible that the Fair Trade Store will make the World a little better for some in it? Most definitely!

Who Do You Like Working With – Come On, Be Honest?

Who Do You Like Working With – Come On, Be Honest?

Who do you like working with – come on, be honest?

You see, I think this question is just as important as figuring out your market, the problems and challenges to be solved and how you can package up products and solutions that will do this. I say this, because I believe at the end of the day it is all about relationships.

Relationships with your customers, relationships with your employees, relationships with your suppliers and relationships with yourself.

Of course I have had demanding customers, but I still enjoyed being around them, there was a lot to learn and I think they also learned something from me. However, I have also been around customers that despite their business, frankly I did not enjoy being with. I am not sure if it was lack of chemistry, or simply their views were in contradiction to mine. Either way, I just did not get along with them.

I remember some time back, I was meeting with a client who was a senior executive at a global bank. He was demanding, but not with the intent to establish a win win relationship. It was only several months later that I discovered through the local press, this same executive, had been caught acting corruptly by receiving bribes from other suppliers.

Today, I go out of my way to share with my customers and future ones, about what I stand for, what I believe in and how I think I can help them. Sometimes this transparency is over indulgent, but it is also appreciated.

I also want to get to know who they are, what drives them, their aspirations from our partnership. By doing this we are much more better positioned to build a great relationship that is mutually beneficial, or realise early that this will not be worthwhile endeavour for either or both of us.

Now this can be a challenge when you are starting a business and are in the startup phase. After all, I can hear you say what about cash flow? Of course you need to be commercial, but I also believe you need to be authentic from day onset as well – one of integrity, as this is the greatest investment in your business and it will live beyond you.

When you raise your personal standards way higher than anyone would expect of you, a strange thing starts to happen. You actually start to attract the type of people who have similar values which is also reflected in their business and relationships.

As a young boy I heard the phrase “good things happen to good people”- well I think it is true!

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