What Businesses Can Learn From the Golden Rule

What Businesses Can Learn From the Golden Rule

By Garry Costain


You may not have thought too much about what businesses can learn from philosophers. You may be tempted to thing that philosophers raise far more questions than they answer with their seemingly interminable logic chopping. To some extent, the criticism has merit. However, there is a principle of ethics known as the golden rule that I should submit businesses can learn from.

You will have heard of the golden rule. You’ll find it mentioned in many cultures; amongst other places, you’ll find it in Confucius; you’ll find it in Islam; you’ll find it in western philosophy, and you’ll find, perhaps, its most well know version in Christian ethics. The golden rule goes something like this: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Here’s Kaitlin Roig DeBellis on the golden rule:

“We all learned it in Kindergarten: the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. As five-year-olds we are given many concrete examples of what this means and what this looks like. As adults it seems this rule can often be forgotten.”

So what has this got to do with running a business?


Marketing and the Golden Rule

Let’s take a little trip into the world of marketing. Let’s be brutally honest here: marketing does not always enjoy a good press. Indeed, there was a time – and this was a time not so very long ago – when marketers had a reputation that was only marginally on the positive side of the reputations enjoyed today by dodgy car dealers, PPI recovery cold callers and politicians.

Marketers took the view – and sadly some still take this view – that it was their job to ensure that their company’s goods and service were sold – no matter what. If achieving the profit goal meant misleading customers, leaving customers unhappy and ensuring that those customers never dealt with their companies again – well that was all part of the marketing, sales-centric ethos.

You may well be thinking that surely what I have described above is the job of those involved in marketing. And I would not for one moment disagree that marketers have the job of ensuring that their company’s goods and service are promoted and sold: but not at all costs. That is the point: not at all costs. The sales-centric orientation was very much a hangover from the industrial revolution and marketers today are still living with the tarnish it has had on their reputations.

How would you define marketing? There are quite a few definitions. The one that I like best is the one that talks about satisfying the customers’ requirements profitably. The reason I like this is because, firstly, it makes it clear that businesses are there to make a profit. If they don’t, they go out of businesses and no-one benefits from that.

Secondly, it emphasises that the profits that businesses make should come through satisfying the customers’ requirements. Satisfied customers are good for business. There is little doubt that some companies still adopt the sales-centric approach; however, today enlightened marketers realise that the customer is at the centre of the marketing universe.

What marketers of the past were doing, to put it very simply, was ignoring the golden rule. In fact, they were happily doing quite the reverse of what the golden rule requires. They were more than happy to treat customers one way but would never accept the same sort of treatment themselves.

Enlightened Marketing and the Golden Rule

Have you seen the film Miracle on 34th Street? If you have you may recall the scene where Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 version) working as a department store Santa Claus starts advising customers where to go to find the toys that his store doesn’t have. It seems the store has hired someone who not only believes he really is Santa Claus but he’s also helping to drive away the store’s customers by advising them to go elsewhere.

However, it turns out that what Kris does is a very successful bit of company PR. The store is seen as a company which can be trusted and has the best interest of its customers at the centre of its business activities. The store’s sales increase all thanks to Kris. Okay, so this is part of a fairy story, but the principle behind what Kris does is what today we’d call an example of enlightened marketing and an example of the golden rule in action.

Kris Kringle may have been acting out of naivety or innocence. Then again he may have realised that a customer is for life not just for Christmas. (Don’t Santa’s customers come back time and time again?) He may have decided to do the store’s marketing for it and take the long view of things.

If businesses treat their customers as they would want to be treated themselves they are more likely to retain those hard won clients. Satisfied customers are more likely to deal with businesses again and again. Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend to others the businesses which have met their needs. This certainly is not a fairy story. The golden rule is a very simple principle. It is a principle that seems as close to being universal as a principle can be. It is a principle that enlightened businesses will adopt.

Garry Costain is the Managing Director of Caremark Thanet, a domiciliary care provider with offices in Margate, Kent. Caremark Thanet provides home care services throughout the Isle of Thanet. Garry writes blogs on all matters to do with care: http://thanetcare.blogspot.co.uk/ and business. Garry can be contacted on 01843 235910 or email garry.costain@caremark.co.UK. You can also visit Caremark Thanet’s website at http://www.caremark.co.uk/thanet

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