THERE are people who spend a great deal of time learning about business functions and operations. People of this sort spend a lot of resources trying to make their projects work.
Such folks can tell you about marketing, accounting, finance, human resources and operational facets of the business or businesses they are operating in.
Nevertheless, their businesses seem to fail to make it while sitting on the brink of a massive breakthrough, that is, when they are just about to make it big.
The main issue we would interrogate is why there are so many people who happen to know what needs to be done in business, but fail at critical times of their business career.
There are key social aspects of business activity that many people ignore when they run their projects. In fact, all businesses that existed, all businesses that exist and all businesses that shall exist are part of society.
Any business (just like any organisation) is nothing, but a microcosm of society. Since society is a grouping of human beings according to convenience, climate, terrain, economic or political circumstances, religious beliefs and occupation, it is important for any potential business person to study the site and situation of his or her business/project.
Without a dynamic living understanding of the site and situation of a business, one is bound to fail. Human nature is both organic and social. Human nature is organic in the sense that human beings grow over time either as individuals or groups.
Human nature is social because people are not only physical organisms, but they derive meaning and worth from defining and configuring themselves on the basis of pre-existing and futuristic mores, values, aspirations, rights and codes.
The first main social aspect of business activity is people.
Organisations worldwide are formed by people to serve people. Since the dawn of time, there is no firm or organisation which was ever formed or created to serve itself.
An organisation begins to fail if instead of viewing itself as a servant of society, it then starts to believe that people owe it its existence.
A company which believes that society owes it something instead of vice-versa is nothing but a monstrosity. There is a negative behaviour pattern which develops in successful and powerful firms that lead to their downfall.
When a firm has grown and has transformed itself from a once agile and customer-conscious business outfit to a lethargic and unwieldy bureaucracy, complacence normally sets in and people are usually treated with disdain by those wielding power in the company.
This leads to customer resentment which provides a cutting edge for competitors to grow. Eventually the once-mighty company joins a long list of collapsed firms.
The second social aspect of business is corporate social responsibility also known as corporate social integrity or corporate social investment.
All good companies recognise society as their primary host and therefore ultimate benefactor.
If it was not for the patience and benevolence of society, many companies would have ceased to exist a long time ago.
There are many companies that release effluent or pollution into streams and rivers that are critical for human and animal survival.
Despite this, such companies have continued to be hosted by society without any sizeable penalties.
Ordinarily since society is more powerful than any company that may be conceived by man or that exists, there are social sanctions that society would use to stop misbehaving business enterprises from operating.
It is therefore important for firms to help communities they operate in to rehabilitate the environment so as to contribute to better living standards.
If a company makes a name for itself by contributing to just causes of the community like assisting the underprivileged, feeding the hungry, clothing those with inadequate clothing, and providing scholarships to capable children from poor families, society is bound to be fond of such an organisation.
This translates to increased and better business for the company in the long term.
The last key social aspect of business activity is having a value system which promotes harmony, initiative, integrity and excellence in society.
A society without a strong value system is bound to be gripped by corruption of one sort or another. In fact, if a society has a value system only on paper instead of developing a living code that inspires everyday behavior, such a society is bound to disintegrate with the passage of time.
Since all companies are corporate citizens in a society, they must derive their value system from society and if some sections of society have lost the moral compass, it is the duty of firms through their influence in the marketplace to help recover long-lost core values of behavior.
Companies must not just aspire to be excellent, but must ensure that on a daily basis they contribute small layers to the social edifice of excellence, initiative and integrity.
Ian Ndlovu is an economics lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology. His research interests cover business, finance, development and economic issues.
He writes in his personal capacity.