January 2009


Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


Accountability – No Compromise

Greetings fellow entrepreneurs. Did you receive your government bailout check yet?

I’m talking about the bailout check that will cover all those questionable and utterly bad business decisions you’ve made. And you even get to use some of that money to take a “business trip” to a fine resort spa to decompress from all that stress you’ve been under – just like the executives at AIG.

What is compromise? Compromise is a mode of thinking and behavior. It’s when leaders see and even acknowledge that a problem exists, but fail to engage, or at best, take the easier path of self-interest.

Today, the American people are paying the price of leadership compromise by our elected officials up to and including the Oval Office. We’re paying the price of leadership compromise in our banking institutions, big business, oil companies, the Big Three automakers and Wall Street. It is compromise that stole Christmas.

With the current economic freefall putting hundreds of thousands out of work, decimating Americans’ retirement savings and forcing American businesses – many of them decades old – to severely downsize if not declare bankruptcy, the state of the U.S. economy is at the very forefront of Americans’ concerns. It is one of the most important issues at stake as we move forward with the Presidential transition. It is, in fact, the major news story of the day, with no sign of letting up any time soon.

Moreover, there has not been one word about direct or indirect responsibility or accountability by any of the people who propelled this disaster. They include the bankers and finance companies who gave out sub-prime mortgages like penny candy. Then we have the Big Three automakers who went begging to Washington for bailouts while swooping in on their multi-million dollar corporate jets. Also included are the leaders of Lehman Brothers, AIG, Citibank and others.

Their multi-billion dollar golden parachutes were long-stashed away, while the millions of senior adults on fixed incomes are watching their retirement savings crash and burn. Now they have to face the likelihood of ending their lives in true poverty.

Worst of all, the American government itself – from the president on down – have been sidestepping their own responsibility and have been literally throwing money – taxpayer money – at the very players who engineered this crisis.

Am I angry? You bet I am. I’m angry because the leaders of our banking system, major corporations and especially our leaders in Washington, D.C. don’t get it. They don’t get what accountability and no compromise is all about. They don’t get that doing what’s right is often the toughest part of leadership, that respect for people and doing the right thing come before profit.

Not only is the bailout not working, it’s putting billions of dollars back into the very hands of those that compromised and created this economic nightmare, and without any demand for reparation. Most of all, it doesn’t fix the fundamental issue: that compromise created this mess. Instead, it actually forgives it and enables compromise to continue. That’s not only wrong, it’s bordering on criminal.

I don’t know about you, but if I, or anyone I know, or for that matter any Joe the Plumber even attempted to do what those corporate leaders have done, they’d be fired, arrested for embezzlement, or at the very least forced to pay back what was stolen. So why are they getting handouts without being forced to do penance?

America can no longer afford to be compromised by greed and hubris. And the American people need – and deserve – to see a measure of penalty doled out. Think about our priorities, we prosecute and send Martha Stewart to jail for one instance of insider trading, yet the only person she hurt was herself. The unethical and immoral behavior of the group of business leaders who brought down our entire financial system – hurting millions in the process – don’t even get a slap on the wrist. There’s something wrong with that picture.

In my new book, “No-Compromise Leadership,” I wrote, “When leaders compromise … it’s the equivalent of a captain drilling holes in the bottom of a ship.” Now is the time for all leaders to practice accountability and to live the no-compromise mantra.

Salons and spas touch and communicate with millions of people every day. Let’s show America and the world what no-compromise leadership looks like. Let’s spread the word that no compromise and accountability is non-negotiable in business and government. By doing so, we can all emerge from this mess as strong and vibrant businesses.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching company specializing in the salon and spa industry. During his 38 years as a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker and author, Ducoff has gained respect as an expert of team-based compensation. For more information, visit www.strategies.com or e-mail neil@strategies.com.