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Good business

I once told someone their website was inadequate (although I’m reasonably sure I was gentle) only to discover his daughter had proudly built it.

Of course, learning that fact didn’t suddenly make the website good. And I was right to point out the flaws, because that was my job. But I didn’t get any work from it, the website didn’t get fixed and nobody ended-up better-off. If I’d lied and said the website was perfect, then it wouldn’t get fixed and nobody would end-up better-off. A lose-lose situation because the wrong person was selected for the job in the first place.

On the other hand: the daughter perhaps started to learn a new skill, felt a sense of accomplishment (at least until I blundered in) and perhaps the shared activity brought parent and child closer together. So who’s the loser now, sitting smug but unpaid with an idealist notion of the perfect website?

One of the things I enjoy about marketing – about marketing done right, at least – is that it can benefit everyone involved. I get paid for my services, the client increases their sales and the end customer gets a better product that, hopefully, improves their life in some way, or at least solves some kind

That might be a little rose-tinted optimism in this idea, and arguably a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance. And it’s tough for all businesses to actively do good at least in an Instagrammable way. But I love finding a client who treats their staff well, their – and the – environment well, pays fairly, celebrates success and learns from failure. Their products or services help solve a problem, and people’s lives are a tiny bit better as a result.

There are many good businesses, and business people, out there. People who understand that everyone wins when everyone wins. I watch in despair at people who treat business, and life, like a battle, like a war which must be won.

It’s not always like that, and the “is this doing good?” idea is something that I’ve fought with over the years. But it’s also such an arbitrary concept. Some people would argue that a burger from McDonalds is good; some might suggest the opposite. It’s probably an unsovable problem: even an organic, fairtrade fruit importer could be faced with accusations of unnecessary food miles and carbon footprints.

We can’t be perfect, but we can probably all try to be better.

What makes a good business? What makes a business good? Comment below.

Best wishes



  • James Stewart says:

    I think any business needs ‘friends’ and it gets them by treating people well. If you take advantage of customers, suppliers etc, they’ll disappear. If you are pleasant, helpful, useful, you steadily build your business.

    So the question is how to maximise the number of happy contacts with the effort available ?

    • Tom Doggett says:

      You could send them an email every day… There are some companies who give their staff complete freedom to treat customers well. Zappos in the US are an example, I think. They don’t (or at least didn’t) put time limits or expectations on their call centre staff, no scripts or upselling,

      The biggest thing is remembering that whatever you’re selling, and to whomever, it ultimately comes down to one thing, every time: at some fundamental part of the process it’s still one person talking to another person. Two humans. So many businesses (people!) forget that, but it’s the whole point.