We all know compassionate people, those who brighten the world by their very existence. You just know they’re making the world a better place.

Photo by Ludovic François on Unsplash

Business doesn’t have that reputation. It’s about making products. Delivering services. Being profitable. Attacking competitors.

That’s a very functional feeling, even hard-edged. Especially when you’re talking about the numbers.

As your business grows and matures, it is almost inevitable you will ask yourself whether to buy or lease space from which to operate. Here are a few key considerations when making this decision.

So what does it mean for a company to have a more compassionate approach? And does it matter?

As with people individually, it comes down to a choice. What difference does a person choose to make to his or her family and community? What difference does a business choose to make to its employees, customers, and the larger society?

It’s your choice.

Being a compassionate company is not the same as being weak or fluffy. A business must make a profit to survive, the same as you individually need to have a source of income to survive. But that says nothing about what difference you choose to make in the world.

Sure, your customers appreciate the value you provide. And employees need a source of income. But doesn’t making a difference go deeper than that?

What does compassion look like in business? A lot of it is attending to the small things. Giving employees a little latitude to recover from mistakes. Addressing customer issues in an understanding manner. Showing gratitude to all who contribute to your success, inside and outside the company. Supporting diversity in a deeper way than just checking a box.

This says everything about how you go about doing what you do. It gives people a reason to care about your company at a much deeper level, which builds engagement and loyalty. It starts having a reputation and character.

But why bother? Well, because people are … human. We all make mistakes. As groups, we often make even bigger mistakes. That includes managers, employees, customers, and partners. And you.

An organization without compassion becomes what I call “brittle.” The slightest disruption can send out ripples of distrust, fear, and retribution. People don’t want to interact with it anymore, so customers will leave. Employees will find other employment, “retire in place,” or just ramp back engagement to the minimum required.

Is it worth the trouble? It depends on three choices you get to make:

  1. Do you want to keep your current customers and attract new ones?
  2. Do you want to keep your best employees, and improve their engagement to do great work?
  3. What difference do you want to make in your industry, your community, and the world?

Realize that all of these are choices. You can run your business how you see fit, and you can have whatever goals you wish. You may or may not succeed, but that’s the normal outcome of how you play the game in your industry.

But if you want to build a great organization, create enduring relationships with your customers, and make an enviable difference to those in the larger community, well, it’s good to include compassion in your strategy and values.

It’s one of the key foundational elements for lasting business success.

This article was first published in BizWest.