Buddhist approach allows company to avoid greed-based decisions

New Brunswick Buddhist Journal, November 28, 2009

Principles: Local firm focuses on helping businesses and individuals

New Brunswick, Canada -- In most western countries, the separation of church and state is a core principle, so for businesses in those countries it just seems logical to stay away from religion because employees and customers likely have diverse beliefs.

<< By using Buddhist principles in the workplace, Chris Nadeau, head of Evolving Solutions Inc., is better able to remain focused when things get a bit crazy. Nadeau believes that applying Buddhist principles, such as being nice and causing no harm in business practices, is essential to being a better corporate citizen.

But a Port City firm is taking Buddhist principles to heart in how they operate.

Evolving Solutions Inc., which helps other companies bring their businesses and brands online, works under Buddhist-inspired values such as: just be nice and cause no harm.

But the firm isn't as much concerned with promoting and celebrating the spiritual philosophy as it is making the company a better corporate citizen.

"We're not heavy-duty into Buddhism, but we liked some of the principles and how they positioned it toward the workplace," says Chris Nadeau, the head of Evolving Solutions, who goes by the title chief love officer. "We make sure anything we do is not based solely on profits. We like to build things that are going to help businesses and individuals."

Nadeau got the idea from a book he read called Business and the Buddha, by Lloyd Field a semi-retired executive coach based in Waterloo, Ont. and Tucson, Ariz.

Field says the foundation for writing the book was the hope it might guide companies away from a greed-based motive for being in business, as Nadeau has embraced.

"Business is always related to financial quarters," he says. "The timeline is arbitrary.

"The only thing that is of concern is the bottom line. The people who make the product become nothing more than fixtures in a process," he says, adding payroll is seen only as an expense and not as the operating cost of an asset. "It's not seen as an investment in people that will generate innovation."

Field says a company's success shouldn't be measured solely on how much money it makes or its stock price.

"Making a profit is needed to sustain the business," he says, "but in addition to that, the corporation could be putting aside some money to create a better society, whether that society is within the community or the company or the industry they're in."

While some larger companies, particularly in California, have taken on variations of the principle, Field says it's mostly smaller firms that make it work.

"They are more concerned in doing good work than they are about the bottom line," he says. "They focus on doing good work and the money will come anyway."

This is the attitude of the four-person team at Evolving Solutions.

"It's made working a lot more enjoyable for us," Nadeau says. "The whole future planning and thinking how to make money all the time as your No. 1 priority, that makes it a little more stressful."

Instead, Nadeau says he and his co-workers focus on making the best possible decisions from day to day in hopes they will be known for their good work.

While larger companies are less likely to ease up on following the numbers as their primary goal, Field, who has a PhD in human resources, says they can still apply the Buddhist business principles to their attitude toward employees whether it is through increasing benefits, investing in training, or realigning responsibilities.

"The typical way it's approached now, is we train people in the technical skill, and then we use that knowledge they have and so long as they continue to use that we're quiet happy," he says. "But they don't realize the employee is growing while they use that skill."

If the employer would invest in continuing the employee's training and education, that person would be a greater asset and more likely to stay with the company, Field says.

But sometimes improving an employee's sense of satisfaction with their job and loyalty to a company can simply come from trusting them more.

He says often a manager may be in control of a part of a business that brings in millions in revenue a year, but anytime that person needs to spend more than $1,000, he or she needs four signatures. This is something Field says companies should reconsider.

He also says some firms wouldn't think twice about signing a cheque for a $30,000 piece of equipment, but $1,000 for employee appreciation would be approved reluctantly.

"The question is why?" he says. "Because the purchase of this production equipment for example is an asset, but the $1,000 for recognition would show up as an expense."

In Buddhism, says Field - a Buddhist himself, it's believed that suffering is something everyone experiences and the best way to deal with it is to no longer attach one's self to it.

Applying this to a business setting, Field says spending some money to keep employees happy will benefit all involved, because the employee is more likely to stay with the firm, which won't have to pay to recruit and train someone else.