Imagine what life must be like inside BP at the moment. Faced with huge economic loss and the shame of being responsible for one of the biggest environmental disasters in the history of mankind, things can’t be pretty. There is international outcry regarding the entire mess and how it has been handled and rightly so. One of the biggest problems is that BP had a low bank balance in their “Karma Bank”, so they were considered the bad guys before the disaster even started.
So what is the Karma Bank?
Well I think it is the collective sense of goodwill that the broader community has towards a business. Do they feel that the business is a “good business”, one that plays a proactive role in the community? Is it a business that is committed to doing the right thing – environmentally, socially, financially? Is the business honest? Are the people running the business trustworthy? Is the business concerned with the long term good of all, or the short term benefit of a few?
Now these opinions are not formed overnight, but in reality, most larger corporations tend to start their Karma Bank account in the red, as the broader community tend to reserve judgment about a business until they have more information. But they start with the belief that a large company in particular has to prove itself before they will give it credit, depending of course on who is behind the company.
The Karma Bank certainly influences the media. Those companies with big Karma Bank accounts, lets pick Virgin as an example, can in many ways do no wrong. They are the “sweethearts” of the corporate world and it is reflected in the media. Now they don’t enjoy this status randomly, it is their actions over many years that build their Karma Bank balance. They can get away with making a blunder or two, as long their balance stays in the black. They get through challenges in much better shape and with the cheeky grin of Sir Richard Branson not far from a camera.
So how do you build your Karma Bank Balance?
A great question. There is no one single activity that will build your Karma Balance, but rather an all inclusive attitude or culture. Your organisation needs to be 100% committed to the community or communities where it operates. This means being genuinely and actively involved in supporting the people of these communities, the businesses and the environment. They key word here is “genuine”.
Secondly the business needs to have a strong and clear leader who is vocal and one who personally lives the culture of making a difference. A good leader steps up when the company makes a mistake and apologises sincerely and quickly. They don’t get caught up in whose fault it is, they focus on fixing the problem as the main priority.
Third, the culture of making a positive difference is encouraged throughout the company. The staff get involved, buying decisions revolve around making a difference or supporting others as opposed to saving a few cents and as the business grows, there is a constant and never ending desire to find more ways to make a difference.
Last but by no means least, the business needs to be very good at communicating and I am not talking about putting “spin” on things, but genuine communication with all people who have some form of interaction with the business. This means sharing their victories as much as their challenges. Being open about their values and vision for the future and where they stand on the community and how they intend to make a difference.
The concept of the Karma Bank is equally as applicable for small businesses as it is for large corporations. All businesses need to be aware that they have a Karma Bank Account open, the balance of their account is entirely up to them. When everything is going great, you can get away with a negative balance, but when things get tough or your business faces some challenges, the negative balance is enough to close the doors as the business will not get the support of the great community.
My advice is simple, take the right actions to keep topping up that Karma Bank. Make it a daily activity and be genuine and sincere about it. It may just save your business one day. Remember the wise words of Henry Ford, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”