Doing good and doing well
Lucy Marcus, managing director of Marcus Ventures Consulting, which acts as a strategy advisor to financing vehicles, and High Tech Women, an online and offline network and forum for women working in the high-tech sector, outlines how giving back to the community is not only satisfying and energising on a personal level, but also makes for good business practice.
It is now eminently clear that the fundamental business principles that govern the old economy are the same as those that govern the new economy and, by the same token, the fundamental principles that constitute business ethics are the same as those in the traditional sectors as well.
I come to this subject wearing two hats â€“ one is that of the managing director of Marcus Venture Consulting, a firm that works with entrepreneurial ventures and financing organisations. The second is that of the managing director of HighTech Women, an online and offline meeting and mentoring organisation for women in technology and technology-related sectors.
These two very different organisations have provided me with an opportunity to explore the multiple facets of business ethics and to pursue a long-standing interest in the application of the theory of business ethics on to real and everyday issues, as well as to look at the balance of â€œdoing good and doing wellâ€.
Marcus Venture Consultingâ€™s work as strategy advisors to financing vehicles brings first hand experience of the spectrum of choices that those organisations tackle in implementing ethical practices throughout their business practices. Our role is to enable organisations to develop and implement a successful course for investing, be they venture funds, large financial institutions, or corporates and to then help the organisation to be recognised as smart and good money in what is a very competitive funding environment. Issues such as confidentiality, Chinese walls within organisations, respect for intellectual property and timely and accurate dealings are but a few issues that these financiers are dealing with that are both ethical concerns and constitute good business practices. The importance of this has been proven with the success and good reputations that have been built and maintained by those who attended to these issues with care, as well as by the irreparable damage to organisations that have not.
HighTech Women, on the other hand, is a fast growing organisation built on the premise of â€œdoing good and doing wellâ€ embodied in everything it does. It is felt in the way the 1300-plus members, ranging from CEOs and non-executive directors to students and encompassing all areas of the technology and technology-related sectors, including law, venture capital, consulting, accounting, journalism, and recruitment, meet, mentor, and do business with one another.
Every day brings further proof from the members that it is good and smart business to have a diverse workforce, with a good balance of men, women, and ethnic minorities throughout the organisation, starting at the board level. HighTech Women has also demonstrated the importance of drawing a line in the sand on these issues and encouraging people to take their careers in their own hands, offering them an effective platform for writing articles, speaking at industry conferences, and, via the HighTech Women Pool of Directors, making non-executive board seats more accessible than ever before.
In return, HighTech Women members and partner organisations are keen to give skills and time back to society. In a recent survey, many members named as their goals for 2001 things such as: â€œuse my experience to help othersâ€; â€œthink more about corporate social responsibility and how to incorporate it in my companyâ€™s business practicesâ€; â€œpick someone to mentor in my companyâ€; â€œhire more internsâ€; â€œhelp conquer the digital divideâ€. The message came through loud and clear that they feel that â€œdoing good and doing wellâ€ is a powerful way to achieve balance – no matter where they are in their careers – and that their experiences with mentoring others and giving back to the community have been among the most satisfying and energising things they do.
A new initiative, the HighTech Women Skills Bank for Society, is now launching in March, which will seek to move the discourse of â€œdoing good and doing wellâ€ even further into practice. It will be an opportunity for individuals and companies to contribute their time and skills to not-for-profit organisations of all kinds and we are looking forward to partnering with members of the technology industry and technology-related industries to ensure its success. It is a concrete means for organisations and individuals to give back to their community and it has received a warm response from our members who feel it provides an opportunity for â€œdoing good and doing wellâ€ in the truest sense.
Business ethics is a very much a part of the technology world and the obligation of companies to think carefully about the impact of the choices they make on their entire business ecosystem, from their employees, to their customers, and by extension, their communities, is more important than ever. In all businesses, be they small and just starting up, or well established and building on continued success, â€œdoing good and doing wellâ€ is something that can be incorporated into their everyday dealings. My hope is that initiatives like HighTech Women and the HighTech Womenâ€™s Skills Bank for Society provide a means for organisations and individuals to take another step in the direction of putting the theory of â€œdoing good and doing wellâ€ into practice.
Lucy P. Marcus is Managing Director of Marcus Venture Consulting and HighTech Women.