October 26; Must We Sell To Every Customer Who Wants To Buy?
What Is The Rate of Return?
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Ten: Deciding 26 October

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Luke 24:5b

Must We Sell To Every Customer Who Wants To Buy?

Sick

A couple of decades ago General Hospital was located in the inner city of a large metropolis run by God-less liberals. By natural extension this meant that the purchasing personnel were corrupt.

Bill was one of the few salesmen who actually sold something to them in clean deals. But it would not last.

The crooked hospital employees had refined their art of graft into a learned, repeatable science of extorting vendors. And it nearly worked on Bill.

It operated like this. A buyer would cultivate an eager salesman (yes, this is redundant, I know) (I was once a sales guy, too) with first promises and then start with small purchases. Playing hard to get always works.

Another sales rep once told me, “You could spend your whole career there and never make a sale, never make a difference.” He was right. I called on purchasing and a few doctors. It was dark and dirty and lazy. As I would visit the nurses stations, I would overhear the staff talk about their sick patients: The most common adjective of “infection” was “nosocomial.*” There was never even urgency in the emergency department.

Bill got a call on his home phone from a purchasing agent. Diligent sales rep that he is, Bill gives his private ‘call me anytime’ number to his client hospitals. The customer home-phoned to make a request.

***

Management is a practice like law or medicine, and is governed by relationships. Clinicians and hospitals and healthcare management are a case study on the intersection of ethics and money. This is not a new challenge. Scholar John Horvat II writes,

Perhaps the most important premise of the medieval economic order is its insistence that economic activity be considered in the context of a social order bound by general rules of sociability, charity, or justice that must govern human relations.

To use an analogy, a doctor, for example, must know medical science well, even though it must be a science that is cold and objective. Yet when treating patients, he must go beyond the level of a technician and treat them with warmth, charity and compassion due to their dignity as human beings. That is why doctors have long taken the Hippocratic Oath—a code of medical ethics valid for all times and places. (Horvat 2013)

Management professor Peter Drucker explains the connection of medicine and management,

The first responsibility of a professional was spelled out clearly, 2,500 years ago, in the Hippocratic oath of the Greek physician: primum non nocere—“Above all, not knowingly to do harm.”

No professional, be he doctor, lawyer, or manager, can promise that he will indeed do good for his client. All he can do is try. But he can promise that he will not knowingly do harm. And the client, in turn, must be able to trust the professional not knowingly to do him harm. Otherwise he cannot trust him at all.

The professional has to have autonomy. He cannot be controlled, supervised, or directed by the client. He has to be private in that his knowledge and his judgment have to be entrusted with the decision.

But it is the foundation of his autonomy, and indeed its rationale, that he sees himself as “affected with the public interest.” A professional, in other words, is private in the sense that he is autonomous and not subject to political or ideological control. But he is public in the sense that the welfare of his client sets limits to his deeds and words.

And…“not knowingly to do harm,” is the basic rule of professional ethics, the basic rule of an ethics of public responsibility. (Drucker 1973)

Peter Drucker goes on to say that in “business ethics” there is no difference between a ‘life lie’ and a ‘business lie.” He writes, “Executives should not cheat, steal, lie, bribe, or take bribes. But nor should anyone else. Men and women do not acquire exemption from the ordinary rules of personal behavior because of their work or job.” Drucker suggests that “moral values and moral education—of the individual, or the family, of the school” are represented by the manager. (Murray 2010)

***

Bill answers the call from the purchasing agent and the hospital buyer begins talking in the elliptical indirection of “we do a lot of business with you…” with more friendly words following. Then a casual remark on how dangerous The City is and the hospital purchasing agent should be kept safe and a home security system would help keep everyone happy for about 12. As in $12,000.

Bill could hear the wink and nod over the phone. The hospital agent helpfully gave Bill the name and number of his contact at the “security company” to drop off the request. More words follow. That vendor “is a simple cash-only business, as I’m sure you understand…”

Bill understood completely and called me. He did a million in sales with the account and he was about to lose it all.

I suggested that he go dark and say and do nothing for the time being and to talk quietly with his boss. Whistleblowers, like messengers of bad news, are not always appreciated and seldom have good days. This would require some finesse.

Bill would not be paying or acknowledging the extortion.

But then he didn’t have to ransom his account. It became moot. While we dithered in indecision on how not to act, the Hand of Divine Providence intervened.

Bill lost the account.

General Hospital was closed down when the city went bankrupt. It was a sick place to do business.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Luke 24:5b

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* An infection caught in a health care facility. The adage goes, “A hospital is no place to get sick…” The nosocomial infection rate is about 2 people per 1,000 patients. It was rumored that the dirty dealing hospital had a much greater and deadlier infection rate. But no one trusted the accuracy of the numbers. Everything had a price in General Hospital.

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