It’s nice to be nice, but is it good for business? Customer service is important, but how much can we really care about customers? Compassion and love are at the heart of every great religion and spiritual tradition, but what part can they play in the world of work?
This is a new column. Each month, we will consider how the great human virtues – kindness, care for the world and compassion for others – apply in business. We’ll discuss research about how altruism can lead to business success. We’ll highlight acts of compassion by local companies.
Thanks to the Internet, those who sell goods and services are constantly asking customers, “How well did we serve you?” Add the natural friendliness and hospitality of Idahoans, and care for customers would seem to be flourishing. We are regularly asked to donate to a business’s favorite charity and ask other companies to support ours. The Treasure Valley has more than 500 nonprofits, most of them supported by business donors. Charitable events abound. “Doing well by doing good” would seem to be at an all-time high.
Yet we know that beneath the livability, beauty and good will of the Treasure Valley there lies an ocean of hidden, unmet needs. Thousands of children start school behind and never catch up. Hundreds are homeless. Wages are often low and transportation spotty. While food is relatively plentiful, health insurance is not.
Obviously there’s plenty to do and plenty to write about. So let’s start with three examples of good things happening:
• Working with United Way of Treasure Valley, 10 Boise banks and credit unions are offering conventional banking to those who now must use payday loans. The Pew Charitable Trust reports that Idahoans pay an astonishing 582 percent effective annual rate for payday loans, the highest in the nation. Now, 96 of our neediest neighbors have completed financial management classes and are opening bank accounts. More than 300 are in training with many more to follow into the BankOn program, providing a huge improvement in disposable income.
• On Aug. 1 Lacie Luker and 10 other future professionals at the Paul Mitchell cosmetology school in Boise provided free hair styling, nails and clothing for homeless women — a “spa day.” Now she will bring these services to the shelters where women live.
• Since 2000, Tony and Becca Zanders at Heritage Auto in Meridian have provided more than 1,000 oil changes to single moms on Mother’s Day.
As this column rolls along, there will be far more stories of compassion at work than space to tell them — a great problem to have. So we’ll build a library of stories on the web and dovetail them with similar accounts in the Statesman. Visit our Facebook page, our website, www.compassionateboise.org, or submit a story about yourself or others directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, consider ways you can be compassionate where you work.