Compassion in business – aka rational giving

After the deep stuff yesterday I was out of topics, so I asked for ideas on twitter. Sheridan King came up with the one I am trying on for size in this blogpost (literal quote, though spell checked):

How about compassion in business? In these tough times we could use it instead of being chased, threatened & bullied to pay.

This question suits me as I am a small business owner. I design websites for a living. I generally have fast paying customers, for some reason. I haven’t had to deal with this one as my clients have usually just payed me their bills. Some needed a little encouragement, but in the end: all payed up. Also, I don’t think any of them were poor.

From that you can gather that I’m a business like business person. I make it clear in advance what will need to be payed. I make sure I get an advance before I start the project. And I send the invoice very soon after the project is done. All that helps to get the money. I need that money to pay my bills. So I work to make sure I get it.

From the perspective of the client: I’m very clear. I’m not in this to do charity – that’s what volunteer work is for (I do some of that too) – I’m in this to make a living.

I guess what I’m driving at is: please don’t hire me if you can’t afford it. And if you find out you can’t afford me after I have done the work – let me know and we can set up an arrangement. Monthly payments or something like that would be an option I guess.

Charity and business don’t mix very well in my opinion. I think it’s great to do volunteer work – but I’d like to know that it is unpaid in advance. It’s unfair to the business owner to hire them when you just can not pay them. This goes for buying stuff as well.

I guess this is not what Charidan wanted to hear. It may be my Dutch perspective talking. We have a pretty strong governmental support system in The Netherlands which means that people aren’t likely to fall into too deep a financial hole. Also, our government didn’t stimulate people buying houses they could not afford. Instead we have government funded apartments and houses for let. Not a bad system – certainly less stressful than the government having to bail out mortgage banks in order to save the economy (though our economy will be affected as well, in the long run).

In a situation, like the USA, where there is less government involvement – I guess it does make sense that corporations fill in some of the slack. But the problem is that for them too these aren’t easy times. They have rents to pay, saleries to give out etc. I’m not sure it is a good idea for them to just say – hey, you can pay later. Psychologically that just leads to postponement on the part of the client.

And monthly payments with high interest rates may sound good – but those actually make poor people less likely to get out of debt. Credit Card debt anyone?

Instead I’d advocate living within your means and selling what you need to in order to pay your bills. That way you aren’t dependent on the credit card companies or any other business you’re involved with. It may mean not living as nicely, or perhaps giving up a fancy car for an inexpensive one, but hey – the precise car you drive isn’t important from a spiritual perspective. Not as long as you can get from A to B.

Where does compassion fit in? It is a valuable spiritual ideal. For me that still involves making a clear distinction between giving money and not getting payed for services.

Companies and well to do individuals do have a duty to help people out. But this should be a case by case thing. I think it would be best if there are no strings attached. That is: handouts like food and clothing and other daily necessities should be gifts, not loans. People who need financial support are also best helped with money that they DO NOT have to pay back. A wise donor will make sure the person isn’t getting themselves into more debt while you are giving them money. If the pattern of spending is too strong, people will just keep spending more than they have and the credit hole will only get deeper. As long as people are in that pattern, no amount of money given will help one bit.

If you are in debt, please seek help in getting out of it. Figure out what you are spending monthly. What the interest rates are etc. What can you cut back on? What stuff are you buying that you don’t need?

So the practical advice for those in trouble is: get your act together. For those in a position to help the advice is: help with essentials and try and help people in getting their act together.

From a spiritual perspective spending money before you have it is not good karma.

Sorry I could not be more comforting.