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Quality work & asshole concepts & bread crumbs

In today's circular letter to his colleagues, Ernst Prost stresses how important a proper system of values is for entrepreneurs and that the entrepreneurial risk is often higher for low-paid employees than for investors

Ladies and gentlemen,

you can ride a bike hands-free, you can even eat without a knife and fork. But working without brain and heart is something you shouldn't do, and running a business without a compass, even less. I don't mean the compass with the four cardinal points, but the value compass with right or wrong. "How am I to know how to decide and what to do?" One of my teachers had a simple answer: "There are some things you just don't do." Basically a simple thing, a clear basis for decision making and a well functioning compass. You could also call it a conscience... If you want to test whether your actions are right, you can also use the sentence: "What you don't want someone to do to you, don't do to anyone else." There are the ones who makes decisions in a brash and cold-hearted, perhaps even inhuman way which would proceed quite differently if it were not anonymous, i.e. employees as numbers as rationalization potential whose fate he decides on, but friends, relatives, his own family or himself. 

You already know it - I'm back on the topic of short-time work and redundancies and the social responsibility of bosses and entrepreneurs. These are not just numbers or anonymous masses, it's about people and every single person counts. Financial investors may be completely unfamiliar with this view. Not so for an entrepreneur, on the contrary: First comes the person, then the return. This is how WE think and act. I admit that it takes a lot of steadfastness and a firm belief in principles not to give up. Unemployment, poverty in old age, minimum wage, living on the edge of society on the one hand and on the other hand profits, profits, returns - millions and millions of Euros and Dollars... how this is supposed to make sense? I am not talking about fairness and justice, I am talking about sense or nonsense within an economy, a society.  The "asshole concept" of finding and using legal and illegal tax loopholes and tax havens is often enough the crowning glory of the shameful & harmful behavior of some actors. For my part, I do not want to die an asshole.

It is not the case that those who have little or nothing don't work. With low wages and high expenses for rent, children and family you can't make big leaps and you can't save anything for the future. Not every service is paid for as it should be. I would not mind if people could have to much - I don't know envy and resentment, but too little or even so little that they don't have a reasonable income for themselves and their family is not possible. Performance must be worthwhile. Good work must be well paid. Tax evasion must be stopped and, because it is illegal, severely punished.

You hear about entrepreneurial risk everywhere, there is no doubt about it. Some entrepreneurs have to fight day and night to make ends meet for themselves, their families and their teams. But there are also enough companies - and by no means the smallest ones - where it is not the entrepreneur who bears the entrepreneurial risk, but the workforce as can be seen again very clearly in the crisis, the very people who created the prosperity of the company are put on the street when things are not going so smoothly... And when things go badly, after decades of underpayment, the first crisis that comes along gives you kick in the butt - forever... while the entrepreneurial risk for the investor is perhaps once a year not to earn double-digit million profits, but only single-digit ones. As I said, there are both - you have to look at the individual case carefully. I hope the banks and KfW will do this very carefully and not only save the big ones... and the lutes...

Always worth a look is definitely the value of work, which is expressed in salary, social benefits and secure jobs. Under no circumstances should the entrepreneurial risk be shifted onto the already weak in this game, everyone involved in the value chain should receive their fair share of the monetary value created. I do not believe in serving only capital and fobbing off workers and employees, who increase precisely this capital through their performance, with crumbs. That would be a monumental failure of our entire economic system and social order. 

So much for tomorrow, May 1st, Labour Day.


Ernst Prost