There’s been an awful lot said about the role and responsibility of business in society, and whether or how big business should recover the trust it once had with the public, or in many cases its customers.
Seeing Berkshire Hathaway’s share price hit $200,000 today could be seen as significant milestone for a business so determined in the pursuit of profit.
It also put me in mind of my favourite Warren Buffett quote: “When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply to me if our positions were reversed”.
On the face of it this may appear self-evident: of course you would want people to understand what you say and do.
But isn’t there also a consistent theme among the numerous corporate scandals and let downs? Very often part of the problem is that what businesses do is simply inexplicable, literally.
Whether building mortgage-based credit default swaps or explaining Libor policy, so much is caught up in jargon and nonsense that it’s impossible for normal people (or very often regulators), to understand. Consequently the activity it explains goes largely unscrutinised.
If more businesses took a leaf out of Buffett’s book and explained things as they would like to understand them it would not cut out the lawbreakers, but it might make them easier to spot.
At the very least, clearer explanations of what they are up to would help a distrusting public better understand how business is trying to help.