Religious and spiritual movements have not generally had much to say about wealth creation. Partly this has been due to the fact that they invented some great taxes such as tithes, which meant they didn't have to bother much with creating wealth themselves.
They've also had a bias towards getting ready for the next world rather than being successful in this one. Buddhism is the exception, giving practical steps to making the most of life here and now. Its Noble Eightfold Path is in fact a great guide to doing business.
1. Right View
Right view simply means to see and to understand things as they really are. In business this is about having a clear vision of what you're trying to achieve. A company that doesn't have a clear idea of where it's going is generally going nowhere. Right view can also be thought of as insight. All businesses have to have a unique insight into the market, seeing an unmet need or opportunity. Having the right view of a market is the first stage to business success. For many entrepreneurs it's an intuitive thing but for more established businesses it means continually researching the market and consumers for new insights
2. Right Intention
Having an insight into the market is a great start but that's all it is – a great start. Unless you do something to take advantage of that insight then you're nothing more than a visionary guru or market research agency. Meeting the need you've identified means innovation, providing a new product or service to fill that gap. Your intention is therefore your offering to the market. The rightness of the offering and how closely it matches your consumers' needs is the key to success. A skewed insight or a partial response will mean only partial success. Make sure what you intend to do is absolutely right before you start.
3. Right Speech
The way you marry your offering to your insight is through communication. This is where advertising and marketing and PR work their magic, or not. Everyone knows that good communication is an incredibly effective business tool while poor communication can undo just about any other strength you have in the business. Right speech in Buddhist terms means not to tell deliberate lies, not to wound other people and not to talk unnecessarily. As a starting point for briefing your communication agency it's a great start. Politicians would probably start from somewhere else but they have a very limited shelf-life. Make your communication clear, constructive and purposeful and it will repay all you invest in it.
4. Right Action
Once you have your business up and running and assuming your communication is matching a strong intent to an accurate insight, operational matters become important. Getting individual daily actions right is a cornerstone of Buddhism and also the bedrock of profitable business operations. In broad terms this means acting kindly and compassionately with respect to others. Of course what this translates to in business is customer service and a relentless focus on satisfying their needs. At a higher level customers need to be offered added value through great products and services and at a lower level these products and services need to be delivered in a way that respects and appreciates the customer. Buddhism is also very strict on not harming others. Businesses should also bear this in mind, especially when they get strong enough to do so.
5. Right Livelihood
Right livelihood means earning a living in a righteous way and creating wealth legally and peacefully. Buddhism actually singles out four businesses to be avoided: arms trading, prostitution, meat production and poison manufacture. As a large part of the British economy is engaged in these four, following the Buddhist way becomes a bit tricky. What makes it even more tricky is that the people involved in, for example, the arms trade and agro-chemicals tend to stick to other seven paths more closely than other more 'ethical' industries such as the media.
6. Right Effort
Right effort can be translated very loosely to Yorkshire-speak as hard graft. Without continual application of effort, nothing very much happens in the real world or, if it does, it doesn't last very long. However, right effort is very different from generalised effort which can often be a complete waste of time and energy. Buddhism helpfully breaks down right effort into four types: 1. prevention of unwholesome states (bad business practices) arising; 2.eradication of bad business practices; 3.development of new best practices. 4. maintenance of existing best practice. Understanding what is and what isn't good practice is the first thing that requires effort. The next step will help you do that.
7. Right Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a truly excellent concept and largely explains why Tesco is a world beater and Woolworth's is no longer with us. Mindfulness is about a continual awareness of what's going on around you and inside your head. It's having continual clarity about what's important, especially amid complexity. Banks spectacularly failed to do this, fostering mindless and ultimately self-defeating complexity instead. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Buddhism are contemplation of the body, feelings, state of mind and phenomena. In business these can be usefully seen as paying attention to financial soundness, corporate reputation, staff motivation and market awareness.
8. Right Concentration
Real concentration is rare in life, which is also why it's so powerful. Buddhism defines concentration as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. This is particularly appropriate for businesses where a similar concept is 'sticking to your knitting'. Achieving anything in life is hard enough but dissipating your energies makes it even harder. Soldiers talk about concentration of force and the same applies for business. You have limited energy so make sure it's continually and exclusively applied to your original view and intention in the right way. If you do all this not only will you have a good chance of building a successful business but you may also achieve enlightenment along the way.