Commentary: Government could learn something from business

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Executive Chef Steve Ulibarri of Cuisine Unlimited puts the finishing touches on braised beef short ribs, one of several colonial-inspired dishes served at The Eccles Theater during the run of "Hamilton."

I have recently watched with interest as our political environment teetered on the precipice of complete collapse. I happened to be in Washington, D.C., during the contentious Kavanaugh hearings. The rhetoric and emotions on both sides were intense, to say the least. Unfortunately, it seemed to bring out the worst in people.

What is even more unfortunate is that the negativity has not stayed in Washington. Political clashes between right-wing and left-wing, between business and bureaucracy are alive in Utah.

I was saddened to read recently of a classic, local example of political forces colliding with solid business principals involving the Eccles Theater and one of Utah’s finest companies — Cuisine Unlimited.

According to various reports, the political forces running the theater made representations during a request for proposal process that were not accurate, and Cuisine Unlimited responded with a proposal to provide services based upon those representations. When those forces came together, it was clear that adjustments needed to be made for both parties to experience a positive outcome. This was where the major collision occurred. The political world started to backtrack. Instead of having meaningful conversations, attorneys were summoned, lawsuits filed and trust and collaboration destroyed.

As an experienced business owner, I can say with confidence that this is not the typical outcome of a bad business deal. It is the result of a collision between the political and business world. Perhaps our political environment can learn some lessons from the business community, to prevent something like this from happening again. I would like to suggest a few:

  • Businesses succeed by adding value. In an open economy, people purchase products and services when they believe the product or service is worth its cost.

  • Businesses succeed when trust and collaboration exist, not only within their organization, but between the purchasers of product/service and their consumers. Think about the first time you placed an order on Amazon. Perhaps you were nervous punching in your credit card information. Would the product really come? Would it be as it was represented online? Today, few of us think twice before clicking on that shopping cart. We have learned to trust businesses to deliver and stand behind their product.

  • Businesses succeed when relationships are valued. People tend to do business with people they like and trust.  Business is more efficient and collaborative.  Customers become more loyal because they are doing business with their friends.

  • Businesses succeed when they take responsibility for their actions. Occasionally mistakes happen, misunderstandings occur, products don’t perform as expected, services can’t be delivered, but successful businesses take responsibility and find solutions to these problems. They honestly attempt to find a silver lining in difficult situations.

As a business owner, I also know that not every company adds value, maintains a high level of integrity, nourishes healthy relationships, or takes responsibility for its actions 100 percent of the time. But I do know that this is an ongoing effort and expectation within the business community. If politicians and businesses could strive toward this, the world (and Utah) would experience a higher level of trust, collaboration and innovation.

I strongly encourage the decision makers for Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City, together with the principals of Cuisine Unlimited, to come together and find meaningful solutions. Let’s show Washington how working together, without damaging lawsuits, works to restore trust in our Utah political system.

Terry Buckner

Terry Buckner is president and CEO of Buckner, a Salt Lake City-based brokerage that provides insurance, employee benefits, bonds and risk management.