Accountability has become one of the defining issues in business. Increasingly, regulators, investors, employees, and the public demand it. For example, the National Labor Relations Board has said that McDonald's is a co-employer of franchise workers. Many consumer became irate when Urban Outfitters tried to explain away its Kent State blood-spattered sweatshirt fiasco.

Companies are run by people, and people often hate taking responsibility for their own actions. All too often, the inclination is to blame someone or something else for a problem to bolster a self-image and explain away a problem. Executives and entrepreneurs at businesses of all sizes do this. In the past, I heard public companies of significant size complain bitterly about having to write plain-English discussions in proxy statements. Referring to regulation, one corporate secretary yelled at me, "It's killing us!" But when I asked, he admitted that revenue and profits were higher that year than the previous one. "Then it's not killing you," I replied.

Maybe the corporate secretary was seriously over-worked, but blaming the regulators was silly. The company likely had the money to add help to get the necessary work done, only it wanted to maintain profits by expecting that employees could always do more with less.

A more recent complaint I've heard has been from smaller and mid-sized companies that the Affordable Healthcare Act or increased minimum wage was brutal and would keep them from hiring, or even force them to downsize. In reality, the problem is that the businesses either aren't efficient enough in their operations to meet regulatory requirements or they haven't learned how to create enough value to get their customers to pay the bit more it takes to cover the cost of meeting their obligations.

You can wail and moan as much as you want, but blaming regulators, employees, consumers, or general business conditions puts nails into your company's coffin. Blame kills your business by pieces every day in the following ways:

  • You give yourself a pass on not solving a real business problem.
  • You abdicate responsibility for your business, thus losing the control you need to achieve success.
  • Pointing to another cause keeps you from examining how your business works and whether there are structural problems only within your control.
  • Blame makes you into a public whiner, and no one likes to do business with a crybaby.
  • By focusing on the supposed cause of your problem, you're wasting the attention that would be better spent on finding a solution.
  • You potentially feed fear that you can't possibly come up with a solution and psychologically paralyze yourself.

Times are tough? Sorry, but they often are for all of us who own businesses. No one promises you success or easy times. You're living in an era with more tools to become successful and thrive than have ever existed before. Stop complaining about how someone or something is making business difficult. Instead, find ways to get around a barrier or over a hurdle and make your business stronger as a result.

Published on: Oct 10, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.