Friday, September 22, 2006

Finance, Fasting and Faith

Religious tolerance may seem like an odd topic for a web log on the small-capitalization stock sector. However, we are reminded by the popular maxim “act global and think local” that one of the keys to success is sensitivity to unique customer and employee needs. Inextricably that means respect for individuals and communities and consideration of religious orientation.

The topic is timely as September 23, 2006, is
Rosh Hashana or “Head of the Year,” the first day of the Jewish New Year. The day is marked with the sounding of a ram’s horn called a “shofar,” which represents a call to repentance. The ten high holy days culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

It is also the first day of Islam’s
Fast of Ramadan. Muslims all over the world fast during the daylight hours and eat small meals with family and friends in the evening. It is a period of worship and contemplation. Fasting is one of the five duties a Muslim must perform. (Just so you know the other four are affirmation of the creed, prayer fives times a day, almsgiving and pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.)

Anyone in business knows at least one person who is preparing for one of these great feasts. Any small-cap company probably employs dozens or hundreds of such faithful and serves even more as customers. I believe that small companies are particularly adept at accommodating diversity. Fewer layers management means faster decision making and sometimes a greater level of authority at lower rungs in the hierarchy where knowledge of local conditions and individual needs is probably greatest.

Religious freedom and tolerance runs through the veins of Americans and drives the employment practices and customer relations of the companies they run. So it is not unusual for an American company to provide a quiet room for daily prayer, as did one of the first companies I ever covered as an analyst. Nor should it be surprising that at another operation use of the microwave was banned during Ramadan and some even joined a solitary Muslim co-worker in fasting since he was in the U.S. without his family. These acts took place many years ago before it was politically correct to demonstrate interest in or tolerance for Islam.

Since politicians around the world seem bent on driving wedges between “us and them,” perhaps we should make a fast of reading those toxic headlines that foster suspicion and tension. A month from now when Ramadan is over, trust me the politicians and headlines will still be there.

We might also be better off in business and otherwise by giving more thought to atonement. Return once again to my posts on governance failures,
Executive Chicanery and The Dirty Air Up There.

Let me offer the L’Shana Tova or New Year greeting sent by a friend.

May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastroenterologist, your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your psychiatrist, your plumber, and the IRS.


May your hair, your teeth, your face-lift, your abs, and your stocks not fall; and may your blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white blood count and your mortgage interest not rise.

May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere during rush hour in less than an hour, and when you get there may you find a parking space.

May this Yom Tov, find you seated around the dinner table, together with your beloved family and cherished friends, ushering in the Jewish New Year ahead.

May what you see in the mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them. May your checkbook and your budget balance, and may they include generous amounts for charity.

May you remember to say "I love you" at least once a day to your partner, your child, and your parent(s).
You can say it to your secretary, your nurse, your butcher, your photographer, your masseuse, your seamstress, your hairdresser or your gym instructor, but not with a "twinkle" in your eye.

May we live as intended, in a world at peace with the awareness of the beauty in every sunset, every flower's unfolding petals, every baby's smile and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous part of ourselves.

Bless you with every happiness, great health, peace and much love during the next year and all those that follow.

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