A Principle isn’t a Principle Until it Costs you Something

A Principle isn’t a Principle Until it Costs you Something

The first time I heard this quote was in the early days of my career, when a senior global VP came for a visit and gave us one of the most memorable talks -about his life and career. Till this day, his talk has influenced how I think and especially when it comes to making hard decisions. I’m sure you’ve heard, that this week, a number of big brands (read here ) have stopped or boycotted advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – because of their “lack of moderation of hate and disinformation”.

I have always been conflicted by Facebook’s policies around privacy and now more recently, about its inaction about Trump’s comments around George Floyd, which made a big portion of their employees upset and walk-out  (Read here.) As a small business owner who creates content largely for SMEs across Africa, my biggest following is on Facebook. We advertise monthly and our following has grown to 44K+ followers. This is nothing for the big guys, but something for a small content creator like Matoyana Media.

So, I find myself in a predicament. I am asking myself how can I continue to spend money on a platform whose principles are not aligned to mine at all? Whose principles, if we must call a spade a spade, gives zero F’s about the lives of black people and other issues that relate to the discrimination of marginalised and oppressed groups because they allow such individuals to use their platforms to spread shameful propaganda? At the same time, the Facebook platform plays an integral part in my business’s strategy of growth and reaching my target audience.

It is hard to be a leader. Its even harder to be one who stands by their values and principles especially when it comes at a cost. I look back to the company where I started my professional career – they had very clear Purpose, Values and Principles (PVPs). These were what guided the decisions the business made – both internally and externally. I always say to the start-up owners I coach that they need to be clear about what their “PVPs” are – even when they are a small one man band, because these will guide who they become when they are a bigger organization.

I need to lead myself from a principled and value-based perspective!! I stopped advertising on Facebook at the risk of gaining fewer followers and my content not reaching a wider audience. I know that as a small business our advertising spend is minuscule compared to what they make in advertising revenue, but according to The New York Times small businesses, make up the bulk of Facebook’s eight million advertisers and many of the protesters are small business. So collectively, it is making a dent.

If I really want to see true change in the world, I need to bring my activism to my work and be open to the risk that my principles continue to cost me something, but also help me stay true to myself.

Nokwazi Mzobe

Founder of Matoyana Business Solutions and Matoyana Media

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