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The monarchy in England is in limbo. Its role in society has been transitioning slowly for many decades, but recently, the pace seems to be quickening. Britons are proud of both their parliamentary democracy and royal family. But for all the goodwill that the Queen engenders, there are still large swaths of the population that question what its purpose really is. This portion of the population is growing louder each year, and for each scandal that the royals endure, the audience for these baying voices gets larger and more receptive. The calamitous situation that Prince Andrew has put himself into once again raises questions about why taxpayer money flows to the royal family and whether or not it is justified any more.
On November 16, 2019, BBC aired a special interview that would have serious implications for the royal family. Over the course of an hour, BBC journalist Emily Maitlis asked Prince Andrew a series of questions related to his involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. The Queen’s son was apparently adamant that this interview was necessary in order to clear his name and restore his reputation among the British public. Unfortunately, it had quite the opposite effect.
Related: Bill Gates on Relationship With Jeffrey Epstein: 'I Made a Mistake'
Prince Andrew's involvement in the Epstein scandal and the resulting public outcry reveal the political consquences of failing to live up to citizen expectations, but they also serve as an important example for business leaders — demonstrating how falling short of customer expectations can likewise spell doom for those at the helm of an enterprise or organization.
Be vigilant about the company you keep
It became international news when Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on sex-trafficking charges. Although Epstein himself was fairly well-known in some circles as an extremely wealthy New York financier, it was his connections with other individuals that made the story go viral — connections with people such as Prince Andrew, who, of course, became a subject of speculation as well.
Business leaders must be vigilant about the company they keep; meaning, they need to make sure that their business partners hold themselves to honorable standards. This is something to keep in mind when onboarding new customers too. Just as working with unscrupulous people can negatively impact the public's perception of a brand, demonstrating a consistent desire to cater to shady customers can also damage a company's reputation.
Avoid allegations at all costs
In the U.K., Epstein’s friendship with a member of the monarchy caused a sensation among the tabloid press. Of course, this was not the first time that allegations had been made against Epstein. One such instance included Prince Andrew: In 2015, Virgina Roberts (Guiffre) stated that Epstein had held her as a sex slave and that she had been trafficked to several men, including the Duke of York.
As a business leader, you should do everything in your power to avoid allegations. This goes hand in hand with being vigilant about the company you keep; not only do you need to set clear and honorable standards for yourself and your team, but you must also be sure you're partnering with people who will uphold those standards as well. All it takes is the whisper of wrongdoings to tank your shares, so do all you can to avoid putting yourself in that position.
Don't underestimate your customers
Citizens have now become aware of the ways in which wealthy elite look to abuse their power, in part owing to the #MeToo movement's traction over the last few years. Against this backdrop, Prince Andrew’s defense of his friendship with Epstein came across as even more tone deaf, and his subsequent denials of any improper conduct were extremely difficult to believe. He underestimated the intelligence of the British citizens — and their determination to hold him to a higher standard.
Similarly, business leaders should never take their customers for granted. Customers are smart and know what they want, and failing to realize this puts your company at a significant disadvantage. Moreover, if you're not willing to meet your customers expectations, your compeition will be quick to fill in the gaps. Wake up and understand that your customers are self-aware and will make their own decisions.
Related: Melinda Gates Was Reportedly Haunted by Bill's Relationship With Jeffrey Epstein
Avoid a lavish lifestyle
The lavish lifestyle of the royal family has been gaining extra scrutiny in recent years. As British citizens face the realities of extreme wealth inequality, it is hard for them not to question the fairness of a system that sees a portion of its taxes being paid each year to a family that is already enormously wealthy. Naturally, it doesn't sit well with many people.
This applies to business optics as well. Employees and customers lose respect for leaders who live lavishly at the expense of their own people; Amazon's billionaire Jeff Bezos serves as a further example. Bezos tweeted thanking Prime subscribers and Amazon customers for sending him to space, and Amazon has recently come under fire for mistreating its employees. Since his tweet, it's been reported that thousands of customers have cancelled their Prime subscriptions.
Use funds appropriately
Even prior to the car crash of an interview that he gave, Prince Andrew had faced serious scrutiny over how he had managed to amass a wealth of 57 million pounds. It is public knowledge that the Duke of York receives around 250,000 pounds a year from the public purse in order to keep office.
What can business leaders learn from this? Let's say you misappropriated funds to the tune of $15 million. If these misappropriated funds were actually earmarked to grow your business, your business will stagnate — and ultimately crumble under the weight of its competitors. Not to mention, you will completely lose your employees' and customers' trust in the process.
The ramifications of your entrepreneurial conduct are profound. Failing to live up to high standards raises questions about the role of your position at your own company and can make the difference between abject failure and great success.
Related: Power With Purpose: The Four Pillars of Leadership