Being cutthroat in business
Businesses I have been involved in, service industry, healthcare industry, even secure environments, and not to forget selling many other products successfully, took me to a place without me even realising. The destination I found myself in was known in some quarters as ‘Dog Eat Dog’ AKA beat the competition no matter what the cost to one’s own self-respect, dignity and dare I say even honour, for it is this last aspect that is drained from you like a leach sucking the dignity from you bit by bit.
One becomes so focussed on the outcome, the end justifying the means, as if it really did justify any action to get ahead, focussed to the exclusion of everything that actually does matter, the non-tangible elements that make life have quality as opposed to quantity. All you can think about is that you have to do better, earn more, do more, work harder, longer than anyone around you, like a machine stuck on overdrive, churning out the hours and the money.
Before you know it this catalyst of negativity turns you into an ugly ogre of dishonour, where only the bottom line counts and even quality is second to profit, where the people around you are a means to an end. Every individual was expendable in pursuit of expansion of an empire that I never wanted in the first place. I was blinded by the jackals that are attracted to you when you have money and influence, as they feast from your efforts as if a rotten carcass, ingratiating themselves to you, pretending to be one’s friend, allowing your mind to be gently serenaded by their lies, all in pursuit of money. Even the stench of it all never reached my nostrils as I focussed blinkered to everything good around me, ignoring everything that could be a distraction from business, working literally 20hr a day, every day, year in, year out.
I surrounded myself with people that were ruthless in business, people I convinced myself were “in the best interest of the company”, and would step over their colleagues to get ahead, regardless of the damage that lay in their wake, and if it delivered profit then it was sanctioned by the very fact I did nothing to stop it (I blush with shame as I write these truths of what I was). The competition, as I saw them, were targeted so one could take their customers, and employees working for me would create relationships just in order to sell, even to the extent of selling things to people who didn’t want them, using their sexuality to disarm people and flirting for the sake of a sale. Again it was literally encouraged by the fact I did nothing to stop such behaviour, inaction is positive reinforcement for dishonourable behaviour, and I reinforced every day. I had created a monster and it was now wild and loose, and feeding off this miserable commerce I gave birth to that was outwardly and actually an economic success on a national level.
But I did not start with this intent, I look back without rose tinted glasses but with the luxury of time now to analyse, I started off wanting to create a business culture of quality above the bottom line, quality before profit if need be, end user’s needs being the priority and not my needs, I never intended for this to be a feeding trough for my ego. I then made my first mistake that haunts me to this day; I recruited people that were ruthless, cutthroat in nature and this is where the ship I was steering started to turn, and I am totally responsible for what happened. The larger and more diverse things became commercially, the further from my original aims I found myself, the sun started to dim and I was guided, willingly to my shame, by people that were to their core dishonourable. I lost my faith, my family and my friends in pursuit of money, influence and grandeur.
I then had a life changing event, you hear so often the phrase “you have to hit rock bottom before you can truly accept things need to change”, and to me this is so true. I become desperately ill and jackals turn on the weak and the vulnerable as is in their nature to do, and no longer did I have hold of their leashes, surround yourself with cutthroat people and sooner or later it is your throat they cut, without a moment of compassion. But this is not their fault; they acted as their gene-pool demanded, as jackals do, impulsively acting on their innate inner nature to attack, take down and to gorge on the weak. I recall remembering I had done this to other businesses that were my competitors or rivals in some way, and now I was the one being slaughtered, some sort of payback in a karma sense, reaping what one had sown, I had propagated a loss of morality, an absence of honour in business and this is exactly what I had received in return.
However, I am one of the luckiest people I know, I had been given the chance to leave this situation behind me and return to the love of my family as I recovered, taking many months to do so, in some senses I am still have a long way to go, as the last thing I want is to become what I was again, I became renewed and changed by events, think of it as Darwinism in action. This remaking of me, not restoring what I once was as this was a horrible person, but was a time of having the slate wiped clean and a chance to re-programme the corrupted operating system with a better moral compass based on time of reflection each day.
I had literally spent all my waking hours working and justifying it by saying I was doing this for my family, when in reality I was ignoring my family and I was in truth doing it for my ego. Now I could change and learn from the ruthlessness that had been unleashed upon me by my own pack of jackals. Now I could do things the way they should be done, reconnect with my family, reconnect with my values and reconnect with my own faith. I feel it was a time of new learning, new values, and my lesson was clear, you are the sum of your actions combined with a healthy dose of you get back in bucket loads what put out there and surround yourself with.
When I look at this learning curve in more detail, there were points when I just wanted to curl up and fade away, feeling sorry for myself from the injuries I had sustained from these wild dogs I had attack me, but I was guided by the love of my family and the re-kindling of my faith. Sorry if that sounds really sloppy but I don’t know how else to describe it, my values and my ego were connected to what I could do at work, and this was in tatters, and I was being healed by the true people around me that were the very ones I had ignored, my family. This was a time of healing, learning about oneself all over again, reconnecting with family, the people that really do have your back in a crisis, and realising the only thing they really want from you is your love and your time.
With this time of reflection there is so much I have learn personally and from a commercial sense, there are so many elements I have changed in business and in the way I conduct myself, and I have now come back from the brink of death and find I have become more successful but without the negativity of the past weighing me down, drowning me in human effluent of negativity. I got to the top of every profession I went into and I had this wealth of knowledge and now I am determined to use it only to benefit others, not myself.
When I was in recovery, actually that should probably read “since I am in recovery”, I had such guilt for the way I treated people, especially in business and I was miserable and not enjoying myself, despite my success. So from now on I live and work by the following 10 business values or 10 business commandments:
1. Use your strengths, determination and knowledge to benefit others but remember you must put your family first, as they are your main priority
2. Only surround yourself with positive people that have positive energy and share your values
3. Treat everyone with respect and dignity in business and in life
4. Keep an open mind to every idea presented to you and doors will open
5. Enjoy what you do, as your enthusiasm for something is infectious
6. Try to live by positive moralities, in my case guided by Christian values
7. Try to make a positive difference to others in all your business dealings
8. If you make money, do something good with it
9. Try to help people and fellow businesses as if we all succeed then society benefits too
10. Never exploit your position and never exploit anyone for commercial gain
None of these are easy and yes I fall down at times, but a key difference is I have people to pick me up now and dust me off, putting me back on the right path, not people that pounce and dismember you at the first sign of weakness. Now I am being equally successful, I spend time with my family and even built bridges to family I haven’t had contact with in a couple of decades, and the sun is shining bright, and yes I am being successful, I think it’s my talent to succeed in whatever I turn my mind to, but I am having so much fun. The best bit by far is that every idea, concept and venture I am involved with is now aimed at making a real, sustainable, positive difference to others and our communities. Why not come and join me and do the same?
So business doesn’t have to be ruthless, customers don’t have to be exploited, you don’t need to surround yourself with cutthroats, the knives can be put down and one can do business in the right way, the positive way and just allow remarkable things to happen, as they will. Don’t accept bullying in the workplace, act to stop negative business behaviour ignoring it is condoning it, don’t think there is only one way to do business, allow the positive energy from others to energise you, letting people around you have a voice and then genuinely listen to them, two ears and one mouth for a reason. Allow people to run with their ideas and support them to do business by positive business values, be a positive role model in all you do, leading by example, as at the end of the day you are judged, and rightly so, by your actions.
Do something positive today to make a difference to someone else or your community, you can make money and feel good about the benefits you bring to others, so why not just try.
Business, as in life, can be a positive influence and can lead to successful commerce, but there is one final point: if you are successful you should do what you can to teach the next generation, pass on that skills and knowledge base so hard won to our youth, think of it as an unwritten debt you have for being successful. Teach them to deliver positive commerce that is honest and honourable.