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What Happened To The Ethics And Moral Code Of The Entrepreneur?
After I lost my second business in 2001, I was reminded once again by my father that I had made the same mistakes in the second business that I did losing the first… I was too nice. Too trusting. Too loyal…
Then the came the age-old sayings: Don’t Trust Anyone… It’s a Dog eat Dog world… Nice guys finish last… Everyone out there is out to scr?w you… Everyone is guilty until proven innocent… Kindness is weakness. Man, was I pissed at my Pops. How could he be such a killjoy? Was he just an angry and jaded pessimist?
How Things ‘Are’ vs. How You ‘Want Them To Be’
Actually my Pops was right, and as far as being a jaded pessimist, well, nothing could be further from the truth. Turns out he was (and is) a realist. Why? Well, that’s easy. He had over thirty years of ‘real’ experience to back up those statements (to which I had none) and he was simply trying to pass this knowledge on to me in order to save me the pain and heartache he had endured throughout his career.
Looking back, now I know now why I was so resentful. Truth be told, when I started my first business in 1991, I was extremely naïve. I had this tremendous belief and trust in people, always giving the person the benefit of the doubt and treating everyone graciously and kind. Bottom line, being told to think in the opposite fashion was against everything I felt I stood for at the time.
If you read my book, you will find fifty-five such examples and case-studies where you can see how this naivety backfired at quite extreme levels.
Do We Have To Be Ruthless And Immoral To Succeed?
So what’s the answer? Do we have to be ruthless and immoral to succeed?
The answer to that question is a resounding no with an asterisk. Here are some guidelines that may help you:
- Go into a situation with your eyes wide open. You would be shocked how many times you really go in with at least one eye closed. Translation: Pay Attention to detail.
- Do your due diligence on everyone and everything. Translation: Do your research. Know who you are dealing with.
- Stay away from shiny objects. Translation: If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
- The walkers never talk and the talkers never walk. Translation: Judge people by their actions, not by their words.
- It ain’t a deal until the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. Translation: Contracts=Closure
- Trust but verify. Translation: Keep your dog on a leash until you know he doesn’t bite anything but his food.
- Dogs rarely change their spots. Translation: People who have bad reputations have those reputations for a reason.
- Denial aint just the river in Egypt. Translation: You can go around all day saying 1+1 = 3 only until the moment you pick up a calculator.
Just The Facts Jack
Let’s look at some facts: The BAD
- Too many entrepreneurs have no moral code.
- Too many entrepreneurs define themselves by the size of their wallets as opposed to their contribution to a greater good like, for example, providing jobs and stimulating the economy.
- Too many entrepreneurs, again, judge their success by the size of their wallets as opposed to the pleasure of doing something they enjoy and having the freedom to work on their own terms.
- Too many entrepreneurs have succeeded because they sacrificed others to get to the top.
Some Other Facts: the GOOD
- There are entrepreneurs that do have a moral code.
- There are entrepreneurs that do work to help the greater good
- There are entrepreneurs that do work for the joy of what they do and the freedom of their own experience
- There are entrepreneurs that succeed by the sacrifice they made to themselves to get to the top.
The Final Facts
- We need a heck of a lot more of group two then group one!
So What Happened To The Ethics And Moral Code Of The Entrepreneur?
For some sick and twisted reason, money has replaced morals in the entrepreneurial world.
I work primarily with other entrepreneurs and I have to say, I am completely fed up with the lack of ethics and morals in our entrepreneurial culture. We have all been instilled a false perception of success and too many of us are stuck on stupid. The truth is, we know what the right thing to do is. The fact is, so many of us don’t listen to what our minds are telling us. Why? Quite simply because most of us are greedy little hogs. Pigs I can live with, hogs not so much… As they say, “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”
I say ‘we’ and ‘us’ because, after getting the short-end of the stick in the first two businesses through trusting some people I shouldn’t have, I went into a situation in my next business a few years later with the twisted belief that to get on the top I did actually have to step on others.
My Experience As A Moral Low-Life
It was my third business with (my now partner) Gary and we were in the final stages of closing our deal with our financier for our new brand. The President of the company that was financing us gave me the choice as to whether I wanted some of her people to stay on to help in the transition, or to cut them all loose and run the entire division internally.
There was this one man, a nice older gentleman who really wanted to stay. Previous to that point, I would not have even thought twice and kept him strictly to keep on the moral high ground. I simply would never ever in a million years send a nice old man packing. That just wasn’t me… Or so I thought.
When I looked at the account he was handling (JC Penney outerwear), the numbers were huge and the commissions were high. Either I let him stay and the money would go in his pocket, or I would tell the President to get rid of him and the money would stay with the people I was coming in with. So, thinking with my wallet instead of my heart, I justified the decision that he was an outsider and I had no obligation to him whatsoever. I told the President to cut him loose. He was probably thirty years my senior and I was wrong. Dead wrong… And guess what? I paid for it!! … Turns out, he was old friend with the JC Penney buyer and when the buyer learned that we had cut him loose, the buyer cut US loose!
That was the first time I ever did that. EVER…. And God willing, it will be the last.
There two ways people succeed… One way, is by stepping on others to reach the top. The other way is to get to the top on the merits of strong character, staying on the moral high ground, working hard, and most importantly, working smart. The first option makes you stay up all night, and in the second case, you sleep like a baby. I suggest you pick the latter.
…. And one more thing I touched on earlier that I need to clarify. Nice guys do NOT finish last. You can be as nice as you want, as long as people know it would not be the wisest choice to mistake that kindness for weakness. Once I made that distinct clarification to the people I work with, I can now be as nice as can be!
So I ask you the same two questions I ask myself every morning:
1- How can you move forward today without holding anyone else back?
2- How can you help someone today without trying to help yourself in the process?
Have a great day!
-Co-host of ABC's Shark Tank