Excerpted from the book on conscious business management, Business Black Belt
It takes about 10 years to become an overnight sensation.
What goes around, comes around. It starts with you—even if nobody is looking.
These days credit is on everyone’s mind. A poor credit report stays with you for 7-10 years no matter how good you’ve been lately. I asked my consultant from North Shore Advisory Inc about it and eventually, you may catch up with your bills and pay everyone on time. Your credit score will be high. Eventually, the old you and the evil things you did and said will wear off. Desperate times can tempt you with desperate measures. Remember John DeLorean who got busted in a dope deal to finance his company? Be careful. Each infraction goes on your cosmic credit report and stays there until you learn to do the right thing, no matter how long it takes. I’m convinced that it’s crucial to keep this idea alive in your consciousness at all times.
kar •ma (kär’mõ) n.
1) (Hinduism & Buddhism) The total effect of a person’s actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person’s existence, regarded as determining the person’s destiny.
2) Fate; destiny.
3) Informal. A distinctive aura, atmosphere, or feeling.
I use the first definition of karma, although much of the world probably uses the second—which seems like so much is out of your control. I believe you have tremendous control over the quality of your destiny.
I believe we are here on Earth to learn and to advance and evolve our spirits. I’m using my business as a learning ground, yet learning is everywhere and in every situation. Learning is not better or more meaningful if it is painful or requires more effort. Pain and effort are merely side effects of avoiding your lesson. Do you need a quadruple bypass to change your eating habits or can you begin eating healthier foods and exercising right now? Must you go out of business to learn how to run a business? These messages and lessons just seem to get louder and harsher until we catch on. If you learn immediately (and that means apply the knowledge), there is no reason for increased pain.
“Shit” doesn’t just happen. Shit happens when you’re off the path and not looking at where you’re going. Shit happens when you need to learn something. It’s just a message that’s gotten louder so that maybe this time, you’ll get it and act upon it.
Your integrity is really what you do when nobody is looking
I grew up watching the same kind of TV shows everyone else did. The good guys always catch the bad guys in the end. But I couldn’t help thinking, “If the bad guys hadn’t done [x], then they might have gotten away with it.” For the longest time, I saw myself with some of the capabilities of the bad guys. Although I’d never done anything really bad (let alone worth a TV script), I was sure I could get away with a lot. As long as I didn’t get caught, I thought it would be OK. But then I began to wonder why things would go wrong for me. I started to trace whatever it was that went wrong back to a time when I did something similar or was somehow responsible in some way—something I did or didn’t do, something I said or should have said. Only then did I realize that I actually was responsible—was the source—for what happened to me. I realized that I’m always getting caught. No matter what, somehow Nature is always working to keep track of me and my actions.
Your integrity is really what you do when nobody is looking. “If I don’t get caught, maybe I can get away with it” is not the point. It’s up to you to monitor your own integrity because, if you don’t, people may get a bad feeling about something you’re doing even though they may not be able to put their finger on it or tell you (especially if you’re the boss). So it will seem (only to you) as if you’re getting away with it, but eventually your evil deeds will reach critical mass and ‘shit will happen.’ You’ve seen this happen before. Some businesses go down the tubes because the people take too much advantage of their position (sexual harassment cases are simple examples). People will eventually discover the truth. Most people are onto these guys and eventually karma comes to bite them on the butt. Your choice is future respect or shame. And, once you are shamed, how do you ever get your integrity back?
Sometimes karma is all you’ve got against insurmountable odds
JIAN’s had some big companies take a run at our products and even try to put us out of business. They failed. I think it’s because we were doing the right thing and they weren’t.
It’s tempting to take shortcuts, because it seems so many people will never notice. You think you can make a better profit by taking something out and people won’t notice. Big mistake. People do notice. God is in the details. I want people to say about JIAN’s products and service, “Oh, they put [x] in there—that’s good. I like these guys.”
Subtle and simple things are powerful. These are the very things that compel people to tell their friends to buy your product or use your service: The investment in quality will make your marketing efforts go 10 times farther. The aura of doing the right thing is around it all. I believe that I haven’t been blown out of the water or had things go wrong is because possibly Nature is in support of that fact.
Contrary to the cliché,
genuinely nice guys always finish first or very near it.
~ Malcolm Forbes, publisher
You win and you win big when you play straight. There’s always trepidation when someone buys a big ticket item like a car or a house. But if you’re the salesperson with the good reputation, people are going to buy from you. In the past, it has seemed like only the bullies and liars got ahead, but now we’re seeing that that’s no longer true.
As a buyer at The Sharper Image, I always went with the salesperson who was straight with me even though others had what looked like better deals. When push comes to shove in a competitive field, people will go with the ones they can trust (or wish they had). There’s too much at stake.
In the early days at JIAN, we put our manufacturing out for bid with the up-front requirement that we got 90-day payment terms. We didn’t have the luxury of a line of credit at the time, so our vendors were going to have to carry us. We figured they were motivated enough to get the business and that we could convince them to extend an outrageous credit line to us. It worked, and it turned out to be worthwhile for our vendors.
Two things are important about this deal. First, we were up-front by saying that we couldn’t pay for 90 days. Some people wouldn’t be honest about their ability to pay, yet they would drag their payments out 90 days anyway. That’s not fair to the vendor. The other important thing we did is that we knew we were going to be a good customer for our suppliers for a long time, not constantly shop around to chisel their prices.
Many people have developed a perception that business is evil; profit is evil. Someone gets rich at the expense of someone else. Given that thinking, when I become wealthy, many people are going to think I ripped somebody off. You can become wealthy, feel good about what you’ve done and have other people feel good about you as well. For example: I agonized for quite a while whether or not I should buy an airplane. I’d wanted one since I can remember, I had the money, and I could even legitimately use it in my business.
If I bought a plane, I thought everyone would think, “This guy’s got no brains. We need to spend the money on practical things for the business. What’s he doing buying an airplane?” But the actual response from people was, “We have the money, we can make more money, go buy an airplane.” (One person told me, “You’ve been killing yourself for seven years—you deserve an airplane.”)
I was the one thinking that I should be more practical. I was the one embarrassed that buying an airplane seemed decadent. The truth is that people want to associate with other successful businesspeople and they’re happy that I have an airplane. The perception becomes “This guy worked his ass off so he bought himself an airplane. He must be successful.”
So it’s crucial that you live your life with integrity—day in and day out, moment by moment. As the years go by, you’ll develop and maintain your reputation, so you might as well build a reputation for integrity. Down the road, when someone wants to make a deal and must decide who to do business with, you’ll be the one likely to be chosen because that person trusts you. Wouldn’t you rather be bitten in the butt by a future like that?
Business Black Belt Notes
- When ‘shit’ is happening, it’s a loud message that you must take corrective action.
- Integrity is what you do, even when nobody else is looking.
- The universe eventually gives you what you deserve.