Luckily, there has only been a few times in my life when ruthless business people have got the better of me and I ended up signing deals that were not really in my best interests. And when I look back, I realize that there was a common link to each occasion – I was in a weak negotiating position and they knew it and took advantage.  And here’s the dilemma, some say that this is ‘just business’ and that this is how capitalism works, but is it?

The fact that I have been in business now for more than thirty six years and its only happened a few times, proves to me that the majority of those in business are ‘good people’. The kind who like to base their transactions on a sense of fairness. It is because I genuinely believe this, that I like to argue that fairness makes for good business practice because it builds strong relationships that enables long-term commerce. After all, every time you trade with someone new, you have to go through the whole trust evaluation exercise, which is both time consuming and risky.

Being tough in business, ignoring the personal, is the basis of every Hollywood business idol. Those who remember the TV show Dallas, will remember that everyone loved to hate JR and saw his brothers as weak, somehow inferior characters because they let JR bully and blackmail them into submission.

But my business hero’s believe in fairness. Sure they may have strong vision and a powerful sense of purpose but their inner goals are not to get rich but to service their customers, in a sustainable way, to a level that no other business can. In nine times out of ten, they succeed in both.  And a fair degree of wealth is likely to come as a by process, rather than the achievement of a set goal.

So although there are wolves out there, prowling for the vulnerable, I like to believe that the majority of us are far more accommodating and generous than the management text books advise us to be. That we do look for ‘win/win’ deals, for fairness in each transaction and that we genuinely want to offer our clients value for money, and we feel good when we do.

Being a tough negotiator or business person, does not rule out being ‘fair’. Seeing deals from both sides does not prevent an entrepreneur from becoming wealthy – but I beleive that there is a social cost to every success and that each of us must face the responsibility that comes with it. I believe too that we should be open to talk about this a little more – not in a boasting way but a serious conversation of what we expect of ourselves and our employees, and also of our suppliers and dare I say customers too?

Have a good week,

Harley