Just Like Elephants, Business Owners Never Forget

Goodwill between fellow business owners is important. Here's why
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I hate the excuse “it’s just business” – it is often used by a business owner to justify their own actions in taking advantage of another person. They use some “tough guy swagger” to justify their actions in their own head. All they have done is achieve a short-term win for themselves at the expense of someone else (who will remember the experience). 

Before COVID-19, many of us were already feeling the pinch of a slowing economy, the effects of the bush fires or drought. The last thing we needed was a pandemic to hit our businesses like a hammer!

But with any crisis, how you act in tough times says a lot about you as a business owner. Just as importantly, how you act will be directly linked to how strongly you come out the other side.

For people like you and me who are building a business, nothing is “just business”. Our businesses are far more than that – our work isn’t a place we go (or try to during the pandemic). It’s what we do, and for many of us it is a key bit of who we are!  

I hear people say “memories are short, people forget fast” – maybe, but I believe business owners will have long memories. 

Our businesses provide for us, our families, our employees. I think many of us believe we contribute to making Australia a better place. James, a friend of mine, reckons his business is like an extra child: hard work, demanding attention, but loved, and if it ever seems like it is neglected, watch out for the consequences!

Interesting analogy James! For me it’s true, most of us apply the values from our personal relationships to our business relationships. Whether that is the “right thing to do” doesn’t matter; it is what we do.

I was chatting to Chris Baskerville, one of the Insolve panelists. Chris often says how sad it is when people bring a failed business to him that might have been saved. So what are the options for business right now?  Business owners have to decide how to survive (or wind up). Do they work with friends, get advice, or play hard ball and get the most for themselves? 

Ever the one for a wise word or quote Chris recalls the words of Winston Churchill, “One always measures friendships by how they show up in bad weather”. 

In my businesses, I’ve done things over the last few months that someone who believes everything is “just business” wouldn’t do, but a friend would. And I have seen other examples. What does a friend do?

  • To help clients’ cash flow, I have reduced their fees 
  • My suppliers have reduced their fees to support my business and others
  • Many of us have clients who have seen their business fall apart – like many, if possible, I have let a good operator suspend binding contracts rather than enforce them.

Why? Because I know how tough they are doing it, I know just how much they are struggling, so I believe that I should take some of their pain away, even if it has meant transferring a bit of the pain to me.

I didn’t need to; it could have been “just business”. I could have forced contracts to be honoured, or taken advantage, but that’s not what I want to be known for. 

They say elephants have long memories. I also understand the long memories that business owners have and the power of word of mouth. Goodwill is important: I’d like to be known as the friend who still shows up in bad weather!

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Cheryl Stainsby

Cheryl is a Director’s Advocate specialising in Crisis Management; Business Health Checks, Asset Protection and Exit Strategy  Find out more or Email Cheryl.

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Stuart is a Business Transformation Specialist and Accountant, specialising in business turnaround and restructure, business management and Business ownership transfer. Find out more or Email Stuart.

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