A Focus Choice :: Right Things vs Money

One of the biggest choices I’ve had to make in my businesses is whether to focus on doing the right thing, from my point of view, versus focusing on money. This is a common choice that many entrepreneurs end up bumping into, and often times, more than once. 

The easy, cop out, answer is to focus on both. But that’s a cop out to be sure. Often, you can’t focus on both. This is when the gut check of leadership comes into play. 

I would say that I always attempt to do the right things and focus on the right thing. I spend extra attention on that choice when money is involved. I have truly come to believe over the last 20+ years of business leadership, that if you focus on the right things, and doing the right thing, the money will take care of itself. When I talk about that with other entrepreneurs and public company business folks, they often say that I am naive or held back by those beliefs. In fact, here is a little story I find disturbing about this very approach:

I once had a business partner in the technology consulting arena that was known for their aggressive behaviors. After a few years of doing business together, we ended up butting heads over an issue with a client where we could either focus on doing the right thing for the customer, or focus on the money. As you might guess, I chose to focus on the right thing, while my aggressive partner chose to focus solely on the money. As one of the two CEO’s involved, we sat down for a cup of coffee to discuss it, man to man. It turned heated. My partner was getting more and more aggressive with me and ultimately, with the needs of the customer. At the end of the heated conversation, my partner went on a tirade that included basically, “…if you’re so naive at business and so focused on the petty issues of your clients, I’ll give it two years and I’ll be buying your company for pennies on the dollar!”. That was nearly eight years ago. We lost the customer and that engagement turned them sour on our partner. Eventually, the animosity also ended our partnership, and I can’t say I was upset about it. Working with them after that event didn’t exactly “make me smile”. 

And the client? How did that turn out? Our partner bailed on the client. We explained we couldn’t help that our partner had bailed. We were transparent. We helped them find another vendor. We tried to work with them pro-bono as much as possible on the failed engagement and in the end, they were pleased. Two years later, after our non-compete with our partner had expired, they contacted us directly about working with us again. From then, until the present, they remain a very friendly, happy and loyal client of our firm. In fact, they have brought us referrals and helped us enter new markets and have become vocal in the support of our company.

Oh, and I have yet to sell the company to my ex-business partner for pennies on the dollar. In fact, we are more successful today than we ever were when we were working with them.

That’s my example of focusing on the right things. Do that, and the money, in my experience, will take care of itself. You might take a hit now and then, but the rewards are trust, friendships and being a better human being. I’ll take those any day over money. 

As always, thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe out there! 

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