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Business Sharks: Can We do Better with Honesty?

“Honesty and Integrity are by far the most important assets of an entrepreneur” – Zig Ziglar

The terrestrial habitat like every other animal habitation is characterized by feeding relationships that can be predatory. The carnivores can only feed on flesh, which makes predation necessary in the animal world. There is no way you can make the grass suitable enough to replace the fresh kill of a deer as a meal for a lion. 

But that is the animal kingdom, and it is a natural order. The act of predation in whatever interpretation we can think of should not be seen amidst humans. One of the pillars of human coexistence is our dependence on each other; not the other way round. From inception, when there have not been dilutions to values and morals as we see today; there were some values society lived by. Stephen Covey affirmed it by saying;

Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, and treating people with respect.”  

Honesty, Integrity, Fairness, and Transparency were once very important virtues displayed by businesses and individuals alike. The business world, though competitive, should not be predatory, but healthy. Start-ups and new businesses should be given the best support and services they can get,  not be taken advantage of. 

Our society has been configured to take advantage of the vulnerable, just like predators have their pleasure on the least indomitable prey. Loan sharks are the best similitude that can be used to portray this. The exorbitant interest, and often the violence, that accompany the loans from these devouring and hard-fisted businessmen run against the standards that should guide a sane society. 

Business Sharks are no different than Loan Sharks or Money Sharks; they are people who prey on vulnerable people, on new start-ups, on those who want to succeed but are robbed from every direction. From trainers to website designers, to digital marketing experts, to webinar experts, to book agents, to so-called publishers, to PR agencies, videographers, and much more; all just want to have their pound of the flesh. “There is a novice in town, so let us get him/her before they learn to play the game;” that seems like their common goal. What is our world coming to? Is this being done out of greed or desperation? How do we help people by starting with Honesty & Integrity or maybe just ethics?

Organizations have been run on the fuel of trust and integrity for ages. This is why we see captions like “Our word is our bond;” “We do what we say;” “A Brand you can Trust.” But is this still true today, or are these just words that are easy to come by? Is there no disparity between words and actions in business operations now? Consider the words of John D. MacDonald:

Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.”  

Integrity should not be optional; it should not be lost when a start-up is seeking help with their business. The garment of honesty and fairness should not be exchanged for those of greed and cruelty just because there is a vulnerable client. 

Every organization, including the million-dollar companies, started as a nascent establishment expecting a fair dealing from the established companies whose service it cannot do without. Life is a gradual ascent that is marked by stages; it is all about growth. But in the stages of growth, there is always a time when there is dependence on the truthfulness and fairness of others to progress.

A child cannot but pass through the time of dependence without his parents or guardians. Like a true shepherd, parents tend, guide, guard, and cater for a child until he can pitch his tent. In business, babes are bound to exist. The care and tendering of a parent may be out of reach in business but honesty, integrity, and fairness will go a long way to help a vulnerable individual trying to make it on their own; “a start-up as we see it!”

Research has shown that 82 percent of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems and that about 29% of start-ups run out of money. I can say that is largely due to unfair deals from established service providers. I coached a young entrepreneur yesterday, and although I myself have experienced dishonesty at its best by multiple “so-called” service providers, highly charitable individuals, mentors & coaches in my time, there are some stories that literally destroy you emotionally when you hear of how “highly professional business sharks” operate and how they prey on the vulnerable.

A common experience for new businesses is to be charged unduly for “quality” service. Even medium sized or bigger businesses would be shocked with such prices, but because there is a sense of need and urgency when it comes to an SME or a Solopreneur (as we call them these days) and selling is an art, does it make it right to have someone max out their credit cards at a time like this to pay for a substandard service, or worse, still to be told “that is what you paid for?”

Starting a new company will surely require some essentials like branding, recruiting, sales & marketing etc. which understandably are usually outsourced. The best help any firm rendering these services can offer a new firm is to be honest and sincere with their pricing and service offering, never forgetting to give back when they can. Are these just words that have no place in our society any longer?

Preying on new businesses and start-ups should not be a necessity if we remain true to the values and ethics that businesses have adhered to since time indefinite.

I share the same belief with Harvey Firestone when he said: 

“I believe fundamental honesty is the keystone to business.”