It’s Just Business

Several years ago my brother decided to take his carpentry skills and go into business for himself.  He

spent many hours, days, weeks working on plans and trying out patterns to make Adirondack furniture and

later custom cabinets.  He had spent years as an employee in various jobs and had never had much

interest in running his own business.  He had simply enjoyed a paycheck and no responsibility for the

functioning of a business.

When he started, his focus was on the product; what it should be, what it should be made of, and how it

should be made.  After weeks of trail and error with the design, and experimenting with different types of

wood and hardware, he developed a quality product he was proud.  He called upon our sister to help

market the pieces to specialty shops.  It was received well.  From the beginning however he was bothered

by requests to alter or customize his products.  He would do it begrudgingly when necessary but preferred

not to.  One popular customization was distressing.  He would have to take his newly created furniture and

scratch and scrape and mark it up with bolts and nails and etc.  It was difficult because he was proud of his

work and had put much of his self into it.

He was constantly working to improve the process in order to cut costs and increase sales.  In time he was

able to lower his costs and pass the saving on to his customers in the hope that the lower costs would

increase the volume of sales.  He felt he could keep up a higher production on a lower margin and make a

greater profit.  The problem was that his resellers had no interest in passing the savings on to their

customers.  He had started selling the chairs between 175 and 200 a set.  They were being retailed at 300

to 400 a set.  After much work he was able to sell them for 150 and in some cases 125 a set.  A couple of

weeks into it sales had not picked up and he could not understand why.  He went to investigate and

realized that his retailers did not pass the saving on to the end customers.

In frustration he confronted one of his retailers and explained the purpose of the discount and his mindset

to increase sales.  The retailer said that they were selling fine and that she saw no reason to lower her

prices.  He said, but if you don’t lower your prices and increase sales then I am just loosing money to you

for nothing.  It was not fair.  To which she replied, “It’s not personal, it’s just business”.

My brother was pissed to say the least.  He said he would raise his price back to where it had been.  The

retailer then said she would just not buy any more and even alluded to someone else who might supply

her.  In a feat of great calm my brother went home with his business relationship still intact and an order for

several more sets.  He was calm at the store but railed up and down all the way home and for several days

there after… I’m being screwed he would angrily repeat to himself.

My brother had also gotten into the habit of repairing broken or damaged products for free.  He had never

really offered this and defiantly never agreed to it as part of his business dealings.  He was just a nice guy

who stood behind his product and wanted everything to stay happy.  Some of his retailers began to take

advantage of this and would press upon him to repair items that had been jumped on and broken, merely

scratched, or the end customer decide they didn’t like the color.  At some point he was losing more money

on the repairs then he was making on the sale.  One retailer was particularly troublesome with her repair

demands, the one that had so frustrated him previously had called to have him come pick up a chair to be

repair.  When he arrived he was presented with a stack of splintered wood and a few metal pieces.  He was

astounded.  The chairs were completely destroyed.  It was not a repair it was simply make me a new set for

free.  He would likely have done it but he had to ask what had happened.  His product could not have

failed in such a manner.  The retailer related the story from the end customer that the chairs had been in

the front driveway and they had been ran over by the owner’s truck.  My brother was struck.  He said I

can't repair them.  He could replace them and he might do it for 100.  The retailer said she didn’t want them

replaced just repaired because she didn’t want to pay.  He said she was crazy.  There was no way to repair

them.  She said that she had told her customer that she would have them repaired.  To which my brother

offered her a bottle of Elmer’s wood glue.  She was pissed.  She railed at my brother right there in the

store trying to embarrass him.  He was stunned by her craziness.  She accused him of being mean and

unfeeling and trying to screw her over.  She said it was going to cost her personally.  How could he do this

to her after all she had done for him.  My brother was calm and in a moment of perfect clarity and peace

he simply replied, “It’s nothing personal.  It’s just business.”

The Point:

People will do, see and believe what they like in order to get heir nut around it, to get their way, and still

think of themselves in a positive light.  They can and will ignore reality and common sense.  They will make

up what ever they have to excuse and or justify their actions.  The biggest lie that inhabits the marketplace

is, “It’s just business.” As if those words can magically clean bad, selfish, or harmful behavior.  It is a saying

that focuses completely on the aim and singular results and completely ignores the effects of the actions

take.  It denies any sense of accountability and responsibility.  It is in effect a statement of saying, I am

doing bad things I don’t care what there effect is on anyone else and I don’t want to feel bad about it.  The

humorous aspect to it is that it works both ways.  The sun does not shine on the same dogs tail forever

and eventually you will be on the receiving end of the just business statement.  How you respond and deal

with it will demonstrate who you truly are.

The Lesson to Learn:

All business is personal.  Business is nothing more then the interactions of individuals in order to conduct

trades of goods and service.  It is how we deal with the “this for that” concept.  It is by definition, by design,

and by nature personal.  So when you do something cold hearted in order to gain something, you have

made a personal assault.  In doing so you need to weigh whether it is worth it in a complete sense.  It might

make you a few extra pennies now but cost you a customer.  The net effect might not be worth the gain.

The Brutal Truth:

Everyone is looking out for themselves it is part of life, it is part of business.  It’s called survival.  However

no action no matter how small goes without effect.  In order to develop longevity you must consider both

the broader and more subtle effects of each action you take.