It’s Just Business

I have gone through some experiences in the not-too-distant past that have given me pause. I often like to reference a great book I read by Jon Huntsman Sr., Winners Never Cheat. He describes a business deal he made over a handshake to sell a portion of his company at a predetermined price. After several months of due diligence the value of his company soared. The buyer offered to pay more, but John said, “A deal is a deal, our handshake was good enough and nothing is more valuable than a man’s word.”

Sometimes, when agreements fully play out they create different results than anticipated. In the case of Mr. Huntsman, it just didn’t matter – his word was his bond. I like that idea and strive to live by it. I have learned that by just doing the right thing, regardless of the dollars and cents, I always make the best decision.

What happens when one of the parties decides to reinterpret the agreement from the original intent? A vacuum of trust occurs, and regardless of how the deal pans out, the lack of trust drives away the passion and, even worse, ruins reputations and friendships. What is the price of honor?

I recently had a situation in a company I’m invested in, where a team member made a large functional mistake that would have caused a rift in the organization, were it carried out. I questioned the matter, and the chairman of the board said, “Steve, I’ve made a mistake, and will correct it. I apologize.” This was a mistake of omission and the way the chairman responded increased my trust in him. It was the Jon Huntsman Sr. way of doing business.

One phrase we often hear in today’s world flies in the face of integrity. When the challenge occurs, and the blood bath ensues, the party causing the difficulty may say, “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” What they might as well say is “I don’t care about you as a person – so, screw honor and let the chips fall where they may”.

I guess I’m old school, but I will still teach my grandchildren to always err on the side of goodness – to never disregard the original intent of a deal, no matter how much it improves their lot and diminishes another’s. Take the higher road throughout your life and know that the view is always better and you can sleep well at night.