Does Fairness Belong in the World of Business?

On March 2, 1995, at about 2 in the afternoon, I was “downsized” from the television station in Toronto at which I had been working since August, 1980.

Damn right I remember the exact date and time, as it changed my life.

In the 14 1/2 years that I had worked at the station, most of it as a Writer/Producer, I had received several awards for my productions, but when I was “let go” (as if I had been trying to escape) I was informed in a letter that, due to economic conditions, the company was being forced to downsize. That was complete and utter twaddle as within months or even weeks, the company had hired hundreds of new employees, and over the past 15 years, that number has grown into the thousands. But I, along with hundreds of my former colleagues, was lied to, and fired simply because the majority owners of the company had brought in a new C.E.O. and given him the freedom, if not a mandate to “clean house”.

Was that fair?

In my book “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn into a Nightmare”, I recount the experience that I had in launching one of the first spas in the world for men - and, specifically, how my “dream business” was turned into a nightmare because of my relationship with my investors who acted in a way that I do not believe was fair.

In a recent discussion about my book, a friend asked me what made me think that the world of business was fair. “Didn’t you know”, he asked “that business is a jungle? What made you think that people were going to be fair? How could you have been so naive?”

I have an answer for him.

The answer is “yes”. Yes, I expect people in business to be fair. I expect everybody to be fair, and I try to be fair to everybody - in business and in other areas of my life.

I do not believe that we can draw a circle around the world of business and say, “This is the business world . There is no such thing as fairness here”, and then expect there to be fairness in other areas of life.

Once we begin to erode the fundamental values of society - ( if you don’t believe fairness is one of those fundamental values, get arrested for a crime that you didn’t committ and see how quickly you start begging to be treated fairly) - once those fundamental values are eroded in one area, we begin to lose them everywhere.

And that is exactly what I see happening in our society right now - the fundamental values of decency, honesty, fairness - being eroded every day. Pepople like Bernie Madoff don’t fall out of the sky. They are products of a culture. A culture which we create for ourselves.

Should you treat people fairly in business? Or do you believe, as my friend does, that the concept of fairness doesn’t even come into play in business?

I believe that we live in the world we create.

If you want fairness in the world, be fair. In your business dealings and everywhere else.

What Does "Commitment" Mean In Your Business?

Readers of my blog, and of my book “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare” know that I founded one of the first spas in the world for men.

I did that because I had a mission to help men look and feel their best through personal care services, and felt that men were more likely to enjoy these services in a facility designed with their specific needs and tastes in mind.

I believed in the mission of my business and was committed to it.

Committed to it - what does that mean?

Does being “commited” to a business mean the same as being”committed” to a marriage?

Does it mean that you will be there through good times and bad?

Isn’t that the meaning of “commitment”?

Commitment doesn’t mean “for now”. It means “forever”.

If there are hard times in a marriage, you hang in there, if you are committed to it.

We all know that people say that they are committed to their marriage, but for whatever reasons, they often fail to live up to the commitment that they made.

Or, to be more accurate, they were never really committed, if the definition of “commitment” implies dedication or devotion over time.

Can we say “I’m committed today, but ask me tomorrow and things may have changed”?

That is not a “commitment” - it may be a pretty strong feeling, but it is not a commitment. Not if it changes tomorrow.

If you think you are committed to your business - what does that mean to you? How much hardship are you willing to endure and for how long?

The ability or willingness to endure hardships is what commitment is all about.

Which is why commitments are so hard to live up to.

What if you have partners or investors in your business, as I did?

What are they committed to?

How much hardship will they endure and for how long?

Just as in a marriage, it is very hard to know - and not knowing can cause a great deal of pain.


What are the Three C’s Of Your Business?

When I was developing The Men’s PowerSpa - one of the first spas for men in the world - there were three concepts which formed the holy trinity, if you will, of my philosophy and approach: commitment, consistency and continuity.

“Commitment” can mean many things in a business, but in my business I defined it to mean three things: our commitment to our clients, my commitment to my staff, and my staff’s commitment to the business. We could have added other forms of commitment, including the staff members’ commitment to each other, but I like to think in groups of three.

I defined “consistency” in the spa as a reliable and predictable level of quality of the client experience. In other words, I wanted to ensure that our clients could always count on the same quality in their treatments and in customer service. I didn’t want them to have a great experience one time and an inferior experience the next time.

Finally, I defined “continuity” to mean a feeling of progression from one visit to another. Whether a client was coming into the spa for a skin care service, a massage, or a hand or foot care service , we were very careful to make him feel that his service or services would pick up from the point of his last visit - and that the service provider was aware of any issues or special concerns that he might have. There can be no progress from one visit to another in a spa if you are constantly having to start back at the beginning every time.

The Three C’s were more than fancy words and concepts - the were values that informed many if not all of the decisions that I made while I was developing and running the spa. If I hadn’t believed that consistency and continuity were crucial to the success of my business, I would not have worried about hiring and retaining the best full-time staff - all I would have cared about was whether or not I had a service provider to offer a service at any given time. I might have hired a number of part-time people, who might have been cheaper, if all I had cared about was having someone available - I know of a number of businesses that operate that way. You never seem to see the same face twice.

What are “The Three C’s” of your small business? That is, what are the key values that form the cornerstone of your philosophy - and inform the decisions that you make as to how to run your business? They don’t have to start with the letter “c” of course, but they should be important enough for you to feel that you cannot compromise on them without undermining your prospects of success.

Once you have defined these fundamental values, make sure that everyone knows and accepts them - staff, partners, investors.

Can You Afford to Love Your Small Business?

In the summer of 2005, I was in love.

Yup, I’ll admit it.

Truly, madly, deeply.

I was in love with the small business that I had founded.

It was one of the first spas in the world for men, called The Men’s PowerSpa.

And why shouldn’t I have been in love with it - I had created it just the way I had imagined it.

It was slick, sleek and masculine, with a bit of swagger.

But it didn’t only look cool, it had taste - man, you weren’t going to hear any wind chimes and pan flutes in here - you were going to hear Sinatra, Darin, and Bennett - real guy music.

And it had a mission - a serious mission - to help men look and feel their best.

Because looking and feeling his best confers benefits in every aspect of a man’s life.

That was the core belief of my business.

I loved having created one of the first spas in the world for men, I loved being the self-proclaimed world leader in the men’s personal care industry and I loved it when guys came in and left - looking and feeling their best.

Because I loved my small business, I believed in it, and defended it against criticism, expecially if the source of the criticism was people who had never set foot in the spa.

Like my investors.

Love conquers all, they say. But they also say that love is blind.

Was I blind to some of the problems in my small business?

I really don’t know.

If you have a small business, can you afford to be in love with your business?

Can you afford not to?

Is Your Business Playing to Win Or Not To Lose?

In my post of yesterday, I wrote about the prevailing attitude that I had during the development phase of my small business - one of the first spas in the world for men - and throughout the two and half years that I was running the business.

The prevailing attitude was ‘This business can’t fail.”

The concept of my small business was to create a place where men could enjoy personal care services designed to help them look and feel their best in a comfortable, masculine environment.

How could a business like that fail?

And, by the way, the business hasn’t failed.

It was the relationship with my investors that failed.

Because I believed that my business could not fail, I made certain decisions - decisions that I would not have made if I felt that the business could or likely would fail.

In other words, I expected abundance, not scarcity.

I expected lots of clients, a steady stream of revenue, and success.

And because I expected success, I created a company that could succeed.

I founded my spa for men on three key watchwords: commitment, consistency and continuity.

I wanted a staff that was committed to the business, offering services of consistent quality, in order to create continuity with our clients.

To achieve that, I had to hire and retain good people. I could not afford to have a revolving door of service providers. If I did not retain my staff, I could not achieve the Three C’s that were the cornerstone of the business: commitment, consistency and continuity.

And that meant I had to pay my staff right from the beginning -before we had any clients. If I had only paid them a “fee per service”, with no services to deliver, they would have left within couple of days.

The belief that the business could not fail informed virtually every decision that I made.

Paying the staff an hourly wage was just one of them.

If you are thinking of starting your own small business, ot if you already have a small business, are you expecting abundance or scarcity? Are you playing to win or not to lose? Do you believe that your business cannot fail, or that it likely will?

Your belief system will determine how you develop and run your business.

If you have investors, as I did, you had better make sure that they share your belief system.

“Are we playing to win or playing not to lose?”

Make sure everyone has the same answer.