Losing to win at business

Business, Inspiration | 10.10.2010 | No Comments »


Most folks are under the impression that winning in business is the only way to be successful. Win the account. Win the promotion. Win the meeting. If you’re not winning, you’re losing; and losing is bad.

This is not always the case. In the same way that you can’t truly succeed until you’ve learned from failure, you can’t truly win at business until you’ve learned from losing.

Recently I went through a sticky situation that required losing in order to win in the end.

I’m a member in a business networking and leads group. This group depends upon, and thrives because of, it’s integrity and honesty. We feel secure in referring business back and forth because we know each member is an expert in their field, and dedicated to customer satisfaction. When a client does business with another member and is satisfied with the quality and service, we all look good.

However, this group, like many others, flourishes only with the constant influx of new members with a wider scope of business categories. When new members are a priority, you’re going to get some business owners that aren’t quite up to the standards for which you’d expect.

It’s one of these newer members that joined our group that ended up the object of my ire. We’ll call him Jim, and he wasn’t exactly ethically up to par, or capable of functioning within our business group.

He approached me at one of the meetings and mentioned that he needed to have a logo created and applied to all of the collateral needed by his business. This would include business cards, brochures, vehicles and promotional materials. I told him how I worked and set up a time to go over the particulars. It was at this meeting I should have realized he was one of those clients you just have to leave at the table. He wouldn’t listen to, or didn’t absorb, any of the information imparted during the conversation, talked in circles, and wasn’t able to answer a question directly. The only reason I continued with the project was because of his membership in the networking group.

After several months of proofs and indecision, he finally decided on a logo. We ordered the business cards, and I sent him an invoice.

Here’s where I begin to lose.

He began to complain about how slow business was, that he didn’t have money to pay the bill, and how he wasn’t happy with the logo or the printing. The printer (also in the group) ate several sets of cards over the next few months, while I continued to go unpaid for the work I had done. He began to gripe loudly, inside and outside the networking group about the quality and integrity of the printer and myself, claiming that I had jacked up the final bill without his knowledge (when in fact, I had left off quite a few charges he incurred). Eventually, the problems were brought before the networking group to be resolved. The fellow in charge of ethics violations took me aside and gave me some advice.

“Sometimes you have to lose in business to win, “he said. “This has turned into a pissing contest, and everyone gets messy in a pissing contest. In situations like this, there is no winner. “

“So, if I’ve done everything honestly and ethically, how is it that I have to lose?” I replied.

“By losing,” he answered, ”you show that you’re willing to be accommodating and work with your clients, which is a higher road to take. The members of this group will respect you more for being flexible and dedicated to your customers. The more Jim points fingers and complains, the more people will see him for who he is.”

It was a tough pill to swallow, but it has worked out. I have continued to do quality work and my reputation has remained intact. I actually earned more loyalty from the group by conceding, than by pushing to win the fight, even though I had reason.

The quick moral of this story? Sometimes those steps backward pay off in the end. Not every situation can be a win, but every situation helps you in your future business dealings.

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