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Friday, June 15, 2007

Integrity and Community

After a while, I think business people can sense quite clearly who is good, and who is not. This instinctive capacity -- probably hardened with some real life pain -- is absolutely essential, for the business world has more than its share of scammers and con artists. Smart criminals know the right way to rob a bank is not with a gun, but with accounting tricks and creative contract language, after all.

I'd like to offer this 'smell test' for integrity problems. If you run up against these warning signs, all might still be okay, but I'd sure do a double check before rushing into anything substantial

  1. You sense something overpowering, fearful, about your potential business counterpart -- you either read through body language or words that this individual has good lawyers at hand and will sue, without hesitation, if things aren't right (from the other person's perspective.)
  2. Your counterpart is too smooth, too poised, too 'perfect'

  3. Your counterpart is enjoying unusual levels of success; has lots of material things, a big new house; seems so comfortable, so quickly, he or she is right out of a 'get rich quick' story (of course the sudden wealth may be honestly acquired; you'll know there are exceptions to every rule.)

  4. You can't quite fathom how your colleague has achieved success; the business model is complicated, confusing, or layered within odd structures or language.

  5. You just sense, in your first-impression gut feeling, that something isn't right. Your sixth sense, intuition, or instinct is telling you something is wrong.

If you haven't been burned yet by a business con artist, you are either very new, naive, or lucky. In fact, it is likely you will be burned more than once in your business career (hopefully through cons who are good enough to send out different signals so you honestly couldn't learn from your mistakes). You are obviously most likely to be vulnerable when you are desperate, grasping straws, and hoping for a lifeline.

Cons, by the way, are not the only reason for failure and business problems. Certainly my most recent challenges (now resolving well) have been entirely my responsibility.

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