During my teenage years, my dad had told me to beware of my friends. His reason was that; “Only a friend can betray you.” Of course, being a teenager, I never really understood this. However, now that I am older, more experienced and (hopefully) wiser, I realized that he was right.
The Treachery of a Friend…
When I was starting out as a truck salesman for Diamond Motors (a Mitsubishi automotive dealership), I met a guy named James (not his real name), who would eventually become one of my very best friends. After being friends for about a year, we had decided to form some sort of alliance. We would go on sales calls together and, when one of us was not available to assist a client, the other would take his place. It was a good arrangement for both of us because we were able to cover more ground and make sure that each of our clients was well assisted. We watched each other’s back… or so I thought.
On my second year as a salesman for the dealership, I had begun winning several sales awards and making a sizeable amount of money from commissions. James, on the other hand, wasn’t doing very well with his sales, and he started to envy my achievements… a fact that I was oblivious of. James never showed that he was envious and kept our “partnership” running normally. Little did I know that he was actually plotting against me.
Since he had been with me during a lot of my sales calls, James knew which of my clients would be buying soon; and he had set his sights on a potentially large fleet buyer. Whenever this client needed a follow-up call, James would eagerly volunteer to assist him. Since I trusted James, I would allow him to assist the client on my behalf. Sometime later, I found out that three trucks had already been delivered to that client; but, much to my dismay, the sale had been credited to James. This made me furious! Not only had he “stolen” my sale, James had done it at a time when I was in need of money because my wife, Helen, was about to give birth to my 3rd child. I would also learn later that James had been spreading lies about me to my clients.
I decided to confront James. To my amazement, he had actually admitted to me that he was jealous of my achievements and hated the fact that I had outdone him in sales even if we worked together on all our clients. He shouted at me and tried to make me feel that it was my responsibility to share some of my sales with him. After that argument, our “partnership” was dissolved.
Though James was able to steal one of my biggest accounts, he would not prosper as a salesman for the dealership we worked for; and eventually he was asked to resign.
My friendship with James had blinded me from his real thoughts and motives. I had no idea that, behind his smiles and during our occasional beer drinking sessions, he was scheming against me.
Throughout my many years of doing business I’ve found out (mostly the hard way) that creating a business partnership (even one that was only verbally agreed upon; like in my story above) based on friendship can often be a very dangerous move. I’ve witnessed many corporations with brilliant concepts break down into rubble because the incorporators were friends… well, not anymore.
With friends, we often have a set of rules that we have to abide by so as not to “shake” the friendship. We also have a set of high expectations that we imagine our friends to be. And, when these rules or expectations are broken, so goes our friendship. You might be thinking; “You’re wrong, Boom. A true friend is truthful to you and does not expect anything from you.” You may be right; but how many “true” friends do we actually have? For that matter, are we in fact true friends to our friends? At least, with our enemies, we know where we stand. But, do we really know what our friends think about us?
The Value of My Enemy…
When I was promoted to sales manager of Nissan Commonwealth (a Nissan automotive dealership), I made many unpopular changes in the way things were done in the sales department of our dealership. These abrupt changes made a lot of people hate me. One person who hated me more than most was a girl named Luna (again, not her real name).
Luna would openly mock my policies and disobey me in front of the entire sales team. She would refuse to submit any of the new reports I had designed; calling them stupid and ridiculous. She would even let her disappointment be known during general sales meetings. Though Luna was good at her job, I had to terminate her contract because of her repeated acts of insubordination. I had had enough of her negativity and the effect it was having on the rest of the sales team.
As soon as I let her go, she and other disgruntled sales people applied for sales positions with a competitor. She vowed that she would bring me down by stealing all the clients of my dealership. This, of course, would never happen. Soon, she would be kicked out of that dealership because of her “attitude problem”, and that would be that last I would hear about her for a long time.
Two years later, I would receive an unexpected call from Luna. She spoke with a very timid, almost shy voice over the phone; but I could sense her desperation. She had gotten into a bad relationship and had become a single mother. Her parents’ business had also failed and, since she had been working for her parents’ business for over a year, she was now broke. She told me that she had tried calling other dealerships, but that they had turned her down because of her reputation as a “hard to handle” salesperson. I’m sure that I was the last person she wanted to call, and that she had to swallow a large chunk of her pride to even consider talking to me.
Many people who knew her advised me not to take her back. They told me that she would make me regret it. I, however, saw it differently. I thought that, since she was probably never expecting me to take her back, she might actually be grateful to me if did take her back. If I took her back, she would owe me. So, much to her surprise, I took her back without bringing up the past or asking her for anything in return.
My ploy worked. Luna had become a model salesperson, and a top performer. She also became one of my most loyal teammates; never to mention anything negative about me again. As a matter of fact, today, she is a company trainer for a leading BPO. And, though we very rarely get to speak with each other, I’ve heard from some mutual friends that she still refers to me as her mentor.
We always assume that our enemies are out for our blood; so, when we do an unexpected kindness to our enemies, more often than not, we win their undying loyalty. And, when our enemies become our friends, they don’t usually expect anything from us. Their only concern would most probably be how to repay their debt of gratitude to you.
I am not saying that all your friends are treacherous; nor am I saying that all enemies can be converted. I am simply pointing out possibilities. Since you really don’t know what your friends are thinking, it would be best not to trust them too much. On the other hand, never write-off an enemy. You’ll never really know what value they can bring to the table.
is the Managing Director of Our-Knowledge Asia and a Business Consultant for Local and Foreign Start-ups, SMEs and Organizations based in the Philippines.