What Business Teaches Us

A Life Lesson Delivered Over Lunch. 

Recently, I met with a client, who was nearing retirement.  As our coaching relationship was coming to a close, “Bob” and I had a final lunch to celebrate endings and new beginnings.

Bob was reflecting on his successes and failures during his incredible career.  Over our entrees, I asked Bob about the biggest lesson he learned along the way.  He said the one thing that never ceased to amaze him was what business relationships taught him about himself.  And with that unexpected comment, I was hooked.

When Good Goes Bad

Bob leaned back in his chair and began a story…  “Years ago, I co-founded a B2C company with a close friend Jack.  Jack and I had been long time friends when we set up the business.  For the first few years, profits were minimal, but we had never had a better time.  Over late night work sessions and beers, we would fantasize about our impending success.

As business demands and profits grew, our friendship began to fade.  Over time, we were barely civil.  The business was booming and I had never been more successful.  Yet I was completely miserable.  Eventually, I avoided Jack as much as possible and drove my wife absolutely crazy with my moodiness and incessant working from home.

One night after a particularly ugly argument with Jack on the future direction of company, I knew one of us had to leave or we’d destroy the business.  Our friendship was already a long dead casualty, but I refused to risk the financial security of our staff and my sanity.  So, I resigned the next morning.”

The Lesson

Bob studied his coffee intently.  He then quietly said, “I could have been bitter and made up stories that blame Jack for what happened, but I ultimately left because I didn’t like the person I’d become – with Jack, in my company and even with my family.  I was the worst version of myself.  No success is worth compromising who you are.  My biggest lesson was to never lose sight of that – and I never did again.”

After lunch, I hugged Bob goodbye and we promised to keep in touch.  And, I know we will – because that’s just the kind of person Bob is.

With Gratitude

Since that lunch, I’ve thought a lot about Bob’s story.  While we believe work is what we do, it’s actually who we are being – with our family, friends, colleagues and in our business.

Like Bob, I have had bumps in the road throughout my life and career.  At times, I’ve looked back with sadness, anger or even regret about those situations.  Now, I see that I was compromising who I am to fit into someone else’s ideal of me.  I was destined to fail because I wasn’t being true to myself.

Now, I see those difficult times as gifts.  They got me to where I am now.   Today, I love what I do, I work with amazing people and most importantly I get to BE myself.

Bob hired me to guide him and his business.  Yet, Bob has taught me more about success and myself than I ever imagined.

Thank you, Bob.  Happy Retirement.


What are your biggest lessons from your business relationships?

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