When I started out in the motor trade it was my job to drive around the highways and byways of Oxfordshire, calling on garages and other motoring establishments and try to sell them stuff. I am not sure I was ever that good at it though they were some of my most formative years.
There were three of us doing a similar role. Each of us had a patch. Maurice was the wily old dog who had seen it all and could not be taught any new tricks, while Gary and I were the young whippersnappers.
Of course our patches had boundaries and this meant that on occasions there was very little distance between a customer on my turf and one on that of my colleague. We had an agreement that we would not tray into each other’s manor or poach each other’s clients. It was a gentleman’s agreement but we were not always gentlemen.
One owner of a filling station told me of a garage that was opening up, just along the road and said I should get in there. It was on someone else’s patch and I told him that I would pass the lead on. It was then that he said to me that ‘there is no sentiment in business.’
It was an odd thing to say but it has stuck with me ever since. He was saying to me that all is fair in business and that I should go and grab the business before my colleague gets a chance.
Perhaps I was naive and perhaps I still am but I think he was wrong. There should be values within business or sentiment as he called it. By not straying into my collegues territory then I am making it clear that I do not expect him to stray into mine. I am practicing what I preach.
I do not want to be part of a business that is unethical. I want to trade in a way that is fair to all parties involved. I may be taken advantage of. I may have to turn business away but at least I will be who I want to be.
There can be sentiment in business.