I am sure that you have heard the phrase “safety in numbers” before. In the animal world, creatures travel in groups because they instinctively know that, when there are many of them, predators have less of a chance of being successful during an attack. In most cases, if a predator is successful, its victim is usually a sick or weaker member of the herd. This is an important part of the process of natural selection and maintains the process of survival of many species.
On the other hand, there are predators that travel in packs because they instinctively know that in the search for prey, some potential meals have the ability to defend themselves, and a group attack is usually more effective. This too ensures the survival of the species because, without the pack, some predators would literally starve to death.
In the large corporate world, herds and packs are replaced by boards of directors, employee teams, shareholders, and subsidiaries. These are groups of people who come together to pool their abilities in support of the agenda or goals of the corporation. In essence, this ensures the future success of the business. In the large corporate world, failing companies are often absorbed by successful ones in mergers and through acquisitions. Rarely does a large company just “go out of business” or become extinct. They are usually simply bought by another large company.
In the small business world, the entrepreneur is the animal who has wandered away from the herd. Sometimes it happens because of unemployment, but often it is because they have a desire to be independent from the politics of the corporation, or simply to be self-sufficient. Fortunately for the small business owner, a community exists where they can count on others to help them to be successful. It is the community of business-to-business networking.
Not all small business owners are aware of the opportunities of success involved in business networking. In fact, if I were to make a guess at how many businesses are involved in networking, I would guess the number to be around less than 10 percent of all businesses. This is unfortunate because not only is there a great deal of opportunity for acquiring more new business in the networking environment, there are also methods of learning to be more successful and to be a bit safer in the business community.
Why would I link safety in numbers, animals and small business? Because in the business world at large, predators exist. Corporations have learned that a part of doing business is putting measures of security in place through patents, copyrights, server firewalls, policies, and a myriad of other functions that occur on a daily basis often with employees dedicated to these. In the environment of small business, we often are not even aware of the threats and if we are, rarely do we have the means within our budget to protect ourselves against them.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever done work for someone who refused to or simply never paid you? If you have never had this experience, I applaud your extreme streak of good luck. On the other hand, maybe you have not been in business for very long so this painful experience may be looming on the horizon.
In any case, when this does happen to you, what will you do? Contact the lawyer? File suit? Complain to a friend? Accept it and move on? Most people tend to simply accept it and move on. Some cases may involve inventory that you can write it off as a loss on your taxes, but some cases involve intellectual property where there is no monetary resolution. The sad reality is that often there is no justice for you, no satisfaction, and ultimately no payment.
When one opens the figurative doors of their small business, they do so with a lot of enthusiasm. To maintain the daily pressures of meeting expenses requires a great deal of positive mental attitude. It means that even when things are tough, you have to be upbeat, and forge ahead in order to survive. This world of positive attitude dictates that we eliminate negative thoughts so that we can remain focused on our goals. In fact as communities of small business owners develop, it is almost an unspoken rule that negativity be eliminated from conversation on every level. After all you would not want to admit to a prospective client that things are not going well and you are going to have to file bankruptcy if you don’t close this deal.
In the same vein, as the predator attacks the small business owner and feeds upon them, the entrepreneur is reluctant to talk about this negative experience. In some cases, the predator is working within the peer group of the victim. As the predator continues to feed, several members of the group may have fallen victim, but because of the fear of reprisal among the group for saying negative things about another “nice” member of the group, they remain silent. They are afraid that if they say anything negative about the predator, that they themselves will be viewed in a negative way.
People are afraid of being accused of slandering another. They are afraid that no one will believe that this person has really done what they are accused of and that it will further damage their own reputation if they become vocal. Have you ever felt this way? Has this happened to you? I am willing to bet that there are those reading this who feel the same way.
The truth is in my opinion, and this is simply my opinion, that as long as the predator is allowed to continue to function in a group, they will continue to do harm to individuals within the group. After they have victimized a good portion of the group, they simply move on. So how can we change this, how can we stop it? Is it just a question of taking responsibility to protect the others? Does it have to be a matter of risking our own reputation to try to protect others?
Until we change the paradigm of responsibility and belief, the predator will continue on, business as usual. Until we can find it acceptable to hear the honest truth about someone who appears to be a “nice” person, the predator will continue to thrive in our midst. There is safety in numbers unless we have blinders on. Without the ability to voice the experiences we have without tainting our own reputation, we will continue to suffer our losses.