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Killer instinct

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Old 05-10-2002, 01:03 AM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Killer instinct

A long time ago I quit a job to start my own business. I stayed friends with my former boss, even though we were technically competitors. One day we were talking and I told him that I'd taken great pains not to steal any of his existing customers. His reply to me was "I don't mind. Call them all. I don't mean to be cruel, but you need to know this: you'll never be a success at business, you just don't have a killer instinct".

This really torked me off. I told myself that he'd just made me mad enough to give me the motivation he thought I lacked. For years it bothered me. Then, after recovering from my 3rd failed business, I think I understood what he meant.

If I'd had the "killer instinct" I wouldn't have felt bad about approaching his customers, and certainly wouldn't have talked to him about it. What he was basically saying was my nature is basically non-competitive. I now accept this as true, and actually embrace it. I'm proud of it.

Some people have what it takes to be a great singer...but some don't. Same with sports or anything at all. It's not just a case of attitude and talent, there are facets of personality at play. With business it takes, among other things, at least a small love of competition.

Later in life, I ran a great company for 10 years. My employees loved working for me. My customers thought we were the best. But as soon as we got big enough to appear on the radar of bigger companies, it got to be no fun at all. In fact, it got to be horrible. So I sold the company and chose another path. If I'd had the killer instinct, that would have been the point when the fun really started.

I learned something about myself. What about you? Do you have a killer instinct?
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Old 05-10-2002, 06:34 AM
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thomasgeorge thomasgeorge is offline
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I dont really know if having the " Killer Instinct" is necessary to survive in business or not. From my experience it isnt. Providing a needed service, at a reasonable price, taking a genuine interest in customers, being sensitive to their financial status and trying to be as accomodating as possible without being taken advantage of, being honest and not "hard sell ", seems to have worked for me. I think it depends on what your defination of success is...mine is to have a business small enough to easily manage while producing enough income to pay for itself and bolster retirement income. If, on the other hand, your goals are more aggressive, then it is a proven fact that the ones on top of the heap got there by clawing their way up over the competition, in far too many cases by utilizing unsavory methods to do so...the end justifies the means sort of thing. That may be how it has to be if your defination of success follows the traditional business expansion model, and if so, thats great. My comfort level wont allow it. I'd rather stay small, with a universally good reputation that be big with a "so-so" one. I dont think about competing, just providing the best service possible for what the customer can afford...but not "giving" my time away....Tom
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Old 05-10-2002, 08:19 AM
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Ed_L Ed_L is offline
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Tom has a good point. What is success? Is it money? Power? Or maybe it's the ability to be a jerk, and get away with it? Then again, maybe it's being able to make enough income, while remaining a decent person. I retired at age 48 from the steel mill. My wife became ill, and her problem was very hard to diagnose. She had been to hospitals in 4 different cities, including St. Louis and Chicago. Medical care wiped us out of everything we had except for a very modest home. My age kept me from getting a job that would pay much more than minimum wage, which wasn't sufficient. Luckily, I've always been the type of person who could do most anything myself. So I started a home improvement business with my son. My main business purpose was to make enough money to make ends meet, without taking advantage of others. We made money the first year! We never made "big bucks", but that wasn't our goal. He still has the business, and he's doing pretty well. If having "killer instinct" means that you take advantage of every situation, regardless of how ethical it is, we did not have it. In fact, it wasn't long ago, a potential customer called him for a bid on a new roof, which he was told he needed (by a competitor). After examining the roof, my son told him that he had 5 or 6 more years of life for the roof. This small act led to countless recommendations. Was our business successful? In my estimation, it was *very* successful without "killer instinct".

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