Practicing Corruption

As part of my research for this year’s IT Sales And Marketing Boot Camp, I’m rewatching The Sopranos. It’s interesting when you watch it for research rather than entertainment. Lots of hidden gems about running a business, dealing with difficult people and developing mental toughness. One thing you might not have picked up on is that the series follows a pattern of progressive evil and corruption, as does any TV series (or novel, for that matter). In all popular shows and stories like it, corruption and evil begets more corruption and evil, with one evil act, one corrupt decision, laying a pathway to more of it, until such behavior is so normal you don’t even think about it.

On the surface, The Sopranos is about life in the mob, but that’s not really what it’s about. Deep down, it’s about providing its fans the ability to live vicariously through Tony Soprano in a fantasy world where we have a real backbone, not taking sh*t from anyone and able to do more than hold a grudge against people who screw us over. Most people live their lives wishing they were more like his character: an imposing, tough alpha, seemingly unafraid of anyone or anything, unashamed to say what he thinks, untouched by criticism, supremely confident and feared by many.

But as the show progresses, it gets darker. This is the very same way small and large businesses go awry. A little corruption creates more corruption. A little dark behavior opens the door to more of it. Crimes are committed and covered up, not confessed and made right. Rinse and repeat. Employees, vendors and clients often follow the same path. The salesperson who refuses to make the calls and do the activities required to hit quota. The technician who fails to take accurate notes or complete documentation as he should. The person answering the phone who refuses to follow the process and script given to her. A little bad behavior goes unnoticed or overlooked, which then starts a pattern of it, getting progressively worse until it does a swath of damage to YOU.

But YOU may be just as corrupt. We often call our politicians corrupt, which means dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, associating it with using their position of power to make decisions that are unfair. But corruption in a business starts with the owner and what they tolerate and permit. Bad behaviors repeated, like failing to show up on time for meetings. Failing to invest time in an employee to ensure they have the proper direction and training for the job. Failing to get a handle on critical numbers in a business. All of this IS corruption, and a little of it begets more of it. If you flat-out fail to learn and master the basic sales and marketing numbers in your business, you will neglect other critical things too. How you do anything is how you do everything. Question is, what behaviors are you PRACTICING?

In terms of your business, let me put it simply: if you do not protect and pursue the integrity of your actions and what you are building, you get the opposite of integrity – corruption. There’s no in-between. You either are or aren’t. This is not a morality discussion, but a money discussion. Your business either sinks with corruption or floats with integrity. If you create a sales process, operating procedure or other SOP that works, but then fail to ensure its proper implementation – worse, KNOW it’s not being followed, then shrug it off and choose willful blindness– you will eventually discover the entire process is corrupt and dysfunctional.

As a business owner, you must take a Tony Soprano–level toughness about this. ZERO tolerance for it – be awake, alert and look for such corruption before it sinks your ship.

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