I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I was hungry, and the auditorium was freezing. Someone was dozing off in front of me. This preacher was as dull as a blank A4 paper. At least we could fold origami with paper.
My wife dragged me there. She reckoned it was good for me to hear some encouraging words that morning. The topic was interesting: “Among The Wolves We Work”. I have to admit it could be a very interesting sermon if not because of that old-traditional-slow-to-speak preacher.
Anyhow, as my mind drifted to another time, I heard a voice in my head (not God’s voice). It was the voice of my customer. I remember distinctly how he said something along the line of: “Sorry we still have enough stocks.” Yeah, he somehow had enough stocks for months. I realised eventually that they purchased their stocks from someone else. What I didn’t realise was who this “someone else” was.
It was “Dave”, our ex-staff. He founded his own company after he left us. And apparently proceeded to steal our customers. He had burnt the bridge.
Dave did a brief stint with me for 6 months. He was our sales rep. A very ambitious young man. Before that Dave had his own lawnmowing business. He was somewhat lazy but cunning as a snake. Hey, that was one of the creatures the preacher was talking about: snake.
A prominent voice suddenly thundered from the stage: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as harmless as doves.”
Ok, take it easy. Who are these wolves you are talking about? And are you calling us snakes?
As expected my mind decided to take another trip to the past. This time it was our kitchen board meeting. My wife and I were discussing how to retaliate against this attack from our ex-sales rep. We figured he did not have the buying power and logistic means. So as long as we could drop our price and reduce minimum quantity, it was basically check-mate for Dave.
And that was precisely what we did.
We dropped our price significantly, and we reduced the minimum quantity from five boxes to just one. It worked like a charm. Our customers realised their grief mistakes and returned gracefully to our care.
Take that Mr Steal-Customers-From-Previous-Boss!
My wife elbowed me.
“Did you doze off again?” she whispered.
“No,” I said, not-so-convincingly.
“This is the good part, pay attention.”
She was right, I kind of figured out what the sermon was all about after that. Basically, this world is full of wolves, and we need to be shrewd like snakes. The part I didn’t get yet was the dove. Why do we need to be harmless as doves? Well, at least I learnt something that morning. Watch out world, the snake within me is coming out to bite all of you wolves.
I did meet with Dave after our little price war saga. I tried to have a civilised conversation about it. Interestingly, he told me it was ok because it was just business. I was not sure if he was drunk or on drugs.
Wasn’t I the one who supposed to say that?
He stole from me, and he said it was ok?
Anyway, I didn’t want to pursue it. We said our goodbyes.
The words on the street were Dave couldn’t cope on his own and struggling to make ends meet.
Everyone in the auditorium suddenly stood up. Oh, time to sing the final hymn.
“Fred, how are you doing?” Tim, our old preacher, came to say hi.
“Good, everything is good,” I said.
“I heard you had few issues with your ex-staff?”
“O yeah, did my wife fill you in on that?”
“Yes she did, she also sent me here to talk to you,” Tim smiled.
“Actually Tim, I do have a question,” I said.
“Yes, fire away.”
“You know how you talk about Wolves, Snake, Doves, and Sheep?”
“I understand the part about wolves and snakes,” I said. “But what’s the thing about being harmless as a dove?”
“Well, it is straightforward really,” Tim said.
“Tell me,” I said impatiently.
“Being harmless is for your own good.”
“So people won’t retaliate?”
“That’s one, but there’s another,” Tim said. “How do you think you will end up inside if you keep causing harms to other people?”
“Oh I see, I will become a bitter, back-stabbing, revenge-seeking person, with no friends.”
I did meet with Dave one more time after that. His business deteriorated to the point that he didn’t have a warehouse or any kind of storage places for his stocks. Everything from pick up to delivery was run from his car. I did wonder if he also slept in there, judging from the number of pizza boxes I spotted on the rear seat.
Anyway, we had a chat.
He lost few more customers and apparently decided to burn a couple more bridges with some suppliers. The way he was going, he would have nothing to sell in no time. He had to stop acting like a big bad wolf and causing issues left, right and front.
Anyway, I didn’t offer help considering how bad he burned me last time. So I wished him the best and waved bye-bye.
You know what, maybe that old preacher was right.
We are in the dog-eat-dog world. It is crucial to be shrewd like snakes.
But I realised now it doesn’t matter how shrewd we are, no one achieves success on his own. And who would want to work with someone who would stab you in the back?
Who would cause harm to your business?
Ironically, in the dog-eat-dog world of business, we are to be harmless too. And only then we could build our reliable and secure network of support.
I am glad my wife dragged me to the church that morning.
“Be careful the bridges you’re willing to burn when trying to get ahead. You never know when you’ll need a friend again.”