It’s not personal, it’s just business. Everyone knows that phrase, made even more famous in the movie You’ve Got Mail. Let’s just really think about that phrase for a minute: It is not personal, it is just business. As Meg Ryan said in the movie, what does that even mean? Well to begin with let’s look at the origin of the phrase. Otto Berman is the man who coined the term ‘nothing personal, it’s just business’. As an accountant for the mob in the 1930’s, he used the phrase regularly as he laid out the situation to those who came before him. The business that Berman was conducting made distancing yourself from the human impact a requirement. The phrase continued to be used throughout the twentieth century, usually in situations of layoffs, cutbacks or corporate screwing. So, that’s where the phrase came from, but why do people still use it now?
Some people still stand by the phrase stating instance after instance of why decisions they have made were not personal but was solely based on business concerns. Some people use the phrase to ease their conscience when they may or may not have done something questionable, but feel badly about it. Some people use it as a balm for those they step on as they build their empire or climb the corporate ladder. Perhaps in some cases it truly is just business and not personal at all. But the way that business is conducted in the 21st century would seem to indicate that it is time to put this phrase in past along with “a pig in a poke” and “sold down the river”.
For me, business is always personal. It always has been. For those of you familiar with DISC Assessment I am a high I, which means I want to help. When I work with a client their goals become my goals and we become a team working toward those goals together. So you see there is no distinction between business and personal, to me they are one and the same. I have written in the past about all business not being good business, and I guess that is as close as I come to using the phrase “its not personal, its business”. If I am unable to connect with someone on a personal level, then I generally turn their business away, so actually in my case it would be “it is personal, its not business”.
I have had to let some employee go in the past, and some have left of their own accord. But I never blamed the departures on business, and I still keep in touch with most of them. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t simple as that. If I had invoked the phrase we have been discussing, then that would have been an injustice to the person and to myself. Each and every person who I have had the pleasure of working with was hired because I liked them and believed that they had something to offer our team. In almost all cases I still believe that and will call upon them on a per project basis if I think that it makes sense and they are available. The point is when you invoke that phrase you are attempting to absolve yourself of responsibility or ownership over what is happening, and that just doesn’t fly.
So I say all business should be personal and if it isn’t, then find a place that it is. Because if you are conducting business with people who are not taking it personally, then they are not invested in you or what you are trying to achieve, and not much good can come from that. I like to think of initial meetings with perspective clients as a mutual interview we are BOTH seeing if we like each other and if we can work together. A solid marketing effort takes time and if you are not personally invested, then you are just wasting your and the client’s time.
It will always be personal first and business second for me, how about you?