As we reach our year end 2014, and looking to break the million ringgit mark on revenue, I look back at the 4 years we have been in existence, since that March day in 2010, when I established this little company with just a vague idea of our strategic direction and services we want to offer.

I have encountered all sorts of characters in both my corporate career, that spanned about 11 years to my business career, from the typical foul mouthed business guy who turns into a great friend after a few encounters, to the typical backstabbers who would say good things about you and then turn around and seek to dump you in the mud. Naivety is the first casualty the moment we become business oriented people. But overall, only two persons in all my years stands out as people who were not only extremely pessimistic, but also extremely discouraging and probably a lesson we can all learn, to not self sabotage yourself or your business. The sad thing was that both of them were business people, and a reminder to me how NOT to be a business person.

1) The proverbial know it all – the first guy I met was very early in my business, when a good friend of mine introduced me to another friend of his. I wasn’t making any money then, and was struggling to get some business in. Instead of giving me some much needed advice, he went on to suddenly lambaste my business model as a failure and that I would not be able to generate any money by going into advisory, compliance and consulting. His business model of getting margins from products and not sharing it with a partnership (mine was a partnership), because he believed all profit should be his, as is all the work. I argued it was a different business model – that it was pros and ons on partnership, and that it allowed us to access more markets. Basically it wasn’t meeting of the minds, but I did not appreciate the way he stereotypically dismissed other business models and only went with what he knew.

Self Sabotaging #1: Going with the same strategy that made you successful and dismissing the rest as bollocks. I wonder where he is now, when the compliance industry is booming and his IT trading/margin business is being sliced down by competitors and direct principals. I still wish him all the best, but it doesn’t mean if one model works for you, it’s the only model for success.

2) The second is a little more clearcut – the proverbial alpha male owner. I met this guy when I was slightly more successful, when the ISMS business we had was picking up and we were getting some clients in. Now, I probably wasn’t that interested in developing internal professionals for this compliance (we were more inclined to invest in PCI-DSS), so we hooked up with an old friend of mine who had recently joined up another company specialising in ISMS and so we set a meeting with the owner. Immediately upon our meeting, he reminded me of people with typical alpha male syndrome. The way he shook hands, the way he aggressively sat, and the way he patronisingly downplayed my business and giving some advice I already knew about and immediately taking credit for the future success he guarantees it would bring. But I already have implemented it and was too lazy to argue with him. Alpha male syndrome generally is demonstrated by people who feels the need to prove themselves as the top of the heap, especially viewing other competitors, like other business owners.

While I wasn’t turned off (I just needed his guy), what completely cut us off was when after a few emails and calls went unreturned, he finally picked up my call, and when introduced again, he completely had no recollection who I was, and dismiss the call by saying, “I am too busy.” From then on, we received close to half a million worth of opportunities for ISMS that we did not channel to him. The best news we had was when my old friend announced that he had left that company recently.

Self Sabotaging #2: Drop the Alpha Male syndrome. It gets old. It works for the past generation maybe, but nobody likes a d**k. Nobody likes to work with a d**k or having to partner with one. Partnership, respect and openness is required. I never pick up a call and snap at anyone, even telemarketers. I actually talk to them and try to sell them my data protection act services, and most of the time, they just hastily hang up. Also, just a final note to Alpha Male wannabes: shake hands normally. I’ve encountered new recruits who shake hands like they want to break my hands like Dolph Lundgren, and flip their palms down as a show of dominance. That works, generally, if we are in the Planet of the Apes. We’re not. Stop it.