Friends & Friction: Don’t love the deal so much you forget the work

Muzi Kuzwayo
Muzi Kuzwayo

The leopard does not hate the buck, even though it has to kill it in order to eat.

Although I have never had the opportunity to have a discussion with the leopard, I imagine that this exceptional hunter looks at the buck the way I look at a chicken thigh – with a drooling mouth, perhaps, but not with hate, undue enthusiasm or gluttony.

A leopard that strikes in anger is likely to injure itself, which is something it cannot afford. There are no nurses in the wild.

Everyone is either food or competition.

So, even in the jungle of business you must not want a deal so badly that you’ll end up losing money, or worse, your reputation.

The nurses you see inside the corporation are there to help broken bones and not broken egos.

We pursue a deal because we want to make a gain, but we often forget the cost of the deal. Just as when you’re focused on a prospective lover, you don’t see your own shoes.

I know of someone who once pursued a deal to build RDP houses. He had tried everything, everywhere when he heard that there was a tender out in a small town in Mpumalanga.

He lived in Johannesburg, so he travelled extensively between the town and the city until he knew every tree on the side of the road.

He dined with the good and the great, laughed with the small and the insignificant, and shook the hands of the doorkeepers.

Finally the tender went out.

He showed his boundless passion, his love for the small town and respect for its people who were as unmissable as the timber mines of the province. He threw everything he had into the deal.

It would have been injustice to deny him the deal.

On the day he signed the contract, he invited his friends to a mass drowning in Champagne.

Fortunately, they survived this foolish act even though his bank balance never quite recovered from it.

The day to start building finally arrived.

It was winter, and what he didn’t know was that this town in the mountains of Mpumalanga experiences freezing temperatures during the season. The town has neither water nor the workers to mix the sand.

As a result, the project took longer than expected. The municipality complained, costs shot up and the bank manager complained.

We all know that if the latter happens repeatedly, the game is over for the entrepreneur.

This entrepreneur had forgotten that he was in it to make money, not for love.

He got too busy to realise that he was getting broke.

Mistakes do happen and that is how we learn, but loving a deal more than you love a piece of chicken is a mistake.

If you’ve ever seen a black child with a gold and crispy drumstick in hand, with the eyes of a little angel twinkling with joy like they are looking at heaven miniaturised in their small hand, and then by some stroke of ill luck that drumstick falls to the ground and gets covered by loamy soil that makes it inedible – trust me I’ve been there.

I’ve even tried to wash it and discovered very sadly that the taste gets washed away too. If you’ve ever seen that, then you know what pain is.

Losing a deal that you’ve worked very hard on is painful. But it is no reason to be bitter and hateful to the people who excluded you.

Unsurprisingly, I have made friends with people I met at pitches that I lost.

Twenty years later, they gave me business and it was when I needed it most.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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