Geri Stengel

 
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Harsh Advice Raises Hackles: Being a Bully Isn't Good for Business

Fire your relatives? Scare your employees? Stop whining?

Well, your relative may not be the best person for the job so you might look at that, but much of the advice spouted by George Cloutier in the February 10 New York Times article certainly doesn't mesh with good business or good sense.

First, I'll give the devil his due: I agree that the time for whining is over. Let's focus on making times better ahead.

I also agree that focusing on profit, loss and cash flow is critical, but it's not exclusionary. As a double- and triple-bottom line kind of person, I don't think good business is just about cash profits.

small business, triple bottom line, double bottom lineBut this heavy-handed consultant to small- and medium-sized businesses advocates mistreating other business people. If you're not his client, you are fair game for such things as late payments.

Whoa! What happened to integrity? Bills should be paid on time – typically 30 days – not the 45 or more that Cloutier tells his clients to demand. He doesn't suggest late payments to make ends meet in tough times. He demands them in order to get "an interest-free loan" from vendors.

Does he accept late payments? Do his clients? I think not. Cloutier is advocating a junk-yard dog mentality: be the biggest bully on the block.

It's not a mentality that will generate such profit-boosters as customer referrals from vendors, discounts on purchases or strategic alliances on future ventures.

And it is arguably the view that got us into the Great Recession in the first place: integrity and customer service took second place to personal gain and prestige.

Cloutier also bullies his staff, by micro-managing every aspect of their work and by believing that most people are mediocre (except him, of course). He follows the law, he allows, but if people don't produce, they are out. Being nice, he says, borders on insanity.

Sorry, but that's not supported by the facts. The Harvard Business Review reported on research that shows micro-managing creates a bottleneck that often prevents growth, a conclusion supported by the many comments on the article.

Cloutier's conclusion isn't supported by common sense either. It assumes that one person is the "best man" for the job: the boss. With an ego like Cloutier's, I can see how that might happen but, in fact, most business owner's know that they aren't experts in everything. That's why you hire people with skills that complement yours.

Certainly, controlling your employees and setting standards for production, customer service, and integrity are good things. So, too, are paying a fair wage, providing benefits, and acknowledging that people need a full life that includes family. Coultier does not place any value on the latter, for himself or his employees.

Fear, Coultier says, is the best motivator: OMG, I'm not even sure what to say! I can’t imagine how that works. He didn't mention in the article what his turnover rate or training costs are.

He has no idea what opportunities he's missing for new business and better business ideas.

Being a bully is not good business, Mr. Cloutier.

What do you think? Is fear a good motivator? Is it good for any bottom line to mistreat other businesses? Is focusing only on personal gain the best thing for long-term growth and for the economy?