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There’s a fine line sometimes between the letter of an agreement and the spirit of the agreement. Triggering a (negative) clause in a contract after you have heard the conditions were met but you haven’t seen it in writing (yet) is not the right thing to do. It may meet all the legal requirements but not the ethical conditions we expect from one another when doing business together.

Telling your staff to generate as many orders as possible, even if they have to discount the price, by month’s end isn’t right when you’re selling the business at the end of the month and this action leaves the pipeline empty for the buyer. The better way to do it is to delay orders so the buyer, who will be paying you, starts off on a high.

Not telling a buyer than your number one customer, 20% of your sales, is leaving is not right. Trying to cover it up once the buyer finds out is even worse. Telling a business buyer that certain expenses are personal not business so your profit looks higher isn’t right either, especially when they are related to the business (and if not, you’re cheating the IRS and as a friend who works there told me last week, that is fraud and the IRS is on the lookout for that stuff these days).

As you can see, I’ve seen a lot of questionable behavior over the years. However, I’ve seen a lot more good things – people doing the right thing – than bad. It’s just that the bad are easier to remember and have repercussions we don’t like.

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