Business, Now It’s Personal

I sat down the other week for a conversation that was long overdue. I never used to be very upfront – I’ve been shy most of life, so these much needed conversations were rather hard to muster in the past. Fortunately, I’ve spent a lot of time breaking through this barrier and now prefer to bang the nail right on the head. I’m happy to say that I’ve come along way, and it’s done nothing but improve my life and relationships. There’s something so freeing about laying your thoughts and feelings out on the table – expressing yourself honestly.


I can’t say I’ve been around the block as far as business, but I do feel that I’ve been blessed with a set of rather rich experiences in my young life: competing as an athlete, turning a page of notes into a dance organization, helping five software engineers build a social media company which was acquired by Twitter, living in Singapore and traveling through 17 countries – many of which have an entirely different way of looking at the world, life, and especially business. Through it all, I’ve realized what I value most: experiences, interactions, and the people who join me along the way.


Back in the pub, the two of us were going through the play by play of past events and laying out our thoughts. I explained how I felt let down by the fact he didn’t come through on a commitment he had made to our business, and to me – is there a difference? My trust toward him had been put into question.

The commitment was fairly key in our operations and due to some new outside business projects, it wasn’t very high on his priority list. He dropped the line “It’s nothing personal man, It’s just business.” It sat heavy. I wasn’t sure what to think at first. It was weird to hear this. A phrase that seemed to make so much sense to me years ago, all of a sudden sounded like the biggest pile of shit I’ve ever heard. A few sleeps later, It still sounds pretty dumb.

How is it possible that someone could say this, and believe it? After letting it sit for a day, I’ve realized two very different contexts where someone could say this:

Situation A – You’re looking for a supplier, partner or an employee to fill a gap in your business. Each candidate is unique and you select the one which makes the most sense for you. Regardless of a current relationship with this person or not, your decision is very focused on finding the right fit for your business’ needs. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Situation B – You’ve chosen your supplier, partner or employee and an ongoing relationship for mutual benefit begins. You’ve made a commitment to each other, and both parties expect the other to follow through. One says to the other, “It’s nothing personal man, it’s just business” – excuse you? It’s personal.

Before making a commitment and afterward are two very different situations. How is it possible that someone could say this, and believe it? It’s simple. That person doesn’t value the relationship in question, has extremely different views of what’s important in business, and in life. At least now I know.

The Physics of Business

Usually inspired by an unmet need, an idea spawns in someone’s mind and a bunch of bodies are gathered together in an attempt to solve the problem. Let’s think through this “It’s not personal, it’s just business” thing a little further:

Where does a company’s vision come from?

Where does its competitive advantage come from?
Indispensable human capital and strategic partnerships.

Who runs your company day to day (or programs the robots who do)?
Your team, your employees.

Who allows you to continue running your company each day?
Your customers.

What’s the largest expense on most income statements?

What do all these have in common?
Bum dada bum dada bum bum bum (I’m learning drums)

The collective intellect and relationships formed between a web of human beings is the single strongest force that will either make shit happen and make you happy, or destroy everything and leave you unfulfilled. Do take care.

If it’s not personal, it’s not good business.

Copyright © Robin Campbell 2014