Getting Back on the Right Path

Article by:
Vivek Gupta, EO Kolkata
Vivek Gupta
EO Kolkata

Vivek is the owner of Sanmarg Private Limited, Eastern India’s leading newspaper. He has been an EO member since 2002. Vivek can be reached [email protected].

I own Sanmarg Private Limited, a company that is at the forefront of the media industry in India. For the most part, our success had been fruitful; we were, by and large, quickly becoming giants in our business community. That was all put in jeopardy when some of our properties became vacant and we were not yielding the revenue or cash flow we expected and desperately needed.

To avoid immediate cash losses forthe month—such a loss would put us at a disadvantage in our competitive industry—I sold the property at terms, which was neither ethical nor, as I later discovered, commercially beneficial. The only thing I got out of it was cash to match the expenses … and a ton of PR aches and pains.

While I knew what I did wasn’t particularly moral, I didn’t anticipate a chain reaction of negativity and destructive behavior. As it went, karma kicked into gear and the fallout came a little later. One of our clients regularly demanded low rates that we could no longer offer thanks to my decision to sell the property. When we refused to meet his lofty demands, he stopped doing business with us. Unfortunately for us, he went on to spread bad news about our business and the rates we gave him in the market. This hurt considerably, and soon our existing base of clients began to demand lower rates than our overhead costs could cover. When we refused to give the lower rates—doing so would have put us out of business—we were immediately perceived as an unethical company.

The damage was extensive, to say the least, but I quickly applied what I learned from years of business building and counteracted the problem with good old-fashion elbow grease. I undertook a massive PR exercise. I also had to renegotiate rates and/ or give extra benefits to our clients. Though this was not desirable, I knew I had to do what I could to obtain their confidence. In time, I was able to renew my personal contact with the clients, but it cost me a lot in the process. It has been two years since the debacle, and I’m pleased to say that more than 95 percent of the clients are back with us. Just as important, our reputation has been repaired and our standing in the community is close to the level it had once been.

What I’ve learned throughout this tumultuous experience is that the temptation to achieve short-term success must be weighed against one’s long-term vision and goals. In the end, I realized I should have resisted the short-term, unethical temptations because they wind up boomeranging in the most unpleasant manner. Because I went for the easy, more lucrative solution to my problem, I put my business in a position that could have easily resulted in a public and private downfall. To say that I dodged the proverbial business bullet is nothing more than an understatement— I simply lucked out.

As hard as it is to face situations that require immediate decision making, it’s even more difficult when you have an easy route to freedom … even if that route is paved with immoral and unethical opportunities. Thankfully, I was able to right my business by accepting my mistakes and working toward recovery. That’s the true mark of an entrepreneur, when you can acknowledge your wrongdoings, learn from your mistakes and get back to work.

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