Ethics

We Are All Shocked! -- Shocked! -- By the Tom Brady Cheating Scandal

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So Tom Brady cheated. Big deal.

People are so shocked that Tom Brady was found guilty of cheating by under-inflating footballs used in the AFC champtionship game. I’m not. I’m very used to it. Marriott Hotels had to pay a $600,000 fine last year for purposely blocking Internet access for their guests so they would be forced to use the hotel’s more expensive conference access. Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. settled with authorities for the rigging of key foreign-exchange benchmarks last year. China fined GlaxoSmithKline nearly $500 million for bribery. A Texas company had to cough up $100 million for export violations to Iran, Syria, Cuba, and other countries.

Tom Brady cheating? Ho-hum. If you run a business -- particularly if you’ve been running one for a couple of decades like me -- that’s just another day at the office. Everyone is cheating.

Related: Cheating Can Never Be Excused in Life, Business or Little League

Your competitors are cheating. A landscaping client of mine is upset because his competitor hires illegal aliens to work during the summer at lower wages and then wins jobs because his price is the best. The competitor is cheating. But like Brady, he clearly doesn’t care and wants to win at all costs.

This is what you’re up against: competitors who have their own definition of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s moral and what’s not. Many are willing to take their chances of getting caught. That’s because the people who run businesses successfully generally enjoy the game of making a profit. They like to buy low and sell high. They willingly cut corners, lie about their services, lie about your services and pretend it’s all just “friendly competition.” It’s not. They like to steal your customers and will cheat to do so. They want to hire your employees who bring with them your data. They cheat. They sleep like babies. They love it.

Your customers and suppliers are cheating. Really? Your customer “has no money” to pay your invoice right now, but when you call back a week later you find out he’s on vacation with his family in the Caribbean? Or when he complains of some miniscule flaw and demands a discount for his pain and suffering? Oh, he’s got the money. He’s just cheating you out of it.

Related: EU Says Google Cheated in Shopping Searches

Your supplier who is giving you the “best price possible” until you find out at a conference that another company is buying the same stuff from him for 10 percent less? Isn’t that cheating? Sure, you have contracts that are fairly negotiated. But unlike the NFL, there are no written rules governing fair play. Your customers will make promises, pat you on the back and say anything just to get the best price possible from you – and then “forget” to pay. Your vendors will short-ship or divert product to someone else more profitable than you. These people are cheating. Get used to it.

Your employees are cheating, too. They are telling you that they are qualified for the job when they’re really not. They’re embellishing their resumes. They’re promising to come to work on time and then come in late. They say they’ve finished the job when they haven’t. They call in sick when they’re just hung over. They stick a couple of pieces of your product in their pockets and walk home with your office supplies. These are all forms of cheating. And most employees do it. You know it. And, to a degree, you let it happen.

Related: Confessions of a Cheating Nation: One in Four Have Stolen From Their Employers

And, let’s face it, you are cheating. You take cash on a side deal so you don’t have to report it to the IRS. You overlook inventory so you don’t have to put it on the books. You sneak through personal expenses on your business accounts. You tell sob stories to get the best price and make promises to your customers that you know you can’t keep, hoping you’ll figure out a solution later. You sneak out early on a Friday for a “meeting” which is really a cover for a golf game and you talk up the “great atmosphere” at your company to a prospective manager when sometimes you have your doubts.

There are consequences, of course. Tom Brady got caught cheating, so now he’s suspended for a few games and his team has to pay a fine. You catch your supplier in a lie and decide never to do business with him again. You become wise to your customer’s tall tales of financial woe and jack up your prices a little next time. You have reason to believe your competitor is breaking the law or doing something unethical, so you report it. You fire that employee who lied on her resume. You pay a penalty, or risk prison, when the IRS auditor uncovers your games. Don’t tell me you’re so ethical. You’ve bent the rules and you know it.

But, like Tom Brady, none of this is going to stop me.  Or you. Or all the people that you do business with. You are a competitor. You want success. You’ve learned the hard way that people who want to succeed, people who want to win, people who are driven, will all cheat in one way or another to achieve their goals. None of this cheating is biblical in nature -- no murders, no violence, no larceny. But it’s all a form of cheating, nonetheless. It goes on all the time. Welcome to the world of business.

Related: To Keep Buyers From Cheating on You, Always Be Loyal to Them