Last week, a friend’s car broke down. The steering column broke down and the repair was more expensive than the original purchase value of the car a year ago. There were hardly any own resources for the purchase of a new car. People around him took immediate action. One morning he received a call with a choice of more than three friendly offers, such as the option to take over an existing lease of another car on very advantageous terms, someone who wanted to guarantee to enter into a new lease and at least two excellent used cars that he could take over for very little money. When people are there for each other, you can get pretty much everything done. Almost every problem is solvable. Everything depends on the quality of relationships between people. Beyond the ego-oriented behaviour of the individual, is a place where we can meet to work together on the innovation and meaningful progress of people, organisations, and society.
Extraordinary times call for pushing our boundaries, inventing new methods and experimenting in new directions. From Eurapco we give space to innovative and inspiring solutions. Here too, human work is key. By sharing open and vulnerable practical experiences, new ideas emerge that give colour to the necessary change. If we want to have “the best” for ourselves alone, from the old way of thinking, then sooner or later we bump our noses. With the diversity of the Eurapco network, the partners use the power of each other’s local knowledge. The total value is more than the sum of the individual parts. Giving and sharing is not the first thing that comes to mind when we want to get something done for the business. However, in reality, it appears that an open attitude and an active exchange of knowledge and insights often leads to better results. Within Eurapco, for example, we share the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and obstacles with insurers from eight countries. We listen to each other, ask each other questions, and help each other further. In this way, new business models, innovation of products and services and risk management will no longer remain isolated into a small group of experts. This makes me also happy. It puts people in their own area of strength, and it helps to broaden knowledge and develop their talent. That is where I get my energy. I am a scout! I am looking where, in which country, at which company, has a solution for whatever problem already been found?
In the southern part of Africa, there is a humanist philosophy, Ubuntu, which revolves around giving and taking between people. Freely translated, Ubuntu means: “I am because we are”. It is based on a vision in which everything and everyone is connected. It appeals to the ethics of interpersonal relations. “Your happiness is my happiness, but also your pain is my pain” follows Ubuntu’s point of view. Motivation comes from within and there is no longer a separation between inside and outside. What you do to the other person, you do to yourself. Everything and everyone is “inclusive”. That is at odds with the tactics of our human ego, which likes to control everything completely. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the world is not as pliable as we would like it to be. A positive aspect of it is that I see more and more people converting the old “me versus you thinking” into something new like “from me to us”. In fact, I see that purely ego-oriented business is increasingly on the rocks and that it is precisely from helping and empowering each other that the most beautiful things come about. I would like to share three practical examples of this.
1. Takeover process of companies
Based on the ego-oriented ideas of the man himself, we tend to think of ourselves first when we are selling a company. The highest yield is sought, and if that is “a little” at the expense of the sincerity and interests of the buying party, then all too often that is gladly taken for granted. Lawyers do very well out of this by placing salt on all snails. Distrust is then a starting point rather than trust. I know from my own practice that things can be done differently. You can also work together on the basis of trust and investigate what is essential for both seller and buyer in the acquisition process. By listening openly and honestly to each other, and jointly discovering what is really required by those involved, you create a possibility from which, supposedly, opposing interests can turn into a jointly supported objective. In a recent acquisition of an international legal publishing house, I heard from a colleague how, as a business broker, he was thanked by the buying party afterwards for being such a “good mediator”. He had not only stood up for the interests of the seller but at the same time managed to keep an equal eye on the interests of the buyer. From the point of view of “divide and rule”, this is an impossible task, but from the “I to us” idea we no longer make from our opponents an enemy, but rather an ally.
2. Dealing with competition
In business, ‘competition’ is often the same as pulling a leg over one another. We want to be faster, better, and more successful, even at the expense of the other. If you look at the original roots of the word “competition”, you come across in Latin the word “competere”, which means “to coincide”, “to be equal”, “to be able”. Both inside and outside Eurapco, I see how, from the new thinking about competition, we can better empower each other, and flourish together, rather than constantly hold on tightly to our self-interest. Out of pure self-interest, we often want to outsmart the other, and it is part of our strategy to do so, even secretively and cunningly. If I detect that attitude in my environment, I am not afraid to break right through it in order to get to the bottom of what the real strategy is. In the end, it often turns out that by bringing together supposedly opposing interests, there is even greater advantage for all parties involved. By giving, often more comes back than we think we can win by taking.
3. Financing of companies
More and more companies and institutions are involving their employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders in obtaining funding. The “I am because we are” is increasingly being applied literally. This month, for example, the new rail company European Sleeper managed to raise the necessary half a million euros within 15 minutes to run the first night train from Brussels, Antwerp and Amsterdam to Berlin and Prague from April next year. In 15 minutes, the company managed to attract 350 investors to acquire the available stock. Another example is the wine merchant Neleman who wants to make the wine trade more sustainable with organic wines. At the end of last year, they managed to raise 1 million euros among almost 1,000 customers within a week. They have now close to succeeding in completing a second campaign in which another 1.5 million will be raised among a total of about 1,700 investors. It shows how the collective, the collaboration, can yield more than just the individual.
Ubuntu: The Essence of Being Human
“My way or the highway” turns out to be less and less often the solution to make impossible things possible. To break the endless spiral of clashing egos in mutual relationships, it is conceivable to go less for only our own ideas, thoughts and wishes, and to go more for a holistic approach such as all common ideas, thoughts and wishes. In Eastern philosophy, this is also called “the middle way”. I do not mean that we should organise Polish country days or start living weak compromises. On the contrary. However, I see from my own practice how it helps to find the right balance in the opposite thoughts of all egos, inner drive, and motivations.
In the middle way, the “own ideal” is not leading, but a vision is developed that considers what matters most to those involved. It is a medicine against polarization between people and focuses on what we have in common. The more we are willing to give space to what binds us together, all that we have in common, the easier it is to shape it together. At its core, it is a matter of sincerely looking around and seeing what you can do for someone else.
So many people and entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized enterprises are surviving. Many hardly or dare not to talk at all about their major (financial-economic) challenges. They are often afraid to come out with the real problems. It also requires a lot of courage and confidence to make yourself vulnerable. Let us help the other person with that. For example, through a listening ear, a real conversation from person to person and the question of what we can possibly do for the other person. We are not only helping our fellow human beings. We help ourselves, too. What you give someone else, you give yourself. Or as so beautifully put it by the writer Kahlil Gibran: “It is good to give when someone asks for it, but it is better to give unsolicited from understanding.”
If you have any questions and/or comments about my blog, please do not hesitate to share them with me. You can reach me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org