Saturday, July 7, 2012

Don't Charge the Mound

Things had gotten toxic at my ex-wife's job, and she was beginning to break down. She loved working with the farmers, building the CSA, and serving the cause of local organic food. But things had gotten bad.

Overworked, underpaid, poorly treated in a male-dominated environment with a mostly Amish male board, she had trouble breaking a smile for even the silliest of antics when she was home. It was hard to watch.

So she went to one of our friends on the board--a young Amish farmer that we had had dinner with several times and visited often, especially after his leg snapped in a farming accident. 

He played harmonica quite well, but only knew hymns. Except for This Land is Your Land; the entire family knew that. Must've been 15 people singing at least 6 verses of it. I'd bring my guitar and deliberately leave it behind so he could toy with it, which was against the old-order Amish rules. 

She told him about some of the behavior and poor management on at the business, which I characterized as unethical. He said to her "you need to learn to submit to him". 

Submit might not have been the right word to use. 

After she quit, that same board (including our friend) sent a letter out to all of the farmers in the co-op demanding that none of them sell anything to her or any former employee, and threatened to kick them out of the group if they did. They were afraid of competition, and tried their hand at restraint of trade. 

I immediately knew this wasn't something they could tell their farmers, and that parts of the letter might even constitute libel, and was certainly unlawful in some way. I confirmed this with a friend who's a litigation attorney. 

But she didn't want to do that. She was nicer and smarter than that. I wanted to organize the farmers, or new ones, and out-hustle her boss. And have the attorney send a letter citing the specific ways that their bad behavior was about to cost them a lot of time and money. 

It was unjust. 

But I was wrong. She was right. 

Just because someone has done you wrong doesn't mean you should be compensated for it. Or try to right the wrong.

You end up spending your time and creative energy on strategizing, scheming, and consulting with professionals about the best way to win. 

But what are you winning? 

This week a startup I advise on occasion saw what looked like a trademark infraction by a company that had some money behind it. The immediate reaction was defensive; this was unjust, what are they thinking, let's talk to our lawyer. 

My advice was to let it go. Call them and see if you can partner--what matters is building the business, and they aren't anywhere near being in a position where caring about such things can matter. 

There are only two reasons to stop the train and address some perceived injustice: when you have enough resources that you can't spend them something that builds the business, or something that truly and obviously threatens the existence of your business.  

Just because you get clipped by the inside ball doesn't mean you should charge the mound--even if he meant it. Take your lumps and focus on building the business. 

Piazza loses it


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