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A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. -Proverbs 28:20 ESV
I have not done everything right in my business. Frankly, I have not even done most things right. My business batting average might be somewhere in the area of that of a National League pitcher.
But there have been a few key times where God gave me wisdom to make the right decisions. Looking back, I can see how critical those decisions were. Here is an example.
Several years ago, I had a friend that owned a similar business to ours (I am CEO and majority owner of Vitabase). He used to call me to catch up and educate me on what I was doing wrong. He was not the kind of guy who needed help but he was very free with his advice.
One of the things he used to try to convince me to do was the free trial offer that you still see across the web. Basically, a company gives away a sample of the product, perhaps charging only shipping. But in the small print, you are signed up for an automatic shipment each month.
In theory, this is an legal strategy if you are honest with the customers. But there are some big problems. First, there will always be customers who either don’t read the small print or forget about the automatic shipments until they start getting them. They then get very upset and create havoc, filing chargebacks with their credit cards and complaints with state and federal governments.
To make matters worse, many companies that engage in this strategy make it very hard if not impossible to cancel those automatic shipments. They might have a customer service line with exorbitant wait times or might “lose” the paperwork to do the cancellation.
But on the flip side, companies that do this make money very quickly–a lot of money. They bill a lot of credit cards and while they end up losing a lot of that money in the end, they still come out ahead.
I was never enticed to engage in this kind of business strategy even though I watched my friend become very successful. Over a few years, he generated about $80 million in sales. But as he did, the complaints started to add up. Eventually, he got sued by the state he lived in and settled for $1.3 million in fines. Then he got sued by the FTC.
Last month, he settled. The fine? $80 million dollars. But since his net worth is no where near $80 million, the FTC kindly agreed to settle for just taking everything he has–his investments and even his house (unless he can mortgage it to the hilt).
I could tell stories like this for a while. One thing I have noticed in business over and over that the people that are on the edge, taking big risks and seemingly raking in money, end up giving it all back and more. It is just a matter of time.
That is what Proverbs 28:20 is talking about. Don’t get in too big a hurry to get rich. It will lead you into bad decisions.
As Dave Ramsey likes to say, you can read the fable of the turtle and hare every day, but the turtle always wins.