I had a conversation recently where a throwaway remark really caught my attention. We were talking about a young man who, although highly intelligent, had got side-tracked by life. However, he had found his way back to what was looking to be a fulfilling career. The comment that grabbed me was:
He is becoming a gentleman!
I thought initially that this meant that this young man was maturing and growing up but I was assured that the observation was about the kind of man he was becoming – a gentleman. I thought that this was brilliant because it is what we should all aspire to be.
Today, being a gentleman is a matter of choice. It is a title you earn through an unwavering commitment to invest in your character. It is not about perfection, but a constantly renewed pursuit of excellence. Gentlemen are not stiff, pretentious, or focused on elevating themselves. Instead, they strive to succeed while helping those around them succeed as well. Being a gentleman means that you care about how your choices impact others. It is about human connection.
The modern day definition of a gentleman is based on a man’s values, morality and honour. It means that a man will devote his life to a superior standard of conduct. This does not mean that they feel as if they are better than anyone else; it just means that they hold themselves to a high set of standards.
Although I have not been able to find a modern day equivalent for women, this is a statement for both men and women and equally relevant to however you identify - male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.
My daughters attended a school whose motto used to be “Producing ladies of grace and integrity”. The grace part was the school joke every time they tripped or did something stupid or were just plain clumsy and inelegant. The part they didn’t joke about was the integrity.
Shortly before my eldest daughter left school, she said that she had only just fully understood what being ladies of grace and integrity meant. It was more than physical grace it was mental and intellectual grace. It was the grace of your soul which meant that, like a gentleman, you were pursing excellence in both thought and character. It was the grace to lift others up when they were down and make sure that they did not let their standards slip. This grace was held up with the strong foundations of integrity, honesty and strength of character. They had learned to be good human beings.
This motto was changed recently because it was too old fashioned, but to the girls who were tasked with being ladies of grace and integrity, those words have never left them. That was their main purpose in life and everything they did, including their professional lives, had to be imbued with grace and integrity.
So why are these so called outdated ideas so important in today’s world.
We have a real problem in this country with the way we treat people, in our high handed expectations from them and in the way we don’t nurture them to their full potential but just expect them to be perfect all on their own. We don’t have grace and integrity in our dealings with them and in some industries, being hard nosed and aggressive, dominating the arena with both physical presence and attitude is the norm.
Unfortunately, in the acquisition business, these imperious behaviours are considered assets and a sign of an experienced and authoritative professional. These M&A experts do not always display gentlemanly qualities and indeed they do not realise that it can be to their detriment.
The best M&A people are those who understand that ultimately, all businesses are run by human beings who have feelings and would more often than not appreciate good manners, kindness and kindly conduct. They do exist and they are a wonderful breed.
I grew up being constantly told:
“the hardest thing in this world is to be a human being. If you can achieve that then you have done well”
In all the business I have had, that humanity, grace and gentlemanliness is at the forefront of everything I do. If you are thinking of selling your business but want the whole process to be less of a transaction and more of a discussion between two people who care about the outcome for each other, then please Contact Me.
Having sold businesses, I know how much it mattered that the right person would appreciate not only the monetary value of the business but the culture, personal values and the hard work that had gone into it.
If I can help change your mind about how you view buyers for your business, then I will have done a service to those of us who pride ourselves on being gentlemanly.