When I first started in business news twenty years ago, I was afraid the content would be boring. I'd have to write endless articles about earnings, capital markets and more earnings.
I found out pretty quickly that business news was exciting, not least because of the Machiavellian drama that unfolds when millions and billions of dollars are at stake, as well as egos the size of Mac trucks.
There's one thing observing people in business has taught me: being successful never stops being hard. In fact, sometimes the more successful you are, the more difficult it is. Sure, the money starts rolling in but as researchers have proven time and again, at some very early point, money stops being the motivating factor.
Instead, what happens is the more successful you get, the more you have to lose. And the richer and more powerful you are, the more vulnerable you become.
George Zimmer, the former CEO of Men's Wearhouse, knows this well. Zimmer was the iconic figure and voice behind the Men's Wearhouse tagline: "You're going to love the way you look, I guarantee it" and built his apparel business over the last 40 years.
Two years ago he was fired after a disagreement with the board. As Zimmer explains, the firing was bad enough but take into account that almost every member of the board was a close friend and you're talking about a firing of Machiavellian proportions.
"They were all my close friends and that's what I think made it particularly difficult," Zimmer said on my podcast, Radiate. (You can listen to the latest episode here on iTunes or here on SoundCloud). "I reread Machiavelli and it's only your good friends that you let that close to your back unprotected, and so really, it's usually your best friends that stab you in the back."
Zimmer described how the first week after his firing was the most difficult. The first night he was let go was painful with his family.
"I finally said to my family `You know? Everybody is gonna get knocked down in life regardless of who you are or what you're doing. The question isn't how you get knocked down. The question is how do you get back up?' And I said that without actually knowing how I was getting up, but knowing that I was gonna get up," he said.
Zimmer is now starting two new startups, one focused on tuxedo rentals called Generation Tux and another on on-demand tailoring called ZTailors.
"My new business is really like God was watching this happen and dropped this in my lap," he said.
Zimmer describes how now with a little perspective, he's actually enjoying his time in the spotlight as a wronged CEO. He's got a better story to tell the public. He admits to some schadenfreude watching his former company's management struggle with declining sales.
"I feel sorry for them. I think that what they have now discovered in a very harsh way is that they may have made a mistake," he said. "Now, it's going to be impossible I believe for people in that position to admit that they've made a mistake, so I don't expect to get a phone call anytime soon."
If you like this article, you'll love my new podcast, Radiate, featuring interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. You can click on new episodes on iTunes, SoundCloud or on my website. www.betty-liu.com. Here is the RSS feed too. And please don't forget to REVIEW the podcast or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.