Do You Need To Cheat To Become Successful In Business?

We’ve all heard the old adage “cheaters never prosper,” but is it really true, especially when it comes to running a small business? This article will present a couple different scenarios about cheating, lying, and stealing in business, and then you get to decide what the most successful business practice is. After all, how you choose to conduct your business really is up to you.

Being a Taker Instead of A Giver

According to Bruce Kasanoff on an article on LinkedIn, it’s often difficult for many companies to truly understand what their customers really want, and the reason is because companies often employ and promote employees that lie, cheat, and steal—whether it be in large or in small ways. In other words, companies often employ individuals who are in it for themselves, rather than for the greater good of the customer or the company, and this makes conducting an ethical business difficult.

Not only do companies offer jobs to employees that are in it for themselves, but also people often institute business practices that reflect the taker mindset rather than the giver/care for the customer mindset. Kasanoff states, for example, that one sneaky way businesses justify this taker mindset is by collecting money on monthly services for services customers who don’t need and/or don’t know they are being charged.

Personal Experience of An Insurance Company with a Taker Approach to Business 

Here is recent personal example of this type of taker approach to business. My sister joined an insurance company when she moved to Utah, and when a few years later, she moved out of state to California, she purchased both a new car, and a new insurance policy. The deal was the new insurance company would contact the old insurance company and make sure they cancelled her old insurance policy.

Well, a few years after the fact, and several thousand dollars later, my sister realizes the old insurance company had been deducting a monthly insurance premium payment from her checking account for a car she no longer owned, regardless of the fact that the new insurance company informed the old insurance company of the change.

For the old insurance company, it was easy to simply let this notification fall through the cracks, and continue taking payments out of her account until my sister noticed something was wrong, and called them about it.

Is it my sister’s fault for not double, triple, and quadruple checking? Is it the insurance company’s fault for not putting the needs of their customer first?

Perhaps both sides of the story can be argued, but what really would have been the ethical step for the old insurance company to take? Is it better to simply take payments for a service you are not providing, or is it better to do everything to avoid and rectify the situation?

Yes, the insurance company ended up with a large chunk of change for doing absolutely nothing, but they also lost a customer, and the story of their indiscretion is a common topic of conversation among her large network of friends and family—some of whom have canceled their services with this insurance company as a result of their dishonesty.

The Takeaway

How you choose to conduct business truly is your choice, and you may get away with taking large sums of money from people, but is that really the best way to conduct business? Will you really get ahead in the long run? Are there other alternatives to attract more business as an honest business owner who is truly watching out for the needs of the customer?

A Solution to the Taker Mindset

Most business owners, hopefully, would agree that honesty is the best policy, and would try and repair the problem. Additionally, they would probably try and avoid this situation all together, but how do you actually do this as a business owner? How do you make sure that you and your employees are acting as givers, rather than takers?

One solution would be to hire and promote people within your company who are naturally givers. In other words, make sure that you trust your staff, and you have countless examples of your employees running customer-focused initiatives that will mutually benefit the customers and the company.

As you interview new recruits, make sure they can provide examples of how they have fostered customer-focused initiatives in the past, and how they plan to do the same at your company.

Additionally, as you promote individuals, make sure you are promoting those with innovative and customer-centric ideas.

False Advertising 

In a society of unending and hardcore competition, it truly is difficult to get ahead. It’s true that Americans are huge consumers, but for any business owners to get a piece of the pie, it seems we have to be the best, the smartest, the fastest, and offer the coolest solution to what pains the American people. As a result, this need to be the best can lead to some type of false advertising—whether it be cheating, or lying to get ahead.

Don’t believe me? I have to words for you to illustrate the point: Lance Armstrong.


You know the story. Armstrong was one of the greatest American sport’s symbols, founder of the Livestrong Foundation, and survivor of cancer. His excellence was touted and recognized far and wide, and that need for excellence drove him to do something that led to his downfall—cheat. Now, rather than being the poster boy for cycling, the very first page of Lance Armstrong’s Wikipedia page talks about his doping offenses, and everyone knows he is a fraud.

Yes, the competition is tough, but is cheating really the best way to the top?

While the example of Lance Armstrong is poignant, athletes aren’t the only ones susceptible to cheating and false advertising. Small businesses and big businesses alike can fall into this same trap.

Ashley R. Cummings, a content writer who works for Shield Funding says, “As small business owners, we are constantly thinking about ways to grow our business, and outsmart the competition, so we can get ahead, but the question always remains of what is the best way to do that.”

With lots of competition in every industry, especially when it comes to online marketing, it is truly a fear that if you slow down for one second, you’ll be left behind.

Sometimes this pressure to stay ahead leads people to misrepresent themselves with false advertising campaigns, and, if they are caught, can result in a brand loosing millions of dollars. Here are some recent examples of large false advertising scandals that ended badly for the brand.

  • Activia yogurt – Activia touted that the yogurt was “clinically” and “scientifically” proven to have certain health benefits, which was not true. This lie led to a class action suit costing Activia $45 million dollars.
  • Definity eye cream – Definity eye cream lost precious advertising space by falsely advertising former model, Twiggy, as looking much younger after 62 weeks of using this product. Turns out the ads were just touched up.
  • Groupon’s tourism ads – Groupon was sued for targeting travel-related keywords to destinations they didn’t actually offer travel coupons to.

These are just 3 examples of companies that suffered from going a little too far in trying to get ahead of the game.

When it comes to advertising your company, is it better to creatively and cleverly stick to the truth, or to do everything you can to outshine the competition?

When Lying and Cheating are Good

Up to this point, we’ve talked about a couple different scenarios when cheating in business really didn’t pan out well, and led to unhappy customers and business owners. But, are there times when lying, cheating, and bluffing are good for your business?

I submit that there are.

When to Lie in Business

Sometimes you may want to lie to yourself. Get up out of bed, look in the mirror, and tell yourself you are the smartest, most accomplished, and good-looking businessperson on the planet. Then, go out there and accomplish your goals. It may not be 100% true, but as you keep telling yourself this, your mind will become full of positive images about yourself, and your ability to accomplish your dreams will become easier.

This type of lying really can be productive. It’s the type of lying that if you say it enough, it becomes true. Or at least the idea of you being the best, worthy of accomplishing your goals, and capable of setting out what you set out to do is a reality.

When to Cheat in Business

As a small business owner, you aren’t going to know all of the answers all of the time. You just aren’t. This is when “cheating” comes in handy. I’m not talking about misrepresenting yourself or your company; I’m talking about using tools and resources to figure out the answers to your problems.

If you don’t know the answers, go out and do the research to find them. Figure out what type of schooling, training, or online education programs you need to attend in order to make it through until you really do become an expert. If you’re in a business social situation that is challenging, pay attention to body language and other social cues, and fake it till you make it.

There is nothing wrong with not knowing everything. It’s much better to continue to grow, learn, and quickly find answers, rather than to pretend you are perfect.

What Do You Think?

The examples above are sparse when it comes to the overwhelming world of business. What examples do you have of lying, cheating, and stealing in business? Do you think it’s necessary to cheat to get ahead in business, or do you think honesty is the best policy? Share with us what you think in the comments.

For more small business tips, check back on the blog at Shield Funding regularly.