Must one be ruthless to succeed in business?


So I watched the movie “The men who built America” and saw how ruthless John D Rockefeller was about his business, buying off all other oil companies that looked like competitors to Standard Oil, and monopolizing the market. I know for a fact that Zuckerberg was ruthless on his then best friend Eduardo Saverine, whom he diluted his Facebook shares to ~.03% forcing him out of the company. I for one I’ve also been a victim of ruthlessness in business, when a friend plaid a fast one on me. So my question to Radarians :grinning: is must one be ruthless to succeed in this path we have chosen?


For someone who’s been beaten a few times, I have to admit, it, you’ve got to have a bit of ruthless in business. But not to the detriment of your relationships.

You must be able to observe trends, read people, and project where their characters lie and decide immediately how long you want to keep them around.

In a Nigeria, your insistence on strict standards and proper closure of every contract will be termed as ruthless, but it’s the only way to grow.

There are too many people who want to ruin your business and cart away whatever they can. Don’t be the nice guy who always walks away


I think it’s quite the opposite. Ruthlessness in Nigeria is the lack of insistence on strict standards and proper closure on every contract, and it’s the easiest way to grow.


I still think being a nice guy won’t hurt anyone. The era of the men who built America requires ruthlessness to win. I’m not sure you need most of those business practices in modern day business. & there are creative ways to kill a competition now.


Ruthlessness? When did that turn into an enviable trait in business. Your reputation is everything, if you want to be known as being ruthlessness you’d have a hard time getting ahead.

Rockefeller amongst many things was an organizational genius, and stiff necked baptist, and his most decisive early funding and aids came from folks who recognized his obsession and efficiency for optimizing businesses to near-perfection but also church members who were comfortable with his reputation as a church man.

The banks trusted him with their monies throughout his career because there was hardly a scandal of default.

If you want to be ruthless better have something else working for you.


Anyone who wants to be ruthlessness personified cares little about their reputation, don’t you think? :smile:

Right on the money.
Heed this, all ye who are contemplating being ruthlessness :joy: .


There’s no business man that wants to be seen as just ruhthless, you’d find its a disservice when doing business.

Even for Rockefeller, in his prime, who could afford to be seen as ruthless without risking his place, the only things that got to him was his portrayal by the media…

Corrected. Have fun!


I had to go look up the defintion (after seeing that “no business man wants to be seen as ruthless”).

Let’s see, “having no compassion or pity; merciless”, it brings to mind Asemota’s Dispassionate Motherfucker post.


I think the original post kind of made everyone start thinking ruthless meant stealing your cofounder’s shares, shitting on your competition in public, or taking down your client’s website and replacing it with pornography the moment payment is delayed.

No. It could simply mean having standards and being known for upholding them. Not being a bullshitter and not having time for bullshitters either. As a freelancer, picking the projects you would like to take on and rejecting others without mincing words. bla bla bla. Everyone should read @Fothlog’s response again.


There is a difference between being shrewd and being ruthless.


Been ruthless means been able to take business decisions against people or entities that are having a positive or negative effect on the bottomline of your Business.

As a matter of Fact, I am usually ruthless with middlemen. You have to add extra value, if you are not, sooner or later, whether you are a friend or acquaintance, I will boot you out. That is just my pet peeve about Middlemen in any transaction.

So you can call me ruthless that way.

Knowing when to sack or fire people without been emotional about it is also part of been ruthless,

In essence been ruthless is been what @asemota calls a dispassionate motherfucker (DMF)


Being a DMF and being Ruthless are two different things.

not influenced by strong emotion, and so able to be rational and impartial.
“she dealt with life’s disasters in a calm, dispassionate way.”

having or showing no pity or compassion for others.
“a ruthless manipulator.”

Not being influenced by emotion does not mean lack of empathy. It is actually controlled empathy.

The virtue of being a DMF is being in control in the midst of chaos. It is opposed to what the Hausa will call “Dan Iskar” or a “child of the wind”. The Child of the Wind is moved by everything. Their emotions are all over the place and they rarely are able to focus on realities. A DMF shows pragmatic control. They can show empathy when it is deserving.



For the record, the most valuable things in business are “relationships”. They need to be nurtured and protected.
When you are selling products and especially services, you are selling “empathy” to/with a market. You also expect and attract reciprocity. Being an asshole does not attract reciprocal empathy. It is why companies manage their image carefully and sometimes fire those whom they see are detrimental to that image.
Fox News had to let go of their Chairman when they discovered his sexual harassment accusations were true. He was one ruthless asshole taking advantage of those less powerful. One should never do that to people whom you have an advantage over.

We may want to admire the asshole but the nice guy is the one really to be admired because it is hardest to achieve in a World full of assholes.

Sometimes I am an asshole, I used to think it was a defensive mechanism towards antagonistic assholery. I now realise that it does not make any difference, being an asshole to an asshole is a compounding factor. It just increases Global assholery and skews 3rd party perception.

It is very easy to be an asshole always. It is much harder to always be nice. Nice however does not mean foolish. You can be a nice and polite DMF. They are the scariest.


I still don’t seem to get the difference between a ruthless man and a DMF. Please see the scenario below:

John: Frank, this is the fourth month on a roll that your sale has been very poor. I’m sorry, but you’re not meeting your quota so I have no choice but to let you go.

Frank: Please sir, I’ll try harder. I really need this job. You know how sick my mother is. I’ll do anything.

John: I get that your mom is sick and you need this job to pay her bills or she will be kicked out of the hospital and will most likely die. But are you saying the company should continue to lose money because your mother may die? I think not.

From the above scenario, John is…
A. Ruthless
C. All of the above
D. None of the above


A DMF will never say that. It is irrelevant to the final decision. A ruthless person will rub it in.



Ruthlessness is a tad too much I believe. Business like someone said depends far too much on relationships for you to be alienating people. Though, the longer I spend as an enterprenuer, the colder I get. I’m :ok_hand:t5: that close to sending several people the image below as a postcard.


I think not. That you show no pity or compassion doesn’t mean you go looking for creative ways to offend people.


True words there but I couldn’t help being distracted with the way you use the word " asshole" assholery is a new one :joy:


I’m reading a book about Jeff Bezos and this bit here reminded me of this conversation re:assholery and lack of empathy.