Back in 1998, I was in the most successful period of my business career.
I owned a company that sold office supplies and computer consumables to a wide range of companies, banks, and public institutions. When I started this company, my main strategy was to be regarded by my customers as a trustworthy supplier who could fulfil their orders. In order to create the infrastructure for this, I used only the most trusted importers, manufacturers, and wholesalers. My target was to be a major player in the sector.
I spent much of my time researching new suppliers and learning about the sector. I needed significant capital to bid for tenders, capital I didn’t have. In order to win a tender, you needed to give the lowest bid or have high levels of stock, and I couldn’t do either. I was focused on success and integrity, so after a while, I started to make sales by telephoning companies directly and introducing myself. Maybe the fact that I was a trustworthy person was conveyed in my voice somehow, because people started to order from me over the phone without even meeting me first. It was a wonderful feeling for me.
I later started to participate in tenders as well. Of course, I tried to give the best price, but my intuitive feeling was unbelievably powerful, and this was also an advantage. By accurately guessing the bids from competitors, I won two very important tenders. The importers then saw my purchasing power and started to feel more at ease with supplying my orders. On top of all this, I also made history by selling some products to a very prominent importer. I did this this by focusing on their stock levels, and I was in a position where I held a good stockpile of some of the most popular products at the right time. In order to protect their reputation and meet their commitments, they bought these products from me without a second thought.
My name soon got around the sector, and a very old acquaintance, who now worked for an importer, contacted me. He said he could supply me with consumables at a lower cost now I was so well established. I was over the moon with this, because I felt I had finally got there.
A little later, I was preparing a bid for a very prominent bank. Estimating the prices was the most entertaining part of the job, and now I could offer lower prices thanks to my old acquaintance. He visited me every day to talk about this bid. The prices were unbelievably low, and if I won this tender, I stood to make a large profit.
The bank manager responsible for the tender was a magnificent person. During my first meeting with him, he asked “Why should we work with you? What’s different about you?”
I replied by saying, “I’ll be your first line of defense, because I do the quality control for every product you purchase. You’ll be able to use these products with confidence, and what’s more, I won’t charge extra for this.” I still remember his laughter. He said I should drop by every now and again for a visit, not just for business. I loved that feeling. A mutual relationship based on trust was developing, and this is what I loved the most.
As I was working out the prices with my new importer, I noticed quite a lot of ink stains on his hands. When I asked why, he said, “I was drawing with my children last night, and I couldn’t get the stains off.” This reply triggered a strange feeling in me, but I couldn’t quite grasp it. The only thing I was focused on was getting the prices ready.
As all sellers of computer consumables know, new printer cartridges are of a very different quality to recycled ones, at least at that time. I supplied all my customers with new cartridges in accordance with their requests. I never gave them recycled cartridges.
My importer friend dropped by later to finish off the pricing, and his hands were covered in stains again. I knew something was amiss, but I couldn’t quite put the pieces together. After all, I was about to deliver my proposal envelope to the bank. When the decision came out, I was awarded the tender.
I flew back to my office on a cloud of happiness. I immediately contacted my new importer and gave him the news. We planned to ship in three separate shipments, because there was a considerable quantity involved. We made plans to make the first shipment the next day.
My Internal Voice Is Never Wrong
In the morning, my importer friend came with my order. I felt perturbed for some reason. He also seemed to be in an unsettled state. My eyes fell on his hands and saw the same stains again. There was also a smell of chemicals in the office. Something was going on, but I still didn’t get it.
The shipment was sent out the next day. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t comfortable. The next shipment was set to be delivered the following day. All of a sudden, I started feeling apprehensive. Were the stains on his hands somehow linked with the products? There were some companies that fraudulently sold refilled cartridges as new. Was his company one of these? If I asked they surely weren’t going to admit it, but I had to do something. Expecting the worst, I left for the bank. I went to the purchasing manager’s office and said to him, “I suspect I may have sold you refilled cartridges.” He looked at me with a horrified expression.
I asked him for a sample, but he said, “If they’re refills, what will you do? You gave the lowest price? Can you recover from that?” I told him that it was my responsibility to make it good. I then set out for the largest import company in the sector.
It turned out the cartridges were refilled. The price I quoted was so low that supplying new cartridges would mean bankruptcy for my company. I went over to the bank again and entered the manager’s office in a state of extreme trepidation. I said to him, “The cartridges aren’t new; they’re refills. I was fooled into accepting them as new. I’m going to replace them all with new ones.”
The manager replied, “I want to thank you. You’ve saved us from a possible disaster. The company with the next lowest price was the one you bought from. They fixed it. Apparently, they bid for the tender as three companies, so we would purchase from them whatever. We wouldn’t have known about the refills until the machines started to go wrong. You really saved us. We’re to blame here as well, because we pressure all our suppliers for the lowest price, and this is the result. Going forward, I want you to supply us with original products at a reasonable price. From now on, you really will be our quality control.”
As you can imagine, I was in a state of shock.
This incident was one of the most important milestones of my life. What follows will explain why.
From the Mafia to the Past
Just as I emerged from this fiasco with my reputation still intact, I received a phone call. A voice said to me, “We want to talk to you.” Before I could ask who it was, the voice said they would collect me from my office in an hour. The line then went dead. When my driver suggested calling the police, I felt like laughing. An hour later, some men arrived and took me to a large business center. They made it clear they were armed. A man in his late thirties then emerged from the next room. He was clearly highly strung and acted aggressively. I knew who he was straight away. He was one of the men behind the company selling refilled cartridges.
He said, “We’ve been looking into your background, Esra Hanım, but we haven’t been able to reach any conclusions. Let this go while there’s still time, or we’ll make you let go.”
I didn’t understand, so I asked why they were doing background checks on me.
“We’re trying to find out who’s behind you. You’ve won all the tenders in the last six months, so you must have some solid backing,” he explained.
“Yes,” I agreed, “everybody is curious about that. Many think I’m either very rich or have some very serious backers behind me. You’re right in thinking like that.”
“Of course,” he said. “We’ve been following you all this time. It’s obvious you have men on both the inside and outside. We’ve been choking on your dust for months now, and now you’ve ruined this tender as well. We could have made a lot of money together. We can’t let this go on any longer.” He then made a move as is if he was going to draw a gun from his waist.
I said, “I work alone. I have an assistant and a driver, no one else.”
“Are you trying to make a fool of me?” he exclaimed. “Finish it or we’ll finish it for you.”
I repeated myself, “I work alone.”
That was the end of the conversation. He made a signal with his head, and I was taken back to the car and driven to the office. I was tired, distraught, and depressed. I suddenly no longer had the desire to go on. Ironically, they thought they were warning off my imaginary backer. I had protected myself with my independence. They didn’t take me seriously, so they were looking for the man behind my company. The reality that it was just me didn’t make sense to them, so my independence protected me. They could not understand that I stood alone.
The End of My Business Life
I think you can imagine the end to this story. I didn’t want to be in such an unpleasant environment. I could happily work in the business world by establishing relationships based on mutual trust, but the current reality was not in line with my expectations. Dealing with the mafia and making fraudulent deals was not for me. It just wasn’t in my character to work in an environment full of lies and deceit. The next day, I made a work plan and decided to liquidate the company. After going through all the necessary procedures, the company was liquidated. I went to the office for the final tidy up, and the phone rang. Without any great enthusiasm, I lifted the handset.
It was one of the leading figures in the sector. He said, “Hello, Esra Hanım. We have a very important joint business proposal for you. One of the largest cartridge recycling companies in Japan wants to give you the dealership for the Marmara region. As I’m sure you know, people are already doing this, but they fraudulently sell their products as new. This company’s products are of a very high quality. They heard about you, and I told them you’re an established company with a strong background. So, what do you say? Shall we meet about it?”
I replied, “Ahmet, my background may be good, but I feel like it’s time to move onto other areas. I’m withdrawing from this sector, because I no longer want to work in it. I am honored that you thought of me, but the two-faced nature of this sector is not for me. I hope another company can take advantage of this great proposal.” This ended the conversation.
Many years have passed since these events took place. I did nothing for a long time after closing down the company. Purchasing and selling has always represented my relationship to the universal. Universal business is based on the principles of purchases and sales. When the identities of the purchaser and the seller are clear, it creates an unbelievable harmony in one life. Anyone aware of his or her identity begins to understand the universal truth. When we know the source, we become one with it. When we understand that we are individual parts of a single identity, the concept of “I am what I am” emerges. This is true purchasing and selling. This is the dynamic that gives meaning to the journey.
In this type of situation, there are no bankruptcies, deceits, or unscrupulous people. There is just the sharing of the experience and the joy of being an individual and a part of the whole. Behind all this, there is a very prominent statement: There is another me in the depths of my being.
Back in 1998, I was in the most successful period of my business career.