It is official – Vermillion Consulting Pty Ltd has ceased to exist sometime in November 2006 (I just found out - even though I am legally supposed to sign some paperwork to this effect.)

I co-founded this company 3 years ago in 2003. I resigned devastated in April 2006 when the partnership broke up due to massive and unresolvable differences - he wanted a brand new direction contrary to the (highly successful) founding principles and he wanted me to align myself 100% (no questions asked) with all his grandiose ego-driven schemes.

I did not start a business, pour everything I have into it, only to become an "employee" to an abusive boss that I have to tip-toe around everyday! I could not actively work towards destroying the business I believed in. And after many months I certainly could not take the abuse. So I did the only thing I could - I left.

Vermillion was a great adventure. And I learnt lots about myself, and about people. I had had the great fortune of only working with amazing, passionate, generous, ethical and kind people up to this point. I guess I had to meet the opposite some time! The time has come to summarise and share these lessons.

Lesson 1: Always speak my truth; even if this adds to the conflict.

In my short-sighted desire to avoid conflict, and be accepting, accommodating and encouraging (all excuses in retrospect of course), I had unwittingly set up the expectation that I would always agree 100% with every idea. I failed to consistently stand up for what I believed, and in this way I dishonoured myself and the relationship.

When I realised this and started speaking my truths towards the end of 2005, it was too late. Because I was no longer agreeing 100% with everything, I became an obstacle, someone who was “holding the company back”.

If I had spoken my truth more consistently from day one, I would have quickly realised that I was the only one in the relationship who is emotionally mature enough to have real, constructive arguments.

Lesson 2: Honour and hold on to my power.

To be able to listen to contrary points of view is a great skill. I do not have to sacrifice or diminish my own truths in the process. Just because I understand does not mean I have to agree. And there are personality types out there who can and will subvert this skill to induce debilitating self-doubt.

Also: I accept sole responsibility for my own feelings and behaviours; but I cannot be responsible for someone else’s feelings, actions and responses. And there are people out there who will seek to make me responsible for theirs.

New rule: Zero tolerance on abuse. Putting up with and making excuses for abusive behaviour is giving my power away.

New rule: Don’t give ownership of my dreams to someone until they have proven their worth over time. Some people will say anything to get a piece of the action, only to then subvert it to their own ends.

Lesson 3: People will do as they please.

We all work to different world views and have different values. No matter how reasonable a situation may seem to me, or how good my intentions are, I cannot hope to control the perception and actions of others (nor is it my place to do so).

People will do what they need to do to get what they want. I may not fully understand or share their rationales and motives. Such is life.

What I can do is pick the right people to share and play with. What I can do is learn to vigilantly seek out their true values and world views – beyond what is said. There are people who are unable or unwilling to communicate their true values and world views.

Lesson 4: Actions always matter more than words.

PR is easy. Saying the right things is easy – it is the actions that always reveal who someone truly is.

Someone who can easily justify keeping a found, expensive camera for themselves is probably not as ethical as they profess to be. Someone who easily pass off others’ work as their own when it benefits them is probably unlikely to honour any IP agreements when tempted by personal gain.

Speaking of actions, sometimes, it is best to walk away with my integrity intact above all else. There are simply battles that are not worth fighting because they diminish who I am.

Lesson 5: I will listen to my gut.

This is so easy to say, and so hard to do. I will stop rationalising things so much and listen more to the quiet voices and my body.

When a situation feels bad, it is bad. When a person feels wrong for me, they are wrong for me.

Lesson 6: Business is and always will be personal.

The cost of doing business is both financial and personal. Two years on, I still occasionally agonise over “Why?” and “What might have been?”

Financial losses I can recover from (of course I never saw a cent of the self-righteously promised profit owing to me). The death of a dream, the betrayal, the manipulation, and the lies; they all damage us in ways that cannot be simply brushed away with “it’s only business”. Saying “don’t take it personally” is denying our humanity (perhaps only certain emotionally-challenged people can carry this off).

Ultimately, the right people to do business with are those who feel right to me as a person. All other qualifications come secondary.

Lesson 7: I will value my strengths and my gifts.

Generosity towards others is a great strength of mine. It is who I am to approach each new person with openness and a willingness to share. I believe in abundance.

However, there are people whose concept of equitability is diametrically opposite to, and infinitely more malleable than, my own. There are people who see generosity, kindness, and understanding as weaknesses worthy of exploitation. They may even parrot these values when and if it suits them. There are those who believe that they are entitled to win over everyone else.

Ergo: I will not give to anyone who clearly does not value what I have to give, nor respect me for giving it. Some people simply do not deserve my attention.

Lesson 8: The law is only useful if I pay to exercise it.

The law does not automatically offer any protection against unethical behaviour. Especially where a dispute does not involve any high profile organisations, famous faces, or mega amounts of money.

As such, many battles are simply not worth the financial and time costs. In some ways, there is no actual law! If someone has no integrity and can justify their actions, they can probably get away with a lot of things a lot of the time. Such is reality.

The reality is: whatever I bring to a table, I could potentially lose, even if I am on the right side of the law. Because I can choose how I want to play, however, I choose not to be fearful of losses; and not to give less of myself to a venture because of this fear. I just need to choose better playmates!

On the positive side, these lessons, the goodwill it generated, the people I have met along the way, its mission to reinvent business practice for the betterment of humanity, will all live on in Eicolab and all other businesses I will be involved with in the future.

A perfectly good business can be killed for insane reasons – derailed by the temptations of a grandiose ego. But the underlying ideas and ideals cannot be so easily forgotten.

I still give a damn!