From the editor Featured

9:55am EDT July 22, 2002

My best friend Jeff and I knew the enemy hid somewhere before us as we darted from tree to tree with our guns poised for action. We climbed a hill and followed a narrow dirt path, that took us into an old cemetery. It was lined with tall granite monuments – perfect for protection against the yet-unseen enemy lurking just over the hill. We stopped behind some head stones and looked out ahead of us.

That’s when it happened.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone jumped me from behind, threw me to the ground and taunted me as he punched at my head and back with an evil fury. I was as good as dead, I figured.

That evil fury, it turns out, came from Jamie Morgan, a neighborhood bully who found cruel pleasure in tormenting two wimpy 11-year-olds who were simply trying to experience the perils of war in their Vietnam-era imaginations. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

As I lay on my stomach getting the snot beat out of me, I called for Jeff to help me. No answer. I called again. Still no answer. Morgan kept pounding. I kept calling, but to no avail. It seems my best friend, at that moment of real pain and peril, had abandoned me. At the moment I needed him most, he left me there. Alone.

High-tech entrepreneur Eric Bruce must have felt the same way as he and his company, TriLogic Corp., darted from creditor to creditor, ultimately facing them in bankruptcy court a few years ago. But while the bankruptcy itself proved painful, Bruce tells SBN in this month’s cover story that the overwhelming sadness and humiliation came when many of the people he considered his friends and loyal employees abandoned him when he needed them the most, making matters worse

Without question, loyalty is as important in business today as it ever was. With automation, voice mail, e-mail and e-commerce, we tend to forget the people side of business. That’s the side where employees, vendors, distributors, service providers and others all try to work together developing long-term relationships which, if handled correctly, look more like close friendships as time goes on.

I call it cooperative entrepreneurship, and I am convinced that this is the one secret ingredient that will either make or break Pittsburgh as an entrepreneurial region to contend with. In such a business utopia, you certainly have to earn the trust and loyalty of others. That means operating with a sense of honor, integrity and selflessness that forms a lasting bond with other business people.

But that also means being able to count on those people to help you smooth over those rough spots that inevitably arise in the daily perils of the business life. In some respects, business is business, and some risks may simply be too great to tangle with when it comes to helping a business associate out of serious trouble. But that’s no reason to abandon people you may call your friends. And occasionally they’ll get jumped from behind suddenly and find themselves face down in the dirt. All the more reason to help if you can.

With a spirit of serious cooperation driving business, companies in this region could accomplish much. Think of it — people helping people to succeed, giving all a better chance of growing and making money. Of course, you also would have to maintain a spirit of communication that keeps everyone informed in good times and bad.

Fortunately for Eric Bruce, his story didn’t end in bankruptcy with no friends. Because of the investment he put into honor and integrity, many of his outside business associates and friends rallied around him, cutting him breaks and helping him get his company back on stable financial ground. They helped him up even as he lay on the ground getting the snot beat out of him by the bankruptcy experience.

Thanks to those friends, he not only recovered, he’s now doing as well as he ever did and continues to grow.

Fortunately for me, my story didn’t end in total abandonment, either. While I still give Jeff a hard time about leaving me to get beat up that day, he likes to accuse me of leaving out the end of the story.

So, for the sake of fairness, I have to add that he actually ran off to get help. Within minutes of the adolescent assault, he came trudging back with an adult neighbor who pulled Jamie Morgan off of me. Then again, what are friends for? Dan Bates is editor of SBN Pittsburgh. Reach him at (412) 321-6050 or by e-mail at dbates@sbnnet.com.