It was the deal of a lifetime. But one mistake ruined it.
The company spent millions doing its homework. Its experts combed every inch of the property to make sure everything checked out. At stake were $200 million in profits.
Things were looking great until one of its employees got lost there. The property was way out in the middle of the desert, and the company’s geologist got a late start. In the long shadows of sunset, all the dirt roads started to look alike and he couldn’t find his way out. He eventually found it, but to make sure he didn’t get lost again, he dug a can of fluorescent green spray paint out of his truck and painted an arrow on a nearby rock.
Three days later, the CEO got a call from the governor of the tribe that owned the land and was going to partner with the company.
The deal’s off, the governor told him.
We have lived on this land for thousands of years. Our ancestors are buried there. If you aren’t going to treat it with the respect it deserves, we’ll find a partner who will.
Big companies often make big mistakes. Bad forecasts. Poorly-timed mergers and acquisitions.
But more often it’s the little things that ruin companies. Bad communication. And failing to build a culture that values employees, customers and stakeholders.
The devil really is in the details.
This article first appeared on the Varamark Research blog at