The cliche “it’s not personal, it’s business” definitely applies to today’s competitive marketplace, but some entrepreneurs take this concept to an extreme. Often, the most intelligent business professionals are also the most brutal.

The following are a few of the most notable examples of entrepreneurs making every effort to achieve their goals, no matter the consequences:

Silvio Berlusconi and the Advertising Cartel

Silvio Berlusconi has seen his fair share of scandal over the years, but the drama that occurred as he prepared to become Prime Minister was most indicative of his stance on business ethics. His media conglomerate Fininvest set up a cartel in hopes of gaining control of Italy’s advertising sphere.

After signing a document with a top competitor mandating fixed prices and reduced competition — but before that document went into effect — Fininvest offered conditions that prospective customers would be fools to refuse. Berlusconi’s actions have since caught up with him, with Fininvest forced to pay hundreds of millions in damages.

Howard Lutnick and Rebuilding Cantor Fitzgerald

Howard Lutnick was spared on September 11, 2001, merely because he happened to be taking his son to kindergarten at the time of the tragedy. An astounding two-thirds of his workforce perished, as did his brother. At the time, it was widely assumed that his firm Cantor Fitzgerald was finished.

Lutnick proved the skeptics wrong, but his means of doing so were incredibly controversial. He closed numerous departments and cut off paychecks to those killed in the tragedy. Instead of regular payments, he promised 25 percent of eventual profits to the victim’s families, plus a decade of health insurance. This ultimately worked out well for those who lost loved ones on 9/11. But at the time of the decision, they did not anticipate that the company would succeed; they assumed that they were about to walk away with nothing.

Robert Holmes à Court’s Raids

Australia’s very first billionaire, Robert Holmes à Court, serves as the ultimate rags to riches story. He built his empire from nothing, using controversial tactics to boost profits.

Holmes à Court is best known for conducting complex corporate raids that can be boiled down to the following: buying up a large share in a company, using his newfound influence to prompt value-increasing measures, and in general, going up against the priorities of the company’s management. Often, he’d sell his shares to a higher bidder well before the raid could be considered a success. He always emerged with a clear profit, despite sometimes leaving impacted companies in shambles.

Failure to Pay Rent

Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, and its owner — property giant Emaar — takes no guff when it comes to paying the bills. When tenants fail to pay their rent on time, the developer avoids the traditional route of hiring a lawyer and pursuing eviction. Instead, threats emerge regarding cut off air conditioning and elevator access. This is a 163-story building in which the windows don’t open, so this approach could put some residents in real peril. Keep in mind that the impacted tenants pay well over $50,000 per year in rent, plus exorbitant service fees.

Today’s entrepreneurs must tread the fine line between business savvy and cutthroat practices. There are times for getting down and dirty, but this doesn’t always play to a company’s favour in the long-term. Ultimately, what really sets the above examples apart is their undeniable drive and determination. Harness those qualities, and you’ll be impossible to stop.

Isabelle Daigle
Isabelle Daigle

Isabelle Daigle runs all content marketing for Hello Focus. She's an avid writer and loves long Netflix binge sessions!