In 1972, the year after I was demobbed from the South African army, I bought an old Volkswagen bus, fitted it out as a camper, and started traveling. One of my most memorable camping trips was to Ponta do Oura, a beautiful seaside town in Mocambique. It was an idyllic place, and one morning, while walking along the deserted beach, I happened on a machine gun nest in the bushes. Little did I realize that the country would soon be engulfed in even worse combat than I had experienced in Angola.

Part of the terrorists’ strategy was laying millions of deadly landmines, which have maimed and killed thousands men, women, and children ever since. But for every problem, there is a solution. Trained, giant rats have helped to clear 13,200 mines from minefields in Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola, and, most recently, in Cambodia. The training process takes about nine months. When these trained rats find a landmine, they immediately stop and scratch at the TNT-scented spot, which the human de-miners mark and come back later to excavate. If they find a mine, they detonate it where it lies.

After thirty years in business, I have developed a “rat-sense” of my own. Instead of smelling landmines, I smell human rats who are themselves like landmines to any decent business owner. One encounters these sad individuals at different stages in one’s business life: the posers, the tire-kickers, the losers who have convinced themselves that they’re winners, yet soon revert to their losing habits, the scammers, the liars, the pretenders. And the sooner one can identify and expose them, the sooner we can get rid of them and avoid or at least minimize the damage they cause.

There are those whose self-esteem is so low or so inflated that their decisions or procrastination are very costly: Either they think they are capable of doing things which they cannot, or they procrastinate and make excuses to avoid making a decision and committing to things instead of saving everyone time and money by revealing their real dilemma. Then you find the “coaches,” “trainers,” and “authors” who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere but a government job with their ilk, and finally the liars, the thieves, and the financially desperate.

Instead of feeling obliged to play the politically “correct,” passive-aggressive game of “not offending” and avoiding conflict, it’s best to cut them loose and burn those bridges as soon as possible.

In the same way, when you find a winner who honours his word, is punctual and professional, able and committed, and will do whatever it takes to deliver what he promises, hang on to him for dear life. These champions are aware of their weaknesses and focus on doing only what they’re good at, so they make valuable contributions and create happiness and prosperity wherever they go. Make it worth their while to stay on your team.

Robin Elliott    IPS Safety Inc.