Okay, I don’t usually quote Shakespeare, but there’s one line that I’ve remembered since I was at school in England. It comes from Othello:

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself.”

All the publicity around the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death brought it back to me. In school, in the early 70s, I recall being bemused by those lines. We saw a movie – I think it was Laurence Olivier playing Othello – and the way he howled when he said those words made a big impression. Here was a man who’d worked hard, battling prejudice, to make his mark, and suddenly it’s all gone. When you’re a kid you don’t quite understand what that means – really means. But when you work hard yourself, and you achieve something… you get to the top of your profession; then you know it, in your bones!

Be honest: if you’re in the C-suite, if you’re respected and well known for what you’ve achieved, your reputation is probably more important to you than your income, your benefits, or your stock options. And as Shakespeare showed, reputation can be a fragile thing. It can melt away in an instant.

When I suffered a cyber-breach – when my company was breached by hackers, and word began to spread – I felt something of the pain that Othello did. OK, I didn’t howl like Olivier, but I wanted to, sometimes.

It took me more than 20 years to build my packaging company in Peekskill, NY. I built it from nothing. I got contracts from huge corporations across a range of sectors. My packaging was regarded as the best, the most innovative, and the most reliable packaging. It still is. But now I’m the guy who let the hackers in. Carelessly. Stupidly. I’m the guy who thought my IT team had cyber-defense covered. They hadn’t, because I hadn’t made cyber resilience a key part of our business strategy and boardroom thinking.

That was a big mistake. Now, I’m still working hard to rebuild my reputation. It’ll take time, but I’ll do it. You should do something positive before it happens to you. If you’re a C-level executive, you’re a ‘whale’ – and you should know it.

Read more about the board meeting from hell – get the full story: Whaling for Beginners Books I and 2 available now.

See the RESILIA section of the AXELOS website for more information about cyber resilience.


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