It’s Just Business (Nothing Personal)

When someone uses the phrase “It’s just business”, they mean to say that the decision or action they’re taking is done rationally with business interests in mind.

A longer version of the phrase is: Nothing personal, just business. The meaning is clear. The decision or action is financially motivated.

Origins of the “It’s Just Business” Phrase

It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.

One of the biggest movies of all time, “The Godfather,” popularized the “It’s Just Business” phrase. Al Pacino, aka Michael Corleone, said this line to Sonny: “It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”

The turn of phrase made it clear that Michael understood that the crime family were business-minded and separated themselves from the emotional consequences of their actions on others. He could kill without his judgement being clouded by personal feelings of hate or sympathy.

Because the family separates “business” and “personal”, they seem to believe their judgment is okay and acceptable. They revealed a callous philosophy towards making money. The family also revealed the potential to do highly destructive and harmful things just in the pursuit of financial gain.

How You Should Interpret the “Just Good Business” Line

Surprised and a little alarmed
Surprised and a little alarmed

How should you react when told that something is “Just good business” or similar?

In effect, the person being addressed is being advised that the intent behind the decision or action doesn’t extend into the personal sphere. Friendship, goodwill or maliciousness, for example, do not feature in the mental calculations.

Of course, you can infer something personal when someone says “It’s just good business” or similar. You can reasonably conclude that the person making a choice places a premium on business outcomes ahead of interpersonal considerations.

The welfare of the person or people affected by a choice is treated as a non-priority when accompanied by the “just business” statement. Given this, and depending on the circumstances, some degree of callousness on the part of the decision-maker may be reasonably assumed.

When a “Just Business” Mentality is Essential for Success

Business profit calculations
Business profit calculations

For anyone to succeed in business in a sustained way, they need the ability to separate business and personal motivations. A “just business” mentality needs to be applied sometimes in order to survive and thrive.

[The culture at Amazon is] “friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove we’ll settle for intense.”

Jeff Bezos

Suppose, for example, you run a small business and employ your cousin to help them out of financial difficulties. After 2 weeks on the job, you realise that their work is sub-par and you’d be better off replacing them with someone more competent.

To keep your business moving forward, you could choose to put on your “just business” hat and fire your cousin. You can tell them that you are just doing it for the sake of the business and that you hope that your relationship will be unaffected.

Why a “Just Business” Mentality is Sometimes Not “Good Business”

Personal business relationship
Personal business relationship

In the world of business and work, we often hear the saying, “Nothing personal, just business.” There, it is seen as a normal way of dealing with people in the workplace. There are even people who share this idea of work and personal life being separate. Is business really always “nothing personal”?

Business is inevitably personal. People crave a deeper connection to our work and business partnerships. We want to be appreciated, valued, and recognized. We connect in a way that satisfies our needs and creates something for our satisfaction. We mustn’t overlook the importance of sympathy, sincerity, loyalty, and trust in our business relationships.

Regardless of what products and services your company offers, having empathy can help improve customer service.


In the workplace, we would be less productive and less fulfilled without the personal support of the right people. It’s really important to build personal relationships with others that give us both the best opportunities to excel at what we do and reach our full potential.

What drives us to get up and go to work every day and work long hours? Why did you care about your client? Why do you go out of your way to help a colleague? Or why do you work overtime to help a team member? Or lost sleep over a client? Because it’s personal.

Because culture is so important to me, I play music, have fun, joke around, and play games. We work hard, but we play hard too.

Josh York

When you put yourself out there at work, in life, and in leadership, when you make everything you do personal and connect your work to it, you find the deeper meaning and connect to humanity in everything you do.

Our best business relationships are personal. No matter what kind of business you have, if it’s not personal, then how successful will your business be?

3 thoughts on “It’s Just Business (Nothing Personal)

  1. May I also share that too much of a good thing is already a bad thing, and that everything in moderation is important. So a balance of not being too focused on the bottomline of your business and understanding that relationships are also as important. It might also be a personality thing considering that someone people tend to be cutthroat and some lean on having a kind nature. I guess its also a matter of seeing what works for you too.

  2. I always felt “it’s just business” was a cop-out and a way for people to take advantage of others. While this shouldn’t be the case, a lot of times it is. You shouldn’t take business decisions personally but sometimes they are and it helps to know when you are being wronged by a company or an employer.

  3. Business is business and friendship is friendship, which is why I avoid doing business with anyone who is a close friend. There’s just too much room for bad feelings. When it comes to dealing with other businesses, you can be honorable without being a doormat. When it comes to your customers, set boundaries but be fair. Don’t think “business is business” is a license to work people over.

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