Here are all of the ways that you and your company can blow it when it comes to hiring new clients, new customers, new partners and even new employees:
1. Don't make the effort to really know them.
2. Talk more than you listen.
3. Be patently indecisive.
4. Make assumptions about what it is they want and need from you.
5. Take them, their business, or their interest in you for granted.
6. Forget that you are far from being the only game in town.
7. Forget that you're just one year away from being last year's "it" company.
8. Say one thing. Do another.
10. Make them feel unappreciated.
Think of yourself as being on a first date. Put yourself in the shoes of the pretty girl or cute guy sitting across the table from you. What are they seeing? How are you making them feel? More importantly, how will they feel once the date is over? What will they say to their friends about you?
How would you feel if you found out that despite your best intentions, this was the report on you: "He was cool, well dressed, soooo smart and talented and hip... but he seemed more interested in himself than in me."
It isn't enough to say you're different and cool and brimming with talent. It isn't enough to know all the right people. It isn't enough to have the dopest portfolio in the industry or the fattest budget. It doesn't even matter how great you are, really. Sooner or later, someone cooler, smarter and more talented, and a whole lot hungrier will come along to send you packing.
They're already out there, inching their way towards you.
Their secret weapons: They'll do what you don't. They'll treat everyone like kings. They'll make sure their work is better than anything they've ever produced before. They'll make friends with their clients and customers and employees. All of them. Not just the core group. Not just the cash cows.
Just this week, I had the opportunity to see both ends of the spectrum firsthand.
At one end, two companies I was speaking with showed me how cool they really were: They scheduled meetings with me pretty quickly. They did none of the above ten things. They asked all of the right questions and answered all of mine without reservation. They knew exactly what they wanted out of our relationship. They know exactly who they want to be to their clients and customers, and aren't just talking about it. They're still smallish, but they're already category leaders in their markets. They've grown mostly through word-of-mouth even though they've never really given much thought to WOMM. Their employees are fun and engaging and infected. They're companies infused with purpose and vision and drive. In two words, they rock, and I am happy to say that I will have an opportunity to help them grow.
At the other end of the spectrum was another company. One that I have to admit I used to be pretty impressed with. That is, until they blew it with me.
How? By displaying almost every no-no on the above list, starting with 8.
I was very surprised this week to get a call from that very company. I was offered a pretty decent opportunity with them. One that, until a month ago, I wouldn't have thought to turn down for any conceivable reason.
A whole load of people would kill to get that phone call. I used to be one of them. And while these guys aren't Apple or Nike or Pixar, they aren't the kind of company whose offer you turn down either. (Even after months of enjoying their mildly entertaining and now legendary version of the runaround dance.)
I'd venture to say that they aren't used to hearing "no" either.
Unfortunately, the call came six months too late and saddled with motives that, frankly, I was kind of offended by. Call me crazy, but the promise of decent money and relative prestige aren't enough of a reason to overlook six months of bullshit.
I'm not talking about the last six months. I'm talking about what would have been the next six months.
A brand is a promise, after all.
Client. Partner. Customer. Employee. No difference.
Be careful how you present yourself. Every move you make matters.
Many years ago, a mentor shared a wonderful piece of advice with me. It was this: "Watch the way people treat waiters. It'll tell you everything you need to know about what kind of person they are." It's 100% true.
When a waiter isn't handy, watch the way they treat everyone else. The less important to them, the better.
Well, I've been watching.
Two companies impressed the heck out of me. One disappointed me to no end.
I'll take those odds any day.
So the lesson here is this: If you want to blow it, do any of the ten things on the above list, or any combination thereof. If those aren't enough, try your hand at being so full of yourself that you end up turning off even your most ardent fans.
It isn't easy, but with a little bit of hard work and perseverence, you can do it.
Short of kicking everyone you meet in the huevos, that, my friends, is how you blow it big in 2006.
Now that's advice you can put to good use.