Be careful what you wish for

Debb Not too long ago, we were contacted by a relatively small company with a surprisingly big crisis. Not surprisingly, they wanted to meet immediately. We were one of three firms to whom they'd been referred, and had come highly recommended (or so they said).

And, so we scampered off to their offices and sat down to hear about the crisis. After about an hour of positively riveting plot twists and turns, the prospect paused and began asking our thoughts. He liked what he heard. We shook hands, bid one another adieu and were told we'd be contacted momentarily.

Sure enough, a call came within 90 minutes. The prospect said, 'Steve, we're inclined to go with you, but we need a day-to-day person with an iron stomach. Your person seemed very good, but we need a real tiger,' he stated. No pasa nada, I thought. I'll send in our uber tigress, Deb Brown. Deb's the one person with whom you'd want to share that proverbial foxhole. When the bombs are bursting and the shells exploding, Deb dusts herself off and begs for more. She'd literally fall on a grenade for Peppercom.

And, so Deb marched off to battle just like a Delta Force specialist. She spent a full two hours asking pointed, direct, probing questions. She parsed every aspect of the prospect's story and kept finding flaws. She relentlessly pushed him to explain each and every seeming incongruity. When the 120-minute session ended, the clearly exhausted prospect thanked Deb and asked if she'd ever worked as a prosecuting attorney. He said he'd be in touch.

And, then there was nothing. Several days passed. Deb finally shot the prospect a note. The response? "Thanks, but we've decided to go with another firm." My read? Deb scared the prospect silly. He'd asked for a tiger with an iron stomach. But, when a tigress with a steel reinforced stomach showed up at his doorstep, the prospect blinked. He wasn't prepared to work with a manager who demanded the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Deb's tale isn't unusual. There have been many prospects over the years who've said they wanted one thing, but really desired the exact opposite. Some ask for out-of-the-box thinking when they really want to play it safe. Others have said they didn't want a firm with deep sector experience and then hired a firm with deep sector experience. In this case, the prospect got exactly what he asked for. In hindsight, he should have been more honest with himself (and us).

BTW our tigress is available to help with your next crisis and can be reached at 1-800-Don'tMessWithDebBrown

This post is dedicated to Danielle Lundquist.

3 thoughts on “Be careful what you wish for

  1. Thanks so much for the posts, guys. Hard to say if it was a fishing expedition, Linda. anything is possible nowadays. As for Deb, your instincts are spot on, Julie. She’d make a superb Marine.

  2. Unfortunately, this scenario does not surprise me. Companies usually make excuses by saying they want something different — and when you call their bluff and give them what they asked for — they usually wind up hiring the same old, same old.
    BTW – Peggy Olsen at SCDP went through a similar situation with the old coot at Heinz. On last Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men,” she pitched him creative of exactly what he said he wanted in a previous meeting… but then said he didn’t like it. He told her, “Don’t tell me what I said, tell me what I want…” or something to that effect. So now you have to add mind-reader to the skill-set.
    Also – Based on your description of Deb Brown, she sounds like someone I would follow into battle. Seriously.

  3. Repman, do you think they might have been subsconsiously fishing for free strategy advice, as well?