Getting Screwed Over aka Learning Experiences

One of the tenets of obtaining success is learning how to deal with adversities. The word “adversity” has far too many connotations that may lend one to think it has more in common with an unexpected bump in a well paved road rather, than the well placed sink hole created by others for you to plummet into, hoping you’re never to be seen again.

Trying to sugarcoat the realities or the true challenges one will face on the road to success is in my view counterproductive. I use the analogy: It’s the equivalent of stating you taught someone how to drive in a parking-lot, punched coordinates into some GPS, then handed them the keys and said, “OK, just follow the map.” All the while never revealing they’ll go through dangerous neighborhoods, stretches of wilderness where a gas station is all but nonexistent, or worse – a station they may desperately need covered in more chain-link and pull down grating – it would make Mad Max skeptical.

Business can and is very much at times a blood sport. Make no mistake about it. What you’ll encounter on the road to whatever business success you are trying to achieve is: the landscape is littered with those who thought” “That’ll never happen to me!”

Maybe “that” won’t. But rest assured there’s hundreds if not thousands of “then this will” to take its place just waiting for the chance to test your mettle. How one deals with these in both the during, as well as the aftermath, is what separates the wannabe’s from the will-be’s.

The higher you rise – the more tested you’ll be. As well as the variations and tenacity of those tests. They never stop. It’s just as you grow and understand what the landscape truly is, and how to navigate, as well as traverse, or avoid, is where the ease and comfort levels of knowing what to do take precedent over any skepticism or doubt you once had in your abilities. This is when you begin to not only know deep down in your gut “you can handle this” but you also believe it.

Many “motivational” as well as “success” type coaches and speakers in my view do more harm than good. This is where the “They read someone’s book, who read someone else’s book, and now they wrote a book, so you can go buy their book, about what they read” rant of mine comes from. To me this type of “motivation” or “success” nonsense delivers the same results as the example I laid out above on driving.

Sure, you’re going to get a lot of wide-eyed people overly impressed tingling with anticipation to finally have hold of the wheel, then set loose upon the business tundra teeming with excitement while singing in unison to the radio. However, once they hit that first detour that routes them through a “no go zoned” implied part of a city, along with a flashing red light on the gas gauge in the middle of the night, while being eyed in ways that would make a vulture proud by some meandering thug looking types? The only thing that will be going through the minds of the vast majority of those that bought those sugar-coated maps is: If – and how, they ever get out of this situation alive, the first thing they’re going to do is tear up those maps, and promise themselves to never, ever, take the wheel and drive again.

Anyone who’s driven for a while knows “driving” is far more than anything encompassed in a drivers-ed class. And some have had the unexpected pleasure of encountering the above scenario themselves. (I have, and more than once) However, that doesn’t stop you from driving. You gain the experience, you understand the risks, you watch for signs that may help notify you before it’s to late. But when it comes to business, and success, and such many treat it as it’s a “one time” shot or experience.

I believe for many, it’s because they were told (or sold) the yellow-brick road fantasy version. Sure, the road to riches can be paved in gold, but you must know how to change your own tire if you hit an unexpected pot hole. Because – they’re there, and sometimes – there is no AAA™ to come to your rescue. Yet, that’s OK, for that’s part of the thrill and all. Always remember: If it were easy – everyone would be doing it.

So with that all said I’ll leave you with one quick story from my “You think you’ve been screwed?” files.

I was in the middle of a tumultuous period in my career where I left the helm of one firm and wanted nothing to do with the responsibilities that comes with senior titles. In doing so I took a position with a competitor in a standard sales position starting with zero accounts which was how I wanted it. My only responsibility was for generating my own sales with no other responsibilities. (just to clarify I was the GM at my former company)

Over the ensuing months I reestablished connections and sales with accounts that at the time would not do business with them, but would do business with me. For I had built trust over the years with these accounts and I had a respected reputation within my market.

However, while on the road orders from these accounts came in. I was asked for by name, but the previous sales people who had once dealt with them (and subsequently lost them resulting in why they would not do business there again) told them “I was unavailable at the time, but they would be happy to take their orders and would make sure I saw it as to ensure proper handling.” Well, that’s what was said, but that’s far from what happened.

What was done next was not only pure unprofessionalism on steroids, in reality it was despicable.

The salesperson never told me of the call, ensured that the sale was credited to his account, then proceeded to lie and tell a yarn to the acting GM how “He, made the sale, how this was his account, and how I had nothing to do with it.” We weren’t talking penny accounts here, this was a million dollar and more a year account. I was furious so I went and confronted the then GM. (the discussion was a peer-to-peer level meeting)

In the end I decided rather than infuriate my customer I would just relinquish the account. For I really could care less who had credit as long as both him and I knew who, how, and why the customer came back to begin with. I had just changed so much of my previous life and was more concerned about moving forward. After all I felt as long as the company had the account the better it was for me in the end anyways. I agreed (for I suggested it) to let it pass, but not before I told this “salesperson” a few things on my mind first. Which I did, but if I acted through on how I should have dealt with him, I’d probably be in jail.

Then another customer I had worked on began to show promise and the then GM was just itching to see if I could break through. So. knowing what I had experienced before I did all the talking and negotiating from his office as he listened while I spoke. To his amazement I broke through and landed the account. An account they had tried for years to get but to no avail.

I made an appointment to meet the owner and set up more details and paperwork that needed to be filled out and said I would see him around Monday or Tuesday of the following week. Unbeknownst to me, word went around the office (in an old boys network type fashion) where it was learned I had just landed one of the largest private accounts to come through this company’s door in years, if not ever. (The account had potential for millions of dollars per month as opposed to a year)

What happened next made my earlier example look tame…

The salesman who covered the area which this customer was located called on them that Friday morning in a “Hey, how’s everybody doing, it’s been a while just thought I’d stop in…” where he then proceeded to ask nonchalantly “Oh, by the way. Might that paperwork be ready while I’m here?” and was given the documents I requested. He then came back, did all the above I listed in my previous example and just like the other dirt-bag, proceeded to postulate why this was “their account – not mine.” Bigger problem was: the GM went along with it!

When I entered the office that Friday afternoon you could hear a pin drop for everyone knew what was to transpire next. Was I furious? Of course, did I call both him and everyone else out on the subject? Yes, and more. What did I do? I took it as the learning experience that it was. What did I do with it? I gave my notice and was hired by their largest competitor (who by the way was #1) which had wanted me to begin with yet, I had chosen them for reasons I thought were prudent at the time.

Word got out where I was going and all heck broke loose within the company (for I really did have connections and a reputation for selling) and a panic of how I would leave caused nervousness throughout management. (they were afraid I would do some form of a bad mouthing while leaving a wake of some scotched Earth behind me.) What I did next took them so far off their game as well as shocked them it was near comical, and to this day it’s one of my fondest memories.

I gave them the customary 2 week notice, and much to my amazement they accepted. I was fully prepared to be escorted that moment of the premises which is the case many times. During those 2 weeks I did what they presumed – the unthinkable. I worked at my full capacity fulfilling all my sales functions as if nothing was happening, I kept my mouth shut, I didn’t bad mouth, or say nearly anything to any customers except that I was leaving, and I may contact them again in the coming weeks. I never said where I was going when pressed, I would just reiterate “It wouldn’t be professional to do that today” and moved conversations forward concentrating back to what products needed to be ordered.

On my last day I met with management to finalize my leaving. As he sat there it was obvious he was “loaded for bear” in anticipation for the moment he would have to unload or put up some brave front of an argument to counter any derogatory accusations I may have held back but would now unleash since I was no longer bound to their employment. But I didn’t.

I just went through each of my accounts going over details, special needs, and any other pertinent information one would need to make this a smooth transition. Almost like I was only going on vacation and having my accounts tenderly serviced till I returned. I could see the utter stupefied look every time I handed him another document.

When the meeting concluded I said “Well, that’s it. Is there anything else you need of me?” With a blank expression he looked up and said, “Really? That’s it?” When I responded yes he said, “I must tell you this was not anything of what I was expecting. As a matter of fact, this is the most professional final meeting I’ve ever seen or conducted. We thought for sure you would hold back information or leave us hanging taking it with you.” I responded – why would I do that? That wouldn’t be fair to those customers. Besides, I know who, and where they all are – and more. All you have to do to keep them or any others is compete…

With me.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr