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National and Global, United States

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Circle Game...50 Marketing Engagements Later...

When you are in the marketing agency space, you are either working and/or looking for work. It’s a habitual circle (I think that's an oxymoron) that never ends. It has become a habit, I need to break.

That’s correct. I’ve had 50+ engagements in my career.
Everything from retail, entertainment, manufacturing, distribution, publishing,sports, aerospace, software, hardware, old technologies, new technologies, and some technologies I didn’t even know were technologies. I've Interim CXO’d 10 companies as well, and some of them, I couldn’t figure out. Nevertheless, I am an expert at them all. Go ahead, test me!

Additionally, I’ve done everything from marketing services, strategic planning, operations, finance, marketing, sales, business development, research, organizational design, profit improvement, productivity enhancement. Oh...and sales training, metrics, ROI analytics, and more that I can't recall (or don't want to). I’ve even moved office furniture. I’ve raised capital…. And spent capital.

The fact is that if you do this work, you are constantly ‘interviewing’ for the next job, knowing full well, that the present one will come to a final, halting conclusion. There's no severance, no 401-K, no vacation time, benefits, or a gold watch and a departing tea party. I'll miss the bowling team too. You just say 'goodbye' and head towards the bus station. That's it. Took a bit of getting used to, but I finally like bus terminals.

I experienced this fact this month, when one of my clients, after a year contract, decided not to renew. No surprise. The work was essentially done. But you know consultants (or you should): The more work syndrome. What the hey! I’m in the place, so let’s look around for ‘more work’. No sense getting on a bus to another city, if you don't have to. Actually works sometimes.

So, while continuing to work with other clients, I start the process again. No, I continue the habitual process of ‘looking for work’. That means at least 5 luncheon meetings, 10 proposals, up-teen phone follow-ups, and maybe, just maybe, one client engagement, or as sometimes happens, a big fat ZERO.

In retrospect, I was just thinking, what did it take to accumulate over 50 client engagements and I have some determination of that effort:

252 Luncheons or dinners
323 Proposals
657 phone calls
125 airplane rides
150 car rentals
543 hotel stays
647 lonely nights
200 rejections or no responses

Above it all, there has been a great network of mostly 'great' people from all over the world. I would have never been able to do this in a corporate office, where I started out. There, I'd now be looking over the parking lot waiting for the 5pm whistle. In my world there is no 5pm end game. It goes on 24/7 because it is actually 9am somewhere in the world. And at that time,wherever it is, I want to be there. You should too!

I have had dinner in Africa with an African Chief. A real one, at his home, sitting on the floor eating dinner with our hands. I've eaten fish from a fish market in Southern Japan where no one spoke English. I've drank sake with strangers on the Japanese bullet train, and missed my stop; and danced in Korea, and wondered in Singapore. I've had a butler and a driver in London, and played snooker in Ireland. I've walked in the rain in Scotland. I've surfed in Australia, and played in the snow in Switzerland. I've marveled at the good life most successful South Africans have. I've stayed up very late in Spain and Italy. And drank wine at lunch in Austria. I've been to Mozart's city twice. I've even had fun in New York City many times. And had the same fun in Nigeria and Casablanca. I've even had too much to drink in Cleveland. I still marvel at it all. The people, the places, the events.

The base take-away here is that you need some ‘thick skin’ because you’ll get rejected more then not. You need to be tenacious without being overbearing; you need to be pro-active without the sense of ‘need’, and you need, above all, to remain true to yourself and your values as a professional in the process. Even when you come across potential clients who are less then professional towards you, and define selfishness as a greed rather then a virtue.

Do all of that, and you might succeed. Do none of it, and you surely won’t. But I still think of the wonder of it all. And that my friends, is worth more then the corner office.

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