FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
|“An Embarrassing 24 Hours…”||
|By: Ron Brounes||
For the past two months or so, Brounes & Associates officially has been back up and running. I fill my days catching up with old clients (and meeting new prospects), sharing with them the services that I offer, and learning about developments with their firms. I’ve forged relationships with other marketing professionals who possess different skill sets and offer complementary services. Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Philly to meet with some investment folks who I worked with a few years ago. (Unfortunately Pat’s Cheese Steaks was not in the general vicinity.) Many of the old projects (and some new ones as well) are back in the pipeline. Some of you have introduced me to people who might be in need of my services in the future. I appreciate your passing along the names of potential contacts as well as your encouraging words of luck and best wishes. Thus far, the reemergence of Brounes & Associates has gone off without a hitch, well, except for one 24 hour period.
A MINOR WRINKLE ALONG THE ROAD
A few weeks ago, a buddy invited me to lunch at his office to meet with some of his company’s marketing professionals; we planned to learn about each other’s businesses to determine opportunities to work together down the road. Eager to make that good first impression, I put on my best suit (not knowing they adhere to “very” casual Fridays) and checked Mapquest for the surest directions to this north Houston location. On my way out I even grabbed the Wall Street Journal since I knew I would arrive well before the scheduled meeting.
An unfortunate turn onto I-45 (thanks Mapquest) put me right in the middle of a mid-day traffic jam (a rarity for Houston). I immediately called my friend to warn him that I would be a few minutes late. Luckily, traffic cleared up shortly and I thought I would still make the designated time. Though I’ve lived here for 40 years (and have been driving for 24), somehow I missed my exit and ended up miles out of the way. (Is Intercontinental Airport really a key landmark I should have recognized?) Again, I called my friend, this time to tell him I would definitely be late. He gave me directions to his office and even stayed on the phone until I pulled into his parking garage. Embarrassed, I arrived 30 minutes after our scheduled lunch appointment where I encountered my friend and his two hungry associates. I could hear their stomachs growling the moment I got off the elevator. After countless apologies (by me) and “good natured” ribbing (from them), I enjoyed the lunch and felt that the meeting itself proved quite informative and promising. Hopefully, the next get-together will be on another casual Friday so I can also wear my shorts and flip flops. (My kind of firm.)
Confident that I had made the best out of a potentially bad situation, I headed to another prospecting appointment back on my part of town. This time, I arrived about 45 minutes early and had the chance to read some of my newspaper. A few minutes prior to the scheduled meeting, I noticed a giant ketchup stain in the middle of my white shirt. Obviously I had spilled at my earlier lunch (undoubtedly, another great and lasting impression I must have made on them). Immediately I panicked as I considered my options. I could excuse myself to the men’s room to wash it off; however, then the stain would merely be replaced by a big water spot. I could keep my jacket buttoned the entire time; I could explain to her what happened and risk the perception that I am a slob (not necessarily an incorrect perception, mind you). I combined the last two options. For the first part of the meeting, I kept my jacket buttoned; after I detected a certain comfort level (she somewhat chuckled at one of my sarcastic quips), I decided to confide in her about my ketchup incident. (She immediately threw me out of the office.) Actually, we both got a good laugh out of the story and I even landed a project in the process. Now, I wear that stained shirt to each prospecting meeting.
AND YET ANOTHER…
The very next morning, I had an early meeting at a neighborhood Starbucks. (On a different note, I heard someone order her Café Machiato “extra hot.” How is that even possible? I get my coffee doubled-cupped with one of those cardboard wrappers and I still burn myself when I pick it up. Perhaps, a story for another newsletter.) Anyway, after the meeting I had to run home to take my dog to the vet for her annual appointment. With Flo in the car, I returned a few calls that had come in that morning. Bear in mind, my dog is 12 years old, sleeps at least 23.5 hours a day, and is relatively docile; I’m not sure she’s barked in about 10 years.
I was leaving a message on an answer machine, informing the individual that I was “between appointments” and would be returning to the office shortly. (Between appointments sounds almost as good as “He’s on the phone and has two calls holding.”) All of a sudden, Flo starts barking hysterically from the front passenger seat of the car. Perhaps, she saw a cat or a squirrel (they usually just scare her); perhaps she was just mad that I was ignoring her. In any case, there was absolutely no way that the person did not hear the dog once he retrieved the message. (In fact, everyone in the office probably heard the barking.) Needless to say, I had no choice but to explain the situation when I returned the call later that morning, fully expecting to hear resounding laughter from the other end of the phone. I’m still waiting for that laughter. Obviously he’s not a dog person (or has no sense of humor). At least, he has taken my calls since that day and the incident appears to be behind us. (Flo still seems a bit traumatized, however.)
After each of these meetings, I replayed in my head the highlights of the discussions to determine if I can learn any lessons for the future. What could I do better next time to improve my business prospecting? Actually, I have incorporated a few new business strategies: 1) I’m having a navigational system installed in my car to prevent my showing up 30 minutes late for future appointments; 2) I no longer allow myself to use any colored condiments (ketchup, mustard, picante sauce) at lunch prior to afternoon meetings; 3) I must remember than my dog’s appointments are quite important to her so I should avoid any scheduling conflicts that may interfere. By the way, I’m now ordering my Starbucks coffee “extra hot;” one venti coffee-of-the-day can last me a good day and a half (but may cause third degree burns).
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