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Friday, September 14, 2012

Long memories and new relationships: Construction marketing experience foundations

Today I had conversations about construction marketing with someone I know well, and who introduced me to some fundamental ideas about how to sell advertising almost 20 years ago. In the end, he decided not to do business with me. I also decided I did not want to engage, consult or meet someone who has shared a passion for business and publishing in this city for almost the same length of time and (an outsider might think) could be a worthy colleague or partner.

In the first situation, the individual is launching a new, competitive web-based publication.  On the advice of a senior employee of our company, I invited him to join our organization.  He would be free to pursue a variety of other non-compettive publishing projects, and we would provide him a salary guarantee and benefits for the construction industry publication where we hoped he would be an ally rather than competitor.

My first reaction on hearing this suggestion: "No way will this individual sacrifice his independence for any sort of employment" but the publisher shocked me, within hours, by indicating real interest in the idea.

However, by day's end, he had sober second thoughts.  He told me he simply could make far more money and conduct his business with greater success on his own.  I wished him well.

Meanwhile, another employee proposed that we invite another successful local publisher to speak at our annual planning meeting. I had been considering a consultant/facilitator (highly recommended) who expects to be paid  $300 an hour.  "Why don't you ask (name of indivdual) if he would like to speak to us," the employee said.  On the surface, the suggestion seemed inherently logical. The individual certainly knows business-to-busness media, lives in town, and might well accept a free gig to share his experiences with us.

But I told the employee I would rather not do business with the person.  Although I don't hold him responsible, he certainly had a role in a story about 15 years ago involving some pretty heavy litigation and truly uncool business practices by his former bosses/owners -- and he appeared directly on the scene at some key points in the saga.  I won't describe specifics in a public blog (reflecting my policy not to identify anyone negatively) but the story culminated when we squared off in court  and the judge completely cleared our business, awarding costs.

Things have changed; the culprits  have moved on, and the individual certainly has an excellent reputation.  I don't hold grudges against him, but don't feel comfortable, either, allowing him into our inner business sanctum.  Memories die hard.

These stories suggest that as we gain experience and build our network of relationships and experiences, we develop perspectives and tend to reach conclusions that either create opportunities or limit them.  I sometimes wonder if a little more innocence would be helpful, but equally, don't see why I should have to relive painful memories, or expect someone to change course and revise their values mid-stream, no matter how compelling the reason.

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