Years ago, when I had ten people working for me at my book packaging company, one client accounted for about half our revenue. They were difficult, constantly threatening litigation, sending lawyers to otherwise productive meetings, questioning our ethics and more. It was clearly the culture of their organization to be at war. So I fired them. I gave them the rights and walked away, even though it meant a huge hit to our organization. Why do it? Because if we had stuck with them, it would have changed who we were, who we hired and how we marketed ourselves going forward. We would have had a lifetime of this.
Lately, I have been trying to firm up a view that one should never "grovel" for a project, a job, or anything. One should never beg. It is something that has always been at the back of my mind as I try to do all the things that I need to do in my tasklist. "Never grovel."
And Seth managed to capture in words why these words "Never grovel" have been stuck in my head: ... because when you grovel, you give someone else to define - and redefine - who you are.
There was a time - in another life - where we pitched for everything and anything that moved in the advertising world. So long as they delivered the billings or landed us in the front page of the trade press and our rankings were improved, we did it.
We were pretty good at it: we were hitting 70-80%.
But after a long week and a long Friday night spent in the office, we were forced to take a step back and say, "Do we really want all these businesses?"
I looked around and there was my team: all eight of them. Hunched in front of their PCs at 1am. Friday just past. There were boxes of food on the common table. And there were two more pitches to be reviewed and finished. And it wasn't the first - it was the end of these kinds of days. Tempers were short. Emails were terse. IM exchanges were 'measured' lest we 'shout' at each other digitally.
We were committed to excellence - to winning - to driving real, remarkable solutions to clients that would matter to their businesses. And based on our success rate, we were doing great.
But is this really what we wanted?
Sure. The mother-company would have wanted those red-colored numbers on the business P&L's to go away. And we wanted that same thing. We were aligned.
That's when we decided.
We were letting someone else - and something else - redefine who we were. It wasn't magical - but it was close. I packed up, turned up the volume of my PC to max, and shut it down. The all-too-unique/common 'exiting' music from Windows reververated in the room. Everybody looked up.
And then everybody did the same thing.
We never should grovel. We never should beg.
We never should demean our humanity just because somebody else wants us to meet their expectations - "lest you get fired".
(And as I write this, I recall MARKETING Singapore's cover story for the month of October: "The Pitch is the Bitch".)