Thanks to Rajesh Setty for giving me an opportunity to tell the story of how I got my first client…on the Unpaved Road.
The Accidental Client
There was a movie, back in the 80s, I think called “The Accidental Tourist.”
The story of how my consulting firm got off the ground might as well be called “The Accidental Client.”
I’m an avid reader and a passionate connector. I love ideas and I love people. Even better….talking about ideas with people.
I picked up a copy of Dan Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind” and just LOVED it. Really made me think about how I think, the hallmark of a great book.
Somehow, I deduced (I don’t remember exactly how) that Dan lived in the Washington, DC area, where I live.
I figured, since I was passionate about the ideas in his book and he lived in the same area that he would, of course, be more than happy to sit down and have coffee with me. Why not, right?
I emailed Dan with my passionate plea and his response was, “I’m travelling like crazy now, can you ping me in a month?”
The answer that came back was “Things are still crazy, try next month.”
This continued on for 10 full months.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career (actually, I’ve learned many), it’s that often times, it’s just a question of “who wants it more?”
More than talent, more than connection. Raw, rugged determination.
In other words, if someone says “follow up,” you freaking follow up. It shocks me how often people don’t follow up. Really, really shocks me.
Anyway, Dan finally relented and agreed to meet me for coffee.
I didn’t have an agenda, other than to chat or connect. I was gainfully employed at Microsoft and I had zero intention of leaving.
When Dan sat down, I saw a look in his face saying “Why exactly am I meeting with this guy?”
We got to talking. Just sharing our passion for ideas, his book, and marketing (my passion.)
After five minutes, I saw a light go on and Dan said, “you know, I am working on my next book now and one thing I’ve discovered is that traditional book publishers are just not very good at marketing. Would you like to help me with marketing my book as a side project?”
Of course, I would, but I thought it more of a hobby or a petri dish than an actual business. It would be fun to have an environment where I could test out my ideas.
He even offered to pay. Bonus!
Not much, but I didn’t really care.
“Ok,” he said, “great. I have some more things to take care of before we can get started, so follow up with me next month.”
Believe it or not, the cycle repeated itself as I followed up with him every month for ANOTHER 10 months.
At last, he said, “ok, I’m ready to go,” and the project was underway.
Keep in mind, folks, I was STILL gainfully employed at Microsoft. This was just my hobby.
However, I discovered something…something really important. I was having MORE fun and learning more doing my hobby than doing my regular job and it dawned on me that, “hey, maybe I can make a living out of this.”
Having a New York Times best-selling author as your first client seemed like a good starting off point and, in fact, it was. A few weeks later, I met an executive from Johnson & Johnson and we were just chatting as I told him about what I was doing to help Dan market his book “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.”
The exec from JNJ said, “you know, we have a couple million dollar ad budget, do you think you could do something for us like you are doing for Dan?”
Uh…let me see if I can work that into my schedule!
And that’s when I knew…it was time to leave Microsoft and hang out the shingle.
Sure, I was scared out of my mind, but it felt right.
While it wasn’t a million dollar deal with JNJ, Dan’s cache (and ultimate glowing testimonial) led to a Fortune 50 client all within the first week of being on my own.
Luck? A bit. Sometimes you hit a homerun on your first swing, but the knowing when to swing and how to hit are the result of years of practice and preparation.
In this case, it was a relentless curiosity, a desire to learn, and persistence.
The best part, in my opinion, was that Dan’s book “Johnny Bunko” offered up 6 rules for business success.
Number 4 was “Persistence Trumps Talent” and Dan later told me that my display of living by this rule was what ultimately gave him the confidence to invest his book’s marketing success in my hands.