I had the good (?) fortune to sit down with the CEO of a PR agency in Toronto recently. He had been at a seminar I attended regarding converging technologies and mediums and how they fit into the role of the PR professional. We got chatting and decided to have lunch together.
Now, I’m a pretty open guy to how businesses run themselves, but this lunch was an eye-opener.
The conversation turned naturally to the economy and the effect it’s having on agencies and clients alike. My lunch partner said he was finding it tough as his clients just weren’t spending, yet he was sure both would start needing his agency’s services again soon. I asked if he’d lost a lot of clients to the credit crunch – after all, being reduced to two clients must be extra tough.
His response floored me.
“Oh, no, we never have more than two clients at any time – we just concentrate on finding the biggest and most profitable ones and stick with them.” So, no small businesses or entrepreneurs, I asked. The answer: “Why would I want to deal with the little guy? How would that enhance my reputation?”
The lunch ended, we exchanged business cards and went our separate ways. I wondered if I should have probed him more on his views about clients, but the way he emphasized the “my reputation” part made me think he was only in business for one reason – his glory. Which normally means any arguments falling on deaf ears.
Yet perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Too many businesses in too many industries have forgotten about the little guy. Too many businesses think dollars over development. Too many businesses think pre-built over building.
Just when this mindset happened escapes me – what doesn’t escape me is the narrow-minded tunnel vision behind it.
Did the CEO of the Toronto PR agency start off as a ready-made success story? Did Richard Branson jump into the business world with Virgin already a huge success? Does being a large corporation guarantee success levels?
Of course not. Yet still the belief remains in many businesses that small is a necessary evil, to tolerate while the big boys gather to put small in its place.
These are dangerous thoughts.
True success comes from the building of relationships. Of loyalties being forged. Of give and take and the combining of good ideas and openness to encourage greatness.
Aim high – there’s nothing wrong with that. But just take a minute to think what’s going to get you higher – two giants 100 feet tall who control you, or hundreds of normal sized people who respect you.
The choice is yours – I know whose company I’d prefer to keep. How about you?