How to lose friends & influence people

It must have been summer 2009 when I was first attracted to his blog.  It was irresistibly called "Credit Control Warrior".  At the same time,  people - small businesses - were having trouble getting paid for work + the Irish economy was in a spiral downwards.

Greg Canty was a fighter - for justice, truth & fair dealing - and still is. 
He was owned money by a character called "Famous".  Famous laughed in Greg's face - drove round in a flashy car - and drove Greg demented.

To make it worse, Greg had ignored his gut instinct: he should never have done the work for that "Famous" bollocks.  Learning that through personal experience got Greg into empathy with loads of other people: he was not alone.  The Partner in a growing small business became a campaigning hero.  His style of blogging attracted many supporters.

That's why I got hooked into reading Greg's blogposts - and years later I'm still reading him. He's the only Irish blogger I read regularly.

Which is why I wish I could run my problem past Greg.  
He's been in Ireland longer than me. He's probably got a better understanding of Irish business habits. 

This is my unpleasant problem - maybe you've had something similar happen to you.

In autumn 2013, a small business guy asked me to send his business a proposal for a piece of work. This was after we had at least a couple of meetings & I thought we'd really clicked. I was expecting we'd work together. Optimistically I sent off the proposal.

How wrong I was.  What happened next shocked me.  
I couldn't remember it ever happening to me before in all the years I'd owned my own business in UK.  Nothing happened.  Zilch. Nothing. I never got a reply. I sent another email (and won't bore you with a list of all the other things I did in hope of finding out what happened.).  I even worried the business was folding,

At the same time, in another neck of the woods, there was even more trouble brewing. 

A big well-known Irish organisation (in a sector which shall be nameless) asked ChangeAgents Branding to give them a proposal for a piece of work we sketched out together in Dublin.

We left the room after a wonderful wide-ranging discussion with the Director. Jon & I were over the moon. This looked like our ideal client. The person, the challenge & the opportunity seemed to fit well with ChangeAgent plans to become much better know in certain circles.

I sent the proposal, together with an assurance that if it didn't fit with the big organisation's budget we could edit it together.

Then the ship hit the rocks.
Nothing more was heard from the Director.  Even texts were not responded to.  

"Is this the Irish way?" I asked myself.  "Is this normal?"  "Is this me?"  "What have I misunderstood? Done wrong?"

This is why I wish Greg Canty was at my shoulder
- wish he could be my caddy, my interpreter, guide, counsellor.  We all need a Greg - an experienced voice in the background.  I felt I was going mad.  In all my years of doing business in UK - this had never happened to me.  In all the years I spent hiring contractors, I never dreamed of leaving one in darkness. I wouldn't have dared.

I was brought up not to be rude.  
My father would turn in his grave if he saw me leaving a potential supplier hanging on.  He'd see that as abuse of power - ethically irresponsible behaviour.  He'd see this as a matter of basic human decency. We can all screw up - we've all mislaid an email, forgotten to respond, been distracted.  But not to respond after getting a reminder + an enquiry?  

Greg - help (forgive me dragging you into this without warning).

What I'd like to run past you are these possible explanations:

  • The proposal was so bad, it wasn't worth responding to - they want no more to do with me
  • Proposal was too big, long, elaborate, confusing, wide of the mark - they hadn't the time immerse themselves in it - simpler to kill the idea or go with someone else
  • It's a power game - we have the money, let ChangeAgents wait until we're ready
  • At the same time, unknown to us they've been talking to another provider & want to keep their options open
  • There's an e-tendering process controlled by procurement - out of their hands
  • They do slow - this isn't an unusual delay as far as they're concerned
  • They never had a budget approved - now feel too embarrassed to reply
  • They lost budget because of an unexpected disaster - too ashamed to reveal that
  • The business is about to go into liquidation or receivership
  • There are now new owners
  • There's been an internal row over the proposal
  • Mental health change for our contact - means all non-essential communications ceased
  • Someone blackballed us
  • They replied - their email went into our spam folder - they're so annoyed, they waited & have now given up on us
  • They were simply picking our brains - outsourcing the thinking to us - always intended to do it themselves
  • All of the above - or combination of some 
  • Some explanation none of us have thought of so far.

A good caddy (someone like Greg) identifies all the surrounding dangers, all the winds that blow the ball around. Questions the golfer's thinking.  A golfer who can't take help from the caddy is alone and maybe lost without knowing it.

Was there any way of escaping the frustration, confusion & anger?

You see

  • Rejection is not a problem - we can move on
  • Disappointment is nothing new - we can suck that up
  • Being ignored is nasty - we won't forget
  • The day may come when ChangeAgents may be wanted, then what?

This story has no happy ending.  I wish there was one.  There probably won't be one.  But reputations are always at stake.  

We market ourselves all the time:
both client & supplier.  More meaningful marketing is one way of saying don't do it in an inhuman way.

Can you bring some clarity into this confusing mess?  Has this happened to you in Ireland? What did you do that unlocked the blockage?

Is it better to move on now?

What can be learned from this?

If only Greg Canty was here to guide me...

[PS - while writing this I didn't consult Greg. He not responsible for this.  Read his blog.]