Unexpectedly Fun Night

A friend of mine lost his job weeks ago and was interviewing with different groups around town.  He’s a salesguy, so one of the things he needs to do is show his ability to bring value to the hiring company.  He called me and asked if he could do an intro between me and a potential employer.  The company was downtown, just a couple of block from the skateboard factory.  It’s a new startup, and I thought it’d be good to introduce them to the owner of the skate co, buying some decks would fit in with their corporate culture.

We set it up so they could meet a couple of weeks ago.  The VP of Sales came to the factory and I gave him a tour of the factory then we went out for beers.   As the two startup guys were talking, the VP asked the skate guy if he’d come to dinner tonight.  He was assembling his brand-new sales team and trying to create their culture.  He wanted minor little things like service, value, honor and integrity to become an integral part of that culture and that’s stuff that the owner of the skate co believes in passionately.

I got a call this morning, asking if I was coming to the dinner.  Well, probably not, I wasn’t invited.  But I had no plans, so if he got the VP to say it was okay for me to join for moral support I’d be happy to go along.  About 5:30 I got a text “Get down here, I’m drinking 2 drinks at a time til you get here.”  I walk in, and get told that oh, by the way, the VP of Sales wanted me to talk to the team as well.  But there wasn’t a heck of a lot of guidance about what I was supposed to talk about.  You know, with ten minutes notice.  Plenty of time to prepare a speech for a roomful of people.  No big.

So out of the blue I got to summarize:

  • my military experience, how in theory it could’ve been terrible, but because of a clear mission, being able to see the impact we were having, and most importantly the people it was the best time of my life.
  • Difficulties I had adapting to the civilian life.  Trying to find a sense of community and purpose after I left the Army.
  • When I failed at that, building my own network, my own community and my own sense of purpose in helping others network and connecting people
  • How I went in to buy a skateboard and walked out a volunteer employee at the skate co because of their values.  How the owners weren’t just retailers I bought a product from, they were friends, family.  They’d helped me through tough times and we celebrated good together.  And because they were such good people, I wanted to help them succeed, and that’s what brought all of us together tonight.  Making oddball connections like that.
  • How the people in my professional network were trusted advisors.  Salespeople who recommended I go buy someone else’s product because it was a better fit for my needs.  People who were there for the long haul relationship, not the short term transaction.  Who brought personal value to the table, not just as a representative of a corporation

And I summarized with the hope that they’d embody those values, that the company would be a great success and that we’d be drinking and toasting one another in twenty years.  That they’d define success as the number of people they helped, the number of connections they made, the people they mentored and not just the bottom line.

It was the first time I spoke in public to anyone about some of that stuff.  Admitted some of my pains to an audience of strangers.  And it clicked.  From the time I stood up after dinner to leave to the time I was actually in my car was over an hour because people were lined up to shake my hand and thank me for talking to them.  People were asking for more details or were telling me how they could relate to things I’d said.  And the skate co walked out with a TON of new customers.

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