How Not To Do Business
I had so looked forward to this trip
But after a subsistence of airplane snacks and diet coke, a 5 hour delay and rerouting to Baltimore I was exhausted. Collecting my bags at the carousel, I walked stiffly to the transportation desk and checked in. Two hours later I arrived at the "Inn" my host at insisted upon. The minute I walked in, I knew my tiresome journey was not yet over.
A year ago I awoke in the middle of the night with an idea for a new product. Then, by morning I was thinking about all the work involved, the obstacles I would face and put the idea in the back of my mind; but every once in awhile the idea would pop out and harass me.
One morning, something interesting happened! I received a phone call from a very successful business woman in my field who was well known for product development. She was inviting me to an "Invitation Only One Day Mastermind Group" of select professionals, for a handsome price mind you, but I agreed to attend. I convinced myself that it would be worth my time and money as this was a sign from heaven that my idea was finally going to take flight. This was my first mistake.
Right away, I started getting daily emails from her assistant - but the problem was the daily emails were contradictory and the name of the assistant kept changing. Instead of interpreting this as a bad sign, I told myself we all experience employee troubles from time to time - poor thing. Then, just days before the planned mastermind, assistant #4 asked me to change my reservation from the well known 4 star hotel I had booked, to an "Inn" near my host's home.
I arrived at the "Inn" at 2am. The hotel air conditioning was barely working. I can only describe the hallway as a swamp. My room was old, tired, dirty and dank. The TV remote was broken. The Wifi for my laptop didn't work either,.The next morning in the hotel dining room, I asked the waitress for espresso and she replied, "What's that?" It was all downhill from there.
The meeting began at 9am. I turned off the alarms in my head, and settled down, determined to get the most from my time with this "successful business woman"
While certainly articulate, she failed to impart any new ideas. Scribbling a few notes, I was sinking into the realization that this whole adventure had been a very costly mistake. She matched the hotel experience. Later at lunch, which was an inedible as breakfast, she began a diatribe against some of her business colleagues, including one of mine. She commented that my own personal business coach, whom I admire tremendously, was "a fraud". I sat there thinking that my "fraud" coach would never have put me up in a rat hole hotel. In fact, we always met at a resort and he picked me up at the airport in his silver Mercedes!
Later that afternoon, she criticized my business model - one that was very successful and suggested that I start over from scratch - with her, of course as my guide.
That evening I sat alone in the rat hole restaurant, trying to wash down an inedible meal with a glass of wine. I returned to my room, packed and went to bed.
On the shuttle ride back to the airport, I saw the "Inn" in the daylight for the first time. It was flanked by a gas station on one side and a massage parlor on the other. I relayed my unpleasant experience to the shuttle driver who replied, "Why didn't she put you up at the Hilton, which is 2 minutes away?" Why indeed?
On the flight home, which thankfully left on time and arrived on time, I had a chance to reflect on the whole experience, including other atrocities committed by the rat hole hotel and more unprofessional comments from my host that I had blocked during my 2 days of misery. Was this experience entirely her fault?
Well, yes and no. In terms of my comfort, she failed miserably. If you want to do business with someone you don't put them up in a rat hole. If this was her idea of business courtship, Lord only only knows what would happen after the honeymoon was over! In any case, her unprofessional comments would have unsealed the deal even if she HAD put me up at the Hilton.
The entire event proved that despite her reputation, she was extremely unprofessional and unethical - certainly someone I would never choose to do business with. An expensive lesson to learn in so many ways!
But what about my part in this? Here are the lessons I learned:
1. DON'T IGNORE DANGER SIGNS
I should have seen trouble coming when her assistants kept changing and she also changed the venue at the very last minute.
2. NEVER ASSUME
Even if someone is famous, well known and successful, never let your guard down. Before agreeing to such an expensive meeting, I should have executed DUE DILIGENCE, talked to others who knew this woman. I had rushed to judgment and assumed that just because we kept running into each other at other business events, she was as professional as me.
3. NEVER GIVE AWAY YOUR POWER
What made me so eager to meet with her in the first place? What made me think that she was the one who could take my idea and launch it?" Every business owner should have a defined business development investment budget. If you choose to go over that budget, you'd better be certain you will get a good ROI.
I teach all of my clients this important business principle: Your first client is you and your first product is you. This was a very costly lesson to re learn. Learn from my mistake and don't let this happen to you. The good news is that I did go ahead and create a working business model and marketing strategey for my new product - no thanks to my "hostess", however.
About the Author
Marilyn Ellis,"America's Organizer Coach", Author, Speaker, Professional Organizer, Business Development Coach. Her focus is on Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs. If you are stuck on the rocks, lost in the fog or surrounded by sharks, she will shine her harbor light on you. visit http://www.lighthouseorganizers.com to receive a free report and/or to purchase her books.