It’s About The Snakes

August 4, 2014


Like Indiana Jones lamented – it almost always is about the snakes or more profoundly, “Why did it have to be snakes?” It’s that thing or being that threatens our security and safety.

And most of us don’t care for snakes.

A friend of mine once called a friend of hers (yes a friend) mean as a snake.  That might be OK – when directed elsewhere – but is behaving like a “snake” ever OK – unless you are, in fact, an actual snake?

Once upon a time, I was a corporate executive.  It was in those sepia toned years in which philanthropy and charity were forefront – to most American corporations. Part of what I did was give away money.  I had lots of “friends.”

Until I didn’t.

Imagine that moment when one is no longer charged with deploying large checks – we quickly learn who our friends are – and more –specifically not.

The days of organizations writing big checks, engaging in large retainer agreements with agencies and indiscreet spending have vanished and likely for good.  For those of us who are “experts” in specific areas and run boutique practices, it is our time.

Most organizations have quickly determined that they do NOT need to buy-through a major structure to secure the services they require.  They also know that they can keep their own head-count low while simultaneously securing outside professional talent.

My firm works directly with clients and fosters solid relationships.  As such, we match skills with deliverables and charge a value-based price.  Do we know exactly how our paychecks will look and can we project out long-term?  It’s tough – but as I have often been reminded – it’s important to have faith in both people and the process.

Which brings us back to the snakes.

As an entrepreneur and business owner, I often meet with others who have chosen a like-path.  Often these are folks with whom I have worked.  After several hours of laughing till we cried – a former colleague lamented to me that he was no longer going to place anything between himself and his clients (read middle party.) He asked the general stuff – how does my firm attract clients, etc.?

There are only a few things that we ever get to know for sure. The ultimate client-facing truism is that like any other relationship, the client relationship is mostly about trust.  The client assumes that “said vendor” has a certain kind of talent. The balance of the connection is grounded in solid judgment and trust.

The other sad truism is that many of “your” former friends are snakes.  Those folks who knew you on the way up and could benefit from that relationship.  Those are the folks – who – while may have business to deploy are NEVER going to assign it to you.  And you will be surprised when the snakeskin is revealed on your favorite former “drinks” friend.

The corporate checking account permitted me to pay many tabs and support many good causes.  That changed.  And while learning that the good and bad dudes are – while sometimes painful – is a good thing to know.

It’s equally good to know that there are those former partners with whom we can laugh, share, support, admire and align.

Know that the snakes slither where and when we least anticipate.  Know more – that those of us – who have chosen to have the “nerve” to chart a unique course, will find friends, work, great clients, fun and fulfillment.

And in the meantime – we break bread with some darn good humans and possibly own a decent pair of snakeskin shoes.