Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Are there friends in business?

So I've got a big mouth, and am frequently opinionated.

I know, these statements shock you.

But anyway, I gave a seminar in March about lighting. I do this with some frequency, and they are almost always unscripted, off-the-cuff riffs on the given topics. They're frequently enjoyed by my audience, and I occasionally manage to impart a few pearls of wisdom from my dozen or so years in the entertainment lighting industry. At the end, I typically take questions, and I try to answer them honestly.

Sometimes this is not in my best interests.

Apparently, in one of my sessions at a conference this March, I made a statement that I would not recommend a particular product from a particular manufacturer for a particular application. I don't remember it, but this product is not my favorite product the company has ever come out with, and since not every lighting console is right for every application, it's more than likely that I did, in fact say exactly that.

Well, the regional sales manager for that manufacturer is someone I've known for better than ten years now. I'm directly responsible for over $1 million in sales of his product each year. Probably 1/3 of that comes from discretionary business where I am the sole decision maker as to what product is put onto a job. This manager and I have had many dinners together, gotten frat-boy level drunk together on more than one occasion, and in a few rare instances, partaken of some Pauly-esque substances. I certainly was under the impression that we were friends outside of the business world.

Which is why it hurt me that he was apparently so pissed off at me because of statements that I reportedly made in one of my workshops (which he didn't attend and I don't recall) that he didn't come to our office for nine months, and has yet to speak to me about the incident.

An incident that was brought to my attention today. OVER. NINE. MONTHS. LATER. Now in that nine months I've submitted orders for hundreds of thousands of dollars of his equipment, had dinner with him at a conference, had drinks with him, and had an hour-long conversation with him in my office. At no time did he man up enough to say "you pissed me off." Or even "fuck you, you fucking fuck."

Now I understand that I'm fairly straightforward, and that not everyone is as plain-spoken as I am, but fuck a duck! After a decade of doing business together, hanging out at conferences, getting shitty drunk together and sharing thoughts on life, the universe and everything, what kind of friend doesn't have the testicular fortitude to come and get the straight poop from me, and tell me that I put my foot in my mouth? It's not like it would be the first time, and with as much experience as I have in extracting my digit from my dentals, I've learned long ago how to say "I'm sorry."

I feel really betrayed by this, and like I need to re-examine a lot of my professional relationships. One thing I've always liked about the industry I work in is that I feel like I can be friends with my co-workers, manufacturers and customers, and this calls that into doubt for me. I guess I'll have to treat it like a fucking job now. Am I wrong to expect people to have the stones, or at least the respect for their largest customer, to call me out on something if I piss them off? For background, my company is the largest customer in the US for this manufacturer, which controls 80% of the market share in our industry, so it's not like anything either of us says will actually change the fiscal relationship.

Of course, I'm still working on a quarter-million dollars worth of sales for his product, which I'm likely to close this week, netting him a nice commission check despite of my current annoyance.


Jim The Knife said...

As a 20+ year purchasing professional I had many wonderful relationships with my suppliers.
After 4 years of retirement I still send x-mas cards and talk once in a blue moon with 2 of I understand the professional relationships that are built over time.
If he's intelligent, he should know that he doesn't have 100% of your business and WHY....

Special K said...

You need to call him out on this. He obviously has a personal problem here that you can help with. I don't say this tounge-in-cheek. I'm serious. Ask yourself how you can help him through this. How you like him. How you consider him a friend and how insulting it is that bringing this to your attention is so difficult for him. Help him. He will appreciate it and you both will profit.

- Special "Dr. Phil" K

Special K said...

I forgot to add, having a big-ass order ready to change the topic to won't hurt.

Tcsparky said...

Yeah...all of that touchy-feely stuff that Special K said.......

Uncle Bracelet said...

Maybe he liked you better when you were chubby.

Just here to help.



BamBam said...

After our limited time together Falstaff, I'm very surprised at this information.

You think he's mad at you for something that it sounds like he heard second hand. How is it that you heard about this supposed "anger" without him having the "testicular fortitude" to tell you himself?

Second hand info is a piece of crap. I know that you know this too, as straight-forward a guy as you are. I say plan another drink-fest if you really like the guy. Have an open bitch session if it's needed. I have the feeling it won't be.

It's more likely that you both have heard something that was taken out of context.

I'd be willing to bet that this is the case. Getting worked up about it without real communication, is just a sad waste of your time and his.