Lesson 15 - Meeting the Prince with More Reputation than Power
Business has a habit of testing us as individuals and as entrepreneurs. Several years ago I retained my first entertainment agent to represent my business and me. This was at a time when I was coming closer to the threshold of gaining national attention for my speaking and writing business. Retaining a qualified agent had become necessary for representation purposes in particular.
In the weeks following the initial meeting with the new agent, he introduced me to a woman named Sherry who owned a newspaper in Richmond. I contacted Sherry on his recommendation and referral. After weeks of talking and establishing a solid relationship with Sherry, she became impressed with the work that I was doing. As our relationship developed she agreed to make personal introductions to resources that could sponsor my national youth program.
Weeks before the time came for me to host a panel discussion at the University of Virginia, Sherry led me to believe that she could make the introductions I needed for my youth program. Because I was coming into town she told me that she was having a cocktail party at her home where these introductions would be made. Finally, after many years things were beginning to fall into place I had an agent to represent, lead, guide, and refer me to people who could and would help me.
It was a great feeling to know that after years of handling all aspects of my business on my own I no longer had to wear multiple hats in promoting my business, or so I thought.
In fact, I received no help, no introductions, and my group of three were the only people to attend her cocktail party. I had been mislead and lied too for weeks. I was in disbelief that a person could fabricate such unprofessional lies during a business social activity. Moreover, she trampled on the hopes of others.
Later that year, I was asked to do a book signing at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Weekend's Annual Convention. Once there, I was standing and greeting people who were stopping by my table to browse through my books. The foundation's committee had placed me in a centralized and highly traveled traffic pattern in the convention hall. I was fortunate to have met many people that day.
A man walked up to me, handed me his business card, and proceeded to talk about his business. He was well dressed and presented himself professionally. I exchanged business cards with him and he departed. I assumed that I would not hear from him again, but not long afterward he called and requested a meeting with me. He had a business with his wife as event promoters. Before I met with him, I sent my part-time assistant to have a meeting with him and his wife to ascertain whether it would be productive to meet with them, and whether our interests were common.
After checking out his business, my assistant recommended I schedule a meeting with him, so I did. Between eight and ten months of meetings, appearances, and brief presentations that I gave, which only seemed to be for his company's benefit, I ended my business involvement with him and his company. I realized that I was being utilized to further his financial business strength. He certainly did not follow through with his end of the agreements that we established at the beginning of our partnership.
Two years prior to retaining an entertainment agent, l forfeited all expectations of having a positive role model in my industry that could provide me guidance and tutelage. It seemed from the beginning of my career I was the birthday boy who received a perfectly wrapped gift, representing something I always wanted and would cherish. But when the gift was unwrapped a scary clown would pop out, like a horrible jack-in-the box, leaving me sad and disappointed. Like a bad dream, this happened for some time. I began to doubt my ability to succeed in my field, cynical and despondent of business relationships and projects. With my original mentors within the industry, that's the way I came to feel.
Professionals with this type of personality seem to tell the biggest lies of all, which reminds me of what the legendary recording artist James Brown, said in one of his greatest hits. He said some people are 'talking loud and saying nothing." Generally this type of person may be excited in the moment and agrees to things that they can't produce, or they aren't in a position to facilitate any action. This is the type of professional who decides to appear to be more powerful than they really are.
Meeting the prince with more reputation than power is the professional like Sherry who supposedly was to have a cocktail party for me and with other professionals left me disappointed. Other than my agent and assistant there were no other people there. There were no introductions made. In addition to this there were no cocktails. For months Sherry lied to me and once at her house she didn't make any attempts to apologize or compensate for the months of deception.
From his office in Virginia during a telephone interview, Brian Biondi, president of Youth Entrepreneur's Organization, expressed that, "People must realize they should never, never burn bridges because it will carry on for years and years. With a person like the prince, know that substance will prevail over form and false presentations last for a short time. In which case, cream always rises to the top." Elliott Frutkin, president and CEO of Doceus, Inc., said it best-"If someone has a product or service that is so compelling, they should make the introduction to the powers that can facilitate a meeting so alliances can be made."
It is not wise to put your trust in a prince that has more reputation than power. In other words, make sure that you are dealing with the person who has the power to facilitate action on your behalf. This can be accomplished by informally asking the person making the recommendation if they are the decision-maker. From this point, arrangements can be made to establish communication with the proper person. And, remember to say what you mean and mean what you say.