What happens when companies get big and complacent?
They forget what made them big in the first place – like great customer service, or working hard to carve out a niche and fill an unmet need. Once that spark for excellence flares out, you might as well take that high-flown mission statement down off the wall and line a birdcage with it, because it’s lost its ability to inspire or inform your work.
Take Betts Recruiting – PLEASE.
In case you’re not familiar with Betts, their specialty is matching up sales and marketing job seekers with growing tech companies looking to scale their sales teams. Sounds simple, right? Their website proudly touts their corporate values, and a very glossy and praise-worthy list it is;
- Genuine relationships
- We tell it like it is
- We are collaborative
- We stand for the greater good
- We love what we do.
Well, bravo! I’m down with all that, so it was natural that, as the CEO of a tech start-up, I’d call them when I needed an enterprise sales person in New York. That’s what they do, right? And with such noble ideals!
The account executive that took my call told me that she was “really busy” but that she’d have a business development person call me back. And one did, the very next day.
Briefly, I explained what we do and what it is we’re selling; that we’re looking for our first salesperson in the New York area, which I’m sure will be the first of many. I could hear phones ringing in the background, as this clearly young guy recited what was obviously a familiar script. The first question he asked me, was, “How long have you been in business?”
“Are you a start-up?”
“How much money have you raised?”
“You’re bootstrapping it?”
“I’m sorry, but we don’t work with companies like yours.”
In four questions – four questions – he’d decided I wasn’t worth doing business with.
Mind you, this is a recruiting company - a people-based company – yet that’s how they treat people? First, he has no idea that I have another successful company, because he didn’t bother to get to know me (so much for “genuine relationships”). And while I guess I have to give him props for “telling it like it is”, I wouldn’t call his attitude exactly “collaborative”. Given that he just denied my potential hire a chance to get in on the ground floor of an innovative, fast-growing and well-financed start-up, I can’t see how Betts is doing much to contribute to that unfortunate person’s “greater good”. On the upside, if what this company loves to do is blow off potential clients and make enemies, I guess it would be fair to say that they love what they do. But I certainly don’t love what they did.
I can walk into Harry Winston’s wearing a tracksuit and a stained tee shirt with twelve million to spend on diamonds, or I can sail in, in a Chanel suit without two cents to scratch my ass with. The point is, the staff doesn’t know who I am or what my means might be at first glance – but you can bet that a well-trained salesperson will take the time to talk to me before they start shoving me towards the door. In today’s competitive market place, turning people off is suicide. My company never turns anyone away – never. If their budget is tight, we’ll find a way to work with them, but we don’t blow them off. That’s not how you treat people in the world – not if you value collaborative relationships, much less the greater good. A paying customer is a paying customer, no matter how big or small they are.
And there’s another danger to corporate arrogance at this level, in today’s wired world; you can’t get away with it. People like me aren’t just going to go back to our colleagues and complain about how you treated us; we’re going on line with it and we’re going tell the world what wankers you are. Twitter can topple a government; a photo of a worm in a hamburger can bring a fast-food giant to its knees. Betts, you disappointed me – and I’m here to tell the world.
If any of you reading this know the principals at Betts Recruiting, I hope you’ll pass this column along to them, with a reminder to occasionally dust off that mission statement they’re so proud of. Be careful how you treat people, folks. In business, there’s no such thing as “too big to fail”.