A few years ago Wes and I went to the National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show in Chicago. We’ll never go again for these reasons. But while we were there, a very interesting thing happened. A guy we had never seen spent quite a bit of time hanging out at the booth directly across from us. He didn’t work for that company, but he is a consultant and liked to bring his customers by their booth to introduce them to that particular exhibitor.
He would typically have four or five people with him, and he would linger behind them as they listened to the exhibitor, which meant he was lingering very close to our booth. In fact, since the isles aren’t very wide (at least not in the way back bowels of the smaller of the two exhibit halls, where we were stationed), he was lingering pretty damn close to our booth. Close enough that traffic was clogged up and quite a few folks turned and walked in the other direction.
Anyway, not far along into the first day, we overheard the group mention something about “scheduling” and our eyes lit up. “Hey, sounds like they’re going to speak with us next.” But the annoying, lingering, traffic clogging consultant promptly mentioned our competitor’s name, and told the group to follow him. They disappeared around the corner.
It was as rude and disrespectful of a gesture as was possible. Wes and I stared at each other in total disbelief, and we had to hold each other back from following the guy and telling him to go … well, I’ll save the profanity. But you get the point.
Needless to say, we remembered that guy very well and we hoped to never see him again. But alas, just a few months later, I was invited into a meeting about a potential partnership with some folks here in Charlotte, and as I walked into the conference room and looked up, this scene from “The Empire Strikes Back” quickly flashed through my mind…
That’s right, our buddy was seated at the table already, awaiting my arrival. I literally thought my jaw was going to hit the floor when I saw him sitting there. Like Han Solo, I wanted to escape but I was trapped. I sat down and listened to what these folks had to say, though I’ll confess that since I already knew the meeting wasn’t going to lead to anything for us, I spent the hour imagining how I was going to be frozen alive and then eventually rescued by Wes, Tyler and Charles. Then we would strike down our foe…
Joking aside, and I’ll spare you why he was there and what the meeting was all about, this story leads me to one of several reasons we don’t like the idea of partnerships: you never know what your potential partner’s true agenda is.
I got lucky because I knew at least one of the people in that room did not have our best interests at heart. I have no idea what would have happened had we pursued that partnership. Would that guy have tried to sabotage us? Would he have passed along sensitive information to our competitors? Or would he have come around and been a true advocate for us? Anybody’s guess is as good as mine, but thankfully we got lucky and never had to find out.
This post is long enough, so I’m going to make it Part I of “Why we don’t partner with anybody.” More to come.