Are You an S.O.B?

There was nothing remarkable about the small industrial building as we drove into the company parking lot. It was a brisk November day back in 2007. The leaves had already been raked and the walkways were well groomed. What prompted the memory of that day is Thanksgiving. I’m always prone to reflection this time of year. I guess that’s not unusual.


My son, Marc was working beside me back then, in training to become my successor at Venmark International. Although bright, charismatic, creative, an excellent writer and natural salesman, he wasn’t sure whether my business would be his “cup of tea.” Knowing that from the outset, I prepared a contract which allowed each of us to “bow out gracefully” if either was not comfortable after one year. It was one of the best pieces of writing I ever penned. As a business owner, your first obligation to your employees is to assure them a healthy company. This was the first time I cared more about a particular employee than my company itself.


We introduced ourselves to the receptionist and waited for the company president and his marketing manager in their conference room. They manufactured systems specific to the food processing industry, and I was confident we could help them get exposure and sales leads. It was Marc, however, who setup the meeting and our prospect was not the warmest personality.


After a brief introduction, the president looked at Marc and said, “So, you’re an S.O.B?” We were both puzzled and quizzically asked, “What do you mean?” He said, “S.O.B., you know, son-of-the-boss!” Without further hesitation, his facial expression changed from stern, at best, to something akin to anger and he said, “I was an S.O.B. and my old man’s gone now and that is a good thing.” Marc and I kicked each other under the table as he continued to rant about his father, and then we tactfully shifted the conversation to his products, marketing program, and how we could help them. We left with a Publicity Order and a check to begin a project..


When we got out to the car, I looked at Marc and said, “If you ever felt that way about me it would be the greatest failing of my life!”


Marc may have been a son-of-the-boss, however, when it became clear to me after about eight months that he was not happy and fulfilled working at Venmark, I helped him transition into the proper career for him. It was important that he know that I wasn’t disappointed in him. After speaking with Nicholas Lore, founder of The Rockport Institute in Maryland, I arranged for Marc to engage in a career testing program which was instrumental in helping him recognize what kind of work he should be doing, with what style team, and in what type of environment.


Most importantly, Marc was able to see and feel that his involvement with his Dad at Venmark International was a positive experience overall which helped him further define his career path.


Today, eight years later, he is successful and happy with his career choice, has a wonderful wife and lovely daughter, and our relationship this holiday season has never been better!


© 2015 Steven M. Stroum (with permission to share)

Steve Stroum

Steven M. Stroum, founder and president of Venmark International is a seasoned publicist, marketer, and entrepreneur who has been featured in INC Magazine, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, Industrial Marketing, OMNI Magazine, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, The Middlesex News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other media outlets. He has also appeared on numerous radio and television programs, addressed many business and civic groups, and been a guest lecturer at Boston College, Babson College, MIT, and his alma mater Northeastern University.

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