I was introduced to a young man who was starting a company. In the process of our initial conversation, he let me know that he graduated Carnegie Melon with an engineering degree. Therefore, I assumed he was smart. That said, he went on to ask me, “If I was so good at what I do, why do I work with small companies?” The tone of the question was as though if I were any good, I’d be working with larger companies.
If not for the condescending tone, it was a valid question. But this was a young man who had a need to impress me. I finally said to him, “If you spent as much mental energy seeing how I can help you, rather than trying to figure out how I was going to screw you, then perhaps I can help your company.” His arrogance and insecurity were typical of many bright MIT and Carnegie engineers. He was convinced that he was smarter than anyone else (obviously, he really didn’t believe it).
Ironically, he asked if I would consult and show him how to do my job and that he was going to have 15 marketing people within three years. This fellow was already thinking he could do my job better than me, if I taught him how. Early in my career I was Assistant Director of Marketing Training Development for Fireman’s Fund American Life Insurance Company and we didn’t have 15 marketing people on our entire staff!
So, I went on to explain to this young fellow that I worked with small companies because it is very satisfying to have a direct impact their growth and my core belief is that [Growth of small business and enhancement of free enterprise are critical to the welfare of America and our economy].
I shared an experience with one of my first clients, a family owned company in Medfield, Massachusetts in which the father of the president, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “We wouldn’t be here without you.” It was extremely gratifying. I’ve been working for that family business for over 37 years now!
Being valued for making a significant contribution to my clients is what motivates me today. I used to think big companies were great and that making a lot of money was the motivator. I too was 25 years old once.
© 2014 Steven M. Stroum