So, I had a business meeting a few weeks back.
It was supposed to be a great opportunity.
Without going into too much detail, it had consumed a lot of time, meetings and proposal writing. Along with a bunch of spreadsheet work to try and calculate whether it was worth it.
The thing is, there was a problem.
Your personal brand is so important and, as Zig Ziglar says, "Get up, Dress Up, Turn Up". There's something to be said for making a bit of an effort.
I know that it's all cool now-a-days to be 'casual' and have a beard and dress down. Hey, it's #tech. It's hipster. It's #startup scene, right?
Not really. If it's done badly, it's just lazy.
So, we meet early to discuss the meeting, review the proposal we had done a couple of weeks earlier and just have a chat to make sure we were not going to contradict each other in the meeting.
So.. what's my problem??
Well.... I think the question is, "Who do you want to do business with?"
Really. What kind of people do you really want to be investing all that time, energy and resources into. Any lean startup activity is easily an 80 hour week. For at least 6 months to start with.
For me, it's a combination. And I found myself in a room with people who just didn't cut it for me. I am sure they are amazing at their individual job roles. But this deal wasn't something they believed in or really passionately felt for. And it wasn't my job to sell them the dream.
There was so much wrong with the opportunity, the people involved, the mindset, the commercial savvy, the ability to piece it all together - that I am finding it difficult to know where to start. I can't really go into all the detail (maybe it's one for a video at a later date)... but I am sat there thinking:
This could have been shut down weeks ago. The deal is so flawed, it's miserable. If my potential business partner had shared information properly, then we wouldn't be wasting our time. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought, "Maybe he didn't really see through it.". But I also realised he had other agendas - and this project ticked a lot of those boxes for his other businesses.
"Maybe he hadn't given it enough consideration?" I thought. Heck. Maybe I am being too generous and maybe he knew that he wouldn't be the one doing 99% of the work and felt comfortable getting me to do it while it made his other business look better.
Either way, it wasn't reassuring.
On top of that, he just kept banging on about a topic that had already been covered (and, reasonably, shut down by our potential 'client'). It just wasn't happening. Where was his agenda on this? It wasn't core to the success of the project as I saw it at all. This was also wasting time as I tried to get the meeting to a point where a possible deal might be salvageable.
The potential 'client' wasn't really that interested. They were late to the meeting for a start. They had a kinda good reason. But it left me wondering how important the meeting had been to them. And there was no offer of tea/coffee or even water. We sat in a hot, tiny, stuffy room. Luckily, I had a bottle of something in my bag. I utilised it. But, for me, not even offered a drink? Strewth. This really is low importance on the radar.
It seemed to me that the potential 'client' just wanted to get some inconvenient stuff ticked... and thought they could offload that to us with minimum effort, investment or responsibility. It turned out the offering we had might not even work (because they already offered it for free!) and in 3years, the building would be demolished and the site moved - with no real motivation to keep what we had built and no offer of some kind of commitment to keep using us to do it. So, potentially, we build something and it gets binned when they no longer need it. OR... worse.... we build something and they just then do it themselves once we have done all the hard upfront work. None of that smelled like "long term trust" to me.
When I stated that the deal just wasn't going to work commercially on one site as it was too small, they kept their cards close to their chest (they have 9 other sites!). When I asked for some specific numbers, they deflected. When I suggested that this would only work if we replicated the deal across 3-4 of their other sites, they didn't really sound enthusiastic.
Enthusiasm is important. It wasn't forthcoming. Big big warning signs.
And, finally, getting back to the title of the blog, the guy I was potentially putting this deal together with just looked washed out. Just a bit too "dressed down" - bordering on "kinda scruffy"... And it made me wonder whether he really was committed to the level I needed him to be?
So many things became clear in that meeting. Once again, personal learnings at every point.
This wasn't a deal I could spend any more time on. Except to share with the world and try and help other people. If your gut says, "This feels wrong"... It probably is !