First client stories stick in our minds, because it’s where everything started. You remember every detail of that time, when you were so nervous about starting out (or maybe you weren’t nervous, but cocksure and brimming with confidence) – and they’re fun to share. Here’s a First Client story of mine, from my first entrepreneurial ‘thing’ – an HR consulting business I started in 1997.
I was calling people from my Rolodex, all sorts of contacts in enterprise, in academia, old work-mates, old school-mates….and I reached a gentleman who had completed a strategy consulting project in my old employer while I was working there. In other words, when I was a corporate HR person, we’d used this man and his team to conduct a strategy project for us. I had been impressed by him. So I called him up and let him know that I’d left the company and gone on my own. He was very enthusiastic. “Come and see me!” he said. “I’d love to,” I said. “When would be a good time?”
“Right now!” he replied. I was in my nightgown. I had my six-week-old son in the baby carrier next to me. “Well, I could get there quickly,” I said, “but I have a newborn with me. Would it be better to schedule a time when I can have my babysitter watch him?” “Ah, no, bring him along!” said my colleague. “I love babies.” Now, this is an older gentleman – I mean 15 years older than me, or more, and I felt a little awkward, with the baby carrier and the diaper bag and all that gear that you have to bring along. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So off we went. I will say I was nervous. I hadn’t pictured my first prospective-client meeting taking place with a six-week-old in tow.
And listen to this – about a half hour after we started the meeting, the baby woke up and was hungry. At six weeks he wasn’t entirely used to the bottle, and you know how it is with newborns – a lot of them will take a bottle from Dad or the babysitter, but not from Mom. They want the good stuff! So, I lift up the baby and let him nurse while the two of us businesspeople keep talking.
That relationship (with the man, not the baby, silly!) led to tons of consulting work and a wonderful partnership. It gave me a lot of confidence, also. Leaving the corporate world because of a merger (it WAS my choice, but I wasn’t sure that people would perceive it as my choice, one more thing to be insecure about) and having a new baby made me feel somehow less-than-legitimate as a Seasoned Professional Advisor, and working on projects for the gentleman who liked babies was a huge help. What’s the moral of the story? Strike while the iron is hot? Substance is more important than mommy-dragging-baby-and-gear appearances? You decide.
In the meantime, let’s hear YOUR First Client story. Spill! Use the Comment Box below to tell us how it went down.