It amazes me that I found myself speechless after an interaction at a networking event this week. People who know me know that I am rarely short of words – but this time, I was caught with my jaw hanging and my eyes bugged. After shaking my head many times afterward, I realize that I can use what happened as shared learning out in the blogosphere. Here is what transpired, with a little context first:
I’m part of an entrepreneurial organization that has a monthly breakfast. It meets very early, so you do need to cut people some slack if they are not totally with it at 6:30AM (yep, that is when networking begins.)
Complaints from technology entrepreneurs in the group (for whom the group really started with) often include the fact that there are way too many “service providers” (like me) involved. I’ve always felt that what they mean is that they just don’t like unprofessional service providers – because really, what distinguishes me from a training or consulting counterpart at Google or Microsoft (or other company) is that I left the corporate world but do the same services on my own. What people really don’t like are brazen, thoughtless, promotional services providers.
Today the group met. I had been speaking to a couple of folks, and one of them wanted me to meet someone who, like me, calls on CEOs. As he walked by, my new contact waved him in to meet me.
The first thing this man did was stick his business card in my face and give me his name and company. Since I knew this company vaguely, but couldn’t remember why, I asked him if he had referred someone my way (Because SOMEONE from that organization did). He looked at me, and said, “No, that’s not the way my business works.” Weird first comment to a new potential referral partner…. Smiling, I said, “Are you sure you didn’t refer me some business?” He proceeded to give me the names of two other gentlemen who own a franchise of this company here in the area. Suddenly I realized it was one of the other names.
I immediately told him who it was that had referred me a client – yet I had never met this man. At the same time, I let him know that I was familiar with this franchise he represents.
What did he do next? He started walking away. He said, “Well, you already know about it…” and just walked off – letting me hang there by myself with a dumbfounded look on my face, not sure what just happened.
It was probably the most blatent gesture of self-focused thinking that I’ve seen in a long time.
Did he take any time to ask me who I was or what I do? Did he take my cue when I stated that I recognized his organization, to tell me about how he differentiates himself from the others? Nothing. Nada. Zippo. He just left me hangin.