Sometimes you shouldn’t take the deal: John’s story
I’m doing some inside sales training in New England this week, and decided to look up John, an old acquaintance who I thought would be incredibly wealthy by now. I last saw him more than 10 years ago. He was the owner of a successful IT company and he and his wife had just bought a beautiful $million home in Kennebunk, Maine. His new business venture involved call centers in India, and he’d asked me to consider helping with the training. The deal didn’t look like a good fit for me: too much customer service and not enough sales. I didn’t know nearly enough about the ins and outs of doing business in India. Turning it down, I advised him to utilize the services of Barinda, an Indian-American associate of mine, just in case there were “issues” specific to doing business in India.
John never contacted my associate, and he and I moved in our separate directions over the years. I had assumed that his venture had been wildly successful, as he’d been there just when the boom hit. Upon meeting him again, I was certain I’d be hearing about how I really should have gotten involved. But John was nowhere to be found, in Kennebunk or anywhere else. I Googled him.
It turns out that in the early 2000s, John was accused of bouncing a $200,000 check in India, and was jailed for a time. His wife attempted t get him home through the services of a lawyer. And a story surfaced on the internet stating that the U.S. Department of Labor was suing him as well.
John’s beautiful house is history, and he’s apparently no longer in Maine. He has no LinkedIn profile, and his website is all in Chinese. According to WhoIs, he no longer owns it. Perhaps most telling, I’ve not found resolutions to any of these issues through the internet. For all intents, John has vanished.
At the time, turning down John’s working idea seemed plum crazy. I didn’t think John was dishonest, but the idea just didn’t work for my business model. And for years, I’ve been assuming that John made a bundle. I’m telling this story because most of us are optimists. We like to think everyone runs an honest shop and makes good decisions, and we admire the entrepreneurial spirit. Most of the time, we don’t hear about the failures. But like me, much of the time, we just don’t follow up. I still don’t believe John’s dishones. But he appears to have made some errors in judgment. It could have been me or Barinda in jail, if either of us had signed on. Sometimes your best deals are the ones you don’t take. In retrospect, I think John would say the same thing too. That deal was a bad one for him.
What's the moral of today's story? Don’t always focus on the big bucks. Instead, follow your gut instinct, and don’t be afraid to walk away on a deal that just doesn't fit right. Take the risk that the other guy will make the significant money. If you’re in Sales, you may have to make a decision similar to this one every few years. For every Steve Jobs, there are probably more than a few Johns. And they may not even be dishonest, either. Just the wrong place, wrong time, wrong story, and wrong business decision.
Footnote: I’m keeping John’s last name out of the story intentionally to avoid having it showing up on search engines. For corroborating data, see http://www.deseretnews.com/article/994663/Utahn-is-seeking-husbands-liberty.html?pg=all