Beer in a Bar

When I was working at Simon & Schuster administering their sales automation projects, I attended the annual user group conference held by our sales automation vendor. I’d attended a couple of these week-long conferences before, but this was the first year I’d gone by myself (from S&S.)

It was also the first time I’d encountered a competitor, in the form of a team from HBJ.

Now, the vendor had put this product together years before. The techs that built it were long gone, and the techs they had at that point didn’t seem to know all the bits nearly as well as I did. (Naturally, since I’d been working with the product longer than they had.) Plus, I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with my job and had started contemplating other options.

So in the course of the meetings and breakout sessions I describe some of the cool things I’ve been doing to the product to get it to do what we need. (Because, the vendor charged exorbitant prices for any customization work, and tended to drag out that work so it took forever.) The Harcourt folks were impressed. They had signed up for the product, and had been told after a short ramp-up period they should be in business.

The rest of us laughed at that, as we’d all heard and experienced that story before. (We referred to the “short ramp-up period” as the Three Hour Tour – you know, from Gilligan’s Island.)

Anyway, their three hour tour had already taken at least six months with no end in sight, and they were looking for options.

So that evening after the last session we schmoozed over the cocktail hour, where I reconnected with other customers I’d not seen since the last conference. When the cocktail hour was over, I intended to return to my room and watch some TV when I was invited to have a beer with one of the Harcourt people.

Hmm… competitor… but beer…

Beer won.

We chatted about some of the difficulties we’d had in implementing the product, and some of the things I’d been able to do for S&S. Later we called it a night and that was, I thought, that.

Fast forward a month, and I’d decided that my future did not entail remaining with S&S. I took the conference attendee list, and composed a letter outlining how my advanced understanding of the vendor’s product made me an ideal consultant to assist their efforts. I fired off the letter, along with my resume, to all the attendees.

Meanwhile, the Harcourt team had returned to the office, and hammered the VP of IT over how they needed help completing the implementation. “We need somebody like the guy I talked to at the bar,” said the Harcourt tech.

The next day my letter and resume showed up on her desk.

Shortly thereafter they flew me down to Orlando, where I had a full day of bizarre round-robin interviews – most of them involved telling me how much I was going to like living in Orlando. I ended up taking the job, and the rest is history.

All because of a beer in a bar.

So I guess the morale of the story is: BEER!

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