I guess we have all had speeches or events that have inspired us. But this one set new heights and levels of motivation. In 2001, my business at the time was turning over approximately $1m and only had two customers. We were struggling in our newly formed business.
We approached a potential client company who we knew had the ability to give us some work. The company had been recently acquired by an American company and they had a new CEO who was also American. My partner and I decided to make a pitch to get some business from them and we setup a meeting a couple of weeks later. He gave us 20 minutes of his time and on the appointed day we caught the lift to the sixth floor and sat in his waiting area where there were a couple of gate keepers. Some 30 minutes passed the anointed time. We were ushered into this huge office that was 40 times our little home office and directed to a small round table in the corner, with two seats against the wall and a third facing them. We shook hands, I commenced the normal pleasantries of an introduction meeting. There was a limited exchange and we got down to business quickly. We presented our pitch, but it rapidly became obvious that he was not interested.
After about five minutes, he then commenced a speech on the world according to him and preceded to tell us that he had heard about our “little” business. He also told us that he viewed us as competition and that he would make the decision as to whether we stayed in business or not. He would keep us like mice in the corners, drip fed with occasional work, but if we dared to grow too big, or in any way talk to his customers, he would see to it that our business did not survive. Both my partner and I listened with manners and respect and our shoulders progressively drooped as we realised the impact of what he was saying. Certainly, we believed he had the power to do as he was outlining.
We tried to engage in discussion to explore opportunities, but it was obvious that our 20 minutes was approaching the end and he thought he had given us enough time.
We then stood up and looked him in the eye and shook his hand, while we both inwardly tried to think of words to say. As we made the long walk through the ballroom of an office we tried to leave with some dignity and professionalism, while all the time a slow burn was starting to happen.
Both my partner and I got into the lift and our initial reaction was crest fallen, destroyed and shaken. However, by the time the lift had reached the ground floor there was an energy and power and drive that came and exploded from the gut. There was a feeling of, “Who does he think he is?”, but more than that there were expletives and vociferous words that were igniting both of us.
We used the negative energy of his words to create a power and drive that enabled our business to grow into a national enterprise turning over $65m in seven years and employ over 300 people with five operating companies. He never really had the power to crush us, it was within our power to succeed or not.
Over the decades I have heard many powerful, motivation speeches by many, but those 10 minutes enabled a power and drive be developed like no other.
Thank you, Mr CEO! You will never know the power of your words.
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