Hurry Up and Wait

When I was a young cub in my first job at Dow Chemical, the sales leadership had a phrase they were fond of saying: hurry up and wait.  While it may have originated as a joke, we meant it literally: we were expected to show up to a customer’s office early, and sit there until they were ready to meet with us.  

I was 22 when I heard that phrase, and like many enterprising young people, sometimes it was helpful to be reminded about how to be respectful to others in the face of my own ambition.

My job was to be there on time.  Their job was to come talk to me when they’re ready.  A healthy relationship with customers and partners was built on a mutual respect for each others’ time.

I heed these words of advice whenever I’m working on partnering with another company.  In order for a deal to come together, a lot of stars need to align: you need to have the right value hypothesis and find someone who cares.  Teams across the organization need to be ready to deploy resources to support the execution of a deal, and sometimes that requires diverting attention from some other priority.

Both organizations need to be ready and willing to receive the value created from the partnership opportunity, and sometimes – most of the time, even – the timing isn’t right.

If you’re dealing with an endless number of leads, then you can’t afford to invest an endless amount to time in a single deal. But if you’re working with a limited universe of customers and partners, you can’t afford not to.  You can’t brute force a partnership into existence.

Staying engaged without applying excessive pressure can sometimes allow opportunities that aren’t ready to be plucked from the tree to fully ripen.  In those cases, get into the organization early, make your presence known, but be patient until they’re ready to receive you. Patience is a virtue – so hurry up and wait.

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