How far would you go to win? How far do you need to go? How far is good enough? Every consultancy firm has a sacred fear of coming in a close second, to get the call that says “It was fabulous, we loved the team… but.” The “but” that kills. The “but” that tells you your competitors were quicker, smarter, better and used better tactics. They got to the client at an angle you did not see, using language you did not consider, using a plot you omitted to explore. They were more daring, more creative. They swirled around faster, with all their weight on the front foot, delivering a killer hook. They were Machiavellian in their approach, using what it took to win.
How far would you go to nail that important contract triumphantly at the barn door of your office? It takes more than a nicely dressed war room and some shiny white boards to win these days. Great corporate hair and a fashionably cut suit do not get you in the charts anymore. Neither does the BMW3 series.
My grandfather was a self-made man, a successful entrepreneur. He educated me with John Wayne. “See that sheriff?” my grandfather said. “Every time he walks out that door into that street at sunset to confront the villain he knows he needs to win – if he wants to live, if he wants to come back. As long as you do the same, you’ll be fine. Go, but go to win. Do burn bridges, you’ll fight harder.”
I was recently given the book “Market Forces,” by Richard Morgan, which paints a pitch black view on the corporate world in the very uncomfortable close future. Consultancy firms respond to pitches from global corporations. Over time these tenders are fought more and more grimly. From showing up with the best team and the best proposal, to showing up first… to, well, showing up alive basically.
In “Market Forces,” tenders and pitches are fought out on the road, on the way to the client. Pitch teams kill off weaker opponents on the deserted highway to the pitch. No rules. No witnesses. The quickest reflexes and the biggest cojones win. Competing consultants only stop to collect the bloody plastic corporate nametags from their dying opponents. Clients get the consultant that has proven to be the last man standing, through natural selection. The consultant that goes the extra mile and lives wins. Darwin would be proud.
“Show up early, with blood on your wheels… or do not show up at all.” Market Forces might be caricaturing it, but it’s more reality than you think: are you John Wayne enough to kick your opponents out of the meeting room?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll sweet-talk my boss into getting me bigger wheels.