The Company You Keep

Saying “No” can sometimes be the best answer.

It’s been said that not all business is good business.  Any businessperson has to decide who do you want your customer to be.  But saying “no” to new business can sometimes be the most difficult two-letter, single-word response to give.  It can also sometimes be the best response.

Although I’ve been in communications for over 40 years, my business would be considered a start-up. I opened my office at the beginning of this year.  But it’s not my first time around.  Michael Kent Communications opened about 13-years ago and closed to return to a previous employer.

Both then, and now – I think the decisions I’ve been most proud of, are the clients I walked away from.

This time around I have plenty of room for growth.  I am actively looking for more clients.  It makes me hungry.  I like to say I’m hungry, but not desperate.  In fact I have turned away more clients than I have accepted. 

When you are hungry for business, it could be considered nuts to reject clients.  But 40 years of working in communications has taught me that I need to work for people who I want to succeed.  

The old adage is very true: “You will be judged by the company you keep.”  You can go to the bible to find support for this. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20.

(I’m not sure you’ll come across the word “walketh” in your travels today, but so glad I could present it to you.)

I believe the business I have rejected, I rejected for all the right reasons.  Two of them could actually have been lucrative national or regional accounts.  I just wasn’t convinced they were on the up-and-up.

I had a bit of an epiphany in considering those potential business opportunities.  I realized I’ve worked for decades to create a reputation that I think is respected.  But that reputation can be precarious.  It can be destroyed quickly if you choose to work with shady people. Not only could I have dragged down, but the decision could have destroyed other organizations that are highly respected.  I chose to walk away.

Instead, my first client I got onboard is Leelanau Christian Neighbors (LCN.)  Recently we had the groundbreaking for a new resale shop called Samaritans’ Closet.  These are people committed to helping families in Leelanau County that have fallen on hard times.  I’ve known some of the people from LCN for years and have been in awe of the work they do.  At the end of the day when I work for them part of the reward is knowing I’m contributing to a greater good.

Volunteers join the groundbreaking for the new Samaritan’s Closet at Leelanau Christian Neighbors.

I also work with Lautner Irrigation in Traverse City and quickly embraced the company and the owners.  They are hard-working folks with a desire service their customers.  Last week we started a new TV ad for their water care services. I get jazzed when I know I can help people succeed that I truly respect.

A new ad for Lautner created for their water care systems.

I can honestly say I respect every one of my clients.  I want to help all of them to prosper.  You bring a different energy to your workday when you give your best effort for people and businesses you hold in esteem.

How can you tell if a massive company should be held in high esteem?  You can always check out their mission statement and values statement, if they have one.  Do they live it?  Do they have high expectations of their people?  Are they centered on making a dollar, or serving their customer?  You can usually tell.

My old boss, Bill Marsh Sr. use to tell me, “don’t worry about making a profit, just do the right thing and you’ll make money.”

I haven’t always worked for people or companies I would consider ethical.  But when I did it made a remarkable difference.  

There are plenty of honorable people running great businesses.  That’s the company I choose to keep.   That’s the company that will keep me excited about going to work every day.  That’s the company that will make long workdays seem short.

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