We’ve recently been going through some vendor vetting at work, which requires a lot of time meeting a lot of people and listening to a lot of things.
The one thing that has struck me over and over again is how often people in the room at these meetings either already know one another from some previous stop in their career, or know some of the same people from previous stops in their careers. I’ve made some new connections, and reconnected with some old ones through this process. I’ve broken bread and had deep geeky discussions over beer with these folks, and maybe, just maybe, I’ve even made a few new friends.
And then, at the end of it all, only one of them is going to win the business. It won’t be personal, and I hope no matter how it turns out that I continue to see these folks and enjoy our conversations when we meet again down the road. Because, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s always possible that we will meet again.
Contrast this with a brief exchange I had at a conference recently. While walking the exhibitor floor I had stopped with a peer who was trying to get some vendor swag to take home to her kids. One of the folks in the booth saw my name tag and where I worked and proceeded to make a pretty snarky remark about a recent RFP bid they had lost with our firm. Mind you, this wasn’t an eDiscovery company, it involved technology that I am not remotely involved with, and an RFP process I took no part in. I reminded him of that fact, laughed it off, and went on my way.
Oh, also, I went back and told my boss about it, and have told a number of folks about it as well. I wasn’t left with a really good impression of said company. I’m pretty likely to share that impression if it ever comes up again, too. Really, that’s the thing. What are the chances that somewhere down the road, someone is going to ask me about either that company, or the guy who made that remark? In the legal tech industry, it is significantly higher than zero.
The lesson, as I’ve said many times, is that you never know when you’ll run into people again in this business. You may not get our business this time, at this firm. A few years from now though, who knows where I’ll be, or where you’ll be? We may find ourselves back in the same place, or we may find ourselves in a situation where I can put you in touch with someone else, or maybe even hire you away, or invite you to speak at an event that helps you attract some new business.
You just don’t know. But we do know that legal tech isn’t so big that any of us can afford to burn too many bridges. I’d recommend only burning the ones you really have to.