It's HOW you play the game that matters

When Terry Fallis and I founded Thornley Fallis, we were two guys working on folding banquet tables in borrowed space. And we set out to create the kind of company that we’d really like to work at. A place that reflected our values.

Well, it’s 16 years later – and I just had one of those “back to the future” moments.

I was part of a team pitching a potential new client. We really wanted the business. But we also saw that there were problems with the way the potential client had spec-ed the Request for Proposal. So we proposed an approach that we thought was right for them. And it didn’t match 100% the things they had said they were looking for in the RFP. The senior officer at the table called us out on this and we had a good discussion about why we had proposed the approach we had. A really good discussion. At the end of it, he said our approach would make demands on his organization that he wasn’t sure they were ready for. He didn’t say that we weren’t going to be selected. But he did give us an honest response to our honest advice.

And then it happened. The other client representative in the room leaned forward and told us that he recalled reading our founding principles many years ago (when he worked for us; yes, it’s a small world.) He remembered that one of our founding principles was: “Give the client the advice they need, not the advice they want to hear.”

Whuff! One of those moments that remind you it’s about walking the talk. Doing what you say you want to do.

I’d love to win the account. I don’t know if we will. But I do know this: You have to really believe that it’s HOW you play the game that matters. Be true to your principles and have faith that you’ll get your fair share of wins in the long run.

  • Joe, I think you are absolutely right. 

    When I was going to Algonquin College we went through the entire RFP process in one week to experience the “real world” PR. 

    My team and I worked hard and came up with a great idea. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t quite go along with the client’s original idea. We felt the original idea was lacking potential and found our idea would bring more awareness and sales to the company. 

    My teacher, Stephen Heckbert, called us on it. As young students, we tried to force an answer that made it seem that the two ideas mixed, when really they didn’t. I will never forget Stephen’s last words when he evaluated our performance. 

    He said: “If you would have told me my company’s idea sucked and your idea was better, I would have hired you.”

    I am no longer afraid to express my opinion, even if it means telling someone they are wrong. Because sometimes clients and people alike don’t know what they want until they hear it.  

  • Terry Fallis

    Nice, Joe. All of our founding principles are important, but I particularly feel strongly about the one you cite in your post.