Just before giving up on corporate America for good, I was heavily recruited for the VP of marketing job at Atheros, a late-stage startup and early Wi-Fi innovator. I knew the technology was hot and was sure that the company would make it, so when I say I wanted that job, I’m not kidding.

After interviewing with the senior leadership team, the CEO, Craig Barratt (now a Google SVP), said I was their guy and he was going to “fast track” me through the process, get me set up with a couple of board directors – as is typically done with a key executive hire – and seal the deal.

So I met with the founder, the two top VCs backing the company, and everything seemed hunky dory. Except for one thing. I never heard from them again. Not a peep from the company or the executive recruiter who had aggressively courted me for this particular opportunity. Not even an email.

Of course I circled back to them but all I got was radio silence.

They soon hired someone else for the job, so either the CEO jumped the gun or one of the VCs nixed me. It happens. In any case, they should have been straightforward or at least followed up. Going dark like that, especially with a senior level candidate the company actively pursued, is pretty uncool. Come to think of it, it’s about as low class as you can get.

That sort of thing was rare back in the day but it’s happening more and more.

Fast-forward a dozen years or so to the present day. The CEO of a relatively small but fast growing software company contacted me out of the blue about a management consulting gig. We did a call, it seemed to go swimmingly, he asked for a proposal, I sent that along, and that was it. Zilch.

You know, I wouldn’t have cared if he emailed to say, “Hey dude, your hourly rate is astronomical, especially considering what an enormous jackass you are, so we’re going to pass.” I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but to me, that’s just business. That’s closure. At least then I can move on.

But no. Instead I got nada. Low class.

I’m currently searching for a publicist for my upcoming book. I haven’t made a choice yet, but when I do, you can bet that I’ll circle back to every single firm that took the time to chat. To me, that’s just good work ethic. It’s the right thing to do. It’s good karma. It’s served me well over the years. And it only takes a minute.

In this world, what goes around really does come around. Little things have a funny way of making a big difference. Have a little class and do the right thing. Believe me; it’s well worth it.

(Image credit MTV Jersey Shore)

  • Steve Tobak

    Share your stories … we’ve all got some!

  • Allen Grey

    Steve,
    I agree with you. I think that people have forgotten the importance of ‘simple common courtesy.’ It seems like people are so wrapped up in “ME” (#themselves @ Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) that they have lost ‘something’ at the personal level and this loss is carrying over into they way they interact with people at the professional level.

    Think about it. How many times do you say “Thank you. I appreciate the help/info/item” verses how many times it is said to you? Or “Excuse me”, or “Pardon me” or the biggie “Thank you for your help/business/time”? Communication seems to be very unilateral anymore.

    Getting shopped, or dropped, ‘take a pass’, or whatever due to sticker-shock is just part of doing business. No problem. But why companies don’t bother to circle back, like you said, with a simple “Thanks for your time and effort. But we have decided to go in a different direction/with a different firm” is beyond me. 15 second of typing in an email…that’s it.

    Your story is all too familiar. I have found myself in the same position too many times to admit lately. But here’s one that may be interesting.

    Ok…I’m a federal government contracting SME/consultant with 20+ years of experience. I’ve helped company’s win more than $145M in primary contracts over the last 6 years — so i am pretty darn good at what I do. And there aren’t many folks that do what I do at the level I operate at. No ego…just fact.

    Anyway, I was recently solicited by the founders of a tech company in Seattle to help them get a handle on their fledgling government business development division. Ok nothing new there. They asked for a proposal — which I spent 2 days preparing — and which I sent off to them within the week. I was very interested in the firm, so I was even willing to flex my rates a bit because the back-end of the deal looked very good — much like the firm you mentioned.

    Well, they got back to me only once for some clarification and further detail. They told me about how they were dealing with VC’s, really needed my help and were ready to pull the trigger — so everything sounded great. Then nothing. I circled back twice and still nothing. Dead air. It was truly unbelievable.

    Well that was about 8 months ago.

    To put it in perspective…they have a VP, District Manager, 3 federal IT sales engineers and 2 active sales people working the federal marketplace. Between expenses, “stop-in consultants,” benefits and salaries, they are spending at least $1.2M a year on this venture.But guess what? No federal contracts or sales in the last eight months. ROI = $0.00.

    When it comes to federal market development and contract acquisition (and as an old farmer I used to work for would say) it is clear that “they can’t find their butt with both hands and a flashlight.”

    What’s worse (and admittedly a bit dimwitted) is that while I was waiting on them to pull the trigger, I started to think of them as my ‘client’ and continued to do my homework. Yup, i know better, but I couldn’t help it. But it gets better.

    While I was waiting, I set up meetings with several agency buyers (you know, the folks who actually hold the checkbook) interested in what my ‘client’ had to offer. But when i didn’t hear back from the ‘client’ for more than a month (the founders were ‘traveling’), I had to cancel the meetings with profuse apologies.

    Here’s the thing. Those agency buyers represented more than $3.5M in first year sales, with follow-on buying and service contracts going up by 35-40% over the next five years. Gone.

    People often ask me what my secret is to easily opening doors and getting meetings at the federal level. When I tell them it is one rule and two simple phrases my Mom and Dad pounded into my head as a kid…they don’t believe me.

    “Always say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’, And ‘Always treat others the way you want to be treated’.” — Thanks Mom & Dad.

    Thanks again for your post. Didn’t mean to ramble on so much. But you can tell, this topic is a pet peeve of mine.
    All the best
    Allen Grey

    • The reason why they cannot write a short letter is because they are into writing long letters.