The Peanut Principle

In the neighborhood where I grew up, there were dozens of kids.  We never had any difficulty finding 15 or 16 guys to play baseball in the summer; I have wonderful memories about my childhood and all my friends. 

There was one kid in our neighborhood that pretty much everyone considered as “cool,” his name was Peanut.  Peanut was the embodiment of cool and everyone wanted to be his friend.  My brother and I were part of Peanut’s “inner circle” for a long time.  My brother was even honored to spend the night at his house, well, he tried to but called home and asked my dad to pick him up because “Mr. Peanut got mad and was yelling at Peanut,” and my brother said he was “a scared.”

But then one summer something happened.  A rumor had begun to circulate that we were no longer considered one of Peanut’s friends.  We knew this was a mistake; Peanut was a good friend and so we called him and said, “Meet us on the hill, behind Kenny’s garage so we can ask you something.”  My brother and I made our way over to the designated rendezvous location and found Peanut and Kenny standing there waiting for us.  Peanut had a long piece of straw in his mouth, and was looking his typical cool self.  We asked him point blank, “Are we still your friends?”  Without hesitation, he said, “I say-a nay.”  What?!  I say-a nay?!   My brother and I just looked at each other astonished.  Peanut just turned and walked away, Kenny looked at us in disgust and walked away too.

We had no idea what happened, we had done nothing that was uncool that would cause Peanut to boot us out of the exclusive friendship.  We could do wheelies on our bikes, we spit a lot, and we were both considered two of the fastest kids in the neighborhood…it just didn’t make sense.  Over the next several weeks, we would meet Peanut in the same location and ask the same question, again and again he would say the same thing, “I say-a nay.”  Then one day we were standing on the hill behind Kenny’s garage and we asked the question and Peanut said, “I say-a yea.”  Oh, joy of joys, the words we had waited for so long.  My brother and I were so happy, we went home grabbed our coffee can of marbles and proceeded to spend the next several hours playing marbles in Peanut’s front yard.

Recalling this memory, I realized that my brother and I applied some good business principles to the situation.  When we heard the rumor, we didn’t lollygag, we called for a meeting with the top nut.  We didn’t beat around the bush either; we asked him just exactly what was on our mind.  While it wasn’t the answer we were hoping for, we knew where we stood.  We didn’t get into name calling when things didn’t go our way either (okay that was probably because Peanut could kick our butt).  The point is we didn’t burn any bridges with the neighborhood king.  Finally, we understood the importance of persistence, but more importantly, persistence with the decision maker.  We could have focused our attention on his lackey, Kenny who may or may not have transferred the correct information to Peanut. 

We all get bad news in business, but how it is handled is important.  You can let the rumors continue to circulate and take on a life of their own or you can go directly to the source immediately and break bread.  Many times people will get angry when they get bad news from their client or prospect and say something stupid to them like, “oh yea” or something equally profound, but angry outbursts will sabotage your long-term objectives.  A cool head must prevail, understand both the perception and facts regarding the situation, and then deal with it professionally.  Never burn your bridges in business because you never know when you will get a new and perhaps better opportunity with that prospect.

We never did find out why Peanut gave us the cold shoulder that summer, it may have been an unfounded rumor.  What he saw in us perhaps dispelled those rumors when he saw two brothers that were committed to the neighborhood and continued to show genuine interest in the friendship we once enjoyed.

Have you fallen out of favor with a client?  Did you not get a project that you thought you were going to get?  It is important to stay in front of them and ask them how you can improve so when the next project opportunity comes along you will be able to again work together.

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