The Million $ Dollar $ Phone Call

It’s hard to believe but one phone call  can be worth a million dollars to an organization. In fact this past month 2 phone calls could have been valued at 1.75 mil. It’s true, let me elaborate.

As many of you are aware  my organization is going thru a stage of hyper growth, somewhere between start-up and maturity, we have grown 10 fold in 8 yrs. Our growth rate will continue to average between 20-40% annually for the next 5 yrs. if our projections hold true. That’s important context for the story I am about to share. Recently my team experienced business issues with two of our major vendors. In each scenario the problems were pushed to us via email without a phone call. One was a form letter the other was close to that, as it sounded like a boiler plated response to a business situation.

My expectation for our vendor/partners is identical to the expectations our CEO and leadership places on me as well as my entire team. That is: react and communicate quickly and directly when an issue arises. No excuses, just direct conversation with action steps to resolve the issue at hand. And once the issue is resolved, a follow-up communication (that the situation is ” all clear”). Sounds like most businesses expectations so the fact that our vendor/partners did not react in an expected fashion is concerning if not alarming.

When we confronted the first vendor, who has been our partner for yrs., we were given a response of ” we have informed you there is a problem, please let us know what you will do to resolve it”. To which I threw a Mark hissy fit ( yes my initials are M.F., probably for good reason) with one of my direct reports. TWO WRONGS do not = a right. So I will take responsibility and future action for my response, however the bigger issue was still unresolved. So I did what any slightly pissed off senior executive would do. I call the rep into our office for a meeting with his boss. Now to add a little more context this vendor/partner is very big in the industry. They are used to calling the shots even though we are the client.

The day of the meeting I had our CFO and my direct report responsible for the situation present. The meeting was brutal as I explained our expectations which were simply: a phone call, and suggestions for a resolution on their part. I provided them with  one other important piece of information, that we were a million dollar a year account. I then said to them: ‘Is one phone call worth a million dollars?” A picture is worth a thousand words as the rep and his boss began to sweat. We ended up with a resolution, some promises for better service in the future and a few kickers to make up for a very embarrassing moment.

The second vendor has been doing business with us for less time, maybe 10 months. There response time to issues has been less than stellar and if I were to grade them it would be a “C” at best. They are a leader in their industry so we know they are capable of better service. Again we scheduled a meeting on the phone with sales and sr. support management to resolve our issues. Again I pointed out that we would be approaching 750K in billings for the coming yr.

Guess what?, Same Holy Shit moment for the vendor. They admitted they had no idea how big an account we had become. Now come on, is that something that I or my team really needs to remind a vendor? As a result of our call we now have a renewed and engaged relationship. The vendor/partner is no longer taking us for granted and we have weekly calls and immediate response to any and all issues brought to them.

Immediately the context of our meeting changed. When you stop and think of it every relationship has a value of some sort attached. In business you can usually quantify it and a seven-figure number is quite big to any business.

So is the learning from these two similar issues? One might say size and scale has value and you should leverage it.

My real learning is this, expect and demand exactly what is expected and demanded of you…Action, partnership, results, no excuses, and A PHONE CALL.

Oh, I forgot to mention it’s just as easy to place 1 phone call to attain a new  vendor/partner as it is to receive one. It could be worth a million dollars!


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