We finished our lunch with Meredith and thanked her for her time. After the usual departing pleasantries, she did something I admired.
“Well, how’d I do?” she asked.
Matt’s eyes widened and I laughed. A direct question deserves a direct answer.
“Personally, I think you’ve got good experience and good insights.”
“But Matt and I need to talk about the impact of a third partner, and whether or not we believe you could work the way we work. Leaving a safe corporate nest for the world of consulting is a big change. We at Marlowe can be a bit rough around the edges and we have big expectations of each other, and the folks we work with.”
“How can I prove to you that I can contribute and want to work as part of your team?”
I knew I liked her. It was a good question. How can you prove yourself if you aren’t given a chance to do so?
“Tell you what” I said. “Can you arrange to take a vacation and join us as a spectator on one of our projects? Then you can see for yourself how we work and what our expectations would be of you. At the end of that, if you are comfortable with us, and we with you, we’d offer you the position.” I glanced at Matt for this last bit, checking to see if he was on board. The slight tilt of his head assured me he was.
“I’m interested and I’d be willing to do that. How soon can we make it happen?”
“I’ll be in contact with you in two or three days. We’d need to identify the right client. As soon as I think we’ve got the right opportunity, we’ll let you know. If you haven’t heard from me by next Friday, give me a call.”
“Thanks, Mr. Marlowe. I’m very interested in working with your firm. I don’t want to seem pushy but I’d like to arrive at a decision quickly.”
“I understand, and I appreciate your directness. As I said, I will find an opportunity for you to come in and work with us, and we can take the decision from there.”
I turned to go to Matt’s car. Matt caught me and walked stride for stride down the sidewalk. “What project can we bring her into that will give her the sense of what we do?”
“I don’t know which would be best, but I like her style and we can use her skills in several clients we have currently. Do you have any reservations about her?”
“Same as yours. It can be tough to make the jump from corporate life to the life of a consultant, but she’s got good presence and clearly understands market research and ethnography.”
“So what do you think? Should we just make her an offer now?”
“Yes” That pulled me up short. Matt had walked on several paces before he realized I had stopped.
“You were dragging your feet on this just a few days ago. Did she do so well over lunch that she changed your mind?”
“Look, number one, she’s got the skills. Two, she’s even better in person than on the phone. Three, we tell our clients to be decisive and make the decisions that are evident. Why shouldn’t we take our own advice?”
What can you say when the evidence falls out in such a compelling way? I shrugged and nodded. We continued on to the car.
That afternoon I called Meredith and offered her the job, if she wanted it, without any other conditions. After some negotiation over salary and start date, she accepted. Now, Marlowe Innovation had two senior partners and one junior partner, and the capability to deliver an entirely new set of insights to its customers.
Jeffrey Phillips is VP Marketing and a lead consultant for OVO Innovation. Jeffrey has led innovation projects for Fortune 5000 firms, academic institutions and not-for=profits based on OVO Innovation’s Innovate on Purpose™ methodology. The Innovate on Purpose methodology encourages organizations to consider innovation as a sustainable, repeatable business process, rather than a discrete project.
Jeffrey is the author of “Make Us More Innovative,” a book that encompasses much of the OVO Innovation methodology, and blogs about innovation at Innovate On Purpose. He is a sought after speaker and has presented to corporations, innovation oriented conferences, and at a number of universities. In 2010 he chaired the Innovate North Carolina conference and was a keynote speaker at Queen’s University, University of the Pacific, UNC and several other colleges and conferences. Jeffrey has an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Virginia.