04 Sep On Becoming Renegades – Our Journey
In early 1995, John and I gave a keynote address to a Partner’s Conference at PriceWaterhouse Coopers. The PWC Vice Chairmen, who had sort of accidentally happened upon our first book (“What Your Clients Won’t Tell You and Your Managers Don’t Know”) had arranged for the speech and clearly knew very little of what he had gotten himself in to.
After 45 minutes or so, as John was closing the session, I looked at the back of the very large room and noticed the imposing figure of the somewhat gruff, and clearly opinionated, VC steaming up the center aisle, making a beeline for the stage. Timing his arrival perfectly with the onset of the applause (thankfully) he directly confronted John – nose to nose. (By this time, my body is entering full “fight or flight” – with flight the more appealing option, quite frankly.)
My recollection of the conversation goes something like this:
PWC VC: ”I’ve been in this business nearly forty years. I’ve read everything there is to read and talked to every expert out there about successfully managing client relationships in complex professional services environments. Your stuff is unbelievable. How come I’ve never heard of you before”?
John: “I’ll tell you why Jim. Everything I’ve learned about this subject I learned first hand from some of the best managers and practitioners I could find and from the clients they served. We wrote our book and self published it. We never tried to build a big firm – only work with a few clients that we really liked. I cared about three things; 1) Making a decent living to care for my family, 2) Not having a boss to report to, and 3) Having my own airplane to fly fish the best rivers in the country without having to deal with commercial airlines. Frankly, having you know who I was, was not – and is not – on that list of what is important to me. We’re glad you liked it though. Thanks.”
Behold – a renegade is unmasked. Tenacity, as a firm, defines its’ culture.
In the years since then (with apologies to Frank Sinatra) we’ve pretty much done things our own way. At the peak of our energy and enthusiasm, we had 6 partners in Tenacity (aside from John and me, all were former clients). Three are now comfortably retired. We never hired a single employee. One of our clients tried to buy us. Another paid us (quite handsomely) not to do business with any of their competitors (understandable since they credited our Clients for Life® process with saving them over 100 million Euro a few years back). At our peak, we were protecting well over $20 billion in management contract revenues for a select few of the world’s leading service organizations. As Curly (Jack Palance) famously said to Billy Crystal in the movie “City Slickers”, for us, it was all about just this “one thing”. For us, that one and only thing was helping our clients keep the clients they had worked so hard to acquire. We did it really well. Still do in fact, just differently and without the travel or the tyranny of the urgent.
We’ve redesigned our web site (www.clientretention.com). We’re blogging (this our fourth and we hope that it will prove to be our longest). We hope you’ll subscribe – we’ll be out there about once a week with a new one – five paragraphs max. (Disclaimer: Remember though, we were the ones with the Quarterly Newsletter that came out twice a year.) We won’t waste your time – promise. We’ve embraced aspects of social media and we’re building our connections on LinkedIn. Our books are available in eBook formats now (we’ve written our 3rd and last, entitled “Clients Do Dumb Stuff Too”). We look forward to the dialogue.
We will still climb on planes and endure the TSA if you want us to come and speak to your organization (although John is still managing to pass his General Aviation physical.). We are pretty opinionated, even a bit dogmatic though about what we talk about – fair warning. It’s entertaining though and I’m pretty sure that we know more about this one specific thing than probably anyone else in the world and we have a process behind the body of intellectual property that makes it scalable.
And, don’t be surprised if we have our golf clubs with us, by the way (we give deep discounts for access to the Golf Digest Top 100).
Thanks for being a part of this great ride! We’re looking forward to the next chapter.
Steve & John