It was a pretty normal day until I got THE phone call …
It was 10 AM on a Tuesday and my day had just started with two cups of coffee and a review of my schedule. When the phone rang I absentmindedly answered.
“Good morning, Melanie Rockett speaking.”
The conversation that followed did NOT go as expected.
After introducing himself and reminding me that we had worked together previously, Henry, (names have been changed to protect the innocent) asked if I was available to work on a project — IMMEDIATELY.
Though he emphasized immediately, I knew that immediate is one of those slushy words that have different meanings to different people. I asked … “what do you mean by immediate?”
He hesitated and without clarifying, asked if I had time in my schedule to work on a project for the next 4 days.
Since I had just looked at my schedule, I said … “sure, I could clear my schedule for four days, what is this all about?”
“We need to talk to you right away. I can have a car pick you up in 45 minutes.”
Henry went on to say the job would last four to five days and he suggested that I could expedite things by packing an overnight bag.
At that point, I was “amused,” and curious. I couldn’t conceive of anything being that much of a rush and since Henry worked for a Federal Government Department I KNEW that everything would quickly turn to slow-moving molasses.
“OK,” I said, send the car, I’ll be ready.
I always have an overnight bag packed and ready to go, so it took one minute to get it out of my closet. Since the Feds dressed really nicely, I decided to change into a kick-ass suit instead of showing up in jeans and I phoned my Wednesday appointment to reschedule for the next week.
When I got to the offices. Henry was waiting at the door and escorted me into the Director’s office. Nancy introduced herself and said I came very highly recommended. She asked if I wouldn’t mind signing a non-disclosure document before she told me about the “project,” because the project was classified.
Nancy then told me they needed help. They had been informed that a full project brief had to be ready for a Cabinet meeting, in Ottawa (the other side of the country) the following Monday. She also informed me that they thought they had six months to get this document ready, so at this point, all they had was an outline.
NOTE: At this point in time, there were computers, but you didn’t just fling document files via email. The cloud didn’t yet exist.
I am pretty sure the look on my face was something out of a horror movie because she quickly told me that the team of 5 engineers, an architect, and 3 assistants had been sent home to get their overnight gear.
I know the look on my face must have morphed into an even worse look of horror because she quickly went on to say that her staff would absolutely follow my instructions and that they’d been briefed.
She stood and put a contract in front of me, said she’d give me a few minutes to think about it and walked out.
I’ve got to tell you … I was FREAKING. I knew what project documents looked like — FAT and heavy. I also knew a bunch of Engineers most often meant … TROUBLE.
Though I LOVE challenges, nowhere in the contract was any mention of “money.” So when Nancy came back I told her I had NO idea how to even begin to estimate a contract price. She said, “trust me, we’ll take care of you.”
Are any lawyers reading this? Did you just call me CRAZY? Yeah, I know.
I had less than 96 hours to produce a document, make 50 copies and get them on a military jet to Ottawa.
I divided the document into 3 sections and had the staff assign themselves to work on the sections.
24 hours in.
The engineers were arguing over details. I told them there was NO time to debate details.
48 hours in.
I had asked for decisions. These decisions would have taken them six months to work their way through. I told them they HAD to decide now. They wouldn’t.
I called them all into the meeting room and told them that if THEY didn’t decide, I would. I asked them if they REALLY wanted ME to decide? I also told them I knew from experience that their document would be skimmed over by cabinet ministers who knew nothing about the project. I said that NO project I’d ever worked on was the same at the end, as it was at the beginning.
I said. “Just DECIDE. When you have a go ahead on the project, then you can argue about the details.”
50 hours in.
I found a cot and slept for 4 whole hours while they were deciding.
98 hours in:
We made it,
we made the deadline, and
we all went home to sleep.
I didn’t write a WORD. I was the taskmaster who made sure the document was coherent, made sense, included everything that needed to be there. I forced decisions.
I made six enemies over four days and didn’t care. They could thank me for it later. The support staff tried to hide their smiles.
Several days later, I went back to the Director’s office for a wrap-up meeting.
I was curious to find out what “trust me, we’ll take care of you,” actually meant.
Federal Government consulting fees are among the highest in the country. Double rates click in after 12 hours. Triple rates click in after 24 hours. I had clocked in 100 hours with eight hours of on-the-job sleep.
My contract fee is included in the non-disclosure document I signed. It was by FAR the most I’d ever made in a week … ever!
So what does this have to do with business cards?
I took Henry out for lunch several weeks later. In the meantime, I looked him up in my project files.
We had previously worked together EIGHT years before his phone call … and the project we worked on had been canceled due to in-house politics.
I asked him … Why me? Why did you call me?
He pulled out an OLD business card. On the card he had written. WOW! Along with the words … cuts through fluff.
My business card had sat in his Rolodex for eight years.
When the Director asked “who can do this job?” he remembered me and found my card and told her I would make it happen.
That job led to ten more years of contracts — the classified facility was built — dozens of other documents had to be written.
ONE business card.
Ten years of work.
Over $300K in contracts.
IF you are in business, you NEED business cards:
- Give them to everyone
- If you are in a meeting with ten people, hand out 10 cards
- Make sure the cardstock can be written on
- Make sure the card stock is heavy (do NOT produce them on your own printer)
- Attach your card to every document and every proposal you send out
- Don’t use obscure, meaningless logos … use a symbol that is easy to identify and understand. My cards have an old-fashioned quill pen. It screams “writer.”
- Order your cards 1000 at a time, so that you aren’t stingy with them
- Give a dozen cards to each of your friends, and ask them to give them out freely
I KNOW people have smartphones, go ahead and tap … but also give them a card.
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