You Don't Have to Say Yes to Every Favor Called in

Not Every Ex-Client's Third Cousin's Friend Deserves a Meeting

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Peter Madden
Peter Madden
You know the email. "My cousin's friend's sister is about to graduate from Howuadoin University and is very interested in the advertising/social media/PR business. Would you be able to meet with her to give her some insight on the business?"

For years I said yes. I met, I gave advice, I helped. Now I say more often than not: "Nobutthankyouverymuchandgoodluck."

The thing is, minutes and meetings here and there add up to hours upon hours -- if not days! Sure, it feels good to dispense some wisdom. But all that time really adds up, and all those favors turn into nothing more than major distractions from the (many) tasks at hand -- i.e., strategizing, operations and a little thing called making payroll.

Recently a prospect that conveniently disappeared resurfaced only to ask me to do a favor for his freaking nanny. Imagine my response? I wanted to jump through the screen to strangle him but went with my reality: I don't have the time to do those favors for everybody.

His response? Pulled out the violins and cried. What a shame, he said, that I didn't have time for kids that deserve a break.

The letters OMFG were invented and bonded together for just such a moment. If I wasn't a very mature 41 (ha!) I would have sent a pit bull with a biting problem to his office. But that's the world we live in as ad-men and ad-women. We have these cool lifestyles, funky offices and hilarious, witty interactions with each other moment by moment. Thank you Hollywood for what you've done in the past to represent our industry. I think that's the reason people have no problem asking us to meet with their Pilates instructors' dog-walker who would be a great copywriter. They assume we have the time to wax philosophic with everyone under the Tuscan sun.

No, actually. We share the same stress level as any other profession out there. I don't think many people have gotten that memo. I know a number of people across industries from attorneys to real estate developers to financial advisers. They simply don't field nearly the number of queries that my brethren in branding get. This includes informational interviews, marketing professors sicking their students on me for a Charlie Rose style Q&A, playing interviewer in a mock interview session at colleges, and the list goes on.

I'd be flattered but I'm too freaking busy. Maybe when the economy is roaring again, I'll make the time. But for the short-term future, I'm just saying no. I'd suggest the old fashioned non-favor way of getting a leg up, kids: Bust your ass, be persistent, and depend on yourself. You'll get there, I promise, and you can be proud you did it on your own.

As an aside, I am putting together a brief summary of agency life, interviews do's/don'ts and more for those who call on me. It's quick and easy enough to attach to an email and push "send."

And for those who really, really, really want to meet with me, I'd suggest applying some of those people skills and creativity to the task at hand and make it impossible for me to say no.

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