Dealing with the Double Whammy
My first job as a young boy was delivering the Boston Globe to roughly 30 homes in my neighborhood in Boston. I was 10 years old. I woke up at 6:00 on weekdays, 7:00 on weekends, to achieve the Service Level Agreement (SLA) that the Boston Globe established for its subscribers. I did this for four years. I was my own boss. Upon reaching high school and having a social life that involved evening activities, the feasibility of doing that seven days a week was waning. However, not being afraid to wake up early, I took a job at a Mom and Pop donut shop in Boston, Anna’s Donuts, which is still there by the way. I had my first true boss, Joe, a great guy and great at what he did. A couple years later, when I turned 16 years old and could legally operate a deli slicer, I changed jobs again to work at a Mom and Pop Irish delicatessen. I had another boss, Steve, another great guy and great at what he did.
College came next, and I had various work/study type jobs to have some spending money. Post college, post European travel and post passion pursuits, I took my first “real job” in Consulting in 1995. I worked for several strong supervisors, who were both strong in their field and strong in interpersonal skills. In hindsight, I know that all my work experiences up to this point were not the norm. I was exceedingly fortunate.
In 1996, I was staffed on a project for a large insurance provider and was faced with a supervisor who was extremely good at what he did, i.e. strong business acumen, excellent technology skills, solid communicator with the client, etc. I learned a LOT from him. However, he was a complete jerk to employees. I was wrapping up one Friday at roughly 7:00 p.m., after having worked over eleven hours that day, and over 60 hours that week, for what had been several weeks (maybe months) in a row. I was already told that I needed to work the weekend, so I decided that I physically “needed” to go play basketball at my gym. I needed to decompress, sweat it out a bit, and rally some energy to come back to the client on Saturday morning. My supervisor saw me leaving, while many of my colleagues were still there. He looked at me, saw me leaving and said, “what is this, vacation?”.
It was at this point that I comprised a viewpoint. I can tolerate (to an extent) people who aren’t very good at what they do, provided they exude effort, integrity and humility. And I can tolerate (to an extent) people who aren’t very nice people, provided they are very good at what they do. But what I can’t tolerate is people who have the “double whammy”, i.e. terrible at what they do, and bad people with ill intent. Until 1996, I was fortunate enough in that I hadn’t had to work for anyone with the single whammy, let alone the double. Since then, I have encountered all too many double whammies.
Kenway Consulting was started in 2004, thus ending my time reporting to supervisors. And with it, came a new perspective. I remember hearing a speaker who spoke about the obvious and undeniable right that clients have to fire their vendors. But what truly resonated with me, is that the speaker also spoke about the equal and opposite right that all vendors have, i.e. the obvious and undeniable right that vendors have to fire their clients. It is not intuitive, but it is true. In my time before Kenway, I had not been a witness to seeing a client get “fired”. But what a liberating concept! Now, let me be clear, when I say “client”, I am not referring to an entire company, although that may be the case as well. I am referring to individuals at a client, about whom you may need to make the decision to “fire” them, i.e. choose not to engage in business with them ever again.
Today alone, 3/12/2018 as I write this, Kenway Consulting is in the process of firing two such clients, individuals who work at two of our larger clients who have proven to be completely ineffective at what they do, and who lack integrity and a sense of right and wrong. Classic double whammies. Often times, people like them end up doing things that they believe will somehow cover up their ineffectiveness. Or, they are motivated by things like power, perception and job security vs. simply doing what is right because it is right. In other words, they are behaving a certain way in hopes of steering towards a certain outcome, rather than having concern with how they got there. Similarly, a lot of consultancies would tolerate that type of behavior from their clients as a means to an end, i.e. a necessary evil to make revenue. I am proud of the fact that Kenway will never focus on the end, in this case revenue, and overlook terrible behavior from an unethical person. We will proudly accept less revenue, in order to have self-respect and dignity. We will proudly fire a client, and expose their true nature, recognizing that it could have what many consultancies would call negative consequences. Kenway thinks of these “negative consequences” as outcomes of doing the right thing, nothing negative about it. That is how we deal with the double whammy.