Here’s a lesson I learned a long time ago but it has served me well.
This happened back in the 80s when the corporate video was considered new and exciting. I worked for a creative media company and, among other things, we had a pretty good video production facility. Naturally, we were always pitching for work.
We knew that a particular government department, called the Manpower Services Commission or MSC (which doesn’t exist any more) used a lot of video production services and, not surprisingly, we did our best to get hired by them. Unfortunately, someone from the MSC told us very clearly, “We can’t use you because you’re not on our list of approved suppliers. Sorry but it’s all rules and regulations here. We have an approved list and we can only use the suppliers on that list.”Naturally, this raised the question of how we could get on the list, which is something we pursued as vigorously as possible. As it happens, we did eventually get quite a big chunk of work out of the MSC. They needed a lot of videos to be shot in and around Leicester, which is where my company was based, and we offered very good terms, so they hired us. Of course, we were glad of the work. I got on very well with the main MSC guy I was dealing with, called Alan. Towards the end of the project, which went very well, I asked Alan a question. I said, “Look, we’re obviously very pleased that you hired us
for this project and we hope you’ll do so again. But can I ask you about something that’s been puzzling us? We were told categorically that you
couldn’t possibly hire us because we’re not on the approved supplier’s list. Yet, here we are!”. Alan smiled and sipped his coffee. “Ah, yes, the approved suppliers list.Yeah, well, I just decided to ignore that.”
Point to Ponder
Lesson: Just because someone says it’s impossible doesn’t mean it is. Rules aren’t flexible but people are or at least can be when it suits them. It’s quite common in business to be told that something
is utterly impossible, and completely out of the question, because of a particular rule or regulation. What several decades of experience have taught me is that this is hardly ever true. Business is about people, not rules. Rules aren’t flexible (by definition) but people can choose to be when it’s in their interests. If someone wants to work with you or to bend’ a rule, they’ll always find a way. Sometimes, as in this story, they just shrug and decide to ignore their own rule!
Extracted from Stories to Learn from by Ian Rowland.
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