Blowing off steam Featured

5:51am EDT March 28, 2002
Hubert Humphrey was called the Happy Warrior because he never lost his sense of purpose or his sense of humor, even when battling tremendous political odds.

Why the history review? I feel like a happy warrior today. My causes are not of such importance as those of 1960s politics, but I continue to work and smile in spite of difficult circumstances. Let's leave the above thought for a moment to talk about lawyer jokes. I really like them. I particularly like the one that goes, "There are no lawyer jokes, they're all real." As a consultant, I am less enthusiastic about consultant jokes, but I know some pretty good ones.

I even give new clients a dartboard target with a consultant as the bull's eye, for I know at some point they will become frustrated and want to do unkind things to their trusty consultant. Better to a dartboard than to me. There are many lawyer and consultant jokes, yet a dearth of client jokes. You know, maybe, "How can you tell when a client is blowing smoke? His lips are moving."

I never have to invent a situation to write about. I just draw upon daily events. Some are wonderful, such as when a client has great success. Others are less fun and generally end up with me pontificating on best practices, how to avoid pitfalls, the state of private equity or the like.

Here's where the preface about the happy warrior, the reference to client jokes and real life work experiences begins to coalesce. One of my clients is a dream to work with, and the company is smoking. The client listens, thinks, then acts in a timely manner. This start-up is attracting the attention of some major players, and we're having a blast shaping, modeling and, we hope, growing this company. Right now, on this engagement, life is good.

A second client, also with a terrific value proposition, is a total pain. This start-up has executives with proven money-making ability and a great value proposition, but they are cantankerous, egotistical and slow to pay.

I told them that, as their consultant, I should want to be their strongest advocate. I should want to pound the table, if not jump up on it, and shout to the early stage community how wonderful this business is. I should want to, but I don't really feel like doing so. Yet as a professional, I will, even though they behave like jerks.

The happy warrior in me loves to battle for my clients' success. Even the occasional jerk of a client gets my best effort. But would it be too much to ask for at least a few good client jokes?

Erwin Bruder (ebruder@primcapital.com) is managing director of emerging enterprises for Cleveland-based Prim Capital Corporation. He can be reached at (216) 830-1111, ext. 2220.