Enemies, Rivals and How to Have Neither

chess rivals

When I first moved here in high school, a girl I met told me, “This city is a town of 600.”

At first, I didn’t understand, but I eventually came to the conclusion that six degrees of separation are real, and everyone knows everyone else, somehow. That’s as true for industries and channels as it is for cities. In any one business sector, we all know one another, often for decades.

When I moved out of AV into (primarily) telecom, I felt weird walking away from all those business contacts I’d built over the years, lonely, even. I mean, I still know them, mostly. We (kind of) keep in touch, but we don’t interact constantly the way we used to.

In the intervening years, I’ve built a whole new list of contacts where I am now, and many of them are my friends.
I make a big point of trying to get along with everybody. It’s not always easy or even possible. But it’s important to be graceful about it and not generate drama where none needs to exist.

Recently, I did a store visit to a branch office of one of my dealers. I bring this up because when I got there, I realized that everyone working there used to work for one of my other dealers.

A couple of them made some snide comments about their former employer. I just smiled, nodded and empathized. I didn’t participate because, first of all, it’s none of my business. However, I did listen attentively. You never know when actionable intel will reach your ears or where it may come from. I learned long ago that if you are attentive and polite and let other people do all the talking, they will often tell you things they weren’t supposed to. But I digress; that’s a topic for another day.

That recent store visit reminded me of something that happened years ago.

When I started this job, my director was orienting me to my new territory. We went over notable accounts and visited a few together before I went off on my first cross-country tour to introduce myself. There was one town in particular he brought up. In this town were five dealers, which isn’t unusual for a medium-sized town.

What was unusual was that two of those dealers were owned by two sisters, and they HATED each other. In hindsight, it made sense that their stores were on opposite sides of town.

My director said to me, “Whatever you do when you’re talking to one of them, DO NOT ever mention the other one to them. As far you are concerned the one you’re talking to is your only client in town.”

Hearing this, it sounded a little crazy. It was hard to believe.

Well, in my travels I ended up meeting both sisters, separately, and if anything when my director briefed me he downplayed their animosity for each other.

Fortunately, I listened to him and did what I was told, and I have a good relationship with both of them.