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DeWese--A (Ma?ana) Man Who Can't Say No

April 1998
One of my partners here at Compass Capital Partners, Steve Marcus, says that I can't say no. He says that I have a "mother-hen complex" and, because of this malady, I am compelled to solve the problems of others. I guess you could say that I'm "can't-say-no impaired."

Years ago, when I was a big-shot executive, one of my secretaries, the lovely Miss Pam Stewart, made a needlepoint decoration and framed it for my office. It read, "No, Nein, Negatory, Non, Hell No!" She had observed the same weakness that Steve Marcus has discovered in me. I keep Pam's needlepoint near my office phone so I can see it. It doesn't do any good. I still can't say no.

I wish I'd been looking at the needlepoint when one of my buddies, the great Charlie Hayes, owner and CEO of Hayes Litho, called me the other day. Charlie told me that his salespeople had voted, and they wanted me to come down and do a seminar on print sales.

Charlie put a close on me right away. He asked, "Man [he always refers to me by omitting the Mañana], will you do it?"

I said, with as much conviction as I could possibly muster, "Charlie, I barely have time to shave in the morning. I just don't have time to do seminars anymore."

Charlie responded, "They voted for you, Man."

I replied feebly, "Charlie, seminars require a lot of preparation time, and I'm consumed with all this printing industry consolidation investment banking stuff."

Charlie said, "The vote was unanimous, Man."

I was weakening, "How long would I have to speak?"

Charlie answered, "Just half a day. How much will you charge me?"

I said feebly, "Charlie, I would have to charge too much for this kind of thing."

I had an idea. I proposed, "I'll make you a deal. I try to help some underprivileged kids with a baseball program. Give me 20-dozen baseballs for the boys and 20-dozen softballs for the girls, and I'll do your seminar."

Charlie said, "It's done."

Then I asked him to poll his salespeople for topics for the seminar. I said, "Ask them to limit the topics to those that interest them most, and keep it to three or four topics. I can't cover all of print sales in one morning."

Charlie faxed me the list. It was a backbreaking list of the toughest print sales topics I've ever seen.

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