Weiss Advice Issue: 218, September, 2021

There’s a man by the name of Keith Darcy. He’s a few years older than I, and we’re in contact maybe once a year these days. He attended my 70th birthday party and I hope he’ll attend my 75th. He’s mentioned in the acknowledgements of the third book I ever wrote, on strategy.

Keith was, in the early 80s, an executive at Marine Midland Bank (now a part of HBSC). A woman who worked for him had purchased a $15 booklet from me on innovation (promoted in a hard copy, mailed newsletter) and she gave it to Keith and suggested he meet me. He agreed, and she set up a meeting in New York City, alerting me that he had only a 45-minute window.

At that meeting, we struck up a great conversation, but the time flew by and I had nothing—not any hint of a project, issue, problem, or opportunity. Nothing. And at 40 minutes Keith said, “Alan, I’m sorry, I’m enjoying this immensely, but I have another meeting in a few minutes.”

“I know,” I said morosely, “I really learned quite a bit from our time together,” and I didn’t even suggest a next step.

“Call me Monday,” he said, “and we’ll put something together.”

Astounded, I actually said, “What would that be?”

“I don’t know,” he replied, “but you’re very smart and we need more smart people around here.”

I worked for Keith until he left Marine Midland, and then worked for him at three other organizations.

This profession is about trusting relationships. It’s about demonstrating your worth.

The guy I wrote my very first book with, who was an aggressive sales guy, told me once in critique and astonishment, “The only thing you have to sell is yourself!”

“Yeah,” I said, “isn’t it great?!”