It was probably my first real business trip to Seattle. Must’ve been around 2003 or so, just a couple of years after I’d gone full-time with Hydrafab. We had recently completed a pretty big project for who was, at the time, one of our most important clients, and I was in town for a follow-up meeting with some of them. Sort of a debriefing.
After we wrapped up, I said, “Hey, let me take your team out to dinner tonight to celebrate.” Seemed like the right thing to do. So we go to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – I’d never been before – and we sit down to a great meal: amazing steaks, some drinks, some wine, a lot of laughter…just a really good time all around.
And then I got the bill.
One look and I was sure that somebody had screwed something up. There were only seven of us at that table and it’s like $1,700. I’m thinking, This can’t be right. This cannot be right. But here I am, sitting in front of all these people – clients of mine, people vital to my company – and they’re watching me. What could I say? What could I do?
Pay for it, that’s what. So I took out my credit card and gave it to the waitress. And the whole time I’m thinking, No one at this table realizes that I just worked three months to pay for this meal. And I’m not about to let them find out.
It was such a defining moment in my life. That sudden realization that this is what business is all about; that sometimes you just have to say, “What the hell.” I understood even back then that it was all about relationships.
And it’s true. I still work with some of those guys.