When you’ve been around the block as long as I have, to the point of having built several sections of that block, you really don’t see it coming every time someone stiffs you. You develop a blind spot from having been thru the battles so many times and casually telling yourself you can’t be taken for a fool. Especially when that spot is occupied by one of the more accomplished and supposedly trustworthy people you’ve come to know. Especially when it’s someone you’ve been led to believe their word is indeed their bond.

It wasn’t that long ago I had a meeting with one of the top members of a very specific craft. I’m going to leave out some details as to not embarrass this nationally known individual any further. as I’ve since learned his reputation in his field does precede him and it’s not a positive one.

This man is indeed, a genius, Looked upon by his peers as someone who may be arrogant, may be egotistical, and might even be a shade over modulated, but one thing he would never be publicly considered is a con man. His word is, or at least to this point was, indeed as good as his bond. Shake hands with this man, and you come away with five fingers AND a $20 bill. Something my Grandfather used to say about the men he truly trusted.

He needed my professional help. Was crystal clear in what he desired, and what he expected. I, in turn, same thing. I brooked no line about what I would deliver, how it would be delivered, and what he could expect to see as results. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind he was serious, and so was I.

After preparing a detailed proposal and delivering it in his office, then handing him a contract that was more than fair, we stood, shook hands vigorously, and I was out the door. My next few weeks, likely months, were well planned. My first set of moves were already in motion. The end result of this deal would be nothing more than complete success.

Three days, and no contact. Not even from his assistant. No return of texts or calls. No email.

I turned to my partner and said, “we’ve been hosed”.

“Not possible”, was the response. “Not from this guy”.

Fourth day and the word was dropped, as was the deal. Our man of honor claimed that after reviewing his contract with the company he worked for, he couldn’t hire us. His hands were tied, he proclaimed. Having done my homework, I knew that to be incorrect. What we were working on was outside the scope of his deal and was well within his contract. See, when I get involved with someone, I do the preliminary work as intensely as I do the initial prep or the dirty work.

Oh, and the notice he sent? Via text message.

Turns out he did what I expected he might. Turned my proposal over to his bosses and demanding this level of work, claiming the ideas were his. His management basically told him to walk away. However, working behind HIS back, they took my ideas and put about half of them to work immediately in some of their other marketing plans.

I know this to be true. I later saw the proposals as a member of the corporate team showed them to me.

Lessons learned, of course. One thing we should take away from every lesson in “Always Be Closing” is just that. Never buckle. Never back down from what you believe is right. Stick you nose in there and deliver the goods every time.

Know that sooner or later, no matter how high up the food chain you rise, you will get the shaft from someone. The key is never stop working to educate yourself on how to recognize them. I’ve spent a lifetime doing it, and in this case, I was bagged because I let my guard down.

Never again.

Remember that you will come across those that will not have any honor about business, will not believe they have a duty to be fair and honest, and will shake your hand, then wipe it off as fast as they can.

Hold them accountable every time. If not in the public eye, let it rest within your personal and professional brand.

Because what was once the sign of an excellent business person is now, for some, just an example of when to get the sanitary germ wipes.

Sure, it might not be legally binding in a court of law. That makes no difference. This is your integrity we’re talking about, and once you’ve compromised it, there’s not getting it back. No matter how had you try, your peers will know it about it. And it will affect how you do business t every level.

Hone your skills. Be on the lookout for people such as this. Realize you will be taken from time to time, but then steel yourself to never allow it again.

When someone shakes your hand, make it stick. Make it your bond. If you can’t promise it, don’t offer the hand. “Always Be Closing” with YOUR brand, YOUR image, YOUR desire to be held accountable.

Or don’t be shocked if someone gives you a finger in response to your hand.