The unlikely places you find power

Years ago my co-founders and I were selling our company. At the last minute, the company buying ours decided that they were worried about a particular contract and that if we couldn’t get a release from them in writing, they’d be changing the valuation of the deal.

The only problem was that we were a ten-person company and the company that we needed to get a release from was Verizon. Good luck with that, right!?!

My buddy Chris flew to their corporate headquarters and sat outside the office of the executive who could get our waiver. For days.

As he sat there – knowing he’d never get an audience, but also knowing that he’d be giving away a few million dollars if he didn’t try – he got to know the executive assistant that was sitting there too.

Wouldn’t you know, on the third day, as our clock was running out, she looked at him and said, “Remind me again, what do you need?” And he explained what we were looking for.

She typed it up, took it in, and got us the signature. She had incredible power. But you wouldn’t have been wrong to ignore that potential because it’s not always a place you expect to find it.

A few years before that, I was trying to get a deal done. The issue was our procurement rules and the processes that we had to follow. I’m not against rules. But these rules were created long before people bought software as a service. So when I wanted to do a deal, I was dealing with rules for hiring services like the maintenance crew.

The person who got it all figured out wasn’t my boss, their boss, or our CFO. It was a friend of mine in procurement who knew how to categorize this as software, not a service contract.

Another unlikely place you expect to find power.

We all know by now that financial folks in organizations can be really powerful in getting checks for services rendered long ago. The bigger the organization, the harder it is to get paid, it seems. But those folks in AP are powerful!

Here’s my point: just about every person on your team, in your organization and within your partner’s companies has some amount of power:

  • The power to recommend
  • The power to evaluate
  • The power to approve
  • The power to decide
  • The power to justify
  • The power to pay

So always treat people with respect. Just because you don’t know what power they have, doesn’t mean they don’t have any.