Can We Talk…? Part I

Let's Talk

OMG… was I fired up…!

The year was 1986. I was twenty-five, on the rise in my corporate job… and right outside my office door was a gal to prove it.  Yup…, I had just been given my own executive assistant.

Well… that’s what I told everyone.  Actually, the truth was that I had to share her time with the guy in the next office… but oh, did I put her to work.

Screening calls… screening visitors… oh yeah.

“And who may I say is calling…?”  “Is Mr. Buelow expecting your call… ?”  “And what is this regarding…?”

And it got worse… you know the game.

“Steve… Joe with Intense Oxygen Systems is on Line 2”

“Uh, what does he want?”

“He wants to talk to you… wants to set an appointment… should I tell him your in a meeting (lie)?”

“Yeah…, I’m really busy right now… would you do that please (lie)?”

“Sure, I’d be happy to (lie).”

Joe has now been on hold for ninety seconds. 

“I’m sorry… Mr. Buelow is in a meeting right now (lie)… can I take a message?”


This went on for three days… and then it happened.

I was invited to attend a business lunch, which I believe was hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce.  The speaker was Bob Harlan, the man who would take over as President and CEO of the Green Bay Packers in 1989, and hold the position for the next nineteen years.

His words hit me like a ton of bricks…

“I don’t screen my calls,” he said.  “You never know when someone… anyone… is going to give you the next great idea.” 

What… he answers his own phone…?

Mr. Harlan went on, “I always answer my own phone… I figure if someone took the time to call, I can take a few minutes to hear what they have to say…”


That afternoon, sitting in my office… I picked up the phone and made a call.

“Green Bay Packers… may I help you?”

“Uh, yes… uh… Bob Harlan’s office, please.”

Not five seconds later came the moment of truth.  “Hi, this is Bob…”

I didn’t know what to say… I apologized and explained that I had been at the lunch earlier in the day… that I was really just checking to see if what he said was true…  I apologized again for wasting his time, and told him I had just gotten an assistant who was screening anything that moved…

Mr. Harlan laughed… told me it was a pleasure to speak with me… to call again any time.  And then he gave me some wisdom.  “Be willing to listen to people… it doesn’t mean you have to buy what they’re selling… but you never know where a conversation may lead.”

Hmm… good advice.

And good timing too. I was just months from opening my first business… and we were about to end the lies. Thanks Bob.


Here are some things that I learned:

All the good Marketing and PR in the world can be washed away by negative Word of Mouth, if I allow myself or my staff to blow people off when they call.

I am probably no more busy than the President and CEO of the Green Bay Packers NFL franchise.

There’s a lot I can learn by listening to others.


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