Show Me Your Freak Card

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Delray Beach.- I liked him the minute he introduced himself. Poised, intelligent, and energetic, he wanted to interview me for his podcast. We did a short, extemporaneous bit on entrepreneurship. Afterwards, I sat down with him for a chat.

We talked about his career. He started from scratch, prompted, he told me, by reading Ready, Fire, Aim. (He could recite passages from chapters I’d forgotten that I’d written. I was flattered.) Little by little, he built a company that was now making nearly $20 million a year. I was impressed.

Then he told me a story about how, when he was starting out and still living at home and working for his father, he had tried to create a competing business by stealing his dad’s employees.

“But he found out what I was doing and put a stop to it,” he said.

I looked at him skeptically. He wasn’t joking, although he seemed to think I would find the anecdote amusing.

Because he was otherwise likable and even admirable, I decided to hook him up with our global CEO. Before making the introduction, I briefed her on his many positive qualities. But I also told her what he had told me about trying to knock off his dad’s business.

“That freaked me out,” I said.

“Good!” she replied. “That means you know what his ‘freak card’ is. Everyone has one.… well, most people do. It’s a personality quirk that could eventually freak up the relationship. And when someone shows you their freak card early on, you know what you are up against… and you can assess whether or not you can handle them.”

I thought about that. I thought about all the business relationships I’ve had. Most were good to very good. And most of my counterparts in those relationships were people with quirks. Their quirks were more often comical than annoying (as I presume my quirks were to them). But the bad relationships? Those guys? Their quirks were serious. And damaging. I do wish I’d gotten a look at their freak card a lot sooner.