THEY SAID IT, I LEARNED FROM IT

A Relationship Just. Like. That. One

Every business relationship starts with an introduction. From there, we decide if the focus will be on transactional value or relational value. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be about us. Instead, if we focus on others’ needs, values, and what drives them, they will remember how we made them feel.

Wynne “Chip” Gulden put my team and me through one of the most thorough due diligence efforts I’ve ever experienced. It was worth it…at least, looking back on it.

As a senior executive at Cummins Engine, Chip’s job was to select an Information Technology partner for his company. He formed an extremely capable team from his staff at Cummins. Chip also employed the services of Mr. David Karney, one of the senior consultants at Technology Partners International (TPI).

Although we weren’t the first name that industry pundits mentioned when naming IT service providers, our capabilities at Lockheed Martin rivaled those of any competitor at the time: IBM, EDS, CSC, Perot, and so on.

All of this was happening during the heyday of IT outsourcing. Securing business from Cummins was a big deal.

Chip took the time to understand who we were and what we could offer. After some tough rounds of presentations and proposal responses, he selected our team as one of three finalists. Due diligence was the next wicket in the process. Getting through that wicket with Chip, Vi Pavlovska, and David Karney evaluating our every move was setting up to be no easy task.

I organized a round-robin tour so that Chip and his team could visit some of our facilities and have in-depth discussions with a few of our customers. That tour proved to be one of the most exhausting weeks that I remember.

We started with a chartered jet picking up the Cummins team in Columbus, IN. No expense would be spared to win their business. Somehow, in the middle of one of the soupiest skies on record, we landed in Concord, NC, where we toured our Lockheed Martin facility nearby. Following the tour, the Cummins folks interviewed one of our local customers, Fieldcrest Cannon.

Our staff was prepared and did a remarkable job. Everything was organized to perfection. The facilities sparkled. Our client did right by us. Day one was in the books.

The schedule was tight. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. What should have been an evening flight to Baltimore turned into an overnight stay in the Charlotte area. Plans for the next day at our facility in Lanham, MD, and our customers there were adjusted. Thankfully, everyone cooperated; however, what was already a jam-packed schedule for day two was now being slipped.

My anxiety was building. We managed what was within our control but failed in the weather department. The flight to Baltimore was again delayed for a few hours the next morning. Commercial traffic was completely grounded by the fog. Somehow, our private pilot got clearance.

Before the beginning of due diligence for the competitive finalists, I had learned that Chip was an incredibly bright man. His intelligence and commitment to detail were perhaps only exceeded by his genuine kindness. He was the type of person — particularly as a potential client — that you didn’t want to disappoint.

My first contact with Chip had been via phone. From that introductory call forward, I learned that he wasn’t an ordinary person. Unlike so many others in the business, he seemed to care that we were expending a significant amount of effort to win the Cummins business.

Chip treated us with dignity. He was serious about making the right choice for Cummins. He enjoyed laughter. He believed in the power of companies to improve their surrounding communities and thought that partners with his company should do likewise.

Winning Cummins’ business with Chip making the board’s recommendation required scoring well on a long list of criteria. He put us through the wringer, but always in the interest of making the right choice.

Although way behind schedule, Day Two managed to include everything on the original itinerary. More tours. More customer visits. More deep dives into processes and enterprise tools and approaches.

The next several days would be at our Lockheed Martin company (not corporate) headquarters in Orlando. I had hoped for a bit of mental relaxation on the flight from Baltimore to Florida, but Chip used the time to follow up on unanswered questions and delve into things he had seen during the Maryland stop.

We started early on day three. Our company enterprise service center and staff hosted the Cummins team. Each service center delivery area was reviewed. The schedule ran off the rails, and hour-long time slots took two.

Chip calmly proceeded.

He had questions and wanted answers.

I had our 6 o’clock dinner reservation at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando moved to 7 p.m. and then delayed until 8. We arrived at least 30 minutes late. Dinner brought more questions.

Chip and I would be riding together back to the hotel. I liked him but dreaded the trip. I was out of answers.

The downtown streets were dark and mostly vacant as our driver slowed for a traffic light about to turn red. We sat in thankful silence behind an older pickup. On the truck’s bench seat sat a young couple who decided to use the red light stop for a green light on affection. They didn’t hold back. The lights from our car made for a perfect silhouette.

Turning to Chip and knowing the answer, I asked, “You see that?”

Without waiting for his acknowledgment, I continued, “If there is one thing out of this week that I want you to understand, it’s that Lockheed Martin wants to someday enjoy with Cummins…

A relationship just. Like. That. One.”

Chip’s laughter rolled until it filled the car. I even think our driver understood what I was trying to convey.

We made it through the rest of the week’s due diligence and best and final proposals. Ultimately, Cummins awarded us the deal that was recognized as a Top 10 Deal of the Year by several publications.

Those details have faded. The 30 seconds at the red light remain.

A few years after our relationship with Cummins Engine started, Chip’s relationships in life entered their final chapters. For seven years he fought, eventually succumbing to end-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Fully immobilized at the end, Chip didn’t waiver. He unequivocally demonstrated that willpower and determination can take you farther than anyone thinks possible. Chip exemplified in life what he bespoke in business.

I’m confident that anyone who knew him was happy to have had “a relationship just. Like. That. One.”

Written by Craig Halsey

They said it, I learned from it is a compilation of lessons learned from the things I’ve heard people say over the course of my lifetime. It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen. Watch for They Said it, I learned from it every Friday in The Weekly Hodl. It’s perfect reading while you enjoy your second breakfast. Sign up today.

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