Of all the questions I've been asked on entering the swanky reception areas of the many law firms with whom I work, "Who are you tailoring for today?" definitely ranks as the most unusual. Let me set the scene:
It's early afternoon on a Tuesday. I'm in London for the week. Today I'm not delivering training or speaking at any events. I have instead a day of back-to-back meetings. Some are with existing clients. Several are BD meetings with potential new clients. I love those ones. Meeting people for the first time. The chance to make a great first impression, ask loads of questions, find out about them and open up potential opportunities for KWC Legal. And of course the chance to get off on the wrong foot and to blow it.
So I find myself in a wonderful building. Near Bank. An old building. Huge entrance lobby. Former banking hall perhaps? All marble. Impressive. I tell the chaps on security reception desk which firm I'm looking for and who I'm meeting. They call up to announce my arrival and direct me to the lifts, telling me I want the fifth floor.
I arrive at the fifth floor. I exit the lift. I look to my right and see a very smart, modern law firm office reception. I enter. (You'll note it's all going to plan at this stage and really isn't particularly complicated). There's a receptionist behind the huge, flashy glass desk. She's scoffing a biscuit as I walk in, looks all embarrassed to have been caught in the act and apologises profusely. "No need to apologise" say I. "Although I am jealous - I haven't managed to grab any lunch yet and I'm starving!" She is clearly in the same boat. Ah the joys of finding common ground. We are now friends. "Come with me" she announces, walking round to my side of the desk and leading me by the arm to a little kitchen tucked away discreetly behind the reception area. She opens a huge fridge and produces a mountain of chilled chocolate confectionery. A frenzy of wrapper peeling ensues and in the space of 60 seconds we have both consumed a day's allocated calorie intake. We emerge together, both feeling I suspect slightly guilty but satiated.
So now she's back on the right side of the desk and slips into receptionist mode. "So who are you here to tailor today?" Eh? It takes a while for the question to register. Tailor? Hmm. Ah, right. I get it. She thinks I'm a tailor. Eh? Hang on, why does she think I'm a tailor? Hold it together Michael. Think! Possibilities: this new suit is really doing it for me and someone as sartorially elegant must surely be a tailor to the rich and famous; I look like a tailor who regularly pops into their office to suit up their wealthy partners and she's mistaken me for him; I sound like a tailor who telephones their offices regularly but who she's never met in the flesh and she's made the assumption that I am him - lovely thought - a Glaswegian tailor working with London lawyers; she did pick up my name correctly from the chaps at security reception who called her to say I was on my way and it just so happens that I share the same name as the tailor who works with their partners; or the chaps on the security reception desk are having a laugh today and announcing everyone as a tailor.
But how should I respond to the question? We're now best friends. I mean we've eaten chocolate together. I really don't want to embarrass her. And is there any need to. Does it matter that she thinks I'm a tailor? I decide not to set her straight. I simply say I'm meeting their managing partner, John (name changed here to protect the innocents). I decide at this point that the best course of action to avoid embarrassment is to nip to the loo. This will also allow me to conduct an important mirror check to ensure that my face is not smeared with the evidence of our secret little chocolate indulgence. I duly excuse myself.
I return to reception to find my new friend looking bemused. "Who did you say you're here to see?" I reply - "John. Your managing partner." She looks at me blankly. And shakes her head. At this point my gaze drifts to the lettering on the wall behind her. And it's not spelling out the name of the law firm whose managing partner I was supposed to be meeting five minutes ago! Arghhh!
At which point a lady enters reception from the lift area and pretty swiftly works out what's going on. "Ah - there you are Michael. Thought I recognised the accent. I wondered where you'd got to. Our office is across the way. Happens all the time."
I am whisked off to the correct office leaving my bemused looking (former) friend.
I am shown to the boardroom in the correct law firm by their receptionist and told to await John. I utter apologies for my earlier stupidity and ask her not to tell him. Yeah right! On arrival his opening gambit is "good to meet you. I hear you've already popped in to see our rivals next door!" I laugh, embarrassed as hell. He smiles. I share the chocolate scoffing story. He laughs. We get on like a house on fire. Good meeting.
I await hearing if he wants to go ahead with the BD skills training. I reckon it's a yes.
Oh and yes of course, I did pop in to see the poor receptionist of the other law firm on my way out to apologise for causing confusion and to thank her for sharing her chocolate stash.
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about the author
Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.