Ham’s long standing relationships with many industry luminaries stem from his willingness to accept people as they are, his ability to integrate their predilections (both professionally and socially), and his honesty in following through with his commitments. Without the follow through, the words used to win a sales opportunity are just words.
Honey Draws More Bees
And this brings up another operating principle that Hamilton highlighted for me. Once a relationship is underway, your daily actions determine the direction and success of the venture. Inevitably, things go wrong: the manufacturer’s ship date slips, another emergency takes place, etc. - like change, something going wrong is one of life’s guarantees. These moments are the best indicators of how a relationship will work or fail over the long term.
During these times, a company has the choice of taking two very different paths. One path is toward reconciliation. The other is confrontational and results in loss of long term business. Ham’s ability to work with clients, which he also instilled in his teams, put the dollars in the bank long term. He always took the reconciliation route if there was anything worth salvaging. There have been individuals in our business who took everyone with them down the sewer, but fortunately they are few and far between. Working with the other type of client (the overwhelming majority), Hamilton taught compromise to everyone’s benefit. His years in sales had reinforced that everyone needs to come out of a resolution feeling good. But, at Audiotechniques especially, his position demanded a constant balancing of everyone’s diverse needs. As a distributor, manufacturer, retailer, employer and/or regional representative, he was in the middle no matter where he stood. Yet he kept the balance effectively. No one gets it 100% of the time, but Hamilton has a damn good batting average. If a free roll of recording tape or a price consideration became necessary, Hamilton controlled or influenced the amount of “give” from each sector, providing an essential element of a proactive solution - one that not only stems the bleeding from the current situation, but also encourages future business, which always presents the ideal direction to pursue. Part of this approach of his comes from long-term vision, which is an inherent component of Hamilton’s worldview. The evolution of his career is evidence of the value of a durable view of life, which he continues to press forward this very day.
Make a Decision, Live With It, Learn From It, and Move On
Hamilton never spent unnecessary amounts of time deciding how to resolve discord. He would get together every knowledgeable and concerned party and let them volley ideas back and forth. Passion, intelligence, stupidity, and disagreement were all evident in these lively discussions, but the process of elimination quickly whittled down the choices till it was clear a few directions offered different plausible resolution strategies. Ham or Bob would then take the responsibility of selecting the most appropriate answer and direct its implementation. But once the decision was made you moved on. There was no hand wringing or second thoughts to distort the picture. These sessions taught those of us on staff how to resolve these types of situations. Their brevity helped maintain our focus on the company’s main thrust, to sell, instead of just swirling in the maelstrom of the repairing mode.
Were mistakes made? Absolutely, but that discussion would come later, once most of the impact had been revealed. Dissection could occur once the whole lesson was clear. Sometimes it was no more than a positive or negative comment uttered during a subsequent day. Giving the resolution this additional time to settle allowed both the client and salesman the luxury of not being second-guessed and strengthened the possibility of future engagements.
Never Stop Learning and Trying
My favorite Hamilton story is the one he spun about being caught in rainstorm while on foot. As the storm was quite brisk, he stepped in the first door that looked inviting and found himself in a car dealership. Shaking the weather off, the salesman approached him and asked whether he could help him. Hamilton replied that he simply stepped in to get out of the rain and was not looking at a car right now. The salesman paused and asked him since he was just waiting here, would he mind if the salesman practiced his sales pitch. The salesman went on to explain that he had calculated that for every X number of times he went through his pitch, he made a sale. Again proving that a salesman is the easiest mark in the world, Hamilton said sure, go ahead. When he drove out of the dealership with a new car, he had learned another important lesson to pass onto his sales people - If you make enough sales presentations; you are bound to make sales.
He still hasn’t stopped learning and trying new things. As you might be aware, his son Matt re-purchased Digibid, and Hamilton is back in active management of this popular Internet site that specializes in the whole entertainment technology spectrum. Digibid was languishing because it didn’t interface well with the original purchaser’s other holdings. Now with Hamilton and his team back in charge, a revitalized Digibid re-enters the online auction fray.
This continuation of Ham’s pro audio career reinforces his unique thinking “outside of the box.” With Scully, aggressive competition for market share spawned new formats, relationships and technologies. With Audiotechniques and MCI, he pioneered a whole new approach to the marketplace that extended from the manufacturer to the end user. This junction formed a major step in an evolution that is still taking our business further towards its future.