What have I lost in the last 15 years?

Pentru www.dailybusiness.ro

June 24, 2009

Recently, for some reason, I ”dug” into the company’s archive and found a bookcase marked ”Contracts and correspondence ’94 -98”. This means my first four years of having the company. There were clients such as Ursus, Țiriac Holdings, Impress etc. The contracts had a single page containing ”between whom and who” the contract was concluded, a paragraph describing ”what was to be done”, the price, the date, the signatures and the stamps. This was all. And it was accompanied by a handshake, immediately followed by action, projects carried out without syncope, quick customer responses, opinions and discussions, mottos, final approval of the project and the payment. Recalling those days now, it seems incredible to me how those contracts were carried out in comparison with today. Those were my golden days compared to the ordeal now.

Today we have ten to twenty page long contracts written by lawyers, incredibly long delays and syncopes with weeks in communication, ambiguous or non-existent decisions, returns to initial proposals after wasting time and money for other unnecessary proposals, rejected mottos, over-negotiated, late payments, cancelled presentations and meetings, unanswered emails, missed phone calls, and so on. The years ’94 -98 were, however, years of great economic crisis, with massive exchange rate fluctuations, chaotic legislation, daily changes in the economic landscape, falls, returns and collapses. But the attitude was different, a very entrepreneurial one, determined, with clear and precise goals and objectives. It was a pleasure to work then even if in the meantime you had to do branding and design education, being a field that was very new.

Today most of us have gained a lot of experience and we have a well-founded “school of life” and business. I went through a lot and saw a lot. We have a more cohesive society, clearer laws and a much healthier economic climate than in those days. The so-called crisis of today is a small storm in a glass of water compared to the daily crises of that time. And yet today decisions are more difficult to take or they are not taken at all, the cases in which you are not paid have multiplied. Despite the ”concrete” contracts and promissory notes and checks, the money is paid after long lamentations and negotiations and in the desired amount – incredible – smaller than that of ’94-98. The attitude of today’s business environment has become ”brown”, to put it another way, the result of a very rapid evolution from an open, entrepreneurial attitude, sometimes naive, but still oriented towards ”doing”, ”solving”, ”keep going forward”, ”win”. By comparison, today we have billions of figures and information and statistics flooding our laptops, hundreds of long sessions, thousands of motivational and self-motivating discussions that don’t end up with any result, money is thrown out the window on projects that last months or years instead of 1- 2 months (perfectly achievable), mistrust (everyone wants to trick me), trick or theft (I don’t pay anything, but I still take what they gave me).

As a notable phenomenon, the pitches to which freelancers, advertising agencies, branding or PR are invited have multiplied, without a shorted-out brief, without an allocated budget and without evaluation criteria for the presented projects. The idea is that there should come as many people as possible, ”we don’t get any idea of ​​what they give us” and then we negotiate intensively the prices, to see which one yields. Non-compliance with contracts, unpaid money and theft of ideas have also multiplied.

What I will never understand is how the economic environment came to believe in ”projects” instead of ”results”. Time, our most expensive resource, has become the most wasted. My personal luck was that in these fifteen years of pioneering and hard work in the field I had clients who saw the desire to build, positive and open attitude, receptivity, open communication, fair play and entrepreneurship. And I thank them because without them I would have given up building a branding company a long time ago and I would have started selling screws or winch cables for off-road cars.