We’ve got a new year right around the corner, and with it comes the convention season. The topic today is the grapevine, and it’s one I’ve written about many times.
At every convention, all of us meet more people. It’s a time when you add more layers to your network, and a time to add more depth by bringing people into your network to complement your short suits. Each new person is a potential new friend, and you’ll be surprised over the years ahead how important some of these people will become. But, as these bonds grow, it’s important to build them on a solid foundation of communication and truth.
Do your best to build new friendships by staying away from the rumor mill, AKA the grapevine. Seriously, is there anybody who hasn’t heard, “Please don’t share this with anybody, but…?”
That comment is usually followed by everything from pure gossip to serious heads-up stories about something related to the industry, their personal lives, business, etc. You can’t stop people from sharing unsubstantiated stories with you, but you can prevent feeding the rumor mill.
At any convention, the rumor mill is running at its most efficient speed, but there’s a difference between efficiency and accuracy. That means I’m suggesting everybody follow my buddy, Levi Sim’s, classic one-liner:
“Always act as if your grandmother was watching you!”
Here’s the first rule: If you don’t want people to know something don’t tell anybody! With social media, everybody has the potential to influence thousands of people. Just be responsible and don’t spread rumors that are unsubstantiated.
For the second rule, let’s talk about making sure you know who you’re talking to. If you are going to share something that’s confidential or maybe you just don’t want anybody to know you’re the source, then be careful who you choose to bring under the cone of silence! (Maxwell Smart was ahead of his time.)
We’re a very small industry. When you’re a new photographer or new to a major convention, you don’t realize how many of us have worked together. I was at Hasselblad when I first met Dan Steinhardt and Mike Gurley who today are at Epson and Canon, respectively. They were both at Kodak. Tom Curley and Darin Pepple, now at Panasonic, I met when they were at FujiFilm. Now scale all of this up by a factor of a thousand, and you’ve got the same scenario repeated all over the industry.
Just remember, you never know when you’re talking about somebody or something, and there’s another company who’s listening by “proxy.” So many of us share the same friendships and even the same legacy of companies in our history, and we all try and watch each other’s backs!
The third rule I’ve written a lot about: If it’s confidential, but you need to share the information, have people sign a non-disclosure statement. Use Google, and you’ll find dozens of examples free online. This is an extreme case, but if it’s something critical to your business and you need the input of another party, a non-disclosure statement puts the right perspective on the information and stresses its importance.
And the last rule: Be quiet and don’t share information that isn’t appropriate to pass on. Work to maintain trust with your clients, your associates and your friends.
Before you assume, learn the facts. Before you judge, understand why.
Before you hurt someone, feel. Before you speak, think.