Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Failure Coach XXII

Why me? Why here?

Alan was at home chillin’ with his laptop and black coffee and Sweet’N Low. Anything that comes into the website gets routinely answered by Ambrosia. He’s confident that he’ll be able to focus once he clears his mind. He thinks out loud as he sips his coffee but it morphs into a rant on the phone with his good friend Bob Caster who’s in his office preparing for another day at the law firm.

“Hey, I get mentioned in two agency stories like I’m a big deal account. Shit, I didn’t even know Bluestone was friends with Jan Abbeshire, let alone business partners. If not for me, they wouldn’t even know each other. And Ambrosia I come to learn is just using me as a smokescreen to look like an agency that has a reason to exist in St. Louis. It turns out the Omnicom Public Relations firm Fleishman-Hillard and Omnicom’s Rogers Townsend are behind the scenes propping them up as a flashy digital/social media hot shop. God knows those two firms can make Ambrosia look legit. And both of these firms – I wish them well – but both are showcasing my fame and social media success as an example of their ability to harness the power of a brand by engaging followers. I guess I don’t blame them for doing this, but even I don’t know how this really happened. It just happened. I’m a sort of viral phenomenon.”

Bob is patient but he’s leading a meeting in the conference room with a group of young lawyers and para-legals at 9:00 a.m. The standing Monday morning meeting is about building his practice: A little bit of marketing; A little bit of business development: A little bit team building; A lot of handholding. He envies the freedom of running his own show like Alan Edgewater but he knows the stress of being a sole proprietor too.

“Well Alan, my professional opinion, as your lawyer…” Bob enjoys this not so subtle reminder from his friend that time is billable. Still, at the same time, he is generous with advice and generally a great sounding board for Alan. “Look, you can play hardball with both firms if you want, but it isn’t exactly libel when they hype themselves as being a part of your success. Hell, look at it this way. Those additional mentions adjacent to a cover story in the Saint Louis Business Journal make you look like a magnet for business growth downtown. You are starting to become a local hero. You aren’t a household name yet buddy, but you are getting there.”

“Funny Bob-O, I can send you a signed 8X10 B&W glossy if you like. Ha. You know I don’t want to sue anybody. But I do want to understand why all of the sudden, everyone wants a piece of me. Jeez Bob-O, you’d think I was at the center of an economic boom in Mound City. Things must be tough if I’m news. Failure Coach chasing windmills! Ha. I’m on a quest all right. My quest is to move to Florida.” Alan often threatened to move to Florida but he liked the parochial big small town he had come to know in St. Louis. It’s true he wasn’t a household name, but he was well known among business leaders, and “movers and shakers” in town. And lately a featured example of economic turn-around. Even though, the St. Louis location had little to do with it. It starts with stuff like viral video clips of the failure coach, the AE IOU tweets and being everywhere to promote the books and seminars.

Meanwhile, Coach Siena was still riding the wave too. He was happy to give Alan a bridge loan to keep the excitement alive with the mini tour starting with Cleveland. His annual scholarship was a reason to keep the coaches story alive as a shining example of failing forward. He wins a lottery, quits his teaching and coaching gigs, endows Johnny Appleseed for a full ride at UM, joins Alan as a featured presenter and bang he’s a fixture in the supporting cast. In a way, the coach saw himself as a partner in the continuing success of Alan Edgewater. Coach Siena was grateful too. And the Sazerac Rye Whisky retainer would not have happened, were it not for Alan and his ambitious self-styled marketing maven Daniel Bluestone. It was Bluestone who somehow connected with Fontenot, the fountain of knowledge for Sazerac Brands.

The Coach was also enjoying the mentoring role he was assuming for his Scholarship boy Johnny Appleseed and the front-runner for the second annual award, Andrew Valentine. Abbeshire & Bluestone picked up what was initially a pro-bono assignment of the Failure First Scholarship Fund. The assignment was easy enough. The applications and inquiries about the Fund would be routinely handled and carefully crafted language camouflaged the relatively small number of applicants. No-one wanted to pour through hundreds of essays and recommendation letters. Johnny was hand-picked. Andrew Valentine came via referral from an Ohio college coach he knew from a coaches clinic a few Summers ago when Coach Siena was a guy with some keen insights into Division AAA prospects in central Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Siena was on Alan’s mind because he knew he needed to schedule repayment of $15,000 he owed him. The coach hadn’t said a word about it but the loan was made about 90 days ago and Alan was hoping to gracefully pay it back in full before 120 days passed.      

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