Does the “too good to be true” rule always apply?

Too Good to be True

Is it ok if I show this man around your office?” Frank our landlord asked (by the way he hates if we call him that – he prefers to say we are his customer and to be fair that is always how he treats with us).

No bother at all Frank” – he wanted to see how we had laid out the office space, which had the same footprint as the vacant unit two floors down.

Frank introduced me to this English gentleman, Mr Cooper who was starting an airline, which was to operate from Cork ..interesting!

He would be needing Marketing and PR support and he also would need the services from our graphic design team. We had a quick chat but I had another appointment to get to – he wanted to tie things down quickly so he asked us to meet with him the next day for a full briefing.

This could be a very exciting project to work on.

Just before I ran out the door I did a Google search on this guy to see if there was some evidence of his existence online ..nothing!

On the way to my meeting I rang Frank to make sure I caught the man’s name correctly – I had.

What do you make of our English gentleman?” Frank asked. He explained to me that he also popped into the accountants on the floor below us who were also going to do work for him. The following day they were to introduce him to one of the banks.

Frank, is he too good to be be true?

saab airline

We both agreed that maybe it was wrong to be cynical and there was a chance that this well dressed, well spoken Englishman was the real deal after all.

He arrived the following day, a little later than organised but even more well dressed than the previous day. He apologised for being late – there were some technical financial details he was ironing out with the accountant about licences.

He took me through his project in detail – he was really looking for a marketing partner for this venture. He told us that he really liked and trusted us. He spoke to our really talented head designer, Jonathan about his brand and what he had in mind – we all agreed that while he was on a deadline, the work should be done properly.

Maybe this guy was a dream client after all?

After many years in business and knowing how hard you must work to win a new account, this guy had me suspicious. I was “on guard” for a sign, any sign that this was not going to work out.

He started telling me about the lonely childhood he had and now he was alone and did not have any attachments.. for reasons that we would understand. Hmm..where was this conversation going?

He had a request – he wanted to give us a shareholding in the business!

He wanted to embrace the true spirit of partnership – if this happened everyone would work together. He explained he would make the same offer to everyone that was involved in his project. He was doing this as he had no family and he wanted the business to have a “safe” home if anything happened to him.

While this was an outlandish tale maybe it was true? The alarm bell was ringing in my head at this stage but I was feeling a little sorry for this lonely businessman.

I politely told him that people might think he was “nuts” if he were to have that shareholding conversation with them – I advised him to keep that idea to himself and if he wanted to do something like this down the line, then maybe.

He had another request – until he had office space sorted out could he work from our offices?

He had noticed on the day that there were desks with no one working at them. A louder alarm bell started to ring!

That wouldn’t be practical I explained but maybe he should have a word with Frank who might let him use some of the available space in the building until he had a formal arrangement made.

He told me he understood ..

We had arranged to meet the next day when he wanted to introduce us to some of his team who he had already recruited..that sounds ok I reckoned.

Just as he left the office he patted his pockets ..”Damn, I’m a bit short and the bank is closed. Could I borrow €20?” Even though the alarm bell was shaking the whole building at this stage I found myself handing this guy who we hardly knew €20.

On the way home I bumped into Frank as we left the building.

Well, what do you make of our friend?” I asked. He had told Frank that he was very impressed with Fuzion and the accountant and he just needed to finalise everything and get cracking. I told him the story (with a red face) about the €20 knowing already how the whole story was going to unfold.

What’s worse I told Dee the story about the €20 – “You big fool” ..she told me.

If this was going to end up going nowhere I’d prefer to kill it quickly. Before he was to arrive I would prepare a budget and insist on a % payment upfront before we committed any resources to the job – if he was not the real deal then this would flush him out.

20 minutes after he was scheduled to arrive I called him ..nothing.

Another 10 minutes ..nothing.

A few minutes later I received a text from him saying that Fuzion and the people in Cork were the most unprofessional and backward that he had ever come across and he was going to set up in Belfast instead.

Needless to say I haven’t heard anything about the airline but I do wonder about the “dream client, Mr Cooper” who got away.

When it seems too good to be true it probably is ..the tale alone was worth the €20.

Mr Cooper …good luck with your venture!

Greg Canty is a partner Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Graphic Design firm in Ireland with offices in Cork and Dublin

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