In 2006—my second year in business—I created a partner.
The germ of the idea came from my friend Harry Brumleve, whom I was complaining to about the “need” some men had for me to be in business with a man.
They couldn’t understand that it was just little, ol’ me.
He said, “So why don’t you create a male business partner?”
This happened because I had a meeting where I thought I was going to close a $100,000 contract, which would have been our largest client by a landslide.
The CEO and CMO of the business came to our offices and we sat in our tiny, cramped office, with the blinds drawn because the west sun was beaming down on the metal on the building across the street from us and the reflection made it unbearably hot in there.
(Side note: When I wrote about this many, many years ago, PR Daily picked it up. I was scrolling through the comments and someone anonymously posted, “If a prospect treated me like that, I would definitely remember who it was. Talk about spin! She’s not telling the truth!”)
The truth of the matter is, I really don’t remember who the prospect was.
I do remember their three piece suits, their Halliburton look-alike briefcases, how hot it was in that conference room, and how small I felt sitting in the big, black cushiony chair across from them at—what felt like—a much-too-big-for-that-conference-room table.
We spent a couple of hours going through the proposal, talking through our ideas, discussing challenges and solutions, and agreeing on budget.
Finally, I thought, we have an agreement!
Wanted: Male Business Partner
And then it happened.
Before we sign this and get started, we should meet your husband.
This is how naive I am: I thought, “Oh, how nice. They want to socialize with spouses to make sure we’re all compatible and will make great partners.”
That was not the case.
They wanted to meet my MALE BUSINESS PARTNER, whom they assumed was my husband.
Another thing I remember is stammering around the issue. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I had no idea how to respond.
I was incredibly angry. I was building this business. I already had generated $911,000 in revenue. I didn’t need a man’s help!
But I also really, really wanted to land this new client. Do you know how hard it is to generate nearly a million dollars worth of business in retainers less than $100,000 each?
This was our gateway to larger clients.
Alas. We ended up parting ways.
I couldn’t get past my anger (and I’m really stubborn) and, though they never said it out loud, they could never get past the fact that there wasn’t a male leader in my organization.
Resurrecting Charles Arment
And so Charles Arment was born.
In the beginning, he was presented as my business partner.
He had a bio and photo on the website. He had an email address (and got all sorts of spam sales emails). And, when it came time to negotiate contracts, I would use him to buy me some time and some leverage.
He didn’t last long in that capacity.
We launched Spin Sucks around the same time and I couldn’t ethically have a vision to change the perception people have of the PR industry and have a fake, male business partner.
But he was definitely helpful for a good year because, as much as we like to think things have changed, there are still plenty of people who will not do business with women-owned organizations if there is not a man at the table.
The reason I am telling you all of this (talk about burying the lede!) is because we are resurrecting Charles!
A Monthly Column
You’ll see him here on the first Thursday of every month and he will talk about how times have changed since he started in business.
He’ll discuss how important women are in business and how we can not only co-exist, but how we can thrive together.
He’ll discuss how it’s not about gender, but about how much you care about your business and about your work.
He’ll discuss how much effort, time and money you invest in business, in clients, and in your colleagues and how we can all help change the perception of women in business, once and for all.
But he won’t focus just on gender equality issues. He’ll also discuss how the world of PR has changed, the things he’s learned, and how he’s learning to adapt.
I’m really excited to introduce his voice to the Spin Sucks community and hope you’ll welcome him with open arms (and your typical snarkiness).
Until next week…and if there is anything you’d like to know about him, he’ll join me in the comments to answer any and all questions.