I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently: How much of your career and mine is luck and how much is preparation?

I’m not sure I know the answer, so I want to tell you about three days that changed my career forever. I would love your thoughts. Was it luck or was it preparation…or, as I think both?


Harry Lindberg 2015

Best Day Ever 1:

 November 7, 1981. I am presenting to the Virginia Road and Transportation Builders Association. I remember it was a  Saturday morning and I was sandwiched between two governor candidates Chuck Robb and Marshall Coleman.

That was kind of a good news, bad news situation. The good news was everyone who could attend was there because of the other speakers. The bad news was no one cared about what I said…except one person.

Harry Lindberg, who was then an executive with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) saw me speak. After I finished he said these words that changed my career forever:

Would you be willing to give this presentation at our national meeting next July in Georgia?

I gave the presentation and all of a sudden, I was at the beginning of developing a national practice.

Best Day Ever 2:

I wish I could tell you the exact date. I know it was sometime in 1982. I had written a Contractor’s Guide to the 1982 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. I was a speaker on a panel for the ARTBA on that subject. One of the other speakers was a lawyer who worked for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Six months later I received a call from the general counsel of one of the largest US contractors. He said:

We have a $30 million dispute on a project in Atlanta and it involves the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. We have been told you are the best lawyer to help us.

I almost had a heart attack. I was so excited. At the end of the call I asked who had said the nice things about me. It turned out it was the FHWA lawyer who was on the panel with me. If I coached you, then you know I say:

Suppose the general counsel spoke to the lawyer on either side of that lawyer. They didn’t know me. They had not heard me speak. They couldn’t have recommended me.

Was it luck? Or, can I brag about being on top of the topic before others?

Best Day Ever 3:

I was a speaker at an American Concrete Pavement Association annual meeting. It was 1984, I don’t remember when that year. At the end of the presentation I was leaving the stage and a young guy came up to me and said:

I am the editor of Roads and Bridges magazine. Could I interview you for our magazine?

I responded:

Happy to have you interview me, but how would it be if I wrote a monthly column for your magazine?

I started writing the next month and finally gave up my column in 2007. It’s hard for me to comprehend anything I did on client development that brought in more business.

Those three days changed my life and career forever. I believe I “positioned” myself for those days, but there was also a lot of luck.

I hope this helps you “position” yourself and realize there is still a little, or maybe a lot, of luck in client development.