What would Donald Trump do? (WWDTD)

I don’t think anyone really likes Donald Trump (DT). I feel like that’s kind of his shtick. Relentless; unapologetic. He will run you over if you’re standing in between him and his goal. And while you might not like DT on a personal level, in a game of business-pick-up basketball, I bet you’d pick him first (lest he becomes your opponent).

That’s the beauty of business, right? It’s primarily a results oriented endeavor. People can hate your guts, but if you get results, much, if not all, is forgiven (and rewarded).

They key word of course here is primarily. Business is primarily a results oriented endeavor. The means to success, as it turns out, is also pretty important. So before you start following the path of WWDTD, let’s talk about the downside to this business approach through the cautionary tale of a legal marketer named Conrad Saam.

A couple of weeks ago (10/25), Stacey Burke posted a Tweet that caught my attention.

The Tweet linked to a blog post by Mandy Graessle, who in great detail, explained how Conrad Saam, a legal marketing consultant, had purchased from her a URL under false pretense.  Here’s an excerpt from her post:

After a few emails, I agreed to sell the URL for $300.  It was worth more. It pained me to sell my creation, my baby, but I told this band that I believed and supported local musicians and artists – and my only other caveat was that when they made it big and toured stateside, I get tickets to their concert. He even sent me tracks from their rehearsal. This was all, it turns out, an overly elaborate hoax. MockingbirdMarketing.com was sold to Conrad Saam, a legal marketing ‘expert’ who speaks on ethical marketing practices for law firms. And before you say “Maybe he didn’t know. Maybe he bought it from this shady ‘band’ guy,” I’ve included the whois and transfers here. The day I approved the transfer to Blue Host, the domain was registered and has never changed.

As it turns out, Conrad duped Mandy into selling the URL via a sob story from a struggling London based band that needed a boost in SEO ratings. Within a few hours of posting her story, Conrad himself posted a response in the comments section, and this is where it gets really interesting and the Donald Trump moment emerges. Here’s his response:

Mandy –

So there’s this line in the Godfather (the book, not the movie) where Michael’s rejoinder to the comment “its nothing personal, its just business” goes something like this:

“The Godfather takes everything personally. If a friend of his were hit by a bolt of lightening he’d take it personally. And that is what makes him great.”

So its mostly unhelpful for me to tell you this is just business, because of course you take something personally that you’ve worked on. I’d feel the same way. The reality is, had you known who I was you would have asked for a lot more and I would have ended up registering something like mockingbirdie, or mockingbird-marketing or some such other second rate domain and you’d have $300 less in your bank account. But, my genuine apologies that the way this went down made you feel bad.

As for Dave – he’s my cousin and a drummer in a band in London and an all around great guy.

You’ve got my email address now . . . feel free to use it.

Conrad

Wow! The Godfather. Relentless; unapologetic. Conrad got called out for purchasing a domain under false pretense and instead of apologizing, playing dumb or something else, he stood behind his actions and did what Donald Trump or Gordon Gekko or Don King would do, and said “it’s just business.”

Full disclosure: Since the onslaught of negative responses via social media, Conrad has since apologized via phone to Mandy and offered to return the URL (find his apology here). Mandy declined. 

The interesting thing about this this story is that Conrad’s “just business” response is a mantra used by many a successful businessman. When Zuckerburg diluted Eduardo Saverin’s ownership of Facebook from 34% to .03%, he didn’t apologize. It was just business. Hell, they even made a movie about it.

But there’s a catch. When Zuckerburg diluted Saverin it was a massive move that would ultimately shift billions of dollars in equity. Conrad Saam, on the other hand, pulled his “just business” card over a $300 website.

That’s the lesson here, in my opinion.

If you’re going to follow the “just business” mantra, you better be making a move that will meaningfully impact your career or net worth. Remember, they call it fu%* you money for a reason. If you piss people off over $300, not only are you burning bridges over peanuts, but you’re also not earning any business pick-up-basketball respect. The end simply doesn’t justify the means– not in this case.

Keep that in mind before you let the “just business” mantra direct your path.

WWDTD

About Preston Clark

Preston Clark has been writing about legal tech since 2010. He's currently the CRO for a leading legal tech SaaS company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Preston was formerly in-house counsel for the University of Miami and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America. In his free time, Preston enjoys building world-class sales teams, reading about SaaS, playing pick-up basketball and planning adventures with his son.