A Corporate Referral Story

My best referral story happened in the corporate world.

I call it “A Cup of Coffee with Kevin”.

As a distinctive and well-respected supplier to a major super store in our product category, it was my pleasure to lead the team that received special privileges as our super store customer rapidly spread their tentacles across Canada in the 90s. A last minute phone call to our president and myself took us to their launch in Quebec. We were given special opportunities that very few suppliers enjoyed. We were definitely a favoured resource.

The day of “the cup of coffee” with our client’s VP, Kevin, told us how special we were to this behemoth in our industry.

First of all, Kevin did not have coffee with suppliers. Period. Secondly, over this rare coffee, he gave a referral to my company that changed my life, along with the lives of many other people who live all over the world.

Kevin’s referral was a powerful one. He offered to help my small company, Ko-Rec-Type, manufacturer of hard copy supplies, market itself to his superstore colleagues in Europe who were in the early stages of launching their chain.

It was a golden referral that had a major impact on my colleagues in Birr, Ireland, the head office of Ko-Rec-Type Europe (near where the film Philomena was later shot). They had no superstore management experience which meant that the Canadian team had to work closely with them to win and execute on the business opportunity that had been generously given to us by our customer in Canada.

It fell upon me and my team to work with the superstore’s head office in London and Oxford. Overnight, I became VP-Global of Ko-Rec-Type. Overnight, my Irish colleagues, with cows in the fields that the plant owned, were catapulted into a new business universe.

I am proud to say that we all stepped up, won the business and Ko-Rec-Type – Europe became the darling child of this fabled superstore which had locations all over the UK and Germany. With this launching pad in Europe, referrals to locations around the world including Thailand and Australia rolled into our European head office. Most of the 90s are a whirl to me as a result of responding to all of the referrals that happened in this international setting.

And Ko-Rec-Type-Europe was hanging by the skin of its teeth when we arrived in the Emerald Isle that day. Fifty (50) workers in the small town of Birr were about to lose their jobs if that cup of coffee with Kevin had not occurred. His referral saved their jobs for many years, created more employment on the continent and provided me with a world of global experience that I will never forget.

So, can referrals happen in the corporate world? Yes, they can. They are just a cup of coffee away.

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