Years ago, I ran an errand, retrieving some newly framed art from the gallery where I always arranged to have my artwork framed. While waiting for the owner to find my giclée in the back, I fell in love with an original painting he had on display and offered for sale. In it, the artist had depicted a lone palm tree in the foreground, buried in white sand, leaning out over sea-blue Caribbean waters.
Wavelets played in the shallow seas beyond the palm, and some had tiny foam caps tipping them. The sunlight rippled through the currents and painted the entire scene with brilliant light. A solitary tortoise wandered lazily through the clear water. You could almost hear the zephyrs sighing across the sand, but the beach itself was deserted.
I felt like I was there. Peaceful. Calm. I could almost feel the comforting heat of the tropical sun. The artist’s style has since become very popular, but this was when he first appeared on the scene, painting these palm tree islands and the shallow waters surrounding them with acrylic paints and an airbrush.
I had to own it, so I paid the gallery owner on the spot. He bundled it up for me, very carefully, tons of brown paper and twine. As he wrapped it up, I, kiddingly, said “Michael, if this guy ever needs a lawyer, please be sure to send him to me. I would be happy to take his payments out in kind, his paintings, to be exact.” He laughed and offered to carry the bulky package out to the car for me.
Less than a year later, a guy called my office, claiming he’d been referred by Michael Murphy, the gallery owner. How odd! I’d done some work for Michael himself, but only regarding a few employment issues that had arisen in the gallery. He’d never actually referred me a client before!
My assistant arranged for the gentleman to come in for a consultation. By this time, my curiosity was in full gear, running rampant. What could he possibly want?
When he entered my offices, he shook my hand, looked behind me, and burst out laughing. “Now I know why Michael sent me to you!” He pointed at the palm tree, now on glorious display on my conference room wall, and remarked, “I want to sue that guy. I’m his agent and he breached our contract!”
Now, you might think that I didn’t want that case. After all, I loved the style that this artist had created. But you would be wrong. I got paid by the agent with the very same art that I wanted, created by the artist in question.
Ivan Misner, the progenitor of Business Network International, teaches that you must be specific when you request referrals. This was never more true than the day I told Michael Murphy I wanted him to refer me the airbrush acrylic artist, because he understood that what I was really asking was for someone who could pay me with the artist’s work! And he did!