AJC Gwinnett Insider: Don't Pre-judge your customer

June 12, 2005
BYLINE: DUANE D. STANFORD, BEN SMITH
DATE: June 12, 2005
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Home; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News
PAGE: JJ5

The early-morning phone call from the little-known political candidate was unorthodox, to say the least.

Half asleep, political consultant Mark Rountree answered the phone with a simple “Hello.” The candidate introduced himself and got right to business.

“I’m running for county chairman, and I got your name as a reference from the state Republican Party,” the candidate barked. “Name your price and I’ll hire you and let’s get to work.”

Then silence.

Rountree concluded the guy must be a “kook.”

Who gives you a blank check and hires you without meeting you?” Rountree wondered.

“I don’t really manage those kinds of elections right now,” he told the candidate. “Let me give you the phone number of a friend of mine.”

Rountree now says that brief conversation was perhaps the biggest mistake of his career.

The call was in early 1991. The candidate was Wayne Hill, who won that election and two more after it.

Hill served a dominant 12 years as Gwinnett’s commission chairman.

“Love him or hate him, he was one of the most credible political forces ever in Gwinnett,” Rountree said.
The friend who accepted Hill’s business, Jim Lovejoy, kept Hill as a client for 12 years.

For Rountree, who now runs one of the most successful political consulting businesses in the state, the experience was a lesson learned: Never turn down a prospective client without meeting him face to face.

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