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SF Blog: "I'm available."

Sometimes, there are strings attached to this pledge; sometimes not.

“Oh, you can call me anytime."
“I’ll be glad to help."
“I’m available.”

That’s the message that a one-time colleague recounted to me about a seemingly wise corporate communications professional. The next time he was stumped with an unsolvable problem, he called the old pro. Only this time, he received a starkly different reply.

“Oh, I don’t know anything about that,” replied the seemingly wise old sage to my suddenly chagrined friend. “What made you think I was available?”

I’d like to chalk it up to the fact that this was in a different industry than agriculture. That would never happen in our circles, right?

Well . . .

I once attended an event where a celebrity wowed the agricultural audience with dewy-eyed sincerity laced with humor. This star also had previously pledged “I’m available” anytime that a farm or agricultural group called.

Weeks afterward, though, another journalist covering the event recalled a different marker exhibited by the celeb. An audience member hoping to chat up the VIP off-stage received a dagger-eye stare in return.  

Or so she thought. Maybe the celeb just had places to go and people to meet, we concluded.

Months later, though, an agricultural professional we know took the “I’m available” pledge to heart. He was trying to line up the luminary for a future agricultural event. He called and called and called some more, finally reaching the star’s scheduler.

It turns out that “I’m available” had a dollar disclaimer. Seems the significant amount of money he was prepared to offer didn’t even dent the star’s demand for time.

Now, this is all part of the free-market system. This celebrity has every right to pick and choose offers that pay top dollar. And if this star can put a smile on the faces of farm folks’ faces, that’s fine.

All this contrasted, though, with a herbicide-resistant weed panel I lined up at the same event to which my friend was trying to lure the star. I turned to two of the most trusted weed scientists I know, one from a Midwestern land-grant university and another from industry. The only thing we had to entice them with was paying their travel expenses to the event.

Like the celeb, they exuded dewy-eyed sincerity – much more genuine, in my opinion. They really want to help farmers manage herbicide-resistant weeds. And they did – for the 15 folks or so who attended the session!

Afterward, I apologized to them for the sparse crowd. But rather than shooting dagger eyes at me, they pointed out that knowledge was relayed to 15 more folks than before.

No conditional pledges here. Just honest-to-goodness knowledge laced in real sincerity. They’re typical of the folks I work with each day.

When they say, “I’m available,” they mean it.

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