Many years ago we began a professional relationship with one of the area’s major hospital systems. They were undergoing a name change and re-brand as hospital systems do. Our client contact was a young, good looking, hip dude. We all thought he was wonderful.
As the months went by and we got to know him better, we began to develop a friendship. We learned that his father was a diplomat of some sort, connected to South America somewhere. We heard about the family compound on Cape Cod which sounded like something out of Camelot. And we saw pictures of his fabulous sailboat and learned that he was quite the racer.
About two months in, he shared with us the sad news that his mother was dying of cancer. We duly commiserated, even sent him flowers on more than one occasion. He explained to us that he would be leaving the office every Thursday to attend to his mom up on the Cape.
Then, the tragic day came; she passed away. Where could we send flowers, we asked? He advised us to send them to him at the office. He would see to it that the family knew of our thoughts. His dad in particular was devastated. He’d had to come home from South America.
One day not too long after the death, “Bill” was no longer employed by the hospital. As hard as we tried to find out what had happened, the hospital was mum. Then, I got a call from Bill. He had landed another Director of Marketing job at another area hospital. They, too, needed branding so we went to work. I remember thinking it strange that no one but Bill ever was at meetings or commented on our work. We racked up about $80,000 in billings.
A couple of months went by and we hadn’t been paid, so I asked Bill about it. “Not to worry. It’s in the pipeline.” I did not know then that that would be Bill’s last day at the hospital.
I got a call from the CEO who asked me to come in a talk. When I did, he informed me that Bill was a total fraud. He didn’t go to Harvard; in fact, he didn’t have a degree of any kind. His father was a Unitarian minister in Rockville and his mother was alive and well in her role as a housewife. Furthermore, the CEO wanted me to know that he had authorized none of the work we’d done and that we could go pound sand. (we settled).
What was that movie with Leo DiCaprio, Catch Me If You Can? That was our Bill. And that, friends, is a cautionary tale from a Mad Man.