About the Cobbler’s Children: Warning!

I love hearing from readers of my column — except when they are my ex’s divorce attorney, and my entire life savings are on the line. Join me now on the witness stand.

I have sworn to tell the whole truth so help me God. There is a black-robed judge who towers above the proceedings, his legal assistant, a court reporter, a shield-wearing bailiff, my lawyer, my accountant, my ex’s lawyer, and a group of our former friends and neighbors to support her and to stare a hole in me. I am being cross-examined. It is like a bad made for TV courtroom drama and I can’t change the channel.

This is not the exact transcript, but this is how I remember it:

“Mr. Callen,” says her lawyer, “you write a column in In Business magazine called ‘The No-B.S. Marketing Zone,’ yes?” He says the words “No B.S.” with an arched eyebrow and just the right touch of cynicism.


“In your May column, you wrote that a good name could enable a company to charge up to 20 percent more. You gave an example where a name you helped create generated millions of additional dollars?”

“Yes.” Hmmm. Where’s this going?

“Does your company have a name?”

“Umm … no.” Where’s this going?

“And in your September column, you gave an example where a tagline you helped create generated, ‘a huge increase in sales?'”


“Do you have a slogan for your company?”

Silence. This is embarrassing.

“Answer the question, Mr. Callen. Yes, or no?”


And so it continues, through all the other columns I have written. He establishes that I have neither business cards nor a Web site.

You get the message. I felt like smacking my forehead with a big Homer Simpson “Doh.” Put that in the court record…

My ex’s lawyer sought to prove that I knew better and that I intentionally shirked my breadwinner duty in order to artificially lower my income and my alimony payment.

Did I know better? Yes. Would I ever allow any of my clients to go that long without even a basic communications program? No way. The problem was not that I had been shirking: The problem was that I had been too busy taking care of my clients’ business to take care of my own. Business was so good, I back-burnered my own marketing communications. I felt like a marketing goofball, not a marketing guru.

In his final remarks, the judge gave me some wise marketing advice. He said something like, “I do not find Mr. Callen to be guilty of shirking. I think this is a case of the cobbler’s children who have no shoes. Therefore, Mr. Callen, I order you to have a business card within a week and begin a Web site within a month.”


So the next day, I met with Dina Sporer of Red Hot Skillet Design and now I have not one, but two different business cards, and we are working on the Web site.

The moral of this story? When it comes to marketing communications, don’t do it yourself. Hire somebody. Even if marketing is what you do.

I wish my ex’s lawyer had read my June column and taken it to heart. It was titled “Warning. Do not read this column.”