North vs. South, We’re Not Talking Civil War People, It’s Football

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Now most of you may know, I’m a spicy Southern gal who eats, breathes and sleeps SEC (Southeastern Conference) College sports (Read: drinks Bourbon.) If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll apologize in advance for real-time Tweeting about the games. Upon making the trek across the Mason-Dixon line, I have had to explain to many the depth of tradition around College sports. Earlier this week a funny e-mail hit my in-box (see below) and made me think how different cultures can be at different colleges, regions and better yet companies.

How many of us work out of NYC and have clients in the South or other regions where you are not originally from? The two cultures and work mentalities are completely different and can even hinder your client relationship if you don’t understand each other.

Man Trip
(CC) photo credit: David Reber

For example, and hear me out of this:
NYC agency calls a client in Alabama, talks very fast and can sometimes be a little pushy. (Don’t start yelling at the screen, I’m in NYC and have done this even being from the South.) NYC agency thinks they had a great call.

Alabama client hangs up the phone, confused and thinking NYC agency doesn’t have enough time to talk about their product, project, etc. If the NYC agency understood the client they would maybe take a few extra minutes to talk with the client, therefore making them happy.

Let’s reverse this situation:
Alabama agency calls NYC client and takes 15 minutes to ask one quick question.
NYC client hangs up the phone frustrated that it took Alabama agency so long to get their point across, will possibly screen calls next time.

Alabama agency hangs up the phone and moves on to the next call.

I have been and am guilty on both situations. So this brings up a few questions, should a client hire someone to represent their brand from the same region? Should we conform to our client’s work/life culture (and no, I’m not making everyone drink Bourbon?)

Excerpt from SEC Football Traditions E-mail:
College Football Time…
Planning for the fall football season in the South is radically different than up North. For those who are planning a football trip South, here are some helpful hints.

Women’s Accessories:
NORTH: Chap Stick in back pocket and a $20 bill in the front pocket.
SOUTH: Louis Vuitton duffel with two lipsticks, waterproof mascara, and a fifth of bourbon. Money not necessary – that’s what dates are for.

Fathers:
NORTH: Expect their daughters to understand Sylvia Plath.
SOUTH: Expect their daughters to understand pass interference.

Campus Decor:
NORTH: Statues of founding fathers.
SOUTH: Statues of Heisman trophy winners.

Heroes:
NORTH: Rudy Giuliani
SOUTH: Archie, Peyton & Eli Manning

Getting Tickets:
NORTH: 5 days before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus..
SOUTH: 5 months before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus, make a large financial contribution and put name on a waiting list for tickets.

Friday Classes After a Thursday Night Game:
NORTH: Students and teachers not sure they’re going to the game, because they have classes on Friday.
SOUTH: Teachers cancel Friday classes because they don’t want to see the few hung over students that might actually make it to class.

Parking:
NORTH: An hour before game time, the University opens the campus for game parking.
SOUTH: RVs sporting their school flags begin arriving on Wednesday for the weekend festivities. The really faithful arrive on Tuesday..

Game Day:
NORTH: A few students party in the dorm and watch ESPN on TV.
SOUTH: Every student wakes up, has a beer for breakfast, and rushes over to where ESPN is broadcasting “Game Day Live” to get on camera and wave to the north who wonder why “Game Day Live” is never Broadcast from their campus.

Tailgating:
NORTH: Raw meat on a grill, beer with lime in it, listening to local radio station with truck tailgate down.
SOUTH: 30-foot custom pig-shaped smoker fires up at dawn. Cooking accompanied by live performance from the Dave Matthews Band,… who come over during breaks and ask for a hit off bottle of bourbon.

Concessions:
NORTH: Drinks served in a paper cup, filled to the top with soda.
SOUTH: Drinks served in a plastic cup, with the home team’s mascot on it, filled less than half way with soda, to ensure enough room for bourbon.

Commentary (Male):
NORTH: “Nice play.”
SOUTH: “Dangit, you slow idiot – tackle him and break his legs.”

Commentary (Female):
NORTH: “My, this certainly is a violent sport.”
SOUTH: “Dangit, you slow idiot – tackle him and break his legs.”

**Disclaimer: This doesn’t include NFL traditions**

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  • http://twitter.com/missmotorcade sherri haymond

    what a great analogy (though watch it – i'm from the north, a HUGE football fan, and your only saving grace here is that i went to college in the south – so i'm not taking your reposting of that hilarious email personally…just sub patron for bourbon and we're all good ;) ). This is an interesting question for ppl in the client service business generally – came up for me as a lawyer and a banker countless times. I think client service professionals do need to be mindful of cultural differences – this is not to say you should change your entire style – but I've found that cultural awareness (regional, international, etc…) goes a long way in solidifying client relationships and earning trust. And that's what it's all about. Great post, Heather!

  • hdueitt

    Thanks Sherri. I remember when I first moved up to NYC and I got hung up on so many times by journalists and sports agents because I couldn't get to the point. Had to learn very quickly to adjust. Glad you liked it. And I have seen some Northerners who love College Football. Although NFL is a totally different e-mail.

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    I'm a Nole, but I don't tend to get excited about games until there's a big group of us and Bourbon is involved. (You know that's what Bobby Bowden is drinking out of those little Gatorade cups.) But it's a good way to think about the differences in the way people do business. As a southern gal, I've been elected to field calls from talkative clients because we will have a blast shooting the breeze. YES, tell me about your daughter's recital, YES, tell me about your pie recipe, YES, let's talk about the weather.

  • http://twitter.com/missmotorcade sherri haymond

    what a great analogy (though watch it – i'm from the north, a HUGE football fan, and your only saving grace here is that i went to college in the south – so i'm not taking your reposting of that hilarious email personally…just sub patron for bourbon and we're all good ;) ). This is an interesting question for ppl in the client service business generally – came up for me as a lawyer and a banker countless times. I think client service professionals do need to be mindful of cultural differences – this is not to say you should change your entire style – but I've found that cultural awareness (regional, international, etc…) goes a long way in solidifying client relationships and earning trust. And that's what it's all about. Great post, Heather!

  • hdueitt

    Thanks Sherri. I remember when I first moved up to NYC and I got hung up on so many times by journalists and sports agents because I couldn't get to the point. Had to learn very quickly to adjust. Glad you liked it. And I have seen some Northerners who love College Football. Although NFL is a totally different e-mail.

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    I'm a Nole, but I don't tend to get excited about games until there's a big group of us and Bourbon is involved. (You know that's what Bobby Bowden is drinking out of those little Gatorade cups.) But it's a good way to think about the differences in the way people do business. As a southern gal, I've been elected to field calls from talkative clients because we will have a blast shooting the breeze. YES, tell me about your daughter's recital, YES, tell me about your pie recipe, YES, let's talk about the weather.