As part of a pitch to a potential client in 2005, my team was asked to define the client/agency relationship by considering whether our agency was more aligned with Butch Cassidy or the Sundance Kid. The only alluring part of such a question lay in the contribution to American folklore that those two individuals provide. First of all, Butch and Sundance were both criminals. Second, they spent most of their adult lives running from the law and incarceration. Finally, they both are believed to have died pitiful, lonely, bullet-induced deaths at the hands of the Bolivian military after the two reportedly robbed a Bolivian bank. Hardly material for positive and encouraging agency-to-client relationship building. Still, the Butch and Sundance experience does provide a poignant statement about change and the importance of embracing the future. The following is the response I wrote to the question. With its inclusion, we won the client. It remains to this day a personal standard.
Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Longbaugh depended upon one another for a lot of things. Bank robberies and train heists notwithstanding, each of their lives depended squarely upon the other for two years shy of a decade during a colorful and often romanticized part of American history.
It just so happened that their dance together played out on a spinning dance floor kept rollicking by the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution. Change swirled around them like a lost tumbleweed caught up in a West Texas dust devil.
And they were not at all excited about it.
History can’t quite finish the picture painted by legend and folklore surrounding the famous (or infamous) duo, but fact and fiction do seem to agree about one thing: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid didn’t like change.
Change chased them down like water chases the bottom of a drain. It chased them ruthlessly through the canyons, valleys, and mountain passes into which they were so accustomed to retreating. It chased them out of every hideaway they had ever used and ultimately forced them to leave the United States altogether.
For movie lovers, images of Butch and Sundance on the run from Lord Baltimore and Joe LaFors may come to mind. The most telling image appears when Sundance stares into the night from inside a sheriff’s station window. “There’s somethin’ out there that scares ya, huh?” is the line delivered by the Sheriff of Carbon County, an old friend who had long ago traded in his life of crime for something more honorable.
Modernization and “New Methods” of communication were things Butch was loathe to accept. Sundance, it seems, couldn’t have cared less. In a clutch, he could only mutter to Butch, “You’re the brains, Butch. You’ll think of somethin’.” Butch clamped a decisive cap on his disgust for the future when he tossed a “newfangled” bicycle into a ravine and verbally pounded the wreck with the words, “You can have the future, you lousy bicycle!”
Our agency is accustomed to running. But unlike Butch and Sundance, we don’t run away from the things that challenge us, we run into them. After we run into them, we don’t succumb to them, we conquer them.
Do we carry on like Butch Cassidy? Or the Sundance Kid?
Rather, we are the champions of identifying problems, rooting them out and applying superb and definitive solutions. Like Lord Baltimore or Joe LaFors, we are more concerned with going to every length and embracing every conceivable avenue until success is achieved.