Readers seek and share more street-smart ideas for success

Sometimes the columns that get the biggest reactions are those that offer the simplest advice. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about street-smart ideas and was inundated with requests for more. A few readers shared their ideas, too. Because I truly believe in the importance of street smarts for success, I'm continuing the list.

• There will always be a place in the world for anyone who says, "I'll take care of it," and then does it. Don't imply that a chore is beneath you, or that you are too busy to handle the mundane. Sure, you can call in help from subordinates (if you have them), but in order to share the credit, you need to do some of the work.

• Circle the wagons. For the past 50 years, every time I have wanted to persuade a person of power, I've found a couple of friends who have influence with the person to approach him or her from different directions to get the result I want. These are people who know I will come to their aid in return and who act professionally and discreetly on my behalf.

• Send in the clones. Whether you are buying a house or a car, send in a clone to kick the tires first. Your clone claims to be ready to buy right now and makes a ridiculously low offer. The goal is to find out the lowest acceptable price. Then you know the real cost.

• No check, please. When hosting a business meal, I always take care of the check in advance so it is never brought to the table. I call ahead and give the restaurant my credit card number and tell them to put a 20 percent gratuity on the bill. I have a lot of surprised people when we leave and they never see a bill.

• Take good care of yourself. It's difficult to find the best professional in a pinch. Of 10 doctors performing a procedure at a medical center, I assure you, they do not all have the same skill level. It is your job to find out who is world-class before you have an emergency. The same concept applies to lawyers, accountants and so on. As fatalistic as it may sound, if you build a strong network before a problem arises, you have just solved one of your problems.

• Waiting rooms are so named for a reason. Schedule appointments -- doctor, dentist or whomever -- for the first or second slot of the day, or the first appointment after lunch so you won't have to wait as long.

• Raise money for charity in return for favors. If someone asks a favor of me, I ask him to write a check to my favorite charity in return for my help. And I am willing to do the same for him.

• Treat the wait staff in restaurants with intelligence and compassion. People often evaluate how you handle others. Treat everyone with respect.

• Get your hands dirty. If you need to make a good impression on people, discover the chores they hate and then help them out. That might be doing the minutes for a board meeting, or it could be making fundraising calls. And maybe the request doesn't fit my skill set, but I can help find someone who can help.

• Gatekeepers can open a lot of doors for you. Treat them with dignity. Respect their power. And above all, acknowledge their help. I tell them that I prefer to work with them. Gatekeepers make and predetermine more decisions than people ever realize.

• Be prepared for the worst. It's critical to ask yourself or your staff what can go wrong. Prime example: A couple of years ago when the Indianapolis Colts were playing the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl and it rained for the entire game, then-Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was prepared. Every year he practices a wet-ball drill with his center. He takes a bucket of water, dips the football and takes repeated snaps. The Bears quarterback didn't prepare for the weather and fumbled the game away.

Mackay's Moral: The smarter I get, the more I realize I'm not finished learning.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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