A man went to a rabbi and asked, "Rabbi, you're a wise man, how is it that you're wise?" The rabbi replied, "Study and hard work."
Then the man asked, "What made you study and work hard?" The rabbi replied, "A lot of experience."
Then the man asked, "And how'd you get a lot of experience?" The rabbi answered, "I had good judgment."
And the man then asked, "What gave you good judgment?" The rabbi said, "A lot of bad experiences."
Over the past few years, I've written three columns on street smarts. After all my years in business, I'm afraid I just scratched the surface. Here are some more ideas:
A plan isn't a plan until you have a backup plan. You should always have a plan B and possibly plans C and D. The bigger the deal or event, the more detailed your backup plans should be.
Use your network for referrals to save money. For example, I was 29 years old and couldn't afford to build a new envelope manufacturing plant. But because I had a network, I was able to find a builder and guarantee I would get him other business. I got him four other buildings, and he gave me a down and dirty price. I did the same with my architect. Talk about a win-win situation — and a great way to put your network to work.
Follow the fleet. When I began selling envelopes at age 21, I pored through the phone book for a week, looking for leads. Then my dad suggested I might try to ingratiate myself with one of the battle-scarred veterans of the envelope wars on the sales staff. I did exactly that, and we drove to our arch-competitor's plant. We parked about 50 yards away from the shipping department and waited until one of its trucks began to pull out to make the day's deliveries. The rest of the day we followed that truck. What leads we got! What would you give to have your competitor's customer list?
Don't forget people from your past. For example, I had a friend from kindergarten who went on to become a successful entrepreneur. He gave me a lot of advice and counsel when I started my envelope manufacturing company. I stayed in touch with him. One day, I picked up a newspaper and read that my friend had become CEO of the largest retailer in the U.S. Is it any wonder that it became one of my largest envelope accounts?
There is a right way and a wrong way to lose a customer. Let's face it, everyone loses customers. The trick is to position yourself to get that customer back someday. Immediately schedule a one-on-one meeting with that customer. Tell them how much you have appreciated their business in the past and that you will move mountains so that it will be a seamless transition to their new supplier.
Nothing motivates people like crisp, cold, hard cash. For many decades, I used to hand out cash at our company sales meetings as a reward for attracting new accounts. The place got hushed as I pulled out those $100 bills. In short, the results are stupendous.
Mackay's Moral: Let street smarts help you navigate the bumps in the road.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.