All you have to do is show up – and listen……
Several years ago, I had been traveling the country conducting seminars on various topics – the most popular one was on Goal Setting and Time Management. After seeing an ad for audiotapes (that’s how long ago this was) I produced a one hour tape at a musician friend’s studio, labeled it “Time on Tape” and placed small ads in the Wall Street Journal and other business newspapers. (I called this little venture Education And Research Publishing E.A.R. – I thought the acronym was soo clever!)
I rented a small PO box at the Grand Central Post Office and when I opened it every Friday, dozens of handwritten envelopes with $20 checks came tumbling out. One week the only thing in the box was a note saying “please see the clerk at counter”. There were over 100 envelopes for me – so many they didn’t all fit into the box!
It wasn’t all gravy – I had to pay for the ads, the PO box, making copies of the tapes, shipping the products to customers all over the country! Still, I liked this way of delivering my message much better than catching a 6 a.m. flight on a winter morning for Minnesota to teach a one-day program, for less money than the tape sales were yielding!
I began to think – how can I do this bigger? I didn’t have much of a marketing budget, being a one-woman business. What larger company might be interested in the topic of Time Management?
The first name that came to mind was Time Magazine, but I couldn’t (yet) think of why they would be interested in this (that came at a later time). Then I thought of Day-Timers, the company that sold those blank calendar books and refill sheets. Yes, printed stuff! I made a call to the President of the company, who answered his own phone and was very courteous, although he didn’t know me. When I asked for an appointment, he said he’d look in his calendar (a DayTimer no doubt) and gave me a date. I was so floored I was almost speechless!
He met me personally at the Greyhound Bus station, waved me into his modest Chevrolet and drove us to the “shop”, which was a HUGE building of the factory and offices. He gave me a tour of the facility, took me to lunch at the company cafeteria and then we went to his Executive office to chat. I still had no idea why he agreed to see me, and why he gave me so much time. He finally asked me what was “on my mind”; without much preamble, I said that I thought marketing an audio program on Time Management would add value to customers who bought his DayTimers. I could see that he was trying not to laugh, and said “well, I wish you had come here 1100 Time Management Consultants ago! “ He had been approached many, many times with almost the same offer.
Mortified, I was ready to thank him for his time and lunch, and slink out of his office. But, no, he did have something in mind for me, something way bigger than I was proposing. He told me he was in the process of selling the company to a multinational, and he wanted to leave a legacy beyond the core product line. He greatly believed in education for business people and he was intrigued by my repertoire of over a dozen training programs. Could I turn them into audio programs? He would create a separate product line for sale to his massive proprietary customer list (of millions)
Could I? I was writing the first page (in my mind) before he finished the sentence. Thus began the beginning of a beautiful business relationship (and friendship) that launched the “Day-Timer Success Enhancement Series.” I became the de facto “director/producer) of the venture. We worked out a very generous financial arrangement. And of course, 2 of my titles were the first out of the box; for the first one, “Influence” they sent (and paid for) a print mailing of a 4-color brochure to over 500,000 names, something I could never have afforded. The returns were excellent.
I was given a budget to write, hire talent and record the “product” a 6-hour audio program with printed workbooks. Beyond that, they did the packaging, the marketing, fulfilling the product. Besides my topics, we invited other authors/trainers/speakers to participate with their topics. (the only topic NOT in the curriculum was Time Management)
What did I learn? I had had a very narrow idea of what was possible; the very literal connection between a company selling Planners and the topic of Time Management. Of course, I couldn’t have known that this President wanted, as his final grand venture, to create a legacy of business education for his customers. But only by making the call, going to see him, pitching the “wrong” idea, was I able to spark the creation of the “bigger” idea, which he had already been forming.
So, next time you have what you think is a “pie in the Sky” idea, go for it! You very likely will get an appointment, meet a new person (who surely will appreciate your gumption). And if they don’t, they didn’t deserve your fine idea. And somewhere, soon, you’ll find an open, creative, entrepreneurial client/partner like yourself!