The Million Dollar Influence Of A Simple Idea

Several years ago, I gave a speech to about 300 businesswomen, “How to Manage your Time for Success. After the talk, I handed out a simple handout of tips and exercises.

Afterward, two women came up to me and asked if they could “use” my handout packet. They were the Circulation Managers for Working Woman magazine, (readership about one million) They wanted to use the booklet as a “premium” – a free gift for new subscribers.

I was delighted but said that since this was my copyrighted material I couldn’t allow them to reproduce the booklets; instead, I would sell them the booklets they wanted. After some negotiating, they ordered 100,000 copies of a 12-page booklet, which I wrote, designed and had printed.

The profit margins weren’t very big, but now I had a unique product. Part of our agreement was that they would have the exclusive use of the booklet for the life of the promotion and only in the “women’s success magazine” category. I began thinking about other publishers who might want to use this as a premium to boost their circulation. I had one success story to help me sell the concept.

Subsequently, I sold the idea (and several thousand copies of the booklet) to McGraw-Hill Magazines, Inc. Magazine, AdWeek and a few other business magazines. These orders were not as large as the first one, but I was learning a lot about how magazine circulation worked.

One day I was rushing up Sixth Avenue in New York, among all the skyscrapers, taxis, food vendors, garment racks and tourists, trying to get to an appointment on time. I was thinking about my new “side” business, wondering what company would be large enough and have a big enough budget to buy a large quantity of my Time Management booklets.

I had just passed Radio City Music Hall, and across the street from it, the Time/Life Building. Time, Time …I mused. Time Magazine! Wouldn’t they like to offer their subscribers some great ideas and tips on Time Management?

I spent a few weeks researching their organization, learning about how they promoted their circulation and who the important executives were in their marketing department. After many unreturned phone calls, I finally got an appointment with Mark S., a young, up –and-coming marketing executive.

We had a great meeting; he immediately got the idea I had in mind and even started brainstorming with me to expand it to three booklets, with illustrations, and in full color. We worked out the titles on some pink message notes. Two weeks later, he had gotten management approval for an initial test (they would test this offer against several other free items via massive mailings).

They began with a test order of 5,000, at a low price; We negotiated a much higher unit price should the test be successful and they required a larger quantity. (This was important since I had to invest so much money for illustrations and printing for the first 5,000, I ended up taking a loss) I insisted on a signed “if – then”contract to lock in the order and the price for the larger quantity.

Several months later, after they had completed many tests, my set of 3 booklets, which we called “Personal Management Portfolio” had garnered the most replies. Mark called to give me the heads-up that they were going to order a whopping 250,000 sets of the booklets! This was the biggest order I had ever gotten.

While it sounded fabulous, there were major hurdles for me as a small-business owner. I had to order the entire quantity for delivery to Time’s Fulfillment Center to their specifications within a tight deadline.

No printing company would go ahead with my order unless I had a “letter of credit” from my bank which guaranteed the printer would get paid. This meant that I was now responsible for the entire order; if there was anything wrong, I’d have to re-do it at my expense. So while it was the biggest order of my life, I was also plenty scared. I knew nothing about managing a printing project of that size!

I hired a “production manager” to fly to Miami (where the printing was taking place) and supervise the project. I came down a few days later to begin the grueling proofreading process; checking, checking, checking since there was zero tolerance for errors. (and in the years since, no one has ever found a single misplaced comma)

Two semis loaded up at the printers’ and delivered the sets to Time’s headquarters in Tampa. (I also ordered another 20,000 sets which were delivered to my office; because of the huge quantity of Time’s order, I could purchase these at a rock- bottom price, about $.60 per set as I recall. (Over the years, I have sold almost all of them for $9 per set)

After returning home to New York relieved that all had gone smoothly, I got a call from Mark. “The booklets were so successful, we want to purchase another 100,000 sets”. Of course, this was exciting, but it meant I had to go back to the printer and begin another huge job.   This time, though, both the printer and the bank were super-cooperative. The second job went smoothly; in total, I had just sold 350,000 sets.

But that wasn’t all. I was a founding member of the National Association for Female Executives, which published a monthly magazine. I asked for a meeting with the president (the first male president they had) and proposed a similar premium product to promote their circulation. Of course, I obtained permission from Time Magazine, to avoid a conflict of interest. Time was nearly finished with its promotion, and they had no problem with my using my copyrighted material with another publisher whose audience was exclusively women)

He agreed to try it; we redesigned the covers and did some editing of the materials, to make them more suited for the businesswomen audience (once again, we negotiated a “rollout” price, should the test prove successful, and signed an “If/then” contract) They did several test mailings and guess what? It was a great hit, and they ordered 250,000 sets of what we now called “The Success Trilogy”. (I ordered an extra 20,000 sets of these, as well, and have since sold almost all of those)

So this one simple idea, which began with a talk to a group of women in New York resulted in the sale of almost 750,000 booklets, plus launched a lucrative division of my company, creating and producing premium products for most of the major magazine publishers in the industry.

Oh, and those booklets helped hundreds of thousands of people set goals, manage their time and learn to become more successful!


Elaina Zuker
Elaina Zuker
ELAINA is the president of Elaina Zuker Associates in Montréal, Canada. She has taught seminars to hundreds of employees and managers at major corporations such as AT&T, IBM, American Express, and MCI International, and is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and industry events. She is the author of six books, on leadership, management, and communication. Her best-selling book, “The Seven Secrets of Influence” (McGraw-Hill), the recent Main Selection for the Business Week Book Club, has been translated into four languages and its new, revised 2021 edition is now available on Amazon in paperback and as an e-book on Amazon Kindle. Her new book about Peer Mentoring YOUX2 has also just been launched on Amazon. Her internationally successful program “Secrets of Influence ™ is now available as an online learning program, either as a completely online self-study program or in a hybrid version. The program, created with the latest educational technology, can also be customized for an organization’s specific requirements. Ms. Zuker holds a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in Management/Organizational Development, and is the 2004 recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award from New York Polytechnic University. To engage Ms. Zuker as a speaker or consultant, to book a seminar for your company or organization, or to learn how to become a licensed Affiliate for Secrets of Influence, visit or contact us at [email protected]

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