Does Size Matter?

Does size matter?

Nowadays, with all the instant gratification the internet provides, and the potential for new projects to quickly go “viral,” everyone is looking for the next “big idea.”

So, especially in corporate America, if you pitch an idea that’s not going to immediately move the needle, no one wants to hear it.

But so many big ideas start off as small ideas. People are looking for the touchdown, but sometimes getting a few first downs is the best way to get to the end zone.

For example, take the partnership between Steiner Sports and Notre Dame.

As I describe in my book, in 2005, after we formed our Yankees-Steiner partnership, we wanted to team up with the next biggest brand in sports. I figured that was Notre Dame.

Our deal with the Yankees encompassed a lot of “big” things: full lines of autographed collectibles like bats and balls; game-used items and field dirt and grass; exclusive representation of Yankees players for appearances and other events; and plenty of other significant projects.

Of course, I wanted to do all of these things for Notre Dame, as well.

But if I had gone into my initial pitch with Notre Dame proposing these “big” ideas all at once, it would have been overwhelming for the school; not having done deals like this before, it would have been tough for them to see how these things all fit together, and how they’d work to the school’s benefit. Notre Dame is rightfully very protective of their brand.

So instead, I went in with just a couple of “small” ideas: I showed them framed photos of great Notre Dame moments, signed by program icons like Jerome Bettis and Joe Montana; and I suggested selling replicas of the football team’s “Play Like a Champion” sign.

Happily, Notre Dame loved these ideas and once they became a little more familiar with our business, they wanted to hear more. Over the course of several months, we developed more lines of collectibles, and the other projects that eventually formed the bulk of the Notre-Dame-Steiner partnership.

But if we had tried to push through all these “big” ideas immediately, they wouldn’t have fit. Notre Dame is unique; the big ideas needed to be developed, not rammed through.

The Notre Dame deal was all about the “right” ideas, not the “big” ideas.

It’s like Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says about college basketball recruiting. He doesn’t necessarily recruit the “best” players; he recruits the players with the highest potential to be the best once he coaches and develops them over their years at Duke. The right players, not the best players.

Size is not as important as fit, and potential. A good idea will beat a “big” idea every time.

What about you?  Do you tend to pitch the “biggest” ideas you can think of, or do you go in with the best ideas, no matter their size?

Are you going for the sustained, long-term march down the field, or are you just throwing Hail Marys?


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