Coloring Outside the Lines.

Sometimes in business you need to color outside the lines a bit to be successful.

Let me give you an example.

When Steiner Sports was just starting out in the late 80s and early 90s, our business was all about connecting athletes with companies for appearances and speaking engagements. From working at the Hard Rock Café and the Sporting Club, I knew some athletes.

But how would I find the companies?

My friend Joe Timmerman had a suite at Madison Square Garden that he shared with his employees. But he had only two people working at his company, so it was half-empty most nights. Joe would let me use the suite as well.

I’d call up athletes and ask them if they wanted to go to a Knicks or Rangers game: “You can bring your friends, you can bring your wife.” Usually one or two athletes would say yes.

Then I’d go to the white pages, and I would call any company name that I recognized. I’d tell the executive I could reach: “I’m gong to the game with such and such players. I have a suite. Come and watch the game with us.”

I had the corporate executives come straight to the suite, but I met the athletes outside. This is where I colored outside the lines.

I wouldn’t take the athletes straight to that suite. I made believe that I wasn’t sure where I was going; I’d wander into different suites with the athletes, so I could meet more people, more potential clients.

“Oh, is this not the right suite?” I’d say wandering into one at random.

But the people in there would go, “Leonard Marshall! Ottis Anderson!” Of course, upon seeing these stars, they wanted to meet them. So everyone would introduce themselves and exchange business cards.

That night, after the game, I’d send everyone we met a signed photo of a player and a note saying “nice to meet you…”

It was a great way to start building my rolodex.

My good friend Mitch Modell likes to color outside as well.

“I go into my competition’s retail stores and I head for the stockroom,” he says.

“They say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’

I say, ‘I’m looking for the bathroom.’

But I’m really just trying to see what kind of inventory levels they have. And what new products they might have back there.”

This stuff isn’t corporate espionage or anything like that. It’s just another method of finding that What Else in business, that little extra edge.

Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines once in a while!


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