with Phil and Derek
Phil Rizzuto was one of my first clients, back in the early days of Steiner Sports. I managed to book the Scooter for some store appearance. This was around 1989.
But when Phil tried to cash the $1,500 check I gave him for the appearance, it bounced.
I was using a bank on Madison Avenue for my transactions back then. I had made an agreement with one of the managers, Mr. Gonzalez, that if my checking account went into the red, he’d cover a check for me as long as I could pay it back within a few days.
When Phil told me his check bounced, I called Gonzalez.
“How could you let this happen?” I pleaded. “How could you let the Rizzuto check bounce?
Gonzalez explained to me that I had written two checks that were unfunded – one to Rizzuto, and one to Mickey Mantle. Gonzalez could only cover one of them, and he chose Mantle. I couldn’t argue with that.
Meanwhile, Phil wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. Even after I scraped together the money to pay him back, Phil gave me, in his words, a “red ass” over that check.
I was embarrassed about it, but instead of giving up on Phil as a client - or letting him give up on me – I made him a priority client.
Every time Phil reminded me of that check, I said, “I’m gonna make it up to you, I promise.”
I found work for him wherever I could. I spent extra time with him. I became close with his wife, Cora. I worked my “red” ass off to make sure that check was paid back dozens of times over.
Phil finally got into the Hall of Fame in 1994, and around a dozen agencies pitched him to represent him for his HOF activities and collectibles.
I went to dinner at Phil’s house one night around then to pitch him and Cora myself, and I’ll never forget how Phil explained he was going to choose Steiner Sports.
“After all you’ve done for me, I know I can trust you,” Phil said. “I know you’ll work hard for me.”
That was a huge game changer for us at the time.
But basically, it all started with a f*ck-up – with that bounced check.
In business, we’re always putting out fires. The question is – will you use them as sparks, leading you to bigger and better things, or are you going to let them burn a hole through you?
Buy my new book, You Gotta Have Balls, and my first book, The Business Playbook, here.
Did you know that the most successful people in the world never come up with an idea first? That’s because the most successful people do the best job of improving an already existing product or service.