Get in Front of the Parade
When I was in high school, a group of friends dared me to become the drum major for the marching band. I don’t mind a good challenge, but I was an athlete — I played basketball and football. I wondered what my athlete friends would say. Having recently become familiar with the term “Renaissance man,” I decided to take on the challenge. I was already a trumpet player; why not move to the front of the band? That’s where the action happened. With a whistle and baton, I summoned the crowd’s attention and the cadence for the Post Falls High School marching band!
were not sales-driven and lacked passion and enthusiasm. I wanted to make a big impact my first day, so I hired the marching band from one of the local high schools. Their job was to show up, march around the building several times and blast “Celebrate Good Times” by Kool & the Gang to get the blood pumping. It was 8 a.m. on the dot. The band was in place, ready to dazzle and delight. However, there was one thing missing: my new employees! I got a quick lesson in how deep the problems were, because the sales team and staff were accustomed to showing up later. I wasn’t fazed. I gave a signal to the band and they played and marched around several times, garnering the attention of a few of my workers and plenty of folks from surrounding businesses. This was the message: Following today, things are changing! Looking at my old photo recently made me realize that, in the business world, you can be in the parade, but to really get attention, you need to be in FRONT of it! Whether you’re the boss or an account executive — you need to work harder to get attention and get the results you want. I was bold enough to hire the band after several successful attempts to woo clients made earlier when I was in sales. I sent my very first sales proposal to a decision-maker in Honolulu in a pizza box. That is, I faxed the proposal to the Pizza Hut and had them stuff it inside the pizza I had ordered for my prospect. He called me immediately.
In another case, I ordered a new pair of shoes for a CEO and stuffed a note in them, “Just trying to get my foot in the door!” Again, standing out from the crowd — leading the parade — put me in front for success.
Here’s a photo of my client, Tom Beeles. We meet regularly for breakfast and he had 100 things on his mind as usual. I arranged for the wait staff to march out and sing “Happy Birthday!” He was completely surprised that I knew it was his birthday. His energy and attitude went through the roof. Those delightful, unpredictable moments break up the way business is usually done. I challenge you to bring more novelty to your approach. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it DOES have to be thoughtful. Lead the parade. Be bold. Jump in! Once you have their attention, action will follow. -Dave Tester
Turns out my inner drum major reappeared 25 years later when I took my first job as a general manager. My mission was to change the culture of an underperforming team. The existing culture had made it all right to arrive at work late and leave early. The employees
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