A man went to a rabbi and asked, "Rabbi, you're a wise man, how is it that you're wise?"
The rabbi replied, "Study and hard work."
Then the man asked, "What made you study and work hard?"
The rabbi replied, "A lot of experience."
Then the man asked, "And how'd you get a lot of experience?"
The rabbi answered, "I had good judgment."
And the man then asked, "What gave you good judgment?"
The rabbi said, "A lot of bad experiences."
Over the past few years I've written three columns on street smarts. After all my years in business, I'm afraid I just scratched the surface. Here are some more ideas:
Idea No. 1 -- A plan isn't a plan until you have a backup plan. You may have mapped everything out, but what if something unexpected happens? I can't emphasize enough how important backup plans are. You should always have a plan B and possibly plans C and D. The bigger the deal or event, the more detailed your backup plans should be.
Next Idea -- Use your network for referrals to save money. More than once, I've been able to negotiate better deals by offering referrals. The results can be even better than bartering.
For example, I was 29 years old and couldn't afford to build a new envelope manufacturing plant. But because I had a network, I was able to find a builder and guarantee I would get him other business. I got him four other buildings, and he gave me a down and dirty price. I did the same with my architect. Talk about a win-win situation -- and an excellent way to put your network to work.
Next Idea -- Follow the fleet. Starting out in sales can be tough. When I began selling envelopes at age 21, I pored through the phone book for a week, looking for leads. Then my dad suggested that I might try to ingratiate myself with one of the battle-scarred veterans of the envelope wars on the sales staff.
I did exactly that, and we drove to our arch-competitor's plant. We parked about 50 yards away from the shipping department and waited until one of its trucks began to pull out to make the day's deliveries. The rest of the day we followed that truck. What leads we got! What a treasure-trove of information! What would you give to have your biggest competitor's customer list?
Next Idea -- Don't forget people from your past. My father taught me the importance of a good memory. What he meant by that is no one becomes successful on his or her own. There are a lot of people who help you. You never want to forget those people.
For example, I had a friend from kindergarten who went on to become a successful entrepreneur. He gave me a lot of advice and counsel when I started my envelope manufacturing company. I stayed in touch with him. One day, I picked up a newspaper and read that my friend had just become CEO of the largest retailer in the United States. Is it any wonder that it became one of my largest envelope accounts?
Next Idea -- There is a right way and a wrong way to lose a customer. Let's face it, everyone loses customers. The trick is to position yourself to get that customer back someday in case their new supplier doesn't perform.
Immediately schedule a one-on-one meeting with that customer. Never do it by telephone or email or text. Do it in person. Tell them how much you have appreciated their business in the past and that you will move mountains so that it will be a seamless transition to their new supplier. Also, tell them that you will always be ready to help out in any way whatsoever in the future.
Next Idea -- Nothing motivates people like crisp, cold, hard cash. I have found there is no better way to reward people, including sales managers, entrepreneurs, project leaders and so on.
For many decades, I used to hand out cash at our company sales meetings as a reward for attracting new accounts. The place got very hushed as I pulled out all those brand-new $100 bills. In short, the results are stupendous.
Mackay's Moral: Let street smarts help you navigate the bumps in the road.