Don MacNeil is the former Marketing Director of Windsor Jewelers and long-time on-air radio professional.
Is it just me, or…
Small think. Short term it may better allow us to sleep at night, but guarantees we’ll never be a Steve Jobs (Apple) or a Jeff Bezos (Amazon). In a nutshell, it’s a risk-averse fear of going broke that informs every business decision we make and ultimately decides the path of our lives.
When I first had the thought to take this up with you, I envisioned laying out a road map to steer you clear of it, using as an example a prospective client encounter from a few years back.
Then a little reflection set in. You and I have both noticed over the years that no self-help book or inspirational speaker can, for very long, move us out ahead of who we really are. Eventually, the vast majority of us come back to earth…revert to our mean as the numbers crunchers like to say. Living beyond our comfort zones just isn’t going to happen no matter how compelling the advice is.
Having that thought quickly turned this column from a rah-rah, take-it-to-the-next-level pep talk to a far more sober take on this same encounter, leaving you to choose what you wish to take away from it.
The story centers on a $2 million-a-year, family-owned legacy jewelry store we’ll call Shimmer, in a medium-sized city out west. Despite this city being five times the size of Augusta, none of its jewelry outlets had risen to any significant prominence and in fact, even at a modest $2 million a year, Shimmer was considered one of the city’s top players.
My then employer, Windsor Jewelers, had, by comparison, passed that benchmark almost 20 years earlier, and as talks continued over our helping Shimmer with its marketing, the pivotal question became clear: What dynamic had thrust Windsor Jewelers forward that was absent in Shimmer?
In a protracted interview with the family patriarch, Michael’s answers began to emerge. To counter the moving in of a prominent national chain jeweler, Michael revealed plans to enlist a local radio personality to endorse Shimmer with live commercials, admitting at the same time they, “Hadn’t done radio in 20 years.”
He emailed me a sample script intended for the talent, which was simply a coming together of every jewelry commercial cliché’ in the English language.
But more telling was his off-handed remark that his wife, Samantha, was ultra-conservative when it comes to marketing, terrified of throwing money away if you want to know the truth.
So there it was. At some point well back in time, he’d quietly (perhaps without realizing it) decided that peace at home was more important than seeking market dominance.
Now, before we point a finger at Samantha, consider that on some level she understood that in the media/marketing world they were babes in the woods. In his own way, Michael understood this, too. In hindsight, what they needed early on was trustworthy media guidance and talent on whose shoulders they could place their fortunes.
But it never happened, and at least for the moment it still won’t. Knowing a small business’s pathology (as the shrinks would put it) is key to the success or failure of not only the business, but its marketing firm as well, we respectfully took a pass.
Final thought: When you think about it, the above is far more about the choices we make in life than Small Think. From what I hear, Michael and Samantha have raised a fine family, all of whom have taken admirable places in adult life and all of whom are urging Mom and Dad to pull out into the marketing fast lane.
But in those critical early years Michael and Samantha made a choice, a choice arguably difficult to reverse this late in the game. They instead reverted to their mean – there’s that phrase again – and in doing so, presumably found a degree of quiet satisfaction equal to any that added market share may have provided.
Spot-on, indeed. Well played, Sir.