Tips for Entrepreneurs: Do the unexpected!

If you are flying to New York this morning, look around and see if you can find me. I’m the guy with the black hat.

Flight (370) (photo credit: Courtesy Delta)
Flight (370)
(photo credit: Courtesy Delta)
As you read this article in Tuesday’s print edition of The Jerusalem Post, I’m somewhere above the clouds en route to New York to meet with some interesting people I’ll tell you about later.
On my trips, I blend in perfectly when on a route that is full of my fellow hasidic Jews. When I’m traveling on a non-frequent route I obviously stick out like a sore thumb. (Or a beacon, depending on who is looking.) That’s why I think planes are so wonderful for networking, especially in coach. (In business and first class, people want to sleep or get work done.
There are people who get into pajamas and settle in until just before arrival!) But in coach, on long haul flights, people need to go out and stretch their legs. Flying is like being a sled dog. Unless you are the lead dog (the pilot), the view doesn’t change much.
That initial excitement only lasts so long. So, I’ve met some very fascinating people while traveling. About a year ago I met syndicated columnist Susan Bondy, whose financial column “Bondy on Money,” was carried in over 500 newspapers and who was featured on the cover on Money Magazine, Good Morning America and over 200 other shows. She gave me invaluable advice and become an inspiration to me. Worth the flight just for that! I’ve also met a high level Boeing engineer who spent time explaining to me how planes fly, and why the thin sheet of metal between me and the atmosphere was able to keep me comfortable and carry me across the globe.
I’ve met the CEO of a top “green energy” company, who offered me a ride to Jerusalem in his car (besides the free ride, the conversation is what was key). This enabled me to advise his company on how to counter some high profile negative news reporting, which only happened because the reporter did not understand how the technology worked – and the executive was not media-savvy enough to explain the technology in simplified terms. Journalists are expert writers, not experts on every arcane topic. That’s why they interviewed you! It’s not always about trying to meet new people and network.
Sometimes, it’s simply about not ignoring the people who walk into your life.
As The New York Times reported in February: Relative latecomers to the social media party, airlines are quickly becoming sophisticated users of online networks, not only as marketing tools, but also as a low-cost way to learn more about their customers and their preferences. With Facebook alone claiming nearly 500 million daily active users – more than 60 times the eight million people who fly each day – KLM and others are betting that many of them would be willing to share their profiles in exchange, say, for a chance to meet someone with a common interest or who might be going to the same event.
Flying is a great way to have time to think and read too. I received an advance copy of Mike Michaelowitz’s fantastic new book, The Pumpkin Plan (which I highly recommend). I like Mike because he originally self-published a book called The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.
I’ll spare the details of this great story. Mike tells it better than I; but more or less the story goes like this: It is extremely difficult to get self-published books into bookstores. So Mike did something classic. He reverse shoplifted! He went into the bookstore and “donated” a copy of his book to the bookstore. Then he came back a while later and bought the book. When he went to checkout, the book’s barcode was not in the system.
“I’m so sorry sir; let me go get a manager,” the clerk says. So the manager comes, and seeing a waiting customer, one who is being put through red tape to buy a simple book, the manager manually overrides the system and puts the book in and sells it to Mike.
So Mike paid for his own book. That may not seem like such a bright idea until you realize what happened next. Barnes and Noble now have his book in the system, and they went ahead and “reordered” from him as well. He was now in the major stores and had a fighting chance of being discovered! His message? Do the unexpected! I’ll be meeting Mike personally this week during my visit.
If you are flying to New York this morning, look around and see if you can find me. I’m the guy with the black hat. Unless someone in Delta reads this and upgrades me to business on the hopes that I write something complimentary about the company in the future, I’ll be in cattle class, with business cards in my pocket and a smile on my face.
And you should do the same, expected or not. Because that’s where the money is!
The writer is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi who has been published in more than 50 business publications. [email protected]