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Creative methods, when planned and executed successfully (and legally, of course), will go a long way in making you stand apart from the crowd. This is the key to succeeding in any interaction with others.
When I moved to the US in December of 2012 I didn’t know anyone when I have relocated to Chicago. By early 2013, I owned my own business. There were many steps along the way but there’s one, defining moment that stands out.
It was the time *I* stood out.
During the infancy of my small business one of my early clients, an advertising executive for whom I had a great deal of admiration for and an unyielding desire to work with, was simply… unreachable. After three phone calls and countless emails (this goes with the territory in building a business from the ground up), I was at an impasse. I moved onto the next name on the list but I kept coming back to this one agency. I just had to have this one.
I put myself in his position. I imagined having hundreds of emails from total strangers, besieging him to make time for them. Maybe I should try wording my emails more tactfully? Perhaps I should amplify my voice next time I leave a voicemail in his overflowing inbox.
No. This wouldn’t do it. I had to stand apart. To rise out of the sea of emails and voice messages. I needed to get in front of him. But how? One doesn’t just walk into someone’s office and demand to be heard. Unless, of course, they have an affinity for being escorted out by security.
Then, one day I had an idea. I needed an appointment. I needed a job interview.
I’m sure I’m not the first to do this, nor will I be the last:
I looked at job openings on his company website, luckily there was an opening that reported to him and immediately doctored a resume that precisely fit the position for which they were hiring. I wanted my resume to make the hiring manager wonder ‘why would this person even want to work here? That’s reason enough to have him in’. Knowing I could get through the vetting process I submitted my faux resume with the full intention of getting in front of this gentleman.
As you can imagine, with the resume to end all resumes in hand, I got the interview.
My ploy worked, and I was soon sitting across from him. Across from the man I’d tried tirelessly to get a meeting with. He sat there, in his big chair, eagerly awaiting this virtual rock star employee, looking at me as if I were waiting in the on-deck-circle, with the bases loaded.
I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, gave a heartfelt apology and made an immediate confession that my resume was flim-flam. A skillful illusion.
I held my breath… and awaited his response. I knew this could go one of two ways… or ten.
“Sir, give me two minutes of your time”.
I had rehearsed this pitch in the days leading up to the “interview”. I explained to him that I’d been tirelessly trying to contact him through traditional means, but to no avail. I told him about his company. About everything I’d admired from everything I’d heard, and read. I didn’t pour it on but, boy did I throw a lot of sunshine his way. I had done my homework.
When I finally broke out my real resume, the one I had tucked away in my portfolio, he could see I had more than a shred of credibility. Back home I’d had an extensive work history in finance that communicated to this man that I wasn’t just another wannabe business guy. I had be preparing for this my whole life.
After breaking down all the ways my business would benefit him I, without hesitation, asked for a follow up meeting.
And I got it.
We started small in our talks. The more I was able to sell him on the potential of this unique opportunity (there were, at the time, only two established architectural bus tour companies in Chicago), the more he seemed willing to take a chance.
It wasn’t just the trolley; it wasn’t all a numbers game. It was me. He was willing to take a chance on me, the guy who found a way. The guy who would doggedly pursue something with every fiber of his being. The guy who would tirelessly go to supreme lengths to open a door.
The door wouldn’t open for me. So I built one from scratch. He later told me he admired my ingenuity and determination. And it’s still a relationship I’ve carried on, to this day.
We eventually signed a contract. And the rest, as they say… well, you know.
Yes. Millennium Trolley Tours eventually became one of the top tour services in Chicago until it was bought out in June 2015.
There is no golden rule to how to approach making connections. No single skeleton key to unlock the vault.
Be creative. Set yourself apart from others. If you do this in a nice, honest way, you will be remembered. The reason for any networking event is not to get a deal done that night. It’s to be remembered.
Good luck. Live fast. Take chances. Be creative. Be unique.
Thanks for reading!