Being An Entrepreneur Before The Internet

I like to reflect back to when I was an 18-year-old kid fresh out of high school and trying to figure out what I would like to do for the rest of my life. Let’s face it, does any 18-year-old really know the answer to that question? He or she doesn’t have enough life experience to be able to figure that out. All they can do is make an educated guess on what might sound good, as well as be able to rule a few things out that sound bad. Keep in mind that it was a different world back then. We didn’t have the advantages that we take for granted these days.

I can remember going to the movies and watching James Bond and I noticed that he had a telephone in his car. I can remember thinking to myself that that was just amazing and I wish I had one of those. I can also remember when people needed to shop for something, they would get in the car and drive down the street and frequent the local businesses and their immediate neighborhoods.

When I first tried to break into the St. Louis screen printing industry, there was no such thing as the Internet. I can remember going down the street and getting some business cards printed up that read St. Louis T-shirt printing and custom embroidery company on them. I then proceeded to cold call on all the local businesses I could. I would simply walk in there and introduce myself by saying my name is Mike and I just wanted to stop and inquire if the next time you are in the market for any T-shirt printing or custom embroidery, if I could simply just have a chance to give you a quote? If I can’t give you a better overall value than what you are accustomed to, then there’s absolutely no reason for you to change. But since we’ve never done business together before, I will try to create some type of perceived value that makes it worth your while to give me a chance. We get the overwhelming majority of our business two ways. The first way is repeat because the same exact customer who needs custom embroidery now will need something else four months down the line when the season changes. In other words, he goes from short sleeved apparel to long sleeve items such as jackets.

If you give me the chance on this particular order, then I will give you everything that I promise and a little bit more in hopes that the repeat orders and good referrals will just take care of themselves.

I had a great sales pitch, but I quickly learned that no matter what I said, I needed to be talking to the decision maker and not the secretary. She didn’t think I was the best salesman ever, but she didn’t have the authority to place an order. The overwhelming majority of people actually use what I was selling, but they didn’t actually need it at that point in time. To sum it up I am so glad that we live in the digital age and the advantages that the Internet gives us.

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