In life, we tend to allow the fear of interaction get the best of us. It keeps us away from meeting new people and establishing relationships. Ken illustrates the value of stepping out of that comfort zone and reaching out by sharing a personal encounter with Jimmy John, owner and namesake of the fast food chain. Reaching out is very important for business. You have to stomach that fear in and go ahead to make some connections. It expands your business and helps it grow into a success. As they say, no man is an island. Likewise, doing business should not only be a personal quest, it should be open to take in better opportunities and ideas from other people.
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My bride, Kerri, is sleeping in the room above my office and she broke her little foot. She needs to rest. We’ve got our Digital Footprint coming up and she loves to wear her fancy gowns and get all dressed up and she’s still going to do that, but she’s going to do that with a cast. I want to cover a topic. It’s psychologically interesting to me. I struggled with this in the first few years of my business. I was a little bit shy, to say the least in the early years, but I’ve come to embrace this and it’s almost now a challenge for me.
I’m titling this podcast, Reach Out. I’m going to describe a scenario and then share with you something that happened. We were speaking at an event called City Gala in Los Angeles. It raises money for different charities each year and I was in an auction with Kerri in a ballroom, like an auditorium. We were twenty rows deep. John Travolta and Quincy Jones spoke. After all the big talks were done, everybody’s dressed up in their tuxedo. The auction begins. It’s like a silent auction throughout the day and then they auction off a few trips and some other stuff. We’re into it and there is nobody bidding on a trip to Monte Carlo and Monte Carlo is not Paris. It’s the southern part of France, next to Nice. They say it’s its own country but most people lump it in there with Nice because Monte Carlo is tiny and Monaco itself is even smaller.
Nobody’s bidding and I want this trip for the reason that there is a Monte Carlo Yacht show that I’ve wanted to go to for six years and just haven’t been able to do it. Kids, finances, whatever. When it was all said and done, we went backstage to Ryan, the guy that put on the event and we’re like, “Nobody bid on that. I know there was a reserve on that but is there a way we could offer less?” He said, “We could try.” He calls us back a couple of days later and said, “You’ve got the trip.” We’re like, “You’re kidding me.” We paid next to nothing for this trip. We flew out there with our 1.5 million points in our credit cards, so it was like a virtually free trip.
Don't immediately ask for the favor. It ruins what is a potential relationship, not the relationship. Click To Tweet
Number one included in this was a helicopter tour. Then to my wife’s surprise, a $400 credit to a Joël Robuchon restaurant, which is a two-star Michelin restaurant. Kerri, who’s read a hundred books on etiquette, she’s a connoisseur of fine red wine, loves Bordeaux. She is pumped up to go to this Joël Robuchon restaurant. We get there a little bit early. We get to the bar, have one drink and a couple of tiny appetizers. You can tell by the appetizers that this is going to be a great meal. They were incredible. Quite frankly, they were a meal in themselves. They call us to our table and they sit us at these chairs. Each chair must have cost $6,000. They were so plush, it was so fancy. You almost don’t want to pick up the silverware because it’s a piece of artwork.
That sets the stage, beautiful cloth, silk tablecloth and then there’s a nice-looking couple sitting to our left, probably a few years older than Kerri and I. Everybody’s prim and proper. They bring this little silk-padded little chair about a foot tall so Kerri can put her nice purse on it so the purse doesn’t have to touch the ground. God forbid the purse touches the carpet. We’re about half an hour into the meal and everybody’s quiet, we’re talking softly. The people around us are talking soft and I can tell that the couple to my left, remember we’re in Europe, are not only maybe from the Midwest, they could even be from Illinois where we’re from. I said to myself, “Worst case, they’re three hours away from Chicago. This is a Midwestern accent.”
To my wife’s very much disliking, I leaned over to this couple. They’re trying to have a private conversation, maybe getting away from their kids. I say, “I am so sorry,” and I can see my wife’s face in shock. I said, “I know we’re not supposed to reach out and talk to our neighbor in a fancy restaurant like this.” I’m being sarcastic and I go, “I am sorry, I can tell. I live in a little farm town near Chicago and I’m willing to bet this dinner that you don’t live far from us.” They go, “Champaign, Illinois,” which is a farm town two and a half hours south of my house. We were talking and it’s like instant friends, fast friends, like we’ve known each other for decades. We’re cracking up, we’re talking about the little chairs, etiquette.
About 45 minutes in, Kerri gets served what apparently is a form of shellfish and Kerri was deathly allergic to shellfish. She can tell instantly the first bite in that there’s something here. I can’t remember exactly what it was. It turns out it was shrimp in French. She rushes to the bathroom and I look up to the waiter not caring about etiquette. I said, “Is there shellfish in that?” They run back and they say yes. I grabbed Kerri’s purse and her EpiPen and go into the women’s bathroom. She’s chewing on Benadryl. It’s already starting to subside, her lip is coming back, the numbness is coming back, so she doesn’t have to have me jab herself with an EpiPen.
We started laughing a little bit, close call. I started taking pictures of Kerri in the bathroom of the women’s room of the Joël Robuchon restaurant. We go back to the restaurant and now we’ve bonded with this couple, Jim and Leslie. At this point, I don’t know their name. Ten minutes later we go by and Kerri was trying to order another glass of wine. Jim has nothing to do with this. He said, “The rest of the drinks for you guys are on us. You guys are having a stressful night. It was so great.” I reached over. I’m like, “Thanks for that. Kerri’s going to appreciate that drink later. My name is Ken.” He goes, “Jimmy, Jimmy John.” For those of you that know the national restaurant chain Jimmy John, the $2.8 billion company, I go, “The Jimmy John, like free smells in a neon sign in the window?” He’s like, “Yes,” laughing. We stayed another hour and again it was fast friends, immediate friends.
As we’re leaving he’s like, “I’ve got a boat in the yacht show. Would you like to come to our party tomorrow night?” We said yes. If you want to look up the boat, ROCK.IT, it’s a 200-foot, $70 million yacht for sale. He’s upgrading to a slightly larger Feadship, custom built as this one was. While we’re on the ship, he introduces us to Frank Pollaro, who we have been looking at Frank’s furniture in yachting magazines for over a decade. Jimmy points out that the dining room table in this boat was $300,000. He makes Kerri and I get on our hands and knees to notice that the bottom of the dining room table that you can’t see, that no human eyes will ever see, is just as beautiful and handcrafted as the top.
It’s one of those surreal episodes where he introduces us to his furniture person so we can dream build with that person. He introduces us to his yacht broker to make sure that if someday we ever decide to get a boat, that it’s done properly. Jim looked for six years. He chartered for six years before he ever put down any money on a much smaller boat for his first boat. He highly recommended that we don’t get starry-eyed at a yacht show and get connected to a local broker as we were about to do. He became very quickly, and Leslie for Kerri quickly became a mensch-type mentor in our lives. Why? I broke etiquette and I reached out. I can tell you that countless times in my life I have been in a situation where I was on the verge of complete embarrassment. Most of the time it’s because I know I’m centered around someone whose lifelong success is so further than my own at the time and I bit my lip and I reached my hand out and I introduced myself.
You cannot meet a Jimmy John and immediately ask them for a favor. You cannot reach out. Let’s say you go to a conference and the speaker comes off stage and they’ve written ten books and their business is just off the charts. You don’t reach out, introduce yourself and say, “Would you mentor me?” That’s not going to fly because in the relationship there are not enough deposits for that person to have ears to hear you, to ask for that favor. The point of this is to reach out. I just want to make sure I’ve got a disclaimer that you don’t make this mistake that most rookies in business make. They do bite their lip. They do get out of their comfort zone and reach out and I’ve seen it for decades, but they then make the mistake and immediately ask for the favor. It ruins what is a potential relationship, not the relationship.
Do not be afraid to reach out. Click To Tweet
A handshake, meeting someone of success is not a relationship. It’s an introduction. A relationship is when you follow up one to two weeks later and say, “Great meeting you.” You don’t follow up the next day like everybody else is going to do. You wait a week or two, so then you’re the only one emailing that person and then you reach out and you say, “I really appreciate what you said.” You caught a little bit of their talk from the stage or in the case of the Joël Robuchon, I told a little Jimmy John story about half an hour after I found out who he was about my son and Jimmy John’s. I didn’t say it right away, I gave him an essence, a compliment because as a stranger, he impacted my son’s life in a business sense. It was a cool little story.
When you find yourself in a position where you need to break etiquette to reach out because you need to shake someone’s hand or someone come off stage or you just went to a concert and you get an opportunity to meet them before they get into their limousine, do not be afraid to reach out. You never know where that’s going to go. I hope this helps. Take care.