I always liked the word opportunistic: more specifically, it always moved me. Even as a kid before I knew what it meant to be opportunistic, I appreciated the trait.
My Uncle Jack was the very essence of being bold and opportunistic. His stories on the topic stick with me to this day.
In the August of 1944, Uncle Jack found himself in France on a “European Vacation” paid for by Uncle Sam: He was an infantryman serving under General Eisenhower.
By that point, the war in Europe was going well for the allies. There was still fighting to do in Europe and many more would die on the march to Berlin; but the Germans were retreating and the outcome was less in doubt.
When Paris fell back into the hands of the Allies, Eisenhower made the decision to let the French military (what was left of it) and the French Resistance fighters, be the first of the Allies to enter Paris as it’s liberators.
Uncle Jack didn’t take kindly to the snub. He felt that he had fought, lost his friends and nearly died himself retaking Paris: he was not going to have his just reward taken from him.
Uncle Jack spoke French fluently: And had a plan!
Passing a dead French soldier in the road, Jack noticed that they were about the same size. He stripped down the dead soldier, got naked himself and then re-dressed in the Frenchman’s uniform. When General Philippe Leclerc’s 2nd French Armored Division marched up to the Hotel de Ville, Jack was there. Forever he became the first American soldier to liberate Paris. At least that’s how he told it!
It’s been over 40 years since I was first told that story. Some things just stick with you.
Being opportunistic requires two things: recognition of an opportunity and willingness to be bold.
The lessons of Jack Goldner apply to your lives as paint dealers. It’s true that such a grand prize like becoming the first American in Paris after an epic war may not be available to you but hey…..you’ll never have to steal a uniform off a dead man either!
But opportunities to be bold exist on AND off the battlefield.
A dealer once called me for some advice about hiring an outside rep. He had been contacted by a rep at Sherwin Williams. The rep told him that he might be available to work for him if they could work out the right terms. The dealer called me and wanted to know what I thought?
Fortune favors the bold!
Even though the dealer had NOT budgeted for nor planned on spending the nearly $150K it would take to pull this off, I advised him to seriously consider the offer. We worked out a plan to value the rep in a way the made it a good deal for both the rep and the dealer!
He saw the opportunity and was bold enough to make the choice and added a cool million to his sales.
There was another dealer a few years back who I worked with through a new store opening. Going from one to two stores is the biggest and hardest of the expansion stages and this guy struggled with many of the problems that you would expect. Most especially the increased demands on his time.
One day not long after the opening, he called me. He told me another dealer in the county who had three stores had contacted him. He said he was going to retire and wanted to know if he wanted to buy his stores. If you think going from one to two stores in a few months is hard, try going from one to FIVE!
We spent a lot of time working on making sure this deal was good for him. Fortune favors the bold, but not the impetuous! I jumped off a 70 foot high rock once: But I knew how deep the river was!
In just a few months, he had grown from one to five stores and then SOLD THEM ALL to enjoy an early exit from the paint dealer’s life. By channeling the spirit of my Uncle Jack, the dealer saved 20 years of working behind a counter!
I’m currently going through a “how bold should I be?” exercise with this blog and podcast. It’s starting to take on a life of its own and it seems there may be more here than just a platform for my musings. I’m still figuring all that out but I promise you: I may not be bold enough to rip the uniform off a dead French soldier, but I got the lesson.
Get the bat off your shoulder!
When given the chance, be bold and opportunistic; and encourage your employees to do the same. Swing and miss…..and you’ll sleep at night! It’s those that watch the ball go by and hear the ump call “STRIKE THREE” that have all the nightmares.
If you haven't heard my podcast with LeAnn Day of the PDRA, give it a listen here: