When I was starting Venmark from a spare bedroom at my parents’ home, I remember an old friend who asked me what I was going to do if my business failed. I responded with, “Do you think Muhammad Ali jumps into the ring with thoughts of losing? Do you think he has a ‘Plan B’ which considers anything other than winning?”
That was one viewpoint that helped me succeed in business. You see, I was raised in a working-class family with a “you can’t fight city hall” and a “just do what you’re told” attitude. So, embracing an emboldened spirit like Muhammad Ali in 1964 was controversial. My brother despised him because he had a big mouth. But I thought he was amazing and I could see exactly what he was doing; I felt connected to him. He was creating a brand, filling stadiums, and defeating his opponents. He was doing exactly what he said he would do!
Ali was no con man. He was a true salesman. I believe the only difference between a sale and a con is delivery. He delivered more than anyone could have imagined during his lifetime. As I look back on my many long-term clients, I recall the early sales presentations and the skepticism of those folks. Our sales presentation was compelling and the changes in the attitudes of those clients after Venmark “delivered what was promised,” and their loyal business for 35 years has been a tremendous source of pride.
Muhammad Ali was my hero and inspiration when I was in my early twenties. His framed poster still adorns a wall in my study at home. He was a brilliant promoter and competitor who took risks, did what he said he was going to do, and assumed full responsibility for his behavior. He trained hard and prepared fully for each opponent; entering the ring on a mission to succeed. Failure was not an option.
© 2012 Steven M. Stroum