A company’s push to get a leg up on its competition is akin to running a rather grueling race. With most firms struggling to keep pace with their peers and simply remain in the contest, others lag far behind. Still others focus and go the distance. What drives one business to dash triumphantly through the finish line as its competition chalks up losses? And what does a corporation’s tactics have to do with those of job seekers circling the slippery track of the current employment market? More than you may think.
Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but when pushed to the wall, judicious business leaders do not act out of desperation: they plan and perform outside of the box in order to stay afloat and turn a profit. Their success stories (which interestingly, often begin with failures) stand as testimony as well as inspiration to the coupes job hunters can achieve when they apply the same general strategies of creativity and concentration.
Renowned chef Gordon Ramsey, for example, is the star attraction of a lesser-known reality television series, “Kitchen Nightmares” that appears to be more his “baby” than the popular “Hell’s Kitchen.” In these nightmares, Gordon responds to pleas for help from restaurateurs whose eateries are about to go under. Confronting escalating bills, inexperienced owners, worthless cooks, and menus that have coaxed heartfelt “Signs of the Cross” from our culinary hero, Gordon Ramsey identifies problem areas and conjures up remedies that often appear radical. For one restaurant flirting heavily with disaster, Gordon convinced its owner to provide local businesses with free lunches whipped up using his mouth-watering recipes instead of the prior, lackluster fare. This took some negotiating, as not only were there no immediate profits to be made, the eatery had never thought to offer a take-out menu!
Instead of delivering the lunches in disposable containers, the world-famous chef directed the kitchen staff to utilize stacking metal lunch pails. Because the containers then had to be collected, the cooks and wait staff were thus afforded the opportunity to inquire as to how the food had been received. The responses were not only resoundingly positive, they generated orders so substantial the “freebies” created a new and viable source of business for the once-failing restaurant!
Everyone loves a “freebie” and this is what Jonie Hicks, grandmother of “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks, banked on one Christmas season. As a seasoned marketer whose efforts had, for years, increased exposure and revenues for the shopping malls in Birmingham, Alabama, Jonie found herself hard-pressed to create an innovative means of drumming up business. However, this never-say-never Southern belle was determined to create a buzz for her clients. Tackling the problem from an angle that at first glance appeared simple, Jonie coaxed every retailer in one mall to provide each customer with a small, free gift in return for shopping in those stores. She then engineered a strategy through which customers could receive golf balls, each of which was painted with a number corresponding to one the various emporiums. In a flash of brilliance, Jonie hired a plane to fly over an empty field in Birmingham and airdrop 10,000 golf balls into the eager hands of customers. The stunt had been widely promoted, and the turnout on the field that day exceeded expectations.
Nature, however, had other plans. As they left the mother ship, unusually gusty winds swept the spheres onto the highway, prompting the horde to risk life and limb in order to stash as many balls as possible into pockets and purses. Despite a number of “freebies” that got away, the citizenry of Birmingham were treated to an unexpected rousing good time along with no-cost goodies from the retailers. The shops, in turn, enjoyed an improved turnout and an elevated profit margin. Jonie, however, still hears about this escapade, the like of which Birmingham has never seen before or since!
What lesson can job seekers learn from these business tactics? The value of innovation, and appeal of “free samples.” Whether by creativity in presenting oneself via one’s resume and cover letter or the enticement of working “without pay” as an intern or as a demonstration of one’s capabilities, a job candidate can create a market for himself by virtue of unorthodoxy. As in the instances detailed above, the rewards for such unconventionality may far surpass expectations.
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