Two Words That Will Change the Way You Do Business

Everyone loves a good laugh. Humor is a joyful common ground that brings people together, personally and professionally. Businesses that incorporate humor and good nature into their products, services, and everyday culture give off a much more personal vibe, and consumers are attracted to that.


From the early days of Groucho Marx to the quirky sketches from Portlandia, improvisational comedy has been entertaining audiences for ages. While doing improv on stage is a great way to get a standing ovation at a theater, there are also a number of ways you can apply it at your workplace to improve your business.


Just remember these two words:

“Yes, and…”


The “Yes, and…” concept is a standard improvisational comedy rule, often described as the cornerstone of improv technique. According to this rule, improvisers are encouraged to agree with the ideas and direction of their stage partners during a scene and continue those ideas forward, rather than disagreeing and trying to take the scene in a different direction. Improv actors who use “Yes, and…” are much more easily able to keep a scene going, lead to more humorous actions or situations, and ultimately get a bigger laugh and a better reaction from the audience.


Here’s an example: this classic scene from Anchorman, a movie in which many of the lines were improvised.



Instead of each actor trying to establish the lead and take the scene in his own direction, they build the scene off of each other’s lines, continuing the idea and leading to the hilarious conclusion that Brick is probably wanted for murder.


This same idea can be applied to the business world. Not murder. The “Yes, and…” rule.




While brainstorm sessions can be productive when one person leads the discussion, you can implement “Yes, and…” to foster creativity, encourage additional ideas, and collaborate on new ways to operate.


Teamwork makes the dream work.

Running a business is a team effort, so it makes sense to use the brainpower of your entire team to achieve success. Give your co-workers and employees a chance to share their thoughts. Say yes, accept those thoughts, and run with them for a minute. Let the ideas flow freely and without judgment, and unless Kevin keeps suggesting “No Deodorant Wednesdays,” you’ll be surprised to see how far it’ll take you. This can also help boost morale in your workplace.



This happens more often than not, unfortunately: You hit a roadblock on a project. A co-worker wants to do things his way instead of your way.

The “Yes, and…” rule can help you reframe your perspective and view a seemingly negative situation as an opportunity. If your co-worker is insisting on moving forward with his ideas, give him a chance. Say yes, work with that direction, and build onto it with your ideas, instead of pulling away into a different direction. By changing your attitude toward the circumstances given to you, you can sidestep any resentment or negativity and turn the situation into a positive one. Also, if you’re willing to work with someone else’s ideas, it’s more likely that they’ll be willing to work with yours moving forward.



The future can be intimidating. Full of mystery and risk, the path that lies ahead is usually preceded by a number of difficult decisions. This can lead to a drastic increase in stress and anxiety. You can use the “Yes, and…” mentality to combat this stress and turn your future into something you eagerly anticipate.

Over the course of your career, your job (and your life) will throw some curveballs your way. The best way to stay alive at the plate is to figure out how to adapt to the unexpected circumstances that are placed in front of you. Practice the “Yes, and…” mindset: Say yes, accept the things that come to you, and roll with it. Your company wants to use different software than what you’re used to? Try it out, and see what you can do with it that you couldn’t do before – it might actually make your job easier. Your boss decides to replace “Casual Fridays” with “Hawaiian T-Shirt Fridays?” Aloha! Now you’ve got a great reason to grab some Hawaiian pizza for lunch.

By slighting shifting your attitude, you can greatly improve your level of satisfaction at your workplace, enhance your enjoyment of your personal life, and increase your chances of eating more pizza. And let’s face it, that’s the most important thing of all.


Have you tried using “Yes, and…” in your workplace? Did you find it helpful? Let us know what you think!

10 Reasons Why You SHOULD Join a Startup: Part I

I’m a big fan of startups. I interned with startups, I’ve worked at startups (and currently work at a startup), and I support startups, so when I read John Rampton’s “10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Join a Startup” via, I took it a little personally. Startups don’t have the best reputation, I get it. They’re flakey, unstable, here today gone tomorrow. But it’s a reputation that’s undeserved.


There are, of course, pros and cons to joining a startup, as there are when joining a major international agency, but I feel that a person’s reasons for working at either are mutually exclusive: some go after the money, others follow their passion. Rampton states that joining a startup could change your personal and professional life, and I truly believe that it does… for the better.


Here are 10 reasons why (in my opinion) you SHOULD join a startup:


1. You will get paid. There’s this assumption that because it’s a startup, there is not enough money to go around, but startups wouldn’t hire people if they couldn’t afford to have them. The salary you’re offered probably won’t be as high as you would like it to be if you’re experienced, or it may be higher than you’re used to if you’re entry-level.


In my professional and personal experience, money doesn’t mean happiness (it wouldn’t be a cliché if it wasn’t true!). You could make double the salary at a bigger agency and have no work-life balance, a toxic boss, ridiculous hours, etc., and for what, a better paycheck that you can’t enjoy? Been there, done that, was miserable the entire time.


Don’t not take the job with the startup because the pay is not what you think you’re worth. The experience you will gain will be invaluable, the startup will see and appreciate your worth, and I promise you it will get you to where you want to be. You have to start somewhere!


2. You may not land a role on the executive team. But you just might. Everyone has to climb up the ladder, no position will just be given to you. You want the role of CMO? Show the CEO you have what it takes. Could it take years to get there? Sure, but nothing happens overnight. What if the role doesn’t exist? Create it. One of the best things about working at a startup is that thoughts and opinions (that provide value) are welcome. If you think a position/title should be offered that’s not, speak up. More likely than not, your boss may agree and if funds are available (and necessary), that position could be created – and you just might be the person to write the description for it, or fill it!


And don’t worry so much about titles – industries and companies use them differently, so while you may be “Senior” at one company, you could be “Assistant” at the next.


3. Some startups fail. And some don’t. Rampton states that there’s a “very real chance” that the startup will fail (citing a Wall Street Journal study, which found that 3 out of 4 startups between 2004-2010 failed). I personally have a problem with studies for a number of reasons which I won’t go in to, so I’ll just say that I wouldn’t give that study too much weight in your decision to join a startup.


If you’re concerned about the “status” of a startup you’re interested in and/or interviewing for, ask questions. Many questions. Specific questions. Do your research online, ask people in your circles if they know anything about the company and the people. If you sense in the interview and/or email exchanges that something is not right, you’re reading/hearing that the company is not doing well, then go with your gut. But don’t be afraid to take a chance, either, especially if it’s for a company that you really, truly believe in, and genuinely want to see it succeed, and you have ideas on how to gain that success.


4. You’re going to work really hard. I hope that no matter where you end up working, you’re going to work really hard. Here’s the difference, and this is why I love startups: each day is not the same. Like I stated in the beginning of this post, I’ve worked at the major international agencies and I’ve worked at the boutique agencies, and let me tell you something, there’s a big difference in the “work” part.


Yes, you have the same responsibilities and clients and deadlines, but with startups there is far more flexibility in the day-to-day. The structure is not so solid; there’s room for improvement, suggestions, ideas, changes. You, in a sense, help to build the startup (or keep it growing) – you’re a piece of the building block so your input is valued, important, and, quite frankly, necessary. At an established company, you are a tack on the ladder and trying to change anything or point anything out, well, don’t bother having to deal with the bureaucracy of it all. Unless something is absolutely unacceptable, it’s best to keep things to yourself because not doing so might actually hurt you.


And don’t be deterred by Rampton’s statement that “you might work like a maniac for an excessive amount of hours each week because the startup is in a race to beat the clock”. Sure, that happens, but this is not the “norm”. With any job, if there are many deadlines arriving around the same time, of course you’re going to work around the clock to meet them. If there’s a big client event next week with top tier press attendance, yes, you will be working long hours, evenings, weekends… but that all comes with the territory, no matter which industry you’re in or who you work for.


And I would think that you choose to work at a startup because you feel a connection to it, you are passionate and excited about the product/service, not just because it’s the only job offer you get. If that’s the case, then it doesn’t really feel like “work”, does it? You’re just doing what you love, and getting paid for it, no matter the work schedule. What could be better?


  • Number 4 brings me to another point, which wasn’t mentioned in the original “10 Reasons”: In a startup, as with any company/organization, there are titles: you know who the boss is, you know whom the CMO and interns are, but you don’t feel like anyone is “above” or “below” you. Startups truly feel and function like a team, because you’re all working towards the same goal: a successful, growing, thriving business. I have experienced very few negative “typical corporate atmosphere attitudes” (read: toxic environments) at the startups I have worked at, and am currently working at. No one is out to “get” another person because no one will “profit” – if anything, the startup will suffer, and then everyone loses. However, the same can’t be said for established organizations – there is far much more to gain (and lose) when there are many “I”s in the “teams” (which there are). Choose your poison wisely.


5. Your list of responsibilities may be lengthy. Let’s be honest – if they aren’t lengthy, you should be worried.


Rampton states that “you may be asked to do multiple jobs” and “startup jobs also include the same mind-numbing responsibilities that the big companies have.” I agree. Like I stated in point 3, you won’t know any specifics unless you go on an interview and ask questions. There is no negative to either situation, it just depends on what you prefer. Do you like wearing multiple hats or knowing exactly what you have to do? I’m the first – I love unpredictability, I thrive off of not know what is going to happen next, I enjoy constantly ‘getting my feet wet’ in different areas and always learning and experiencing new things. Then there are others who don’t like change; they need structure and a guide to follow, which is perfectly fine, too.


It also depends on what, and how much, you want to get out of your job and how you see your future. I personally don’t think maintaining status quo is something that should be strived for – I think you should always be challenged, and challenge yourself, in anything and everything that you do, otherwise you don’t learn or grow.


As I mentioned in point 4, startups (should, I hope) welcome constructive criticism and valuable feedback. New ideas need to be thrown around, inspiration boards need to be created, trends need to be followed and implemented. If you want to wear a different hat or sombrero or baseball cap, or try on a new one, perhaps of a different size, let someone know. Trust me when I say that you will only get out of your experience what you put into it, so prove your worth and make it priceless.


Stay tuned for part II…


Social Media 101 – The Basics

There’s no doubt that social media is an important aspect of many people’s personal lives. Over the past few years, however, more and more people have begun using social media from a business standpoint: marketing a new product, booking performances or presentations, or just expanding their online network. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, not only for promoting yourself or your brand, but also for listening, gauging the sentiment of your followers, and facilitating conversations with potential new customers. While some businesses have been using social as a part of their marketing process for a number of years, there are plenty of others who are just discovering the power of social media. If you’re new to the social media marketing game, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

The best way to begin is with the fundamentals. Want to find out the best time to post on Facebook? Wondering how to effectively use Google+? Need to know the optimal character count for a Tweet?

Here’s a taste of the basics:


Want to learn more about how to use social media to your advantage? Download the full version for free: Social Media 101 – The Basics

Did you find this guide useful? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!

Take Random Meetings

Gary Vaynerchuk has often discussed “Why Taking Random Meetings Matters So Much.”  Two years ago, I had no idea who Gary was.  Luckily, I understood networking and that helped me completely change the trajectory of my career from good to great.  Like many others, I have friends, family, and weird Facebook acquaintances unhappy with their current professional situation.  I can’t always help them, but here are a few tips that have worked for me and I know with some patience will help you.

John Zanzarella

1)   Take Random Meetings:

Two years ago Len Ciffone, a co-worker and friend of mine, reached out to me about his grammar school friend who had started his own social media agency.  I was a manager in the marketing department at a large law firm with some ties to the firm’s (limited) social media presence.  He sent me some background info and YouTube links which I bookmarked but never viewed.  I set up the lunch for the Tuesday after Memorial Day.  Funny thing happened that Memorial Day – my girlfriend of three years and I broke up.  That Tuesday, I didn’t want to crawl in a hole and never come out, but I also didn’t want to get lunch and talk tweets.  Regardless, I did it, because you just never know – and because I was hungry.

* Take meetings in general.  Random meetings don’t have to be with strangers. I have great friends that I rarely talk business with.  Include them as well; who better to try to help than your friends?

2)   Be a human:

I met Chris Dessi for lunch in Stamford. He came in a few minutes after me and immediately complimented my watch.  Twist the knife, I thought as I responded, “Thanks, my girlfriend, err, ex girlfriend got it for me.  We broke up two days ago.”  For the next 57 minutes, we talked about everything but business. Chris shared some of his life experiences, some advice, some positive thoughts, and a slight bit of jealousy at my new single life.  There was no hard sell, really no sell at all.  Chris was building a relationship.

* A friend of mine talks about writing a book called “Be Normal”.  I told him I would buy a couple hundred copies just to give it to people. I am not saying not to sell, or not to talk business. Just make sure you read the room. You will know quickly whether there is a relationship to be built or just a contact to have.

3)   Don’t just follow up – Give, Give, Give

I was pumped about my meeting.  Chris has this crazy energy that I don’t need to explain because if you know him, you get it.  I followed up with Chris but I didn’t just go through the motions.  I wanted to help.  No strings attached.  I purchased three tickets to his next speaking engagement and brought the Director of Marketing and another manager.  Then I helped facilitate an in-person meeting with our COO, CIO, Director of Marketing, and the Managing Partner of the firm. Chris was making some ground developing our firm’s business.  I invited him to one of our client events in Pinehurst, NC.  I thought it would be a good chance for him to network, that one day he may be a client and, more importantly, that he could reconnect with his friend Len who lived in Charlotte.

* When you take meetings, listen.  Pay attention to what people really want and then be creative in helping them get there.  The second you stop worrying about what you will get in return and really focus your attention on helping others, you will get more in return than you would have ever asked for.

4)   You don’t know what you don’t know 

I didn’t know Chris had aspirations to produce events, or particularly that he owned the URL http://www.westchesterdigitalsummit.comI didn’t know that he was paying attention to how I ran the event he attended in Pinehurst.  I didn’t expect him to call me in mid-November to ask me to help produce the inaugural event.  I didn’t know what I was thinking when I immediately agreed.  On the day of the event, when Chris told me I would be his CMO one day, I didn’t realize he was serious.

* In an hour-long meeting, you will learn some things about who you are meeting with. It’s a small piece to a huge puzzle. Focus on your own consistency. Hold yourself to a high standard, provide value, and at the right time, the right opportunity may present itself.  I like to follow the saying, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

Two years later, almost to the day, we have produced two digital summits and have plans to expand this year.  I am the CMO of Silverback Social, and everyday I am excited to meet new and incredible people because, frankly, that’s how I got here.  My story is unique, but it’s the law of numbers. Start simple – one or two people a week and see what happens.  Everyone is busy, so it’s your responsibility to make time whether its breakfast, lunch, drinks, or dinner.  It might take two months, two years, or two decades, but it’s always worth it.










Silverback Social’s Favorite Moments from the Westchester Digital Summit

Westchester Digital Summit

What an incredible few weeks it’s been here at Silverback Social. You see, we produce an event called the Westchester Digital Summit. This year we were named by Forbes as one of the “Must-Attend Marketing Conferences For Leaders in 2014.” Each year we curate the brightest minds in tech, media, and entertainment. This year’s event, held on May 15th lived up to that moniker.

There were many highlights throughout the course of the day – here they are as told by the Silverback Social team:

Idia Ogala:

Undoubtedly – the Vaynerchuk keynote. As a marketing student, hearing that marketing principles that I was currently being exposed to instantly becoming obsolete was inspiring on so many levels; after the initial disappointment from a financial standpoint, of course lol. It was an eye opener that really challenged my understanding of marketing. It compelled me to try and use education and personal creativity to attempt to solve some of our industry’s problem through innovation. Challenge accepted.

John Zanzarella:

Mine came from our youngest participant, Josh Orton. Josh made waves at WDS1 when he was 12 (estimating) and heard a hyped up Gary V drop a digital smackdown on Westchester. This year Josh was prepared for Gary and when Q&A began Josh’ hand shot up. “What is ROI?” – at first I thought there was more to the question but then I realized that there didn’t need to be. There was something so innocent and brilliant about Josh’s question in a day and age where most businesses are more worried about ROI numbers than providing value with their marketing dollars.

Gary Vaynerchuk answering Josh’s question about ROI.

What happened next was a thing of beauty. Gary took a simple question, which most of the room knew the answer to, and answered it in a way that added value to everyone. Simple is difficult. Gary takes a complicated world of digital and social marketing and he makes it simple. That to me is his greatest strength and what helps make his keynotes so compelling.

Brian Funicelli:

Getting the chance to chat with some of the speakers after the event. I wasn’t expecting to have such casual, relaxed, down-to-earth conversations with executives from big-name companies like IBM, Mashable, and Fox Sports. I was able to talk to Adam Ostrow from Mashable about a mutual friend we have, and I was surprised at how much he and I had in common. Not only are this year’s summit participants incredibly smart, but they’re also super friendly. I’m looking forward to connecting with many of them again in the future!

Brian Levine:

Seeing all the speakers interacting and exchanging information behind the scenes. It’s great to have a lot of smart people in the same room, but when they start sharing and riffing off each other, that’s when the real magic happens. Helping facilitate the Q&A sessions with Chris and some of the speakers after their segments was fun and informative. During one of the Q&A’s, Adam Ostrow from Mashable recounted his inspiring story about how he became employee #2, which started by simply emailing the Founder when it was a one-man operation. Stories like these can inspire entrepreneurs at any
level. It was a great way for me to gain a deeper context to what they were talking about on the stage. WDS2 was a great day of learning and connecting with smart folks, which, at the end of the day, is what
social media is all about.

Tesla Motors at the Westchester Digital Summit

Josh Fenster:

Having the Telsa model s car at the event. At an event that last 9 hours it’s always a good idea to take a break. What a better way to spend your down time than to test drive one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world. As much as the summit was about information sharing and learning it was also about the experience. I didn’t get to test drive the Tesla because I was running around all day but I did take a peak inside. I was amazed how simple the design of the car looked yet how complex the technology that powered the car was. Between the Tesla, the chocolate delight buffet and the cocktail hour, the summit experience was one I’ll cherish forever!

Daniela Raciti:

My favorite moment, as everyone knows, was when I met Chris Hansen. Having watched him for years on TV, I was star struck when I found myself standing a few feet away from him. When he finished a conversation, I approached him with a huge smile on my face and said, with arm out, “Mr. Hansen, it’s so nice to meet you. I’m a huge fan, I just love you” to which he responded, (something to the effect of) “Too bad I’m not 30 years younger!” After speaking with him (and taking a picture, and wishing he was 30 years younger), I thought how cool it was that he was attending WDS2 to discuss how social media has changed the landscape of modern journalism. I hope that one day (soon) our paths cross again!

Westchester Digital Summit

Chris Dessi 

A highlight for me was the moment when Gregg Weiss VP Social Media at Mastercard was explaining to the audience how Mastercard keeps “Priceless” fresh – by offering their fans “priceless surprises.” The way he pulled this off in a room of 300 digital marketing executives was a thing of beauty. Let me explain:

Gregg Weiss of Mastercard turned to the crowd and posed the question:

What are you passionate about?

To which an audience member blurted out;

“the Mets”

Gregg replied

“Do you have a Mastercard?”

Audience member:


Gregg turned to the other side of the room:

“What are you passionate about?”

Another audience member shouted

“The Yankees”

Gregg replied

“Do YOU have a Mastercard?”

Audience member:


Great said Gregg (now standing up and reaching into his pocket:

“you just won a $50 Mastercard gift card.”

The crowd erupted in applause.

Greg sat back down in his chair and explained why that exchange was important and a great real life representation of how Mastercard engages with their community via social media. He started by saying that Mastercard is interested in their community – so they ask questions and engage with them. He also created something he referred to as “card envy.” The first audience member didn’t have a Mastercard, and missed out on the “priceless surprise” of a $50 gift card. Envy ensues. Brilliant. I’m certain that some in the audience were upset that they hadn’t chimed in as well. He trained them to always be on the lookout for “priceless surprises” guaranteeing future engagement.

The final maraschino cherry on top was that after Gregg sat back down at his seat and began explaining what he’d just done an audience member shouted:

“Can I get an application for a Mastercard?”

If that’s not ROI, I’m not sure what is.

Photo Credits: Pinksy Studios

Were you at the Westchester Digital Summit?

What was your favorite moment?  Share in the comments below.

4 Steps to Better Thinking for Your Business

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare.

We’ve created systems that allow for our  team to think differently so that we’re in a near constant state of innovation.    The act of thinking and the process of coming up with more imaginative ideas and then taking action is a much more scientific method than most like to admit.  Innately we know this.  Here are four ways to provoke thought that work for us that I’d like to share:

1.   Start with Simple

Understand the simple stuff deeply.  Seek where you’re missing expertise, dig in to learn it, and learn it inside and out, and then move forward.  In my business we have become so good at the simple processes that we have taken a process in social media that any business owner with the right motivation could certainly DIY themselves, but because it’s become so fluid, so simple and so efficient, we now add exceptional value.  Because we spent the time that our clients don’t have we can now offer innovative ways to approach every social media campaign from a different perspective.  Learn the simple stuff and build on that.  You can’t play a concerto without first knowing the scales.

2.    Screw it up. 

Every so often we mess up, and that’s OK.  Lately however I’ve been pushing myself and my team to color outside the lines intentionally. Empower your team to take risks and make small mistakes. This is the only way you’re going to learn and push the line of standard. Allow for your junior people to step up and take risks as well.  Sheltering them in process and protocol only hurts their development and the innovation of your team. Trust them, trust that you’ve hired well, and allow for them to make mistakes.

3.   Ask hard Questions:

Raise questions to clarify and extend your understanding.  The right questions will help you see connections that you will miss otherwise.   This is a tricky one.  You don’t want to create an environment when everything is being questioned, but enquiring properly and from a pure place, and create an environment where asking “why” is accepted practice.

4.   Look behind you.

When the new ideas start to pop up you need to step back, take a breath and see where they came from.  Close your computer, sit with a piece of paper, and think about where the last innovative idea came from within your organization.  Ask for help. Inquire internally and see if you can document the last time someone really cracked things open.

My most recent big innovation came while traveling. I was alone in my hotel room, reviewing our processes and challenging myself to improve, push, grow and expand the business beyond what I could conceive.  I asked myself – “what would you do at Silverback if money was no object”, and it hit me.   I began to roadmap my idea. I pinged my team to bounce the idea off them, and we got to the business of making it happen.  Now I try to calm my mind and ask that same question over and over and over “what would you do at Silverback if money was no object.”

At first blush it all seems so simple, doesn’t it?  We all want to come up with more imaginative ideas for our business, but when will we find the time?   When we’re left to our own devices we go off on tangents, but when we take the time to outline and frame our course of action, everything falls into place. The basic methods are fundamentally the same in school, business, arts, personal life, and sports.  Those methods can be described taught and executed.

I love what I do, and I’m lucky, but I find that thinking …real, deep, introspective thinking has become such a rare commodity that I have had to find a road map to become more efficient in my thinking, otherwise I drift off into unproductive daydreaming.  I’m sure you feel the same way.   We’re in the ever-constant mode of doing, and we rarely have the time to become introspective and really think about the issues that hold us back from over performing.   Over the years I have become exceptionally proficient at this process.  I shut everything down, pull out my notepad and think.

Brilliant innovators create habits of thinking that lead to break through and innovation.  There are practical and proven methods that lead to these breakthroughs.  Education doesn’t stop with your college days.  Learning habits of thought that equip you with the tools to take on everyday life will be invaluable to your success.  You will create an environment of innovation, support and through providing systems that will allow for you company to outperform, outshine, and out smart your competition.   Looking at the world differently by creating habits of mind that frame the world around you differently will change your game.

Transformative ideas means surrounding yourself with people that will challenge you, not by surrounding yourself with the same peers you’ve encountered in the past.  Putting yourself in situations that challenge you and take you by surprise is hard.  My friend Justin Brown is a business owner, and he challenges me every single time I sit with him.  Last week he turned to me and said “do the shit that is hard.”  Simple, right? Wrong.  Seek difficult bumps in your business.  Identify the things that make you cringe and turn toward them.

Creativity is not magical inspiration.  Extraordinary people are just ordinary people who frame problems differently.

Caring is the New Business Model of Success

We live in an age where brands can’t fake it anymore. Among successful social media campaigns, the trend is a storytelling element that speaks to the voice of the brand. The slightest sense of BS is sniffed out and dismissed by the social media community. So I started thinking about companies that not only focus on profit margins, but actually prioritize the customer experience…and that’s when I saw the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

A quick synopsis of the movie: An 85-year-old sushi chef, considered the best sushi chef the world has ever known, has had the same routine for over 70 years. He is a man constantly perfecting his craft; a man that loves his work. The lengths Jiro and his employees go to create the best experience for their customers is the definition of ‘going the extra mile’. Everyday either Jiro, or one of his sons, goes to the fish market to find the best catch of the day.

Two things stand out during this process:

  • If Jiro does not find a fish to his liking he simply won’t buy a fish.
  • The fish vendors prefer to sell Jiro their fish not because he pays the most, but because of Jiro’s expertise and his respect for the fish. They know he will prepare the fish the way it was meant to be prepared.

In a scene where the director interviews a highly regarded rice vendor, who exclusively sells to Jiro, the rice vendor explains that he could have sold his rice to the Hyatt hotels but refused because they didn’t know how to cook it properly. The rice vendor valued trust and quality over profit.

The customization or personalization of customer service is a telling sign that the company cares about the overall customer experience. This is part of the recipe for a successful business model.

When Jiro serves sushi he pays attention to the hand the customer picks the sushi up with. He then serves the rest of the meal to your preferred hand. Jiro gives women slightly smaller pieces of sushi than that of men so everyone finishes their meal at the same time.

It’s Jiro’s focus on personalization that enhances his customer service, which in turn allows him to charge high prices.

The amount of discipline, dedication and attention to detail adds to the overarching story of Jiro’s sushi. Companies need to effectively storytell, consistently, over time, to build trust and loyalty with their customers. When a company best tells its story, that’s when the customers will be able to relate to a brand, and that’s when a company can charge higher prices. The customer will be willing to pay if the relationship is worth it.

“Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job, you must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and the key to being regarded honorably. I’ve never once hated my job, I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it.” —Jiro Ono

What brands do you see effectively storytelling?

Do you think “caring” matters in business?

What brand who you relate to the most?

I’m a Loser.

I’m a loser.  Really, I am. I’ve had my ass kicked so many times I’ve stopped counting.  I’ve been fired more times than I care to remember.  Three times in less than two years in fact.  I have scars. Deep ugly jagged cuts that at times have left me bleeding on the ground.  That’s precisely why I win in business.  It’s also exactly why my company performs 10X better than our competition.  Because I’ve had my ass kicked I do things differently.  Let me explain:

The last time I was let go I was so stunned I couldn’t respond.


Shock: I just sat there. Stone faced. Mind racing, heart pounding. I tried to speak, but nothing came out.  The CEO sat across from me realized I was in shock, stood up shook my hand, and escorted me out.

Reality: I went back to my desk where my colleagues sat completely oblivious.  They joked, and worked and began to notice me packing up my things

Colleague “Spring cleaning Chris”?

Me “No, I just got fired.”

Anger: My direct manager came up to me and gestured for me to leave.  Through gritted teeth I said,

“I’m getting my things together.”

A moment flashed in my mind of me throwing a vicious, violent punch.

More shock: I packed up my things walked outside and wandered about 30 blocks holding a box containing all of my belongings.  A keyboard, a mouse, notebooks, files, even a bobblehead doll I had just received for being at the company for a year.  I was stunned, and spun around.  I finally got too fatigued to walk any longer so I sat down. I started to send emails.

“Dear, So and so, as of this afternoon I’m no longer with xxx. Please email me at [email protected]

..on and on.

Betrayal: The morning I was terminated the CEO had signed an NDA to a $350,000 deal of mine that would close in the ensuing days after my departure.  The commission went to my direct manager who had only been at the company for a few short weeks.

The Final F*ck You

Immediately after being terminated I did the only thing I knew to do. I went on interviews. I needed to get something going and something going fast.  I had taken a pay cut to work at this company and I needed to keep my financial life straight. No time to select where I would be. I had to take every single interview that came my way.  My wife was pregnant with our second child and I was panicked.  I was invited to interview with a competitor. I had to take the meeting.  Moments after leaving the interview (I was still in the elevator) I received an email from the CEO of the company that had just fired me:

“Chris, it’s come to my attention that you were interviewing at XXX company.  You are arguably in violation of your non compete so you will not be eligible for your severance pay.”

Months later I would learn that there was a salesman that was still employed at the competitor, but who had signed on with my former company.  He notified the CEO that he had just met me.

I got off the elevator blindly meandered into the lobby. Stunned again.  The proverbial kick to the nuts after I had already been knocked on the ground.  I heard my heart pounding in my head, the blood swooshing in my ears.  Nothing. That was it.  Not even a severance. I could have fought it but I would have lost.  And I had no money to defend myself.  And the CEO had me by the short hairs. I had violent daydreams filled with revenge fantasies.   I’ve since let it go because I know that contempt kills.

The Lesson(s):

I’m grateful for the experience. It taught me more about myself than any other experience save my father’s diagnosis with ALS.  Powerful. It’s now years later and I thank God I had this experience because I survived. I learned from it and I kept on going. I didn’t die, nothing blew up, and I survived well.  In my mind it was the worst case scenario and I lived through the other side.   I know that no outside force can make me do anything I don’t want to. I am the master of my own fate.  This experience propelled me into entrepreneurial endeavors because I swore I would never…ever work for anyone ever again. I would never give anyone control over my destiny.  Previously I would look to the company I worked at or my business partner for guidance and money making opportunities.  Now I focus on my strengths and make things happen on my own.  I am beholden to nobody.  I’m also tremendously grateful for what I have, and I give thanks to the people that surround me.  I’ve seen what others do in Machiavellian manner. That’s not me. I shower my employees with praise.  In the past I didn’t do this. Then I got my assed kicked and swore I would never treat my employees the way I was treated.  Grateful. Experiencing that and knowing you can survive is what helps you shed fear, and fear will kill you.

Because I’m a loser, and because I’ve had my ass kicked and because I have scar tissue, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I also focus on improving myself daily so that I never have to be reliant on anyone else for my own success.  At that job I looked  to others for more money and more responsibility instead of just closing more business and showing him by my actions that I should be promoted. I can see this now, but I was blind to my own blindness then. I know I can survive anything you throw at me.

I’m fearless.

We don’t waste time seeing what the competition does, we plow our own path.  I know myself better than I ever have. I know what my strengths are and how I can profit from them in a start-up environment as a true entrepreneur.  I aggressively focus on my biggest ideas because anything less would be falling short of the standards I set for myself.   Silverback provides big solutions for big companies doing big things.  I don’t panic. I don’t freak out.  If I never got my ass kicked I would have still been a “sales manager”…not a Founder and CEO.

So if you’ve just gotten your ass kicked. Get up, wipe the blood off your face and thank God for this lesson.  Be grateful for your scar tissue, learn from it, and take that first step forward.  I know I did.  My head is bloodied, but unbowed. 

So let’s hear it – are you a loser too? Have you had your ass kicked before? Has it helped, or hurt you?  Share below.