People, especially those in charge, rarely invite you into their offices and give freely of their time. Instead, you have to do something unique, compelling, even funny or a bit daring, to earn it. Even if you happen to be an exceptionally well-rounded person who possesses all of the scrappy qualities discussed so far, it’s still important to be prepared, dig deep, do the prep work, and think on your feet. Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded the London-based department store Selfridges, knew the value of doing his homework. Selfridge, an American from Chicago, traveled to London in 1906 with the hope of building his “dream store.” He did just that in 1909, and more than a century later, his stores continue to serve customers in London, Manchester, and Birmingham. Selfridges’ success and staying power is rooted in the scrappy efforts of Harry Selfridge himself, a creative marketer who exhibited “a revolutionary understanding of publicity and the theatre of retail,” as he is described on the Selfridges’ Web site. His department store was known for creating events to attract special clientele, engaging shoppers in a way other retailers had never done before, catering to the holidays, adapting to cultural trends, and changing with the times and political movements such as the suffragists. Selfridge was noted to have said, “People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.” How do you get people to take notice? How do you stand out in a positive way in order to make things happen? The curiosity and imagination Selfridge employed to successfully build his retail stores can be just as valuable for you to embrace in your circumstances. Perhaps you have landed a meeting, interview, or a quick coffee date with a key decision maker at a company that has sparked your interest. To maximize the impression you’re going to make, you have to know your audience. That means you must respectfully learn what you can about the person, their industry, or the culture of their organization. In fact, it pays to become familiar not only with the person’s current position but also their background, philosophies, triumphs, failures, and major breakthroughs. With that information in hand, you are less likely to waste the precious time you have and more likely to engage in genuine and meaningful conversation.
Terri L. Sjodin (Scrappy: A Little Book About Choosing to Play Big)