Everything I Need to Know About Business I Learned From My Nametag

So there I was ? sitting in the audience of an on-campus seminar. Surrounding me sat hundreds of fellow students; each of us wearing one of those little, handwritten, adhesive nametags. When the event was over, we all filed toward the exit. I approached the door and noticed a small trashcan filled to the brim with ripped up, used nametags.

And that gave me an idea. A crazy idea. Maybe I should keep my nametag on all night!

I wondered what would happen if I "threw myself out there." And I wondered how that would affect my approachability.

Sure enough, I walked out of that seminar with "Scott" stuck on my chest. About 10 minutes later I met up with a friend of mine at a local ice cream shop. And that's when it all started. That's when the silence was broken.

People began to say hello. Random students walked up to me and started conversations. Even complete strangers yelled "Hey Scott!" from across the room! I noticed an astonishing increase in both my own and other people's willingness to communicate ? all because of a nametag!

Later that night I returned home. I looked in the mirror at that little red and white nametag. And then, I made the most important decision of my entire life:

I vow to wear this nametag all day, every day ? for the rest of my life.

That fateful day was November 2nd, 2000. And since then, my entire life has changed. On January 1st, 2003, my first book entitled HELLO, my name is Scott: Wearing Nametags for a Friendlier Society, was released. At the same time, my company, Front Porch Productions was created.

But with every passing day of wearing a nametag ? I was forced to look deeper. I knew there was something bigger at work. And now after three years of business and five years of wearing a nametag all day, every day ? it's time to go from experimental to experiential. The following are seven valuable business lessons I learned from wearing a nametag.

Repetition
Like a large percentage of the world, I didn't learn much in college. Or maybe I just don't remember much from college. Either way, I did take away a few key concepts from my marketing studies. The main one was called "The Three R's of Marketing," which are:

1) Repetition
2) Repetition
3) Repetition

I know it sounds incredibly obvious. But with every single day that I wore that little nametag, people were more and more likely to think "He's still wearing that nametag!" "Hey look, there's Scott again?" "Why in the hell does that guy always wear a nametag?"

It was catching on. People not only noticed me, but they remembered me. And now they were starting to tell other people too.

LET ME ASK YA THIS?

What new action could you repeat on a daily basis?

Combine Vocation with Values
I often remind people that what I do as a person and businessperson is not about nametags. The nametag is merely a symbol that represents several core values I hold close to my heart. The truth is; my nametag and my values are one in the same. You see, my nametag represents friendliness, approachability, fun, creativity, uniqueness and casualness. And I, as a person, believe in friendliness, approachability, fun, creativity, uniqueness and casualness.

This reminds me of my friend Ed. He's a financial planner, and a damn good one at that. But the reason he's so successful is because his values (planning ahead, setting goals, organization) are manifested through his job. And I think the greatest businesspeople in the world are those who do just that: combine vocation with values.

LET ME ASK YA THIS?

Which values are manifested through your work?

You Can't Make Everybody Happy
You'd be amazed how much hate mail I've received over the years. (Yeah, I know ? hate mail addressed to a guy trying to make the world friendlier? Go figure.) But I actually value it tremendously. After all, as customer service experts say, "A complaint is a blessing!" First of all, it's hilarious. And as you read in the last section, I'm a fun guy. Secondly, there were a few emails that gave me a much needed kick in the butt, making me aware of certain inconsistencies I didn't see.

Lastly, as much as I don't want to admit it, not everybody agrees with me on this whole nametag thing. And hey, that's cool. I've come to terms with it over the past 1,635 days. But I've still stood my ground, even in the face of embarrassment, staring, humiliation or physically harm (yes, I've been beat up for wearing a nametag.) Why? Because I believe in what I do and it makes a difference in others' lives. Ultimately, it makes me realize that Peter Montoya, author of The Brand Called You, was right when he said, "If everyone agrees with you, you're doing something wrong."

LET ME ASK YA THIS?

What values or practices do you apply that receive criticism from others?

It's Not Who You Know, It's Who Knows You
Let's face it: if you wear a nametag all day, every day, wherever you go ? you will stand out. And people will notice. I figured that out in the first few months. But I had no idea it would evolve into a writing, speaking and publishing business until after the first two years. And that's when my accumulated visibility started working to my advantage.

Because once the company was up and running in 2003, it wasn't just that people noticed me ? people knew me. Whether it was someone in my community, a fellow member of an association or even a random stranger, it appeared that a lot of people knew I was the guy with the nametag. They knew I wanted to make the world friendlier. And now, they knew I had a book. It was all coming full circle! So, it's like my friend Jeffery Gitomer says, "It's not who you know ? it's who knows you." Amen to that, brother!

LET ME ASK YA THIS?

In your industry, community or company ? do a lot of people know you?

Angels Unaware
I've always held the belief that everyone can teach you something. That everyone has a story to tell. And that everyone can affect you in some way. So, by far the greatest advantage to wearing a nametag all the time was the opportunity to meet new people. People I wouldn't have met otherwise. People that, often times, became friends of mine! It almost became addicting!

But one evening while riding the bus home from work, I met an angel. I met one of the most important persons in my entire business life. It was just?some guy. A regular dude who was sitting right next to me. We got to talking and eventually exchanged business cards after our brief conversation. He wished me luck on my upcoming book, and I wished him a Happy Holiday Season.

I had no idea his girlfriend was the editor of a local newspaper.

A week later she called to set up an interview, the result of which was a 4 page article that came out two days prior to the release of my first book!

Once that article came out, media outlets from around the globe called for interviews! I spent the next 6 months on a whirlwind media blitz, sharing my ideas ? and my business ? with the world! That 6 month period eventually led to the forming of my company, which is now in its third year.

And all because I said hello to a stranger. An angel of whom I was unaware. (See Hebrews 13:2.)

LET ME ASK YA THIS?

Have you ever met one person who created the "tipping point" for your business?

Word Ownership
When I think of self-help, I think of Dr. Phil. When I think of customer service, I think of Nordstrom. When I think of marketing, I think of Seth Godin. And when I think of The Yellow Pages, I think of my brother, Steve.

Why?

It's because each of those people are individuals who, in mind, have the most expertise about, and most association with that particular word. That's called Top of Mind Awareness ? or as I like to call it, Word Ownership.

With me, the word is obvious: nametag. If you Google the word "nametag," I'm the first page that shows up. If you hear someone say the word "nametag," you think of me. And after knowing me, reading my work or hearing me speak, you will never think about the word "nametag" the same way again. That's Word Ownership. Sure, it's not a word used as often as marketing or customer service, but it's mine. I own it.

LET ME ASK YA THIS?

What word do you own?

Be Remarkable
Now, as I have progressed as a businessperson, Seth Godin (ibid) has become one of my favorite authors. His most famous book, Purple Cow, changed the face of marketing as we know it. If you haven't read it yet, here's the concept: in order to differentiate yourself in business, you must be remarkable. Remarkable is something worth making a remark about. And if you or your company can achieve remarkable status, people will do your marketing for you.

It's so simple, it's ridiculous.

And as it turned out, wearing a nametag, all day, every day for five years, was in fact, remarkable. But not according to me. It was according to CNN, USA Today, The Associated Press, The Washington Post, Paul Harvey, Headline News and The CBS Early show. Those were just a few of the international media outlets that did stories on it!

Now, I didn't include that list to brag. I included that list because honestly, I have no idea how in the hell it happened. I spent a long time shaking my head, thinking to myself, I can't believe it. But in the end, serendipity, luck and acts of God notwithstanding, maybe it happened simply because my idea was remarkable.

LET ME ASK YA THIS?

What facet of you or your business is remarkable?

The crazy thing is; all I did was put on a silly little nametag. And here I am; author, speaker, publisher and small business owner. Now, trust me, I ask myself that same question almost every day: How in the hell did all of this happen?

Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was smart marketing. Maybe it was luck.

Or maybe it was the right idea, for the right person, at the right time, in the right place.

You can pick whichever answer makes the most sense to you. But I hope these business lessons I've learned from wearing a nametag will help you make your mark and do something unforgettable!

© 2005 All Rights Reserved.

Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators - one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at http://www.hellomynameisscott.com.

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