My father taught me that in business, you should always be prepared. Be ready. People are watching and you never know who. He didn’t pass this on to me as a warning but a reason to always put your best foot forward.
He would say you never know who you might bump into. It could be anybody. Back then he’d throw out names like Muhammad Ali or Jackie Onassis. Today he’d probably go with Bill Gates or Barack and Michelle. But his advice would be the same. Always, always be at your best and bring your A game to the table.
I took that to heart. I remind myself every time I leave the house to make myself look somewhat presentable, have business cards on hand, try and look pleasant and approachable, and treat everyone I encounter with respect. Because you never know.
When hubby and I moved to Savannah years ago, I applied for several jobs. With no luck atall. I finally signed up as a volunteer at the art museum and whaddaya know? They called me, along with several others, to be the extra hands needed for a major exhibit coming in
When our interviewer asked if any of us might be interested in volunteering for other spots in the museum, I asked about the gift shop. I love museum gift shops. And guess what? They were looking for a volunteer to work on Thursday mornings. I met the manager that day and we clicked. Now I had two volunteer positions. And still not earning a damn dime.
That first Thursday, I kept my wardrobe casual, artsy and professional. Jeans and a blazer. Makeup and jewelry. Your wardrobe tells all whether you like it or not and my goal was to convey polish and proficiency with some funk thrown in. I was wearing my hair cut short then. In a Mohawk. Funky enough.
I walked passed the marble front desk, smiled and said good morning to the two women at the register. Not ten minutes later the phone rang in the gift shop and Lisa, the manager, answered. I heard her say my name and then, “I don’t know what she does the rest of the week but on Thursday mornings she belongs to me.”
Belongs to me? I felt like I’d just been Paula Deened.
Only in the South, eh?
As it turned out, one of the women I spoke to at the front desk, the woman on the phone with Lisa, was Head of Operations for the museum. She came into the gift shop a few moments later to talk to me. Why? She liked the way I looked, the way I was dressed and the easy-breezy way I bid her a good morning. I wasn’t conscious of it (after awhile you aren’t conscious of it. It just is.) but I’d bought my A game when I walked through the door and it paid off. She offered me a job.
I entered a volunteer and left an employee…you never know who’s watching.
It’s like a little game you play. When you remind yourself that someone could be watching, not only does it keep you on your best behavior but it reminds you to do as you should. Return the grocery store buggy to the corral. Stand up straight and suck in that tummy. Pick up your trash in the food court and dispose of it in the can. Don’t be a bum.
Trifling and slouchy will get you nowhere. And that’s fine if nowhere is where you want to go. But being on the ball, recognizing an opportunity and going for it? “A” game, baby.
Experience makes it easier but being ready is key.
I’ve shared this story before but it applies here, too. On Election Day in 2018, I met actor Erika Alexander. I’d read online about her production company, COLOR FARM MEDIA, and the various projects they were working on. I was thinking about my own project and how I might approach her.
When the time came for me to pitch, I handed her a business card and told her about my self-published illustrated adventure for adults. As some of you probably know by now, my goal is an animated series.
Erika liked the idea and promised she’d check the book out and get back to me. We’ve all heard that before, right? But I felt optimistic.
Now here’s a part of the story I haven’t told. It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered there were books in the back seat of my car. I could have given her one right then! I mean, what if she lost my card? Or found it some time later but the magic of the pitch had worn off? I was sick to my stomach when I realized what I’d done. Or hadn’t done. I was horrified that I’d blown my opportunity.
But a few days later her business partner, Ben Arnon, ordered the book from my website. I fell to my knees in gratitude! And before long he and Erika called and made me an offer. I wasn’t as ready as I should have been, forgetting the books in my car, but I guess I was ready enough.
You never know when the moment will come.
Did you see Billy Porter on The Tony’s last year? He was ready when host James Corden called on him to sing during a commercial break. He chose EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES and he killed. People are still talking about it. Completely spontaneous, Billy didn’t have to get ready to perform because he’s always ready. See what I mean?
Guess who’s hosting the Tony’s this year? Rumor has it, it won’t be James Corden but Mr. Billy Porter.
So there you go. You’ve got to recognize your moment and Own It. Even if your knees are shaking and your gut is trembling, be prepared and make your move. Always bring your A game. And remember the fucking books in the back seat!