Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Business Cards of Doom

Business Cards of Doom

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Without promotion, something terrible happens. Nothing.”  – P.T. Barnum

My buddy Lou was about ten years older than me. He’d been a sales guy all his life, and it was a perfect fit for his personality. Picture the best, friendly, masterfully competent, honest, humble and thoroughly outgoing person you’ve ever met and you’ll have an idea what a great fellow Lou was and how good at sales—especially repeat sales—he must have been.

I learned a lot from him over the years. For example, I found out the optimal length of a vacation. It’s three weeks, because, as Lou so wisely phrased it: “That’s long enough for you to actually recharge, and for your co-workers to miss your shoulder at the wheel desperately, but it’s not long enough for anyone to figure out that they can do without you.”

I also learned an amusing sales joke:

“A good salesman can sell sand to an Arab. A great salesman doubles the order by throwing in a chainsaw.”

Before I worked with Lou, he’d run our sales office in Tokyo for five years or so and done a superb job. Which was important; Japanese companies were huge customers, and the country was our biggest international market. But, there’s this story…


When Lou found out he would get the top job in Japan, he was on a short fuse. He had to show up in just ten days, with his family to follow. As you might imagine, his hair was on fire turning over his old job and trying to figure out what he would need on arrival at his new one.

Not speaking a word of Japanese at that point, he asked the senior local guy in the Tokyo office to please send him what should be on his business card. Then, he sent that off to our Corporate Logo Police, who operated the business card service in-company. The printed cards arrived the morning Lou flew to Narita from Seattle.

Lou is a dynamo, and the day after arrival, he’d begun to meet our most valued customers. The first session was a typical Japanese Board Room scenario, with the Shogun at one end and his acolyte salarymen arrayed down the table in descending order of honor, all 14 of them.

Walking out of the lobby toward the car, Lou was smiling and had a bounce in his step. The meeting had gone wonderfully well. And, at the end, when Lou went through the formal Japanese Business Card Ritual, each one of the Shogun’s minions had come up quietly and respectfully later to ask for an extra card, plus a few extras for the Shogun himself. Lou’s briefcase supply had run out in just one meeting!

In the car, Lou asked his second in command, if the meeting had gone as well as it seemed. Mamoru responded deferentially with the observation that he thought it had … considering that the Japanese characters on Lou’s cards could only be read in a mirror.

If something can go wrong, it will. The infamous Murphy is a citizen of the world. But, Lou did say that his Business Cards of Doom experience had been a great lesson and led to much more success than he would otherwise have had in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I also learned how to play Customer Golf from Lou, but that’s another story.

  1. November 1, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Can’t wait to hear what Customer Golf is like!

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