Bert Sugar, the iconic boxing writer and sports historian best known for his trademark fedora and ever-present cigar, passed away on Sunday.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bert at the Boxing Hall of Fame this past November (he was inducted himself in 2005). Along with the hat and cigar, Bert was donning a yellow shirt and green pants with little lobsters on them. You couldn’t miss him! I bought his latest book (he wrote over 80), he signed it, and we posed for a picture together. Bert pointed straight into the camera as he always did.
Even if you don’t follow boxing, you’re almost sure to recognize Bert Sugar if you saw him. He’s been in movies (playing Bert Sugar of course), on sports shows, at ringside of any big fight, and anywhere and everywhere that involved a mouthpiece and a pair of 12 ounce gloves.
After passing the bar exam (‘the only bar he ever passed’ as he would say), Bert worked in advertising. He left after ten years to purchase Boxing Illustrated magazine. He later became the editor and publisher of The Ring magazine and the rest as they say is history. Bert created his own career, his own brand, his own legend and transformed himself into a Damon Runyon character. Bert Sugar’s job was simply being Bert Sugar.
As a business owner (or financial advisor for that matter), your job is simply being you. Provided that being you gets you recognized. Gets you respect. Gets you noticed. Gets you attention. Gets you talked about. Gets you associated with great things. Gets you credibility. Gets you invited to great places. Gets you business.
Here are some questions to ask yourself. And only you know the answers.
How do you think? How you think drives everything you’ve done and everything you will ever do. Your thinking drives everything! Are you open minded and do you entertain new things? Or are you slower to change? Overly critical? Opinionated? One sided? Set in your ways? (See how you are?) Positive? Progressive? Soft spoken? Inquisitive? Humorous? Humble? Self centered? Compassionate? Does your thought process make you who you want to be?
How do you behave? Your thoughts and mindset (from above) directly impact the way you behave. Do you come across as upbeat? Energetic? Dynamic? Engaging? Physical? Do you smile often? Bert was always quick with a joke, story, one liner, or factoid. When people describe you to others, what are the adjectives used? Are the characteristics valid? Is there room for improvement? If so, see above!
How do you dress? Do you dress in a way that makes you stand out (in a good way)? Pick your clothes for work on purpose and with purpose. Dress in a way that’s appropriate for the profession you’re in, the place you live, and the clients you serve. What type of business suits do you wear? Patterns? Pinstripes? Solids? What color dress shirts (or blouses) do you like? Type of shoes? Style of tie (if you’re a man of course!)? Can people you know predict the type of outfit you will wear at work tomorrow? I pride myself on always wearing either a blue or grey suit. There’s almost always a pinstripe in the forecast. I wear ties that are somewhat conservative although the color might be a bright red or a sharp blue that pops off my shirt. And I always, always wear a white shirt with a suit and tie. It’s something I never discuss but it always gets brought up by someone. People notice. That’s branding! If you don’t dress in a business suit every day, than look the best you can as it pertains to current styles and fashion sense. Find someone on television or in the movies that dresses the way you want to look and model them. Whatever you decide, dress in a way that’s consistent with how you work and how you want to be perceived.
How do you work? Are you neat and clean? Do you follow through on things quickly? Or are you more strategic and analytical? Are you more hands on or do you work through others and behind the scenes? Do you spend a lot of time talking with your clients and prospects? Are you more of a people person? Do you utilize a lot of technology or are you more “traditional”? If I were to ask you how you work, what would you say? If you asked your clients about how you work, what would they say? Would it be the same response? Best way to find out? Ask them!
Who are your customers and clients? Do you have a target market (whom you serve best and therefore wish to serve most)? If so, who are they and why? This often says a lot about you. (I work mostly with financial advisors. What does that say about me?) How do you get most of your clients? That also says a lot about you.
Do you have a gimmick that can work for you? Bert’s was the sports reporter thing. Yours could be a pin you wear. Your shtick could be an outside skill. Or activity that you can incorporate into your practice. I know an advisor that’s a cartoonist so he uses that talent to draw caricatures of his new clients. He creates an incentive and gets more clients as a result. I know another advisor that plays the piano and invites prospects to events where he plays to their requests as they sing along. Yet another sends children’s books that he writes to clients. The key is to be creative, have fun, and become known for daring to be a bit different.
No matter how you dress or go about your work, the bottom line is you have to be good (no, you have to be great!) at what you do otherwise none of this matters. Final question: What do you need to do at this point in your business to become great (or even greater than you are)?
Bert was the best there ever was at what he did and there will never be another like him.
Good night Bert Randolph Sugar. And good luck.