One of our Product Licensing Managers was trying to find a manufacturer to license an auto safety product we’ve been working on. So he took it straight to GM CEO Rick Wagoner.
No joke. Our guy Lance Burton learned that the GM chief would be speaking here in SF, bought a ticket to the speech, asked around about where to sit so he’d have the best chance of meeting Wagoner, and then he made it happen... right down to giving the cliché 15-second elevator pitch on his product.
Needless to say, folks in the office were incredulous when they heard this. And then they were shocked when Wagoner e-mailed back to Lance, in what has become a months-long exchange covering topics from auto parts and Detroit redevelopment to men’s fashion and college basketball.
What’s the point here (beyond inflating Lance’s ego)? Getting an invention to market is hard. And it takes hard work. And there are real lessons in what Lance did:
- Go for it. Life and patents are too short to sit idle. If you’ve got a great idea and a goal to bring it to life, don’t hold back. You can’t succeed if you don’t try.
- Plan ahead. From preparing an envelope of materials ahead of time (which, he’ll tell you with a smile, he did put in Wagoner’s hands) to selecting his seat, Lance planned for success even when the outcome was far from certain.
- Keep going. Lance asked Wagoner for his e-mail address, and then followed up soon afterwards. This is what ultimately enabled the ongoing e-mail exchange and opened doors throughout the company. When you’ve got an opportunity, seize it... and then follow through, and follow through, and follow through...until you achieve your ultimate success.
Quick note: I can’t stop smiling when I think about this, because I love knowing that even the biggest of bigwigs in business are at least occasionally open to individuals and their new ideas. I say all this because I’d love to hear from you if you have equally motivating stories of your own.