The Secret of What Else?

Virtually all of the important lessons I’ve learned in my career can be traced back to things my mother Evelyn taught me; she was a brilliant entrepreneur, very much ahead of her time. She’ll show up in posts throughout this blog, but right now I want to share with you the most crucial Evelyn Sachs business lesson: the secret of What Else, for which this blog is (tentatively: see next post) named. This story is adapted from my new book, You Gotta Have Balls.

When I was an eleven year-old growing up in Brooklyn, I got a paper route delivering the Daily News on my bike. 29 dailies and 37 Sunday papers. But I needed more. The News had a contest for the paperboys every week; the kid who opened the most new accounts won a box of candy bars. That’s 24 bars! To a hungry kid like me, that sounded like a steak dinner at Peter Luger.

Every morning, I walked by some big apartment buildings on my way to school. I figured they contained dozens of new accounts for the taking.

One morning I entered one of the buildings, and knocked on the first apartment I came to. An old lady answered.

“Would you like to buy the Daily News from me?” I said. “I can deliver it every day.”

“Why should I do that?” she said. “I can go to the store every day, and it costs me the same eight cents. But if I have you deliver it, I have to tip you, too.”

Getting the paper delivered didn’t cost extra, but you had to tip the paperboy. The News paid me a little fee for the route I had, but most of my money came from tips. This lady didn’t want to incur that extra cost.

When I got home that day, I told the story to my mother.

“Besides sell them a newspaper,” she said, “What else could you do for these people?”

The next morning, I knocked on the door of the same old lady.

“Would you like to buy the Daily News from me?” I said. “I can deliver it every day.”

“Why should I do that?” she said again. “I can go to the store every day, and it costs me the same eight cents. If I have you deliver it, I have to tip you, too.”

It was like deja vu all over again. But this time I was ready.

“Because if you get the paper delivered from me every day,” I said, “I’ll bring you milk twice a week, and I’ll bring you bagels on Sunday.”

See, I also lived right by a bagel factory, and in those days, there weren’t bagel stores all over the city. Having a source of bagels nearby was kind of a big deal.

“Wow,” the lady said. “You would do that for me?”

“Yeah, I’ll bring you the bagels on Sunday,” I said. “And on Thursday, when you pay me for the News, you can pay me for the bagels too.”

She signed on. One new account.

I went around her building, and neighboring buildings, hitting up everyone with that bagel rap. Before I knew it, I was delivering around a hundred gallons of milk every week, and over a hundred bagels every Sunday. In the process, I doubled my paper route. I was responsible for distributing over a hundred dailies and over 150 Sunday papers.

Sure enough, I won the candy bar contest all the time. I was a dynasty!

And that’s what this blog is going to be focused on – helping you find your What Else.

Can you think of a What Else for your job or career? Or even your life? That little extra something you need to reach the highest level, or bring a little bit of happiness to someone important to you…like the nearby bagel factory of my youth, these things are all around us. We just have to take a moment to notice them!


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