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Scott McKain

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A scruffy reason for you to re-think your approach to business…

Why are you making the choices that you’re making about your business or career? Are those choices helping you create distinction – or, are they reinforcing a status quo that might not move you into the future?

Those are questions I started asking about my business – as I contemplated what a highly regarded company recently said about me.

A top-shelf Fortune 500 company contacted our office about the potential of me speaking at an upcoming global event that they were having. This organization is mostly in personal products – nothing really high-tech, for example – but, they are known for category leadership. Obviously, we were delighted to receive their inquiry – and followed up immediately with my preview video and marketing material.

Imagine our surprise when, several days later, they called to inform us that I would not be the speaker chosen for their event because I am, in their words, “Too scruffy in appearance.”

proxy-imageThey said that they loved my content and my presentation style – but, with people coming from all over the world, they didn’t want someone with facial hair and a longer hairstyle in front of their group.

OK – there are many terrific speakers. I understand if the group selects one of my friends and colleagues for whom I have abundant respect!

  • However, having my presentation passed on because I’m “scruffy” is a new one for me.

Yet, I found it oddly inspiring. I’ve mentioned here many times that if you appeal to everyone, you’ll be found distinctive by no one. You cannot stand out if you are so bland that there is nothing about you or your business that doesn’t make someone go, “That’s not for us.”

Jokingly, Shelley in my office suggested that the speech – and the fee – would be mine if I was willing to shave. My response? “Hell no!” You see, I’ve also noticed that when you’re willing to do just about anything to get a transaction, you’ve eroded what makes working with you a unique experience.

I also wonder what this says about true diversity of thought and opinion within this organization? Don’t misunderstand – it is totally and completely within their rights to refuse to book me (or any other speaker) for ANY reason that they desire!

However, if you evaluate content by the appearance of the presenter – it’s not a long stretch to contemplate whether or not you are excluding great product and service ideas because of the look, gender, race, or creed of the individual that is advocating it.

For many, many years I had the short haircut, wore a tie, and had a traditional corporate look. No complaints – sometimes you have to play by someone else’s rules. The funny thing has been, when I started being myself…and became comfortable in my skin…my authenticity became apparent, and my career moved from good to amazing.

(…and I am grateful beyond description!)

I also realized that if I looked like the typical, generic corporate speaker, I might not have done – or be doing – so much work with progressive and visionary organizations like Apple, Cisco, Ingram Micro, BMW, Juniper, Chrysler, Tech Data, Fidelity Investments, Merrill Lynch – and on and on. Distinction attracts clients and prospects. Average means you have to pursue transactions.

So…I’ll take my scruffy self and work with other companies…and, after some thought and reflection…THANK the group that told me “no.”

It’s a reinforcement of the message: If you’re sufficient to everyone…you are distinctive to no one.

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More Stories By Scott McKain

Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers (Amazon.com & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" show...to a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.