a stone’s throw from success
(originally posted 1/5/2013)
Carl was the singular source of windows for the entire Lewiston area. About 30,000 people looked to Carl for the window needs, be it for installation or repair. There use to be another company that was a little bigger than Carl but they recently folded their tent and moved to another part of Idaho.
Like so many successful businessmen in small towns Carl had a secret.
It started with an idea. So simple it had to work.
Throw a brick through someone’s window and they would need someone to replace it. What other business could so easily create their own demand? All he would need is a supply of bricks. People would assume that vandals were responsible and he could basically create a little cash flow any time things at the store got slow.
Then he thought a little more and realized that he couldn’t control who the person with the broken window would call to replace it. He didn’t want to be helping out his competition and he couldn’t exactly attach a flyer for his company to the brick could he?
He was stuck. Nobody would buy a replacement window from a company that broke their window in the first place right?
The he thought a little more.
What about if he attached a flyer for his competition? (Nobody would buy a replacement window from a company that broke their window in the first place right?) They would pick up the phone and call him! Outraged at his competition.
But then he thought just a bit more.
Nobody would be dumb enough to actually attach a flyer advertising their own business to a rock that was destined to end up sitting among broken glass in someone’s living room. The aggrieved party would figure it out. There would be backlash and inquisitive glances in his direction.
That was right out.
Then he thought one last time.
He was right the first time. He would attach a flyer for his company to the rock.
So he did.
At first he got some enraged calls but he immediately acted completely innocent and even a little indignant that people would think he would lower himself to such a thing. People in town started talking and agreeing that nobody would be dumb enough to actually attach a flyer advertising their own business to a rock that was destined to end up sitting among broken glass in someone’s living room.
Carl even offered to fix a few of the windows for free because he felt so bad that his company name was being besmirched in such a way.
Then suspicion started to fall on his competitor. You know small towns.
And Carl played it off beautifully. Whenever someone would ask he would take the high road and say he didn’t believe that his competitor would ever stoop to such a terrible thing. It must be the work of vandals.
But not everyone believed Carl and some people actually stopped going to his competitor and began to use Carl for their window requirements. The more Carl defended the honor of his competitor the more people liked Carl and saw him as a good man.
And all the while Carl would slip out in the middle of the night and throw bricks through people’s windows. He was even smart enough to start throwing bricks with flyers from his competitor attached, figuring that that is what he would do if he was actually throwing bricks with his competitors flyers attached and he wanted to take a little suspicion of himself. But the public weren’t fooled and they continued to assume that his competitor was the one that was trying to take the heat off by throwing bricks with his own flyer attached.
So Carl took over the market and his competitor decided to skip town and start over someone else. Rumor had it that he settled down near Nampa.
Carl bought a bigger house and even divorced his wife and got a better looking one.
Life was good and the vandalism stopped when his competitor left town (further implicating him).
But then a new start-up company started up selling windows, as start-ups have a habit of doing.
Carl was actually in the process of wrapping rubber bands around bricks with his flyers attached when it hit him. Nobody would believe that this new start-up would do the exact same thing his old competitor did.
So he had to lower prices and work a bit harder to keep his clients. He even started to see his old wife on the side.
Then the first brick came through his neighbors’ window.
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