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Business Lessons from Al Capone, Steve Wozniak, Meat Raffles and the Rolling Stones

There are many ways to make connections with people and learn business lessons, and the inspiration comes from surprising places.

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Business Lessons from Al Capone, Steve Wozniak, Meat Raffles and the Rolling Stones

Integrators can learn a lot about connecting with people from the Rolling Stones

It’s not often you can include Al Capone, Steve Wozniak, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, meat raffles and the Rolling Stones in a 90-minute session on improving your business, but author Mark Scharenbroich managed to do just that in his session at NSCA’s Business and Leadership Conference.

In “Making Connections That Move People,” Scharenbroich talked about how seemingly simple and obvious gestures and actions can help business leaders make and strengthen connections with their customers.

Capone, the notorious gangster, once unwittingly spoke sage advice for business owners when he said, “To succeed in business, you need three things: a smile, a gun and a plan. If you’re going to get rid of one, get rid of the smile. If you have to get rid of two, get rid of the gun too.” That, of course, leaves the plan, without which no business can achieve sustained success.

Scharenbroich talked about his family, but says the phenomenon can also apply to those in business too.

“The two greatest gifts you can give are roots and wings,” he says. “If the roots go deep, the wings go broad.”

Wozniak has become a successful businessman and one who’s able to connect with others for three reasons: he’s curious about the world around him, he’s a giver and he’s playful.

To illustrate the last point, Scharenbroich shared an anecdote of Wozniak showing Scharenbroich how to make his bent elbow “look like a butt.” While that sort of connection may not be one integrators can make with their clients during a pitch meeting, it’s one that shows they don’t always need to be serious either.

Scharenbroich shared a story about a man who was so committed to his core values he tattooed them on his arm, noting that sort of dedication isn’t necessary as long as business leaders know what’s most important to them. He talked about how box companies distinguish themselves from each other.

“How do you take a commodity that’s the same as your competitor and take away market share?” asked Scharenbroich. Even at a time when integrators are moving away from the box-selling approach to business, the comparison was appropriate.

Commercial Integrator is NSCA’s media partner for its 19th annual Business & Leadership Conference. Find continuous coverage here. 

To stand out in the crowded field, integrators must do three things: be nice, ratchet up your deadlines to over-deliver solutions and stay connected at all levels, from sales to manufacturing and beyond, says Scharenbroich, who asked, “what’s your 13th donut?”

“Once our core needs are met, we need to belong and need to hear the words, ‘nice bike,’” he says, in reference to a common greeting among Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners who gather for major events. “When we create an organization where people know what they do matters, incredible growth takes place.”

That comes in three ways: acknowledgement, honor and connection, says Scharenbroich.

Have you ever been to a meat raffle? There are two rules at meat raffles, which are more common in the Midwest United States, but exist in other parts of the country too. Attendees buy tickets for the rights to win… you guessed it, meat. The rules: you have to buy a ticket and you must be present to win. Those rules can apply in business too, says Scharenbroich.

“If you want something, stop whining and buy a ticket,” he says. “And, while smartphones are one of the greatest inventions we’ve ever seen, they can take us away from the important things in life.”

Scharenbroich remembers when his wife told him they were going to see a Rolling Stones concert. As a longtime Beatles fan, he wasn’t looking forward to the show, especially in what could be considered the twilight of their careers. But Scharenbroich was impressed with the band’s unbridled enthusiasm.

“They played every song like it was the first time they ever played it and like it was the last time they’d ever play together,” he says.

And, much like how Chris McChesney talked about how too many people find themselves in the whirlwind and how fish are the last ones to discover water, Scharenbroich says business leaders need to find a way to focus on their problems before they consume them.

“When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s sometimes hard to remember the first objective was to drain the swamp,” he says.

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