NEW YORK: U.S. stocks rallied on Friday, helping Wall Street's major indexes advance for the fourth consecutive week, as increased hopes the United States and China would resolve their trade dispute lifted shares across sectors.
I often reflect on how lucky I am to have been taught, early on, the two most valuable words in business: just ask. As an entrepreneur who felt in over my head and unqualified to take on the roles I did (and do), asking became my magic.
And it’s damn addictive. Once I started to realize that asking leads to yes far more than it leads to no, it became a habit for me, fueled confidence, and led to self-fulfilling outcomes.
One of my favorite “just ask” stories came early on when I was building my marketing and communications firm, Prosek Partners. We were in a high-profile competition for a new piece of business. We did so well in the first round that we were told, “You’re going to get it. You just have to pass muster with the founder.”
The partner who delivered that news was named Andrew. He reinforced how impressed he was and how good the chemistry was between our teams. But unfortunately, at the meeting with the founder, we froze. He was among the most intimidating humans we had ever encountered, and we fell like dominoes in his presence. We knew, leaving that meeting, that we had blown it.
How I turned a “no” into a “yes”
When Andrew called, I knew it was bad news. He felt terrible but informed me that they would move in another direction. He promised he’d make other introductions for me and my business and that he hoped our paths would cross again.
Five minutes after we hung up, I decided to pick up the phone and call him back. When he answered, I told him that I was going to ask for something outrageous, that he shouldn’t feel obligated, but we are so interested in the business that I thought I’d ask.
I asked for another meeting with the founder. Another chance. With a fresh team. Silence fell between us for a few moments, and then he said, “Jen, I doubt it, but I will try.” We had our second chance a day later.
I’m sure you know where this story is going. We got the business, and 13 years later, this firm remains a top client, and the founder is a dear friend. It turns out he was impressed that we wanted his business and more impressed that we were gritty enough to ask for a second chance. Founders connect with that behavior.
The rules I live by when I make an ask
Of course, there’s an art to asking, and as I practiced more and more, I began to identify common themes that got me from a yes to a no. Based on my experience, going by these principles have always served me well:
• What’s the downside?: If you’re trying to muster the courage, always ask yourself, “What’s the downside?” In most cases, you will find the answer is perhaps a little bit of embarrassment or a blow to one’s ego–not too much of a loss after all.
• Ask with humanity and authenticity: My ask to Andrew would not have gotten anywhere if we had not established a human connection and mutual respect for one another. I explained to him, authentically and humbly, that I was genuinely disappointed in myself and how much it would mean to me to have a second chance.
• Watch your timing: Timing your ask is incredibly crucial. Don’t ask for something when someone is under pressure or overwhelmed, running out the door or having a bad day.
• Don’t qualify your ask: Deliver your ask directly and confidently. Don’t apologize for your ask.
• What’s in it for them?: Your ask should deliver something for the other party, even if it’s just a sense of contribution. To this day, Andrew feels great that he was able to provide an opportunity to a young entrepreneur who was building her business at a critical time. To this day, I always remind him of the impact he made on my professional life and career.
There is something to the expression “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In business, if you don’t ask, you often don’t get. Remember, the downside is rarely as bad as you think, but the upside might be even better than what you’ve ever imagined.
Jen Prosek is the CEO & founder of Prosek Partners.
Surprise, surprise–we live in a pretty divisive time. That whole government shutdown that’s keeping 800,000 American government workers from being paid is essentially an argument over a wall. Among many other things, this situation illustrates just what a touchy subject immigration is in the United States. And ever since President Trump first glided down that gilded escalator to declare his candidacy, Mexico has been at the very center of it all.
Mexico’s biggest airline decided to respond by finding a hilariously clever way to turn the Us vs. Them dynamic into more of We conversation. Plus, a discount. Onward!
AeroMexico “DNA Discounts”
What: AeroMexico went to Wharton, Texas, to let people know just how Mexican they really are.
Why we care: The airline went to this small town southwest of Houston to show the impact of generations of immigration between Mexico and U.S. and to underscore that we’re not as different as we may think. Texans took DNA tests to find out just how Mexican they are, and some of the reactions to the results are gold. But the real treasure is in how this creative idea undermines a prejudice that’s become far too pervasive.
The New York Times “Resolve”
What: New ad in The New York Times‘s ongoing “The Truth Is Hard” campaign.
Who: The New York Times, Droga5
Why we care: By giving us a look behind the efforts to bring us the story of Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the Times makes it clear how, as CMO David Rubin told me this week, “Journalism requires time and resources, has real impact on the world, and should be paid for.”
Burger King “Hamberders”
due to a large order placed yesterday, we're all out of hamberders. just serving hamburgers today.
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) January 15, 2019
What: Burger King’s response to President Trump’s buffet boasting.
Who: Burger King
Why we care: When President Trump hosted the national college football champion Clemson Tigers at the White House earlier this week, he served them a wide selection of fast food. Then he boasted about it on Twitter, with one crucial spelling error that Burger King grilled into Brand Twitter gold.
Verizon “The Team Who Wouldn’t Be Here”
What: Verizon celebrates Super Bowl season with a football-themed tribute to first responders.
Who: Verizon, McCann
Why we care: Everyone loves first responders for obvious reasons, but here Verizon found a unique way to both celebrate football, first-responders, and tell a pretty great story. This is the main spot, but director Peter Berg also did others on each individual player’s harrowing experience.
Kabbage “Spokesguy From 10 Minutes In The Future”
What: The first national TV ad for fintech firm Kabbage.
Who: Kabbage, Eleven
Why we care: We don’t have to go through an entire oral history of Office Space, do we? (I mean, you should if you haven’t already.) Lumbergh. Or if a little parental prom night cosplay is more your thing, there’s Blockers. Or perhaps it’s the more data-driven Kent Davison of Veep. Or maybe you’re a fan of The Good Wife and the particulars of ballistics. Whatever your preference, Gary Cole is a freakin’ American treasure, and if he spells Kabbage with a K, kount me in.