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We need to avoid being like Mr.PowerPoint with our careers.

Gary Vaynerchuk is something of a sensation. Recognizing the importance of e-commerce in 1997, Gary launched Winelibrary.com and helped grow his family business significantly from $3 million to $45 million by 2005.

What follows is an extract from his book – The Thank You Economy – which I would strongly advise buying and reading. Although the book is predominately about social media and business, the messages are all relevant for us personally as well, in our careers.

The future is coming… fast. Are we ready?

Extract from Chapter 2 of The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk:

In 1997, shortly after I launched WineLibrary.com, I was invited to a conference hosted by a local chapter of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce to talk about online selling. It was my first speaking engagement, and I was pumped. I sat in the wings,trying to stay calm, as the speaker before me walked out onstage. He wore a tie. He had VP credentials and a fancy PowerPoint presentation. And the theme of his talk was that dotcom retail was a crock. It wasn’t practical, and it would never take off because, as the data on his PowerPoint slides revealed, nobody in Middle America was buying, nor would they ever buy, on the Internet. Mr. PowerPoint asked the audience, “How many of you have heard of Amazon?” A solid number of people raised their hands. He went on to ask if they really thought people would abandon the relationships they’d built over the years with their local bookstores, or even bypass super-stocked Barnes & Noble. They didn’t.

It would be another two years before CEO Jeff Bezos would be named Time’s Person of the Year, his name underscored on the cover by the subhead “E-commerce is changing the way the world shops.” It would be another four years before Amazon reached its first quarterly net profit. Mr. PowerPoint compared the company’s rising market share to its nonexistent profits and said that one day we would all look back and say, “Remember Amazon?”

My short-term dream at the time was to become the Amazon for wine, and the audience I was about to explain that dream to was staring at this PowerPointing clown’s charts and graphs as if they were carved stone tablets brought down by Moses. As he finished up, he said, “This kid’s now going to tell you how he’s going to sell wine on the Internet. How many of you here would ever buy wine on the Internet?” Only one or two people out of sixty or seventy raised their hands. You know if this had happened in 2010, the talk would have been recorded and I could have posted it to show everyone what a jerk he was. But believe it or not, even though he called me a kid, he did earn my respect for calling me out. I like people with competitive spirit and bravado; they bring outthe fightin me. Not that I won any battles that day.

I walked out onstage and opened my talk by saying, “With all due respect to Mr. PowerPoint, he has no idea what he’s talking about. He is going to be on the wrong side of history. I feel bad for him.” I went on to tell my story, and gave my audience my best, most heartfelt argument as to why the Internet would be to retailers what the printing press was to writers. To the end, they remained a very skeptical, uninterested crowd.

Entrepreneurs have a sort of sixth sense that tells them when big change is afoot. The Time magazine article that accompanied Bezos’s Person of the Year award describes it best:

Every time a seismic shift takes place in our economy, there are people who feel the vibrations long before the rest of us do, vibrations so strong they demand action—action that can seem rash, even stupid. Ferry owner Cornelius Vanderbilt jumped ship when he saw the railroads coming. Thomas Watson Jr., overwhelmed by his sense that computers would be everywhere even when they were nowhere, bet his father’s office-machine company on it: IBM.

Jeffrey Preston Bezos had that same experience when he first peered into the maze of connected computers called the World Wide Web and realized that the future of retailing was glowing back at him.

Buy The Thank You Economy here.

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