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Can You Sell Water? Part 1

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Selling is a core skill. You have to know how to sell, whether it’s a product, an idea, or yourself. In 2012, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried saw the results of a bottled water-selling challenge at Techstars Chicago, a bootcamp program for startups. That one-day competition is the starting point for a conversation that includes the art of negotiation, Jason’s experiences selling knives, tennis rackets, and software; and other adventures in business.

Water Selling Challenge Results

The Full Transcript:

Jason: [00:00:0o] No matter what you do in life, selling is a core skill. Like, I don’t look at it as money in this case. It’s like, you need to sell your ideas, you need to sell yourself. You need to get a job, you need to sell yourself. To get into a relationship, you need to sell yourself. You want to marry someone, you need to sell yourself. There’s a lot of things you need to sell when you’re doing anything, and it’s either an idea, it’s persuading people to listen to you. It’s giving them a reason to care about what you’re saying, and what you’re doing, or follow you, or whatever it is. So, I do think it’s a core skill. Now, not everyone’s good at it and you can certainly get by in life without it, but I think that you have to do it.

[00:00:30] That’s why I think it’s core. So, you can be bad at it but you still have to do it. You can’t say, oh, well, I don’t sell. Yes, you do. Anything you do. And I think the better you are at it, the more opportunities you’re going to find in life, so that’s why I think it’s important.

[00:00:41] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays. Wailin: [00:00:42] Welcome to Rework, a podcast by Basecamp about the better way to work and run your business. I’m Wailin Wong.

Shaun: [00:00:47] And I’m Shaun Hildner. Today we’re bringing you a conversation I had recently with Basecamp CEO Jason Fried about the importance of learning to sell.

[00:00:56] So, back in 2012, he was giving a talk at Techstars Chicago. It’s like a tech incubator. They take a handful of startups and run them through a three month accelerator program. That year, they had kicked off the program with a contest to see which company could sell the most bottles of water in a day. Jason thought this was an interesting experiment and has written about it a couple of times on Signal v. Noise, our company blog. So, we start the conversation there, but go into negotiating, startup culture and selling knives. So, here’s my talk with Jason, with a little background information from Troy Henikoff, who used to run Techstars Chicago. Jason: [00:01:30] I don’t remember if it was after my talk or before my talk, but when I went to give a talk at Techstars in Chicago in 2012, I noticed that there was a board and there were all the different company names of the Techstars class on the board with numbers after them. And it said like, water bottle challenge, or something like that. Sales—I don’t remember what it was exactly, but I saw this board. And, I asked Troy Henikoff, who was the guy running Techstars, what is this? Troy: [00:02:00] I’m Troy Henikoff. I spent the last seven years running Techstars here in Chicago. I also run a venture fund, MATH Venture Partners and teach entrepreneurship at Kellogg School at Northwestern. One of my deeply held beliefs is that there’s nothing more important than sales. And, customer acquisition is much harder than entrepreneurs give credit for.

[00:02:21] I see smart entrepreneur who know their industry all the time coming to me and saying, hey, I deeply understand the problem. I’ve created this amazing product solution. I have a company. When the reality is, what they have is a product. Until you have customers, you don’t have a company, and they tend to undervalue the sales side. Oh, anybody can do that, what’s really hard is creating a product. And so, what we did was we kind of led them along. So, in the morning we did a couple of quick exercises, talking about how you’re going to have to make low-data decisions as an entrepreneur all the time. So, let’s practice. How many bottles of water do you think are consumed in Chicago, every day. And everybody came up and they did a quick. They had 30 seconds to come up with an answer, and they threw out their answers and we told them what we thought the right answer was from research.

[00:03:14] And, you know, how hard do you think it would be to sell water? And we got them. We led them along the way. And then what we ended up doing was saying, okay. Here’s the deal. You guys think it’s going to be easy to sell water. Tens of millions of bottles of water are sold in Chicago, every single day. You’re going to have a day. We’re going to spin up a virtual company, your product is going to be water, something that we know—tens of millions bottles of water, tens of millions of them are sold a day, and we’re going to see if you can, how you can do.

[00:03:47] So, here are the rules. You have 15 minutes to decide how much inventory you want. We gave them a price. We charged them, I don’t know whatever the cost was. Like 12 cents for a bottle of water. We bought them in bulk. And, you know, so your cost is going to be 12 cents a bottle of water. You have to pay for your labor at $10 an hour. And, you can’t turn labor on and off. So it’s a day-long project, so for each person we’re going to charge you $80, and you tell us how many bottles of water you want, and your job is to sell them by 5 o’clock today. So, there were two important things to us. One was, to emphasize how important and how difficult customer acquisition is. But also, it gave us the opportunity to watch the entrepreneurs in action the very first day. And I feel like I learned more about them and then subsequently how to coach and manage them going forward in that day than I typically did in the first three weeks, four weeks, month of the program. Because we could see who had a bias toward action. Who just ready, fire, aim. Who actually erred on the other side and did too much navel gazing and trying to figure out the best strategy and didn’t come up with a strategy until 4 pm and then only had an hour left to execute on it.

[00:05:08] So, we got such insight into the entrepreneurs watching them work for this short period of time in a very high pressure, low data situation. Which, by the way, is what you do as an entrepreneur when you’re doing a startup. It’s a high pressure, low data situation. You think you’ve got a great product. How do you get it out there? How do you change? Cash is running out, what do you do? Hopefully you’d have more than six hours, but it was fascinating.

Shaun: [00:05:34] So, Jason didn’t know a lot of that background, but he also found the results very interesting.

Jason: [00:05:38] I found it fascinating because in business school, I’ve spoken at a lot of them. I’ve talked to a lot of students. I’ve talked to a lot of professors. Sales. But basic sales is almost never taught, or never really even considered. It’s like, people learn how to read balance sheets, income statements, PNL stuff.

Shaun: [00:05:59] Write business plans.

Jason: [00:05:59] Raising money, writing business plans, doing sample decks, pitching, all that stuff. And that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that stuff. But, they don’t just go outside and sell, and they gotta—you gotta learn how to sell. If you’re going to be in business, you have to learn how to sell. And so, I love that Techstars was doing this. And the results were fascinating to me. A lot of people bought too much inventory, they were overconfident and they lost big. Some of them lost like big amounts of money. A small fraction, basically ended up coming out ahead and I thought that was very interesting. Because there’s a lot of confidence in entrepreneurs, just, a lot of, we’re going to disrupt this industry, disrupt that industry. Yeah, like, you can’t even sell water.

[00:06:37] And that’s not to denigrate the people who tried, because it’s hard to do, I’m sure. But it was just such a great exercise and I thought it was really cool that they were doing that. And I thought that was just a really, really smart thing to do.

Shaun: [00:06:45] Yeah, I mean, do you want to see the picture?

Jason: [00:06:47] Let’s take a look at the chart. Okay, so here we’re looking at this right now. So, the bottom two purchased 2,000 and lost the most. The third, I don’t know, what you’d call it. Biggest loser or whatever?

Shaun: [00:06:57] Sure.

Jason: [00:06:57] Third from the bottom bought almost 4,000 bottles. And as you go further up, now, there was a few people who lost money who only bought 200 and 300. But the thing is that you see the top four companies that actually made money were all under 500 bottles, and some of them, 120, 110, 400, 250… they were small. They sold… three of the four sold out entirely. It’s just like, to me, this is everything. It’s like, you have the bottom here, which is like, overconfident, I’m going to change the world, I know better than everyone else. I’m going to go big or go home kind of thing. And guess what? They actually went home. And the top four kind of went small, and they stayed out. They stayed out there, which is awesome. And they were profitable.

[00:07:39] Now, of course, look. This example could have been run again five minutes later, and different results. But, it is what it is, and I’m looking at it right here and I like the signs that I see in the top four and the bottom six are, like looking at them, it’s pretty obvious what happened. Overconfidence and I don’t even know what the prices they charged were. Like, you could probably do the math, but it just didn’t work. And most of them didn’t work. 40% worked, 60% didn’t.

Shaun: [00:08:07] It’s interesting to me that you could consider two of the biggest failures as the top sellers. They definitely sold the most amount of water—

Jason: [00:08:17] Right.

Shaun: [00:08:17] —but still came out at a loss.

Jason: [00:08:21] Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. That’s a great point. Yeah, so you’d think, like, well, sales is all that matters, and revenue is all that matters and units pushed and market share.

Shaun: [00:08:30] They shifted the most product.

Jason: [00:08:30] Market share, right? They actually had the most market share individually. Well, they still lost their ass, technically, here. And so, I think, there’s just so many lessons in this chart.

[00:08:40] To me, like, the top four, basically, were testing the market. They didn’t think they knew the market yet. They were testing it. So, we’ll get a hundred, we’ll get 400, we’ll get 250. We’ll see what happens. Hey, we sold out. We know something now, and we made money at it.

[00:08:53] The bottom six were like, no, we’ll nail this. Let’s just get as many as we possibly can because we’re going to go through all of these. We know everyone who’s going to buy the stuff. We know what—so, overconfidence versus let’s just test it and wade into it and see what happens and see what we learn. And, by the way, not only do we learn something, but we made money, which is great. We didn’t go out of business.

Shaun: [00:09:13] Right. Right.

Jason: [00:09:14] So, it’s like, we don’t need to rush this stuff. And that’s what I like about the top four. There’s no rushing here. The bottom felt like they were just all in.

Shaun: [00:09:21] They had to grab it all right away. Like, this is their only shot to sell water.

Jason: [00:09:25] Like, forever, right? Instead of like, this is an experiment. This is not my—I’m not in the water-selling business so it doesn’t really matter. Let me just see what this is about. And, anyway. It’s really cool. I think it’s a great exercise, actually.

Shaun: [00:09:41] This might be my sort of bias, which, I think we share on the startup community. But, is that mentality the same as buying 2,000 bottles of water the same as, we need to make it a big enough splash now that we can be acquired next week.

Jason: [00:09:56] Probably. There’s this sense of—the word you always hear is scaling. We’ve got to scale. And you’re just like, well, why do you have to scale? What is a scale. Well, we have to get big fast. Well, why? Why do you have to get big fast. Well, we have a lot of competitors. Well, they’re trying to get big fast, too. So, now it’s just like a matter of who’s going to get the biggest the fastest. Is that it? Because there’s only going to be one winner there and a lot of losers. Versus, you know, can we just build a profitable business that we can decide what we do with it as we move on, we don’t need to rush or race anybody necessarily. There’s this feeling that every industry is zero-sum, winner-take-all, and very few are. Very, very few really are.

[00:10:44] So, in our business, there’s probably a hundred products that could directly compete with Basecamp and we could all have good businesses. But if you go into it thinking that you’re—it’s like this imperialistic feeling that I have to dominate. I have to take over as much territory as I possibly can and run the world. Then you’re setting yourself up for a lot of stress and also a basically impossible goal that you don’t need to set for yourself.

[00:11:11] And I think that’s what happens with a lot of startups. They get too big, too fast, and also then they take on, they create problems for themselves. So, they hire a bunch of people, they grow really fast. Now, they have to make a lot of money in order to keep that going. And so, now they have to sell stuff they don’t want to, or growth hack, or all these things they have to do to support their own weight, versus having less weight to begin with and then you can just get really simple and basic and straightforward about what you’re doing, which is just trying to sell a good product and make a good product, and leave it at that. Versus trying to hack your way to profitability.

Shaun: [00:11:40] Something you told me a long time ago is that you had a similar challenge given to you in college? Do you remember this conversation? You were asked to go sell something.

Jason: [00:11:49] Yeah, it wasn’t that. It was actually slightly different, but I had a class in college, this negotiation class. We were signed. I’m trying to remember, this is, embarrassingly, like 20 years ago. Whatever it is.

Shaun: [00:12:01] I can cut that part.

Jason: [00:12:01] Yeah. We were, I think assigned a product to go negotiate a lower price than retail for. And all of the products were things that you would never normally negotiate like, haircuts or like a shirt at Nordstrom’s, or shoes at Foot Locker, or something like that. I think I got a shirt at Nordstrom’s. And it seemed like an impossible task. Like, no, of course you cannot walk into a business and like negotiate a better deal for a commodity product that nobody else is negotiating for. But, it turns out, I think almost everybody in the class was able to do that. Some of them were easier. Services turned out to be easier. Like, a haircut. Like, hey. It’s $20, I only have 18 in my pocket. Is that cool? I’m a college student. They’re like, yeah, that’s fine. That was an easy one.

[00:12:48] But at Nordstrom’s what I did was actually, it was cash. So, I figured out that like, if I emptied my pockets and showed that I was really close with cash, they would take pity on me, essentially and just be like, okay fine. I don’t remember what it was. I think I probably had three $20s and the shirt was like $75 or something and I had like $60. And I think, I don’t remember exactly the details. But it was like, I have an event. I’ve got a wedding I have to go to. I didn’t pack—I’ve never been to something like this. I didn’t know how to pack. Like, I’ve got $60, what can we do?

[00:13:19] Now, what was interesting was the woman who was helping me did not show me to a cheaper item, which she could have. She could have been like, well, here’s a $45 shirt. It was more like, I’m running late. I’m really. I’m just, I’m kind of screwed here, can you help me out. And she did. So, she sold me the shirt for $60. Now, I don’t know if she took an employee discount to make that happen. I don’t know how she actually made that work. But, it was a cool experience.

[00:13:44] Now, it was weird, because it was deceitful. Like, I was lying. But, I think most people were. Because they were told they had to negotiate, but it was a really worthwhile experience and it wasn’t about how much you could save. It was just about, you can poke the world in ways that you didn’t think you could. And that was a formative experience for me, where I realized that, wow, I didn’t realize that—like, I thought there were rules.

[00:14:08] Now, there are rules. But, rules can be bent. Sometimes they can broken, but oftentimes they can be bent a little bit where nobody really gets in trouble and you can kind of push things a bit, poke it a little bit. And that was a really cool experience. So, that was probably my favorite class in college. I forget the guy’s name. He ended up leaving the next year and going to teach at University of Illinois. But, in college that was the best one, because it was very real. And I love stuff—and that’s why I like this water project, which is—this water-selling thing. Which is that, hey, go sell some water on the street. Bye. Go do it. That’s where you learn things.

Shaun: [00:14:37] Does that come naturally to you?

Jason: [00:14:40] What?

Shaun: [00:14:40] That sort of mentality of going to negotiate a price. Basically breaking the rules. Or, I think, back to this example, selling? I think for me selling doesn’t come naturally, certainly negotiating doesn’t. I really like structures and rules.

Jason: [00:14:55] Yeah.

Shaun: [00:14:55] So, when I have to do that kind of thing, I’m playing a new character.

Jason: [00:14:59] Right.

Shaun: [00:14:59] I’m—this is Haggle Shaun.

Jason: [00:15:01] You get sweaty and slightly—yeah.

Shaun: [00:15:03] Yeah, absolutely.

Jason: [00:15:03] Sales comes naturally to me. I don’t like to negotiate things that I know. What I found is that everything’s negotiable. But, I would never negotiate a shirt, a suit, a dinner. Like, I wouldn’t ever do any of that. I don’t like to look for bargains. I don’t like to look for deals. I’ve never been that way. I basically feel like, if there’s a price tag on it, that’s what it costs, and that’s what I should pay. Now, there’s different—like, you buy a house, you buy a car, and there’s like, it’s known that there’s going to be some negotiation, there. So, I enjoy that.

[00:15:36] I’m really big into vintage watches and one of the reasons why is because the market is just all over the place and you can negotiate and haggle and have some fun with that. Shaun: [00:15:45] Yeah, collector’s markets are weird. Jason: [00:15:46] Collector’s markets are super weird because it’s just esoteric weird stuff. Like, in the vintage watch world, and vintage Rolex, specifically. A one millimeter line, underlined piece of text can increase the value of a very rare watch by like $20,000 or $30,000. A millimeter line. It’s ridiculous. It’s like, with action figures. Like, the original box. If there’s a dent in the box, it drops the value in half. It’s just really interesting to me. So, I kind of love that world, but I don’t really like the haggling process, really.

[00:16:21] What I’ve actually realized is I’m not really good at it in person at all. Like, if I went to some bazaar in Morocco or something, I would just like, the guy’s like $50. I’d be like uh, $40. But I probably could have said 20. So, I’ll haggle a tiny bit but I won’t go back and forth in person. And I’ve noticed that when I go buy a car or something, now I’ll always do it via email. Because, when you’re sitting in a car dealer’s office or whatever, they have the upper hand. You’re there. You like the car. You’re fired up. They’ve got the pictures of the cars behind them. It’s all set up to put them at a huge advantage, right? Because otherwise, you’re going to have to leave and go home in your old car.

[00:17:08] So, now I do this all via email, and I’ll only buy stuff from people who will be willing to deal with me via email. Because, I can, like, set a price and be like, look, I’m willing to pay $18,500 for this thing. That’s it. And they’ll be like, $19,800, and I’d be like $18,500’s it. And I wouldn’t say that in person. But I would say it via email. So, I found that the medium actually helps me negotiate, a bit.

[00:17:29] But, sales is always something I’ve been good at, I think, and I’ve always enjoyed. Because I don’t look at it as I’m trying to get rid of something, I actually look at as I’m trying to help you with something that you want, or could better you. I’ve always looked at it that way and it’s always helped me.

Shaun: [00:17:40] Were you selling dumb stuff as a kid?

Jason: [00:17:44] Yeah. A lot of dumb stuff.

Shaun: [00:17:47] You don’t have to say anything that’s going to put you in jail.

Jason: [00:17:50] No, the statute of limitations is far passed, I think.

Shaun: [00:17:51] Fair enough.

Jason: [00:17:53] I would sell. I forget what I first started selling. But I would sell stuff to friends that I liked. So, I would somehow get into knives and weapons, and like… Weapons being like, a throwing star, Chinese throwing star. Kind of—stuff that some boys are really into, that kind of stuff. Somehow I found a—I got something sent to our house. Maybe my dad did, and I picked it up. It was called Sportsman’s Guide, which was a catalogue, maybe they’re still around, like a mail catalogue. And it had like, tents and—it was an outdoorsman thing. But also, had like, knives and I think mostly pocket knives at the time. And I just thought they were so cool, I don’t know why.

Shaun: [00:18:31] Yes, they’re knives.

Jason: [00:18:31] They store cool, right. So cool. So, I’m like 12 or 13, and I’m like, this is the coolest thing ever. And so, I had a job when I was 13, so I had some money. A little bit of money. It was a part time job. Six, five bucks an hour, I don’t know what it was. And I wanted to get one of these knives, but I didn’t have a credit card because I was 13. And my parents would never buy me a knife. So, I found out that this was back in the day—this was like in the, let’s see, this is back in the ‘80s at some point. UPS would deliver something COD. I don’t know if they still do that.

Shaun: [00:19:03] Yep. I remember that.

Jason: [00:19:04] Do they still do that?

Shaun: [00:19:05] I’m not sure.

Jason: [00:19:05] Probably not. Cash on delivery. Which, it’s amazing. The UPS guy would come to your house, and he’d be like, I need $64.23 worth of cash to give you this box. And so, I’d saved up some money. I called in sick—I told my parents I was sick the day I knew this was coming, and the UPS guy would come. My parents would be at work, the UPS guy would come, and I would give him cash and get this knife. And I would show my friends. They were like, oh my God, this is amazing. And I’m like, yeah, it is pretty cool, isn’t it. They’re like, where’d you get it? Oh, I got it… and they’re like, can you get me one? I’m like, sure! So, I like, I start taking orders, and then I would gang up a bunch of orders and then stay home one day three months from now and get like, nine knives. And they would pay me up front. And I would start to do this and it was super fun, so I would make a little bit of money off my friends.

[00:19:52] And then I would sell other things. I sold like, a friend of mine—my friend Brett, his brother was 19, so he could buy cigarettes and chewing tobacco like Skoal Bandits. Remember?

Shaun: [00:20:04] Yeah, it was really important to get that—

Jason: [00:20:06] You’re still into this, aren’t you.

Shaun: [00:20:07] —fade in your jeans, remember?

Jason: [00:20:09] Yeah, yeah, the circle fade. I do remember that.

Shaun: [00:20:09] The round can. I feel like that’s now been replaced by that cell phone fade.

Jason: [00:20:13] Now it’s a rectangle. Circle’s cooler. So we’d give him some money, he’d go to the gas station, buy us a bunch of stuff, and then I’d take it and mark it up and sell it to my friends and go distribute it. I’d go ride a bike around and like sell it to my friends for twice as much. And so, I’d always been into that. And it wasn’t like—I never cared about the money, but the money was the measurement of did I do it or not? That was all it was. It didn’t really matter. Like, I always had jobs. Day jobs. Part-time day jobs. And that’s where like, I would make money to go buy things that I wanted, but the other stuff was just fun.

[00:20:46] Now, in that case, of course, I wasn’t like, out to help anybody. Get them hooked on cigarettes, but as I got older and I sold shoes, and I sold other things out, I would be more about like, really trying to help the customer do something they couldn’t do. Help them make progress with things. So, that was always fun. I always enjoyed that.

Shaun: [00:21:00] I think it’s interesting that your friends went to can you get that for me, instead of teach a man to fish.

Jason: [00:21:06] Yeah, most people don’t want to learn how to fish.

Shaun: [00:21:09] That’s fair.

Jason: [00:21:09] They just want, oh, I want that. I see that, I want that. Can you get that for me? Sure I can get that for you. It’s $65. And in my head, I’m thinking like, it’s going to cost me $25 or $35 or whatever.

Shaun: [00:21:18] You immediately went to, you were immediately going to mark them up.

Jason: [00:21:20] Immediately, yeah. I don’t know where that instinct came from, but it’s kind of like—

Shaun: [00:21:24] You’re just a really good friend, Jason.

Jason: [00:21:27] Exactly. Just a terrible friend. It was more like, there’s risk involved. I have to stay home, I can get caught. I have to do the work. So, like. Yeah, maybe I’ll make 20, whatever. I don’t remember what the numbers were. But, it was like, maybe I’ll make $10, $20, $30 on something. Like, I’m entitled to that, I’m doing the work, why not? So that’s how I was. And I felt like I was doing them a service, though. I felt like I was doing something for them they couldn’t do on their own. And then at some point, down the road, I remember making catalogues for myself. I would go—I’d get the sportsman’s guide thing, and there’s some—then I learned that once I got that and I placed more orders, then other people would send me mailings from other companies because they would sell their list and I would get all these crazy, weird, military, army surplus catalogues and stuff.

[00:22:14] So, then I would cut them out and I would make my own catalogue on a Xerox machine. Make my own thing and hand them out to friends and stuff, and then I’d write in the prices. And then I’d take orders. And I’d deliver some stuff to my friends. It was super fun. It was just fun. I got in trouble a few times, but whatever. It was good. It was a good time.

Shaun: [00:22:33] That’s awesome.

Jason: [00:22:34] Good lessons, for sure. And now, by the way, you can do this, like, on Ebay. Something I suggest people do who have never sold anything, is like, go buy a commodity item anywhere. Go buy, it used to be iPods but not anymore. So, like, any—go buy an iPhone, even. Fixed price, we know what they cost. Or go buy a used, whatever. And buy a few of them and put them up on Ebay or Craigslist and design the ads differently. Write the ads differently. Take better pictures. Take worse pictures. Or timing. Like, playing around with timing. When’s the auction going to end? Is it a Buy It Now versus an auction? Is it a long auction, short auction? Free shipping? You can play with all these things and just practice and see what are the things that seem to move people. Seem to drive people and see if you can sell an item that is basically a commodity item at a higher price based on the description and the ability of your salesmanship. That’s a great way to practice. And you might be able to make some money off of it, perhaps. But, even if you just keep breaking even, it’s a great way to practice.

[00:23:27] I also think that getting a retail job is one of the best educations you can ever get. So, go—even if you’re a professional already and you don’t need any money. Go work at a coffee shop or something two nights a week for three months, or whatever. Just to deal with the public, see what moves people. You’d be surprised by the contemplation people make on even low-price items like $6. For, example, when I used to sell tennis rackets at this place I used to work. People would buy string, and there’s different kinds of string for tennis rackets. There’s natural string, which is actually gut. I think it’s catgut, right?

Shaun: [00:24:09] Catgut.

Jason: [00:24:11] And then there’s synthetic gut. And then there’s other, nylon and stuff like that. And the price differences were pretty minor. It was like $3 or $5 or something. And you’d see someone like really think for 10 minutes. Like, do I get the better stuff that’s $5 more, do I really? And I could tell by who they were that they didn’t need the $5, but they’re still thinking it through, and it was just interesting to hear them talk to themselves and understand why, and you ask like, what do you? What’s on your mind?

[00:24:36] And they’re like, well, I just don’t—I feel like, is this fake. I don’t, is this really better? And you just start to see that and you start ot realize that its’ all psychology and it’s people playing tricks with themselves and not really understanding why they want something, or the real reason for wanting something, or what they’re gonna get out of it, and as a sales person, you can help them see their path forward and that makes it easier for them. So, I just think it’s a great exercise.

Shaun: [00:25:00] Awesome. Well, thank you for talking to me today, Jason.

Jason: [00:25:02] Yeah! This is fun, Shaun, this is great.

Shaun: [00:25:05] We’ll do it again soon.

Jason: [00:25:05] I’d love to.

[00:25:06] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.

Wailin: [00:25:10] So, around the time we were working on this episode, something happened in Washington, D.C. that made national news. This was all the way back in June. Three African-American teenage boys were selling bottled water on the National Mall and police handcuffed them for selling without a permit. It got me thinking about the barriers to entrepreneurship that exist for many people in this country. Especially, if you’re from a marginalized group.

Shaun: [00:25:33] What we’ve been talking about on this episode, how it’s important to practice sales as a core skill, is an opportunity that’s often just not extended to black and brown people in America.

Wailin: [00:25:43] And, in some cases, the act of selling something can be dangerous, or even deadly. Alton Sterling was shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in front of the convenience store where he sold CDs. Eric Garner was killed in New York City by police during a confrontation over selling loose cigarettes.

Shaun: [00:26:00] So, next time on Rework, we’ll introduce you to an organization that works with low-income entrepreneurs and we’ll also hear from some Chicago street food vendors about how they run their business. That’s coming up in two weeks.

Wailin: [00:26:10] Rework is produced by Shaun Hildner, and me, Wailin Wong. Our theme song is Broken By Design by Clip Art. Our website is, where you’ll find show notes and links for this and all of our episodes. For this episode, if you want to see a photo of the Techstars water challenge results board that we talked about, you can check out the show notes for that.

Shaun: [00:26:31] Tell us what you think about the show. We’re on Twitter @reworkpodcast. Email us at, and we certainly won’t complain if you left us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps new listeners find our show. Finally, if you have any questions for Jason or David, leave us a voicemail at (708) 628-7850. We do a mailbag segment from time-to-time, so, get those questions in. Okay, that’s it. We’ll see you in a couple weeks.

[00:27:02] Pretty good? You happy?

Wailin: [00:27:03] Yeah.

Shaun: [00:27:05] Upon further research.

Wailin: [00:27:07] Yeah?

Shaun: [00:27:07] Catgut tennis racket strings have never been made of cat?

Wailin: [00:27:12] Ever? Because violin strings were at one point.

Shaun: [00:27:14] Were they?

Wailin: [00:27:16] I think they were. Unless that’s also just like an urban legend.

Shaun: [00:27:19] I don’t know. Wikipedia said it was like, usually sheep or goat.

Wailin: [00:27:24] Oh, okay.

Shaun: [00:27:24] But I don’t know where the cat came from. I mean, it’s still gut.

Wailin: [00:27:26] Yeah. Yep.

Shaun: [00:27:26] Like, intestine.

Wailin: [00:27:27] Yeah, that is interesting how catgut is in the mix.