Don’t Ignore the “Small” Opportunities

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How many opportunities (including BIG ones) are you leaving on the table because you’re ignoring the small game?

I was just reading an interview with Paul McCartney’s bass player, Brian Ray (and what kind of pressure must that be—playing bass for one of the greatest rock bassists of all time?!). The interviewer asked the obvious question: “So, how did you get the McCartney gig?” I think Brian’s answer is a great business lesson for all of us. Here’s what he said:

“In short, my answer would be to never say no to anything. No gig is ever too small.”

No gig is ever too small.

Paul McCartney rocks out with Brian Ray

When Brian Ray was learning his craft, he played every gig he could. He never turned down an opportunity to play. Eventually he found himself playing in a band that in turn found themselves opening for the guy who did the novelty song, The Monster Mash. Ray ended up joining that band, playing theme parks around the country. Through that gig he met the road manager for R&B legend Etta James, spent 14 years with Etta, and that led to his becoming the bass player for one of the biggest acts—and biggest superstars—in the world.

In my business—professional speaking—everybody brags about the big gigs. “I spoke to 8,000 insurance agents on Monday.” “That’s nothing! I spoke to 12,000 crochet enthusiasts just yesterday!” Nobody talks about the audiences of ten or twelve. But if one of those ten is, say, Warren Buffet, I’ll take the smaller gig any day.

But here’s the thing: you rarely get to know who the Warren Buffets are. Sure, it might occasionally be “the guy” himself. But sometimes—and this is far more likely—it’s the woman in the seventh row whose brother is married to the woman who books all the travel for Microsoft who makes the gig really pay off.

I don’t know what the equivalent situation is in your business. I don’t know what constitutes a “small gig” to you. But I have two questions for you.

  1. Are you ignoring the small gigs because you feel they’re not worth your (or your company’s) time?
  2. If you are taking some small gigs, do you give them the same level of service as you do with your larger, more “prestigious” clients?

I prepare just as thoroughly for an audience of ten as I do for an audience of ten thousand. Partly because that’s my job as a professional. But partly because I never know who might be in the audience. It’s entirely possible that the gig for ten thousand could end up being “just another job,” while the gig for ten results in a contact that takes my career to the next level. (Incidentally, I once spoke to a relatively small—about 100 people—audience of financial planners, and found out that the boss’s sister was related to Barbara Bach, Ringo Starr’s wife. Yep, this guy—whom you wouldn’t normally think twice about—hangs out on holidays with a Beatle! True, this contact has gotten me nowhere so far, but you never know—Ringo could call tomorrow!)

Now, I’m not saying that, like Brian Ray, you should never say no to anything. Sometimes no is the right answer. If the opportunity isn’t a good fit for your business, say no. If you know you don’t have the expertise for the job, say no. If the opportunity comes from Tony Soprano, say no. But don’t say no just because you think the job is beneath you. You might be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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