John Lennon wrote a song called “Give Peace a Chance.” It is a great song and it has provided me with considerable inspiration over the years. This post is not about giving peace a chance, however. Instead, it is about giving someone a chance. Who is that someone? It could be someone who is young, inexperienced, eager to work, hungry, or just about anyone, for that matter. David and I were fortunate, in our early years of owning and operating Magnus Research Consultants, to have been given a chance by several people. Mike Corso, a prominent attorney in my hometown of Fort Myers, Florida, told David and me to feel free to use his law office if we needed anything, from conference space to a quiet place to rest between meetings. The late Pat Geraghty, also a prominent Fort Myers attorney, retained Magnus on a high profile case soon after we started Magnus and continued to hire us until his passing. Then there was Charlie Stiles. Mr. Charles Stiles was the father of one of my childhood friends, Mary. Our families were neighbors for several years during the time Mary and I were in elementary school and Mary and I were frequent playmates. When David and I founded Magnus, we went around Fort Myers “knocking on doors” for business. Mr. Stiles, as I always called him, was in an executive role at a large bank downtown. David and I went to visit him, to inform him of our new business venture and to get his ideas about who else to call upon as we ramped up our marketing efforts. Lo and behold, Mr. Stiles said he could use our help with a project the bank was planning to do. This project involved marketing research which, by then, I had been doing for 10 years. Although I had no experience conducting marketing research in banking or finance, Mr. Stiles was confident that my research skills could be easily applied to meet his bank’s requirements. Our research project was executed with flawless precision; we made a presentation of the results to the highest echelon of the bank, who seemed pleased with our work; and we were well compensated for our work. It seems that Charlie Stiles was right to place his confidence in me and my fledgling company! David and I have discussed this example of “giving someone a chance” for almost 30 years now. One never knows how much help he or she can provide to someone who needs it. Give someone a chance. And thank you, Mr. Charlie Stiles, for giving me a chance! May you rest in peace.
In the early days of Magnus, we made lots of calls on people, never knowing where they would lead. The visit to Charlie Stiles was one of those and, given Melissa’s connection with him, he was very supportive. Despite the fact that, as Magnus has evolved, most of our work has been litigation related, in those early days, because Melissa had a marketing research background, we anticipated doing considerable amounts of specialized marketing research. Research methods are adaptable; if someone has a question, and a research budget, then there are usually ways to find answers. Mr. Stiles’ bank wanted to know how it was doing in terms of customer service. The bank’s executive team wanted to know how their branches looked to fresh eyes and how their staff was doing when “selling” banking services. Melissa and I put together a mystery shopping research plan. We recruited area residents and we sent them to the bank’s branch locations to open accounts and pretend they were prospective customers for other services. (With banking law changes, and identification requirements, we could probably not replicate what we did back then, almost 30 years ago!) What we did worked. We sent multiple “shoppers” to multiple branches and collected considerable amounts of data. As Melissa noted, we presented the findings to a receptive audience who used the findings to make improvements to the bank’s services and physical facilities (a little paint went a long way). For various reasons, Mr. Stiles took a chance on us and gave us a big job to do. It was a fun job too! And, best of all, it gave the bank a good snapshot of conditions. The updates apparently paid off as the bank was acquired shortly thereafter, having had time to improve operations and perhaps, improve their chances of that acquisition. Giving someone a chance can’t be done on a whim, but with some consideration of what the person or company has to offer, taking a chance can provide great outcomes for everyone involved.