When you’re invited to dinner with Gary Vaynerchuk do you start rehearsing the things you’re going to say? Do you worry about what to wear? Do you think to yourself, what if he thinks my business is stupid?
Yes, the first time I broke bread with Gary Vee all of these thoughts went through my head. But the reality is none of that mattered.
Let me give you some context as to how that dinner even came to be.
Gary and I had emailed each other a few times. My emails mostly consisted of thank you’s, gratitude for the great content he puts out, and appreciation for the insights those pieces of content gave. You see, building a business is hard. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. The content Gary puts out helped me with so many challenges of building Ad Zombies. So, I emailed him a specific thank you and I asked if I could, as a token of my gratitude, take him out to dinner on my next trip into New York City. Within minutes I received a reply.
Gary messaged me that his schedule was packed but that he had a special private dinner coming up and invited me to attend.
You see, when you don’t have an agenda, when you come from a place of pure gratitude, remarkable things happen.
I spent the hours before our dinner with the amazing team at VaynerMedia. I had the opportunity to meet several people on Gary’s content team, had a great chat with David Rock and experienced something that you don’t typically feel in corporate America: people at VaynerMedia really give a shit about what they do. They are passionate about what they do. Their jobs are not jobs, they’re on a mission.
I arrived at City Winery a full hour before the scheduled dinner. I was neither nervous nor excited, I had casually strolled from the headquarters of VaynerMedia across town. I spent the afternoon walking the streets of my hometown taking in the sights, the sounds, the vibe of New York City.
I parked myself at the bar and grabbed a glass of Cab. As I sipped my wine I pondered what I would say to Gary. How would the conversation start? How it would flow? All of these thoughts rolled through my head at light speed. Most importantly: How do you thank someone who has provided so much value and does it with no expectation in return?
It was finally time to sit down and have dinner. I will admit, my palms were a little sweaty. No, not gross, if I shake your hand you might barf sweaty, just a little bit damp. I wanted to be succinct with what I said, I value Gary’s time and to have the opportunity to pick his brain over dinner was remarkable. Had I known the dinner would last 3 hours I would have been less concerned. Of course, wherever Gary goes his film crew follows. I have to admit I don’t like being on camera, I like even less being on camera and looking stupid. I quickly overcame my fears as I knew they were completely irrational.
It was time for our dinner and Gary walked in. I extended my hand to shake his, but instead, he opened his arms and I got the best hug I’ve ever had from another human being. It was a genuine hug from someone who cares deeply about others and you could tell that immediately. The first words out of my mouth were a simple thank you. Thank you for everything you do and have done for me. From our initial greeting we moved to appetizers, wine, dinner, etc. (By the way, Gary’s selection of wine throughout the evening was on point. If you ever have the opportunity to have Gary Vee be your personal sommelier, I highly recommend it, this man knows his shit when it comes to the fruit of the vine.)
As we were sipping our wine and filling our faces, I explained to Gary that I had accidentally built this little business, Ad Zombies and I was struggling with how to scale the company. The next words out of his mouth changed the course of my business forever. Gary looked at me, as I was asking my whole list of questions about my challenges and struggles, and said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Dude, you’re not an operator, you’re a creative. Just look at the way you dress. Look at your jacket.” I was wearing a red and white striped shirt overlaid with an intricate line-drawn pattern, and a colorful jacket with a gingham flower in the buttonhole (did you read that as “butthole”? Just me? 😊). If you don’t believe me, just have a look at it.
Anyway, Gary went on to say, “You’re a creative, and that’s cool, we need creatives. But you need an operator. What I would do is look in your social network, you’re deeply connected on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram. Look in your network—I can guarantee there are at least five people in your network who have built a seven-, eight-, or nine-figure company. You show them what you’ve built without them and offer them twenty percent of your business for the potential of what it could become. The right operator is going to see the opportunity and shake hands on a deal.” (Again, this is paraphrased.) If you want to read more about how I built this accidental business into the world’s best copywriting service you can get your copy on Amazon.
You have to realize something, at this point Ad Zombies wasn’t a million dollar company, we were a scrappy start-up that was founded in a spare office in my house. We’d achieved a few months of really solid sales and had lots of potential but that was it… at the time.
Knowing your strengths is critical to the success of your company. But it’s not enough to know them. You have to take it to the next level and play to your strengths if you’re going to grow your company. Putting the right people in place is essential to the growth of your company. I took Gary’s advice and found that essential element. Now it’s your turn: figure out who’s missing in your business, on your team, and make your move.
ken ‘spanky’ moskowitz
founder | ceo | zombie ❤️ lover