I grew up in Flatbush, in a heavily Syrian community. As a chasidishe family, we were an anomaly among our Sephardic neighbors. Yet despite our cultural and sartorial differences, we enjoyed a congenial relationship with our neighbors. My parents were always gracious and respectful to everyone, and we all naturally followed their example. I recall my sisters sometimes babysitting for neighbors when they were stuck and needed someone last-minute, but that was the extent of our visits to their homes.
I attended a chasidishe cheder, followed by a yeshivah overseas. The years flew by like a speeding long-distance train, and soon I was married with a family to support.
After much deliberation and discussions with people in various business sectors, I decided to go into the lighting industry. Although there was a lot of competition, I hoped to carve out a niche and concentrate on high-end companies. These businesses had lots of office spaces that were constantly being redecorated, and if I could get my foot in the door it would provide me with steady revenue.
With the help of a business mentor I set up a sound business plan, and in theory I was ready to start achieving my goals. Thanks to some connections, I landed appointments with several important CEOs, and I pinned great hope on these meetings. Unfortunately, I was in for a rude awakening when they didn’t go as planned. It seemed that things wouldn’t be as simple as I’d thought. While I managed to garner some business, I would need an awful lot more in order for my company to start seeing growth.
There was one particular executive I was pining to meet. I was convinced that if I could strike a deal with his company, it would bring many more in its wake. Although I tried numerous times, it seemed virtually impossible to set up a meeting with him. He was an extremely busy man and his calendar was booked solid, especially for a little guy like me. For weeks I made phone calls and pulled strings in order to get a slot, but it wasn’t meant to be.
When I was ready to throw my hands up in defeat and admit that arranging a meeting with Alan Dweck,* the CEO of the Jacquard Corporation, was beyond my reach, a business acquaintance came up with a seemingly outlandish suggestion.
“Skip trying to get an appointment, because it’s never going to happen. Instead, just go to his office, sit down in his waiting room and pray. As soon as he steps out of his office, go over and introduce yourself and hope for the best.”
His idea seemed ludicrous at best and incredibly foolish at worst. I would be a laughingstock; what kind of serious businessman approaches a busy CEO without an appointment? And even if I got lucky and he agreed to speak to me, how could I hope to be successful by approaching him in such an unprofessional manner?
Yet, after several weeks the idea had time to settle in my mind, and with nothing to lose I found myself actually considering it. I was desperate, and desperate times called for desperate measures.