Hang a Shingle

We Can’t Just Hang A Shingle, We Have To Be The Shingle

I have a fairly keen eye for businesses that won’t make it. I see them open a storefront for their boutique, cookies, or party supplies, and the next month they’re gone. They were only able to afford one month’s rent. They expected overnight success. They expected to ‘hang out their shingle’ and business would flock to the door. It doesn’t work that way.

‘Hang out a shingle’ was a phrased used in the early 1800’s. Lawyers would use shingles as signboards. They would hang out their sign, and have their own office. Back then shingles were wood slats.

That may have worked then, but I’d bet even those who hung shingles needed a little PR in order to be successful.

It’s like a political campaign. Alot like a political campaign!

If all we do is put up signs in people’s yards and businesses… If we never build relationships… If we never shake a hand or break bread with anyone, we’ll fail. All those signs won’t win the election. They do help, but they aren’t the only ingredient needed.

If truth be told, a campaign starts long before a sign is ever even printed.

A friend of mine recently lost an election to the incumbent. He complained that he was the only one out shaking hands and meeting folks. What he failed to see was all those relationships the incumbent had built prior to ever starting his campaign. Where my friend waited to campaign until he decided to run, the other guy had been campaigning for years, maybe all his life.

Starting a business works the same way. The problem is that people don’t like the initial sweat period; the time it takes to get the business going. They want overnight success, and when they don’t get it – they quit.

I made $6,000 in the first 18 months at The Gann Agency. But I started from my bedroom. Most people want a storefront immediately. My wife helped me to realize that wasn’t a smart idea. And she was right. It took me 19 months to afford an office.

I had a part time job in the evening, cleaning offices. And I started building relationships immediately.

Did those relationships prove valuable immediately? No, but over time they started kicking in. They started to snowball, and when that snowball gained enough speed, well, I was able to get an office. That’s when I hung a shingle.

But even then I didn’t depend on just the shingle. I continued to build on those relationships, and worked on new ones.

And I can tell you from experience, when I put those relationships on the back burner, my business suffered.

Relationships are our business’ savings account. They carry us through tough times. The win elections. They make us successful. They pay bills. And they bring friends.

We can’t just hang a shingle. We have to be the shingle.