Reinventing the art of the handshake


In 1924, a Russian immigrant named Morris Zalefsky Americanized his surname to Zales and opened a small jewelry store in Wichita Falls, Texas. He purchased diamonds directly from international diamond traders, cutting out the middleman and passing the savings on to his clients.

Morris was known to buy millions of dollars worth of diamonds in sealed bags, out of sight, and fulfill the transaction with a handshake and a Yiddish”mazel and brachawhich means “luck and blessing”.

In 1915, when Levi Strauss asked Cole Mills of Greensboro, North Carolina to become their exclusive denim supplier, that deal was done with a handshake.

And today, when handshakes are arguably the least Covid-friendly way to do business, two companies are redoubling their efforts to do business the old-fashioned way.

I sat down with Martin Hess, President of the American Club Association, and Jason Miller, CEO of the Strategic Advisor Board, to discuss their recent partnership.

First, a little background. The American Club Association (ACA) was originally formed as an association of private golf, tennis, town and country clubs serving prominent civic and business leaders. For more than 130 years, members of private clubs across the country have socialized, recreated and contributed to worthy causes serving their communities. At its height, the ACA had over 100,000 members and counted among its members Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman, as well as General Omar Bradley.

For more than 130 years, this “association of associations” has flourished under the direction of its national headquarters located in the Kansas City Club building in Kansas City. The closing of the Kansas City Club in May 2015 prompted the ACA’s leadership to chart a new course more in tune with today’s digitally connected world. Today, the ACA Business Club, ACA is an invitation-only business membership focused on building relationships, continuing education, and, as you probably guessed, handshakes.

The Strategic Advisor Board (SAB), is much newer, founded in 2016, as a virtual business advisory firm that offers strategic advice and guidance from its organization’s ten advisors across the country.

Most business owners only have one coach, at most. Why ten?

“Everyone has two or three ‘superpowers,'” adds Miller. “No one can do everything exceptionally well, but by combining the superpowers that each of us possesses, together we can move mountains.”

In explaining SAB’s business model, Miller likens it to a mix of management consulting and incubator.

“Reminiscing about my early years as a business owner, I remember how difficult it was to find helpful advice and get the mentorship I so desperately needed,” he says. “Based on my own experiences as a young entrepreneur, SAB was forged out of a desire to be a different kind of resource for business owners and CEOs.”

SAB’s sweet spot is working with established businesses with existing traction and revenue. SAB uses the combined experience of all ten advisors to create high-leverage strategies that not only solve their clients’ problems, but take their businesses to the next level. For example, Artie Leonard, CEO of Reliable Solar Solutions, suffered a huge blow to his supply chain.

The big solar companies were buying up all the equipment, leaving him with several jobs he couldn’t fill.

“We had to come up with a strategy to get around that,” Miller said. “And the strategy was very simple. We started reaching out to developers and home builders and pre-selling them solar equipment. Thus, he would get 50% of the work paid in advance. Now he could turn around, buy another company’s equipment to fill it up. And then he would have enough money to run his business.

SAB not only solved his problem, but changed the focus of his business from one-off jobs to bigger, more lucrative ones.

“It’s about creating new systems,” says Jason. “They say, ‘Find an itch and scratch it. Find a problem, then create a solution to that problem. This is what SAB does.

In their new partnership, SAB will become the ACA Board of Directors, providing mentorship, professional development, business training and collegiality. “Leaders can be single people,” Miller said. “Owning a business doesn’t have to be an island.”

To which Hess added: “You can’t be successful trying to do it alone. You need to train with people who will push you and make you better.

Relationships are fundamental

While relationships are the foundation of the SAB and ACA partnership, the magic is in what relationships can do.

Relationships foster business opportunities

“It’s golf course methodology,” Miller explained. “Business happens when people surround themselves with food, they surround themselves with a comfortable environment, and then people start talking and people start naturally problem solving and leaning on each other. ”

Why are deals made on the golf course? Because it gives time and space for relationships to grow. Any business, whether technical, web-based, artificially intelligent, or meta, is at the intersection of two people agreeing to partner. And partnerships are built on relationships. Bringing entrepreneurs together in an environment where you break bread together builds those relationships that lead to future business.

Relationships cultivate mentorship and growth

The partnership will not only provide opportunities for business leaders to collaborate, although that would have been enough. But the ACA Business Club and SAB seek to be leaders in business education and professional and personal growth.

“It’s about mentoring,” Hess said, “learning from each other. I would much rather learn from your mistakes than make my own and you can advise me on how I can’t make the same mistakes and vice versa.

“Mentoring,” Hess continued, “is who you become in the process. Jim Rhone preaches all the time that there is a direct correlation between your personal professional development and your success in the business world. more about yourself than your work Learning from others is so important.

Relationships move mountains

Miller explained that he wasn’t doing business unless there were three to four wins for everyone. “I have a lot of opportunities that come before me every day. And I have to choose which of those opportunities that I can partner with and where I think it’s going to move things forward so that I can serve people in the way the highest and to really be able to move a footprint around the world. I knew right away that I would be able to do that with Martin [Hess].”

By building relationships across the country, on Zoom, around the table, and even on the golf course, ACA and SAB seek to change the face of business everywhere – in an era when business was done with his word and his handle. tomorrow.


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