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October 1998


Employees First, Customers Second

Adding Life To Learning

Knowledge Management: It's Really About People

Tricks Of The Trade From The Greatest Showman On Earth


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by Peter Block

Working With Alligators
by Michael Robinson


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Tricks Of The Trade From The Greatest Showman On Earth

On April 2, 1891, five days before he died, an eighty year old P. T. Barnum picked up a pen and wrote a letter to his circus partner, James Bailey, saying, “If you faithfully follow my methods you cannot fail.”

Barnum was a world famous entrepreneur, publicist, politician, philanthropist, author, speaker and promoter of the circus. He was also one of Americas first millionaires.

What were Barnum’s methods for success?

1. He believed there was a customer born every minute.
He didn’t limit his target – he aimed for the planet itself. Barnum’s American Museum in New York City – the Disney World of the 1800s – was so popular that over forty million people visited it during his lifetime, when the population of the country was forty million.

2. He believed in using skyrockets.
Barnum strove to capture people’s attention in whatever audacious ways he could devise. At one point he had an elephant plowing the field on his property. Why? Because the field was near the railroad tracks that took passengers into New York. Barnum knew an elephant would grab their attention and act as an unforgettable publicity stunt.

3. He believed in giving people more than their money’s worth.
Barnum wanted people to feel good spending money with him. He traveled the world in search of performers and products that had appeal. Barnum created popular enterprises where people felt good spending their money.

4. He fearlessly believed in the power of “printer’s ink.”
Barnum was unusually creative at generating publicity, but he also knew he had to inform the media of his plans. He became globally famous and incredibly wealthy by knowing how to befriend editors.

5. He believed in persistently advertising.
Barnum believed with an almost evangelical zest in the power of advertising. He wrote, “When you get an article which you know is going to please your customers, let the fact be known that you have got it.”

6. He believed in people helping people to get results.
Barnum treated people fairly, making asking for favors easier. When he wanted to buy what was to become his museum his references were so enthusiastic that at first the owner didn’t believe they were honest.

7. He believed in negotiating creatively, treating employees and performers with respect.
His terms were fair. His staff loved him. He paid good wages, shared profits, and made many of his performers rich.

8. He believed all was well.
His inner strength came from an unshakable faith. Barnum suffered business failures, personal bankruptcy, and family tragedy, yet was not destroyed by the losses. His American Museum burned down twice. His home burned to the ground, and he also lost his wife and two children. Yet Barnum never seemed to bat an eye.

9. He believed in the power of the written word.
He saw the power of the written word as a force to influence public opinion. Barnum began writing when he was twenty-two years old, editing a religious newspaper and was arrested for it.

10. He believed in the power of speaking.
He knew the spoken word could move mountains. His famous talk, “The Art of Money-Getting,” helped him crawl out of debt (and become a millionaire a second time.)

From “There’s a Customer Born Every Minute: P.T.Barnum’s Secrets to Business Success” ($17.95, AMACOM, 1998),by Joe Vitale.

October '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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