The other day I did something I never thought I’d do – but it ended up being fun. It was also the inspiration for I thought was a great idea for winning business and attention.
I was visiting Sydney passing through the Strand Arcade and I saw one of those old-fashioned shoe shine stands – you know the ones you often see in old American movies.
It seemed to be a very “American” thing.
Now, maybe it was my old-school Australian egalitarian spirit – but I always felt reluctant at getting someone else to shine my shoes while I just sat there. I felt guilty and uncomfortable at the idea.
It’s strange – I was OK with getting my shoes taken away and shined as part of a hotel service to prepare for some important business meeting – but the idea of me just sitting there like “Lord Muck” while someone was at my feet shining my shoes seemed “wrong to me”.
I’m not saying my view was right – I’m just being honest about how I felt.
Anyway, this day was different. I was wearing my favourite old Doc Marten shoes that I’d bought back in the 1980s -and they could have used some “professional” shining attention. I love my Docs. They are more than just shoes!
So I tried the shoe shine stand. My decision had nothing to do with the smiling young German girl who was shining the shoes. Honestly!
We chatted about how she actually liked her shoe shining job because it was no stress – “No Worries Mate” she joked.
Also, shining shoes was a pleasant change from her professional “office” job back in Germany. She said she liked talking to people too.
The experience reminded me of how many business execs also enjoy going to an old-school barber – as a break from the pressure of your usual business demands. There is something relaxing and calming about the ritual. You have an excuse to just sit and chat. Also some people just like “looking sharp” with shiny shoes.
I love this inventive production-line shoe shine approach in this retro ad:
As I was getting my shoes shined, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea! – what a great way to get the attention of business people you wanted to talk to about business.
You could get some professional shoe shiners to be at an event you host. Business people get their shoes shined and while you have their attention for the 5 or so minutes the shine takes – you can deliver your brief and natural sounding pitch.
You could even use old-school display boards (Mad Men style) rather than the PowerPoint presentations people see far too many of.
I later researched this Prince Consort Shoe Shine Stand and I found out that they already DO offer a special corporate service service where they can attend your booth or space at an event or trade shows.
It’s apparently a good way to get people to visit an exhibit and (just as I thought) you have people’s attention for a few minutes.
I wonder what the equivalent experience would be for female execs and decision makers.
If you have any ideas – please add in the comments section.
Do women’s shoes need “attention” of any kind? Fixing scuffs etc?
What about an executive foot massage – for males and females?
I am not in any way connected with the Prince Consort’s Shoe Shine Service – but I am more than happy to give them a plug.
I like it when there’s a triple bottom line – or in this case a triple bottom shine.
1. Business people get their shoes shined.
2. The people who book the shoe shiners get business exec’s attention
3. Shoe shiners get work
I no longer think that it is “un-Australian” to get your shoes shined at a shoe shine stand. I do however think it’s all about how you treat the shoe shiner – with respect as a person providing a service. I’ll get off my soap box (or shoe shine stand) now!
I found the experience to be actually enjoyable – and it can be good business with a triple bottom shine!
I use the expression Triple Bottom Line generally to describe ventures where their are win-win-win situations taking into account extra dimensions rather than just profits.
John Elkington, “Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development,” California Management Review 36, no. 2 (1994): 90–100.
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