Eight years ago I was in the audience listening to Gary Vaynerchuk deliver a ground breaking keynote presentation at the Web 2.0 conference. Days later, I wrote a blog post where I predicted that Gary would soon be a household name.
Gary incubated Vayner Media in our offices at Buddy Media. In that little blip of time (2008/09) I received a masters level tutorial by observing Mike and Gary in action.
Here are 7 powerful things I learned from Gary, that can help you too.
1. Get comfortable, and try to relax.
The first meeting I ever took with Gary, he didn't sit down. He stalked along the outside edges of the conference room. Spinning chairs, looking out the window, claiming the space as his own. He even sat on the conference table, and put his feet on a chair. This is partially because Gary rarely sits still, but it's also because he's comfortable in his own skin, and rarely gets nervous.
I don't recommend you walk in circles in your next board meeting. I do recommend you try to relax, and get to know the room. It's ok to stand up and take in the view.
2. There is such a thing as a win win.
In the first 2 minutes of their meeting Mike Lazerow offered Gary space to incubate his agency, and Gary had negotiated equity in Buddy Media. The rest, as they say is history.
The meeting could have been contentious. Instead these two business juggernauts found equal ground within minutes. They've since become dear friends.
3. Be ready to walk away.
By the time I had met Gary he'd already made millions with his families wine store. Ridding himself from financial desperation, I'd watch Gary swagger into meetings. If we lost the deal, like Jay-Z he'd be on to the next one.
I watched executives crumble in Gary's hands. The mere feeling that Gary didn't need them was palpable. They expressed a serious fear of missing out, and wanted to get on the Gary train.
Be ready to leave any deal behind. Even say it out loud. Declaring that you need to move on to another meeting can be a gentle reminder who's in control in the boardroom.
If you don't have a financial cushion to fall back on, you can use your time as your equity. Nobody can take that from you. Use time parameters to shift control in meetings.
4. Building a personal brand is your most powerful weapon.
The first Buddy Media meeting I took Gary into with me was a prospective client was with the NHL. My key contact was getting cold feet. Social media was still so young. This was unfamiliar territory.
Sensing he was backing away, I mentioned that Gary was incubating his new startup in our office. The executive confessed he was "a fan" of Gary. I'll never forget that. He didn't say "I admire his work," or "I think he's a leading mind in tech" ...he said that he was "a fan."
That's the moment I knew that building a personal brand was the most powerful tool an executive could bring to the negotiation table.
5. People don't make rationale decisions, they work on their gut.
My friend Oren Klaff has made a career on talking about how our brains process information in sales meetings. Gary is a master of this. Most likely from his years working the floor of his parents wine store.
He appeals to your most basic instincts, excited the senses and pummels your rational brain. When you're reacting and not thinking you find yourself falling in love with the guy. Not a rational reason in the world can conquer gut feelings. Everything Gary does is from the gut.
When executives who deal with numbers, and quantifiable methods all day, a bit of qualitative excitement is like a warm ocean breeze.
6. Be excellent at what you do.
When Gary woos executives it's easy to say he's all flash and no substance. Because of this, many people give Gary a hard time. I get it, he's an in your face type of guy. It's not unusual to hear Gary drop an expletive or two during a keynote, and that's not for everyone.
What his detractors forget is that Gary has the business chops to back up his bravado. He's a practitioner of every social media platform. Iterating his content for greatest impact. When he steps on stage with no slides, and makes it look like he's just shooting from hip, he's already put in his 10,000 as a wine curator.
He's also put in his 10,000 as a public speaker, and 20,000 as a business owner. So get back to the drawing board. Hone your craft and put in your 10,000 hours so you can own the board room.
7. Be Yourself.
I'll never forget cringing while standing in the lobby of the NHL with Gary and his brother AJ. I was in a suit. Gary was in jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt. Gary went on a rant about how the NHL's commissioner was screwing things up for the league.
The NHL executives loved it. He was said things they wished they could say, but knew they'd get into trouble for it. I felt mortified, and then I was in awe.
Gary didn't walk on eggshells like most people who were selling to them, myself included. He was authentic from the get go. We closed that deal, and many more together.