That's the suggestion of Jeffrey J. Fox, author of the new book Rain: What a Paperboy Learned About Business. The book is a "business fable" that chronicles the adventures and lessons learned by a paperboy named Rain, and the simple tale has applications for just about any professional whose career is related to business.
The book notes several successful people who delivered papers in their youth: Tom Brokaw, Warren Buffett, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Walt Disney, Naomi Watts, Jack Welch, and Jerry Seinfeld, among others.
A successful businessman and former paperboy himself, Fox participated in a brief email interview with me recently.
Q: In writing Rain, why did you choose this form (fable/business fiction)?
A: I think that story telling is an effective way to engage readers. The stories, and hopefully the lessons therein, are more memorable and easier to personalize than the same messages presented in, say, a didactic essay.
One of the lessons in the book is to treat a job interview as a sales call. How might that approach help a job seeker today?
A job interview is always a sales call. Always! The candidate is both the product and the sales person. 95% of job seekers do not know this reality, and too often are inadequately prepared.
For example, how many times have you interviewed someone looking for a job who says, "So Mr. Musbach, what does your company do?" or "Do you offer dental insurance?" Job seekers of all ages and experience have to first understand that a job exists, directly or indirectly, to get and keep profitable customers — readers, listeners, viewers, patients, parishioners, members. Job seekers must have some idea as to how they can help the hiring company get and keep customers, reduce costs, boost innovation.
What specific steps should job seekers consider taking to make their interviews more like successful sales meetings?
Job seekers MUST do at least the following:
* Do in-depth research on the hiring company, and on the hiring managers, if possible. One prime objective of the research is to answer this question: If I were the hiring manager why would I hire myself?
* After the research the job seeker must pre-call plan and practice the interview, the sales call. Craft questions to ask. Anticipate questions to answer. Plan how to dress, etc.
* Ask for the job! "Miss Hiring Manager, based on what you have told me I know I can do this job, and do it to exceed your expectations. I am prepared to start contributing today, tomorrow. Will you give me a try?"
What about your experience as a paperboy has helped you most in your career?
A paperboy's job is to deliver to a deadline, every day. No excuses. You do what you promise and give the customer what she expects. Such workplace discipline is often a point of difference.
As you mentioned in the book, there aren't many paperboys or papergirls these days. What similar work experiences do you think might help young people today in learning the good basics about business and professional success?
I can't imagine another job so entrepreneurial, so reflective of the anatomy of business than being a paperboy or papergirl. Other good child labor (and child labor is good) is to shovel snow, mow lawns, baby-sit, dog walking, work in the family business, milk cows, wax cars.
(Full disclosure: I was a paperboy for nearly six years, delivering the Cleveland Plain Dealer.)