Author Archives: jamessnider

About jamessnider

James Snider is the Vice President of Business Development for Engstrom Trading, LLC. Engstrom imports products from Scandinavian countries and builds a market for them in the USA and Canada.

The Billion Dollar Phone Call….that I ignored

Lightning Bottle

When I first moved into marketing, I was assigned to an emerging technology that was slow to take off. Years of failed promises had management out of patience. Our small marketing team had to be careful how we spent our time. Rule #1: ”Never talk to anyone that can not place a 100,000 unit order.” There were plenty of small start-ups that wanted our attention but it took the same amount of time to send samples to Sony or Apple as it did to send samples to Bob who was developing a product on his kitchen table.

With this mindset, I answered my first phone call from Stefan. He wanted samples but he worked for a company I’d never heard of. I brushed him off. The next week, I received another phone call from Stefan. Same request. Same friendly, unassuming voice. Same result. I brushed him off. This went on for months. I quit picking up the phone and let it go to voice mail. Every week, I heard the same friendly, humble request. “Please call me back…”

One week, at our staff meeting, someone asked, “Who is Stefan? I’m getting a phone call from him every week.” We all responded, “Me, too!” Somehow, Stefan had identified all the marketing contacts for this technology and made weekly phone calls to each of us. We all admired his persistence and the fact that he remained pleasant, even after ignoring him for months. We agreed to just give him some samples at no charge. He obviously wanted them badly. It was my job to call and let him know.

As it turns out, Stefan was the president of a small company developing a debugging tool to help people design our technology into their products. This was something we’d never even considered. It was vitally important to the success of the technology. If Stefan had never received his samples, the roll out of this technology would have been delayed again, my management would have pulled the plug and I never would have spent 15 years traveling the globe to promote this technology.

Stefan went on to become a major player in this billion dollar industry and to build a successful company which he sold for a small fortune. Years later, I was in town and gave him a call. He was delighted and took me to dinner in his shiny red Viper. As we drove to dinner, I related to him the story of the staff meeting where we decided to send him the samples. Then I asked, “How did you remain so nice after we ignored you for so long?” He responded, “I was nobody from a company you’d never heard of. I desperately needed your product to be successful. I had nothing to offer you and you had everything I needed. All I could do was to be nice and ask again.” His tone of voice let me know that he was still that guy. Viper not withstanding.

Stefan did two things right. He was nice and he was persistent. When you come across that great job that you really want, persist. Check out the company social media sites. Web pages give you business information (product lines, sales locations, press releases, documentation….) Facebook et al. (if done right) will give you interesting information about the company (charities they support, corporate team building events, mentions in the major press, industry trends…) which will make you a much more interesting candidate to interview.


The Man Who Saved the World

stanislav-petrovStanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov : retired lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces.

On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines passenger jet Flight 007 was shot down over the Sea of Japan by a Soviet fighter jet. All 269 passengers and crew, including a US Congressman, were killed in cold blood. Anti-Soviet sentiment in the United States soared. Tensions rose to heights not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Three weeks later, just after midnight, the Soviets detected a missile heading straight for Moscow. Stanislav Petrov was the duty officer at the nuclear early-warning center that morning.

At first, Petrov could not move, unable to believe what he was seeing. But with the alarm sounding, the red screen in front of him flashed “launch”. A quick check of the “Confidence Interval” showed that this alert had the highest level of reliability. There could be no doubt. The Soviet Union was under attack. A minute later, the alarm went off again, indicating that a second missile had been launched, then a third, fourth and fifth. The red screen changed from “launch” to “missile strike.” He had to pick up the phone and notify his commander, an action that would have resulted in a counter attack. World War III would have been over long before the sun rose on the charred remains of Moscow.

Petrov was not the typical Air Defense officer. He was the only one to receive a civilian education. His colleagues were all professional soldiers; taught to take orders and follow protocol. Petrov was just a little bit skeptical. This system was new and not well tested. The fact that all systems indicated “No Margin of Error” added to his skepticism. As he reasoned through the situation, he could not understand why the Americans would only send 5 missiles? That would not incapacitate the military and retribution would be brutal. With only minutes to make a decision, Petrov checked with the satellite radar technicians. They had detected no missiles.

Later, he recalled, “I knew perfectly well that nobody would be able to correct my mistake if I had made one.” He made his decision. He called the army headquarters to report the incident as a malfunction. Then he waited. A missile would strike within minutes if he’d been wrong. 23 minutes after the first alarm, he realized that nothing had happened and he’d just saved millions of lives and quite possibly, the whole world.

The false alarm was triggered by an anomalous alignment of sunlight with high-altitude clouds over North Dakota, picked up by a spy satellite at just the wrong moment in its elliptical orbit.

After hours of intense questioning, Petrov was praised for his “correct actions” and promised a reward. However, he was later reprimanded for improper filing of paperwork on the incident. As it turns out, this incident brought to light a number of other bugs in the Soviet missile detection system. To praise Petrov would have brought attention to the failures of his superiors and influential scientist. The man who saved the world was “reassigned”, took early retirement and later, suffered a nervous breakdown. Like a Dilbert cartoon gone evil.

Sometimes, doing the right thing carries bad consequences, but that is not the end of the story. Reorgs happen. The old boss is replaced by the new boss. Yuri Andropov (former Chairman of the KGP) was General Secretary of the Communist Party (A.K.A. President of the Soviet Union) at the time. Andropov was a man who looked like he’d never laughed at a joke, ever. I am sure that Petrov was convinced, from time to time, that he was in line for a lethal dose of lead to the base of his skull. But he is alive today and living in Russia.

With the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Petrov’s story got out. Plenty of NATO nations were eager to have Petrov over for dinner and an award (and sometimes, a little money). Petrov took it all in stride. In later years he would say, “I was neither punished nor rewarded. I was doing my job.” His nonchalance and devotion to duty made it so his wife never learned of his heroic actions. She died before it became public. “She never asked. I never brought it up.”

Good Luck and Godspeed!



Do Not Look For a Job Doing What You Love

Steve Jobs

I can not say it any better than the professionals at Business Insider… particularly since they quote Steve Jobs. You need to learn to love what you do and not do what you love (as we are so often told).

Here is the article

100 Years Ago

Things were very different in 1915.

100 years ago

I’ve learned ….

Women laughing and having fun

That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend with whom to act goofy.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

Onward Thru The Fog


I am sure that we have all wished we could go back and do things differently. As for me, I am not sure how far back I would have to go before I could make things turn out the way I would like. Maybe my Freshman year of college would be enough. I would have remained in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas (at Austin), which is where I started. I would have ignored the fervent advice of my father (a prominent Radiologist in Austin) who instructed me that I would hate being a salesman “groveling around, buying coffee and laughing at terrible jokes simply to make a sale” ….and I would have gone straight into sales as soon as I graduated with my BBA. I love “sales” and those terrible jokes are a lot funnier when they are attached to a commission.

However, more recently, I have seen “going back and doing it differently” with a more sinister view. Maybe it is because I have officially left “middle age” and moved into “old age” but I see “having a do over” with a mixed vantage point….like “It’s A Wonderful Life” written by Rod Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame. If you went back and did it over, what makes you think things would work out better? They may work out worse!

Would you wake up every day at exactly the same time? Would your words be exactly the same words as you spoke originally? Would you leave the house at exactly the same time? Would you walk down the street or drive at exactly the same speed as before? No, impossible! The “redo” would be different in ways you could never control.

Every one of us has had “close calls” where we almost received life changing injuries or perhaps death. In the “do over world” we may have very well died at 12 years old, or 18 or 30…. If you believe in a God who is in control of all things, who would protect you a second time, do you not believe that He has protected you the first time as well? Do you not believe that you stand today at a cross roads?

We will never receive a “do over” and that is a wonderful thing. Who would want to relive the miserable years of middle school, even if you could be 20% richer today from what you learned? You lived your life. Now it is time to get on with it, based on what you learned. Do the things you should have done and broadcast your new accomplishments via social media. Those who are looking for people with your experience on LinkedIn will be interested in what you are doing now to sharpen your skills. If there is dirt on you from the past, cover it up with new entries on Facebook and Twitter. Prospective employers are going to look for information on you on the Internet. Make the good information easy to find based on your posts to social media. They will never make it to page 18 of Google search results if they find information (that you controlled) on pages 1 – 17.

Good Luck and Godspeed!


Sticky Message

Judgement Donorcycle

As I drove home from work  at 10:30 last night, I was passed by four motorcycles going between 90 and 100 mph, based on the fact that I was driving at highway speeds and they left me behind like I was standing still. It was astonishing to imagine four young lives putting themselves so needlessly at risk. I was reminded of a scene from the TV Show “ER” in which Nurse Hathaway is patching up a macho biker who’d taken a spill. She asked him if he knew what they called motorcycles in the ER; “Donorcycles”. He laughed and said, “Donorcycles…I like that.” Hathaway responded with no humor, “You would.”

As my mind continued to drift along these lines, I remembered something the late great Paul Harvey said during his news show many years ago. We like to think, when we reach the end of our lives, that our bodies have just worn out. But in reality, we actually rust out instead of wear out.  Cigarettes, alcohol, poor eating habits and lack of exercise all tear our bodies down prematurely.

I was listening to a discussion on the local NPR about a year ago and the comment was made that we are afraid of sharks and lightening but what we should really fear is french fries and cheese burgers. Very few people die from sharks or lightening but millions die each year from obesity and heart disease.

In one of the greatest marketing books written in recent years, “Made to Stick” the story is told of an effort by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to change the practice of using coconut oil for popping popcorn in movie theaters. After many efforts to get the message across, only one message actually drove the point home and made a difference. They showed three meals: bacon and eggs, Big Mac with fries and a steak dinner. Then they showed a medium size popcorn topped with butter. The popcorn had more fat than a whole day’s worth of high fat meals. That started the groundswell to get coconut oil removed from movie theater popcorn.

What do these four stories have in common, apart from the fact that they are all health related? They all have the sticky message that “Made to Stick” discusses.

Donorcyle…rust out, not wear out…fear cheeseburgers, not sharks….one box of popcorn has more fat than a typical bad American diet… these message stuck with me for years.

What does this have to do with finding a job via social media? Too many times we waste our social media profiles with trivia. Tell me quickly what you do very well and grab my attention. “SQL server super geek” is much more useful than “Devoted father of 3 rowdy boys.” “Eat, drink and breathe SEO” is much more compelling than “Digital marketing fan.” “Certified Guerrilla Marketer” catches my attention more than “MBA, humorist and friend to many.”

Get on with it and give me that sound bite that makes me remember you. For more information, take a look at this previous post: What I Learned from an Arrogant Doctor