business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The world breaks down into two essential groups. Those like me, who are longtime fans of the “Star Trek” journey through television and movies; and all the rest of you who just rolled your eyes. (Yes, we know you do it; sometimes we can even hear you do it.)

So I was delighted to learn that William Shatner, the original series’ Captain Kirk, would be speaking at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) convention. I was also puzzled as to why. After all, there was nothing in Shatner’s long career that suggested special industry knowledge.

But give NACS credit for unorthodox programming that worked; I’d argue that even the non-“Trek” fans in the room found a lot to like in his presentation.

Luckily, the 86-year-old actor is amazingly comfortable in his own skin, especially with how his nuanced acting style on “Star Trek” gave him an enduring cult following. His speech included a wildly humorous mix of anecdotes and lessons. While he didn’t offer any insights into convenience store management, he did leave us with a great message.

Simply put, “say yes!”

As Shatner explained, life comes with countless crossroads and opportunities to either seize or ignore, and few offer the certainty of success. So whenever possible, find a way to say, “yes” to the new opportunity, suggestion or challenge and work to make that decision a success. That’s a wonderful call to heed the “Star Trek” mission - to “go boldly” into the unknown. Perhaps Shatner really does know business.

Obviously, saying yes isn’t always the easiest or correct move in business. We’ve all created and been presented with bad ideas that were obvious times to employ a resounding “no.” The sad truth is that we’ve probably said “no” a lot more than we’ve said “yes.”

And that’s why I think Shatner’s message was so timely and interesting. The world is changing, as one audience member remarked, “at an exponential pace.” (I might argue that change is taking place at warp speed.) We’re constantly presented with ideas and challenges that go well beyond anything in our experience. Increasingly we find times when the youngest and least experienced on our teams, possess knowledge of breakthrough technologies that their seniors have never encountered.

More than that, we see an onslaught of ideas from competitors - both real and potential - that we think of as folly and turn out to change the world. Recall the lesson of Blockbuster, which turned down a chance to buy Netflix, only to have the upstart bury it.

Saying “yes” goes against our nature at times. It goes against caution, against prudence and, frequently, against experience. And maybe that’s why Shatner’s message was so right for the moment. More importantly it may remind us to learn a lesson from the e-commerce world to both say “yes” and be willing to pull the plug on experiments gone bad before they hemorrhage money, time and energy. If we learn to both take chances and mitigate mistakes, we might find a way to say yes to success a lot more.

One aside, though. Only MNB insiders will get this, but what really amazed me when Shatner first took the stage was his clothing - jean, sneakers, a leather jacket, and a black shirt. In other words, what MNB’s Content Guy wears when he gives speeches (and pretty much every other day).

No doubt, this will give Kevin the idea that when we do speaking engagements together, it would be most logical for me to dress as Leonard Nimoy.

I may just have to say “yes.”

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

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