Once, after a speech I delivered at the River Bend Film Festival, an attendee asked how I had survived and thrived so long as a writer. I said “I earned an MBWA.”
One day in 1972, my father, my brother and I were walking along Chicago’s State Street in Chicago. As we neared the massive S.S. Kresge’s store, Dad said he wanted some candy.
We went in and walked to the twenty-foot-long candy counter, my dad saying, “We can get this store.” Kresge’s, which would later become K-Mart, was a retail giant. When my astonished brother asked, “What makes you think that?”, my father answered, “The candy bins are low.”
My brother laughed. Dad handed him a dime and said, “Call them.”
Eventually, my brother got Dan Burdick, Kresge’s VP of Real Estate, on the phone. Dan said Kresge’s was indeed moving out of downtown areas and that the Chicago store could be had.
My father leased the five-story building for $10,000 a month, sectioned off a third of its first floor and leased that to an electronic store, netting $2,000 a month before he even opened for business. When Dad’s store opened, he looked at what he had created and told my brother and me, “Ya don’t figure this out while earning some MBA. Ya figure it out earning an MBWA.” When we looked questioningly to him, he said, “Management By Walking Around.”
I’d use a lot of what I learned in the clothing business after I moved to L.A. Most writers forget it’s called show business. Not me.