Preparation Works in Business as in Sports

The sports media and coaching community consistently attribute the success of our sports stars to their dedication to preparing for their role on the playing field. Football quarterbacks, who besides their extreme physical routine, spend huge amounts of time seeing film of their next opponent and studying their game plans. Baseball pitchers study countless hours of film of the batters they will be facing in their next game. Basketball players do the same as well as spend significant amounts of time practicing with their teammates to develop the team cohesiveness to win. It has been said by many that the key to Michael Jordan’s success besides his talent was his dedication to practice and preparing himself mentally and physically for his games. I do not know the exact ratio, but I would guess that for every hour on the playing field, a successful athlete spends 30+ hours practicing and preparing.

I believe this preparation ethic to achieve success is just as important in the world of business. When I had a game company, we decided there was an opportunity and need to develop and market a line of magic. It turned out to be very successful, and I feel it was because of our preparation and learning. I had little knowledge of the business of magic and certainly knew nothing about how the tricks were done. So among other things to learn how to develop this line, I found and attended a magic school. I was fortunate enough to find a great teacher in George Schindler, a renown magician.

George is still active in magic and is a former president of the Society of American Magicians where he now is a regular columnist. In the current issue of their MUM magazine, he wrote the article below, which I share with you in its entirety. It tells about how we met and proceeded in developing the line. We were very proud of this undertaking as we helped many kids and adults overcome their shyness and develop self confidence through learning how to perform magic. It also provided wholesome fun for many.

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The Dean’s Diary

By George Schindler

Bob Reiss

It was early in the 1970’s when a game company put the “Imaginary” (Invisible) Deck on the market in department stores. The name on the cover said “Jerry Lucas,” a well-known basketball payer who had done The Memory Book with Harry Lorayne. Magicians around the country were really angry. It was one thing to put a magic set on the market but another to expose a highly valuable secret. I recall a meeting of the board at PA 1 where we had a long discussion about what we could do about it. One suggestion was to write letters to the manufacturer asking him to remove it from the market. Another was even worse; one member suggested we flood the market with a cheaper version to make the good one obsolete. Absurd!

Rather than distributing this trick through toy stores, the manufacturer had found a new market in department stores. His company specialized in games and now he had a new product. The decks sold only fairly well, and somehow did not impact the magicians using the trick. Like the Svengali deck, they were sold to one-time buyers as a novelty. But the manufacturer fell in love with “magic.” He saw the SS Adams line sold in all sorts of venues and decided to learn more about magic. So he enrolled in a magic course at the School for Magicians. Fascinated by thumb tips, ropes, and cards, he decided to learn everything he could about magic. And that was how I met Bob Reiss of Reiss Games. Frank Garcia and I ran the school one night each week for a six-week course for adults, who were mostly salesmen, bartenders, and business people. Bob was an excited student who used his new talent to open doors for his business by adding a “toy” item. He also realized that the  “secrecy” of magic added a new element to attract a consumer.

We were indeed fortunate that he chose Frank and me as consultants in his new venture. When I asked him about the Imaginary Deck, Bob said he would have been delighted if we had written that letter trying to stop him. It would have definitely increased sales as a “trick magicians didn’t want you to know about.” Showbiz made a deal with him to buy his inventory, and we sold it to another magic jobber. It was win-win all around: everyone made money, and we took the trick away from the general public.

Frank and I came up with twenty-two tricks that we all had as kids, which were offered in all the magic sets from the 1800s to the present day. The keys to sales were previously unheard of packaging and modern marketing approaches not used in years past with magic sets. Plastic molds were made and easy to follow instructions and patter were written. Packaging and photos made each effect desirable and the words “The purchaser agrees not to disclose the secrets within” were added.

Then came the sales technique never before used in magic. Reiss had all of his sales reps learn one or two of the tricks to do at lunch with the buyers. I scoured the country and found more than 150 magicians to do department store demos during the holiday seasons; Bob hired a publicist to promote TV, radio, and live magic in the department stores. Their toy departments had to add them to their shelves as well. Frank and I traveled the country doing live TV and store promos. At the same time, dug Henning was on Broadway and a new magic fever hit the country. Our timing was perfect. Sales boomed, and it was then that a few traditional magic sets were added to the line. How many of you started your magic with a Reiss Magic Kit? Can I see a show of hands? I recently asked one well-known close-up performer how he learned his magic. He told me he bought the Reiss Magic Kit packaged with a real deck of cards and ten tricks from Magic with Cards, a book that Frank and I wrote for Reiss. But therein lies another column.

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