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The elevator talk

A description of "what do you do"

that can be completed in a 15 second elevator ride

During the "dot com" boom (and bust) a few years ago, one of the "catch phrases" was the "elevator talk." Each entrepreneur had a very brief verbal description of his venture, carefully rehearsed, suitable to present completely during the proverbial ride on an elevator.

You meet somebody at a party (or wherever - maybe even on an elevator), and they ask "so what do you do?" "Duh, I'm retired." (Guess that means you don't do anything.) "I build things." (Great, I need a new trailer for my boat.) "I have a dream woodworking shop." (Can you build a shelf for my pantry?) What kind of impression do you want to leave with this potential client (or if not a client, someone who might refer you to a friend).

The goal in the dot com days was to get invited to present the 10 minute Powerpoint briefing, or to at least exchange cards so a "press release" or some other brief document could be sent. Nobody is going to invite me to do a briefing, and the concept of a press release is largely obsolete, so today's goals are a little different.

"I build custom furniture for people - things like entertainment centers, partner desks, lingerie chests, and other things. This has been a hobby for over 70 years, but 35 years ago I started doing it professionally, and 20 years ago I retired early to do it full time. I have some pictures of my work on my iPhone if you are interested, or I can give you my business card with my web site."

I believe I can make that carefully crafted pitch in 15 seconds. I start by saying I do it for customers, not just for my family, not just as a hobby. I carefully selected my examples

I enumerated my experience - over 70 years as a hobby, 35 years professionally (I am ready to add the phrase "people saw my work, and asked me to build something similar for them."), and 20 years full time (I am serious about it, and retired early to do it, it was a choice, not because I was unemployed).

I have about 50 pictures of things I have made on my iPhone organized in two photo albums.

First, an album with fewer (perhaps 25) pictures of things I have made that show my skills, and that I would like to make again. Only one coffee table, not multiple variations. No Murphy beds, since I would rather not make them any more. More pictures of "unusual" work such as things with great veneers. Fewer ordinary bookcases. Even people who are very interested seem to get bored before they got through all 50 pictures when they were in one large album.

The second album has many more pictures to show specific features of various pieces - pictures I would select to make a point, not intended for casual browsing. Many pictures of that lingerie chest, many pictures of that interesting stand-up desk. Multiple pictures of that 6 food diameter round table with the three foot diameter lazy susan, supported by curved veneered base. Most of the different things I have made so I can say "I've done that, and can do it or something like it in your choice of wood."

If my business model was based on a color catalog, then the goal will be to find where I can mail (an autographed copy of) that catalog. If I have a salesman (or want to sell in person like a salesman), the goal may be to get invited to visit (to deliver the catalog or brochures). My business model is based on a web site with lots of pictures and details of my work, and primary communications by email (since email doesn't interrupt time in the shop). I leave the door open to phone calls, but I prefer email, and am willing to lose a few customers who aren't willing to work that way.

I am ready to quickly answer the question "So, what do you do?" Are you ready?