Posted Aug 6 2017, 4:48 pm

There was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs. He was hard of hearing, so he had no radio. He had trouble seeing, so he read no newspapers or watched television. But, he sold really good hot dogs. He put signs up on the highway telling how good they were. He stood on the side of the road and cried “Buy a hot dog, mister? And people bought. His business was good and kept getting better. He increased his meat and bun orders. He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade.

One day, his son came home from college and said to his father, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio? Haven’t you been reading the newspaper? There’s a big recession. The European situation is terrible. The domestic situation is worse.”

Whereupon the father thought, “Well, my son has been to college and is very bright. He reads the papers, listens to the radio and watches television. He ought to know what’s going on in the world.”

So the father cut down on his meat and bun orders, substituted a lower quality of beef, took down his advertising signs, and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs.

Sure enough, hot dog sales fell almost overnight.

“You’re right son,” the father said. “We are certainly in the middle of a great recession. It’s a good thing I listened to you.”

What is the learning from this? For me it is, if you have a successful business never forget what got you there and never lower your standards. Trust your own judgment and instincts. Don’t let outside influences alter the course you believe in.

  1. Paul Getty, once the world’s richest person, was interviewed and asked this question. “Mr. Getty, if you could be 100% better than your competition in just one thing, what would it be?” Getty answered the question…”I don’t want to be 100% better than my competition in any one thing. I want to be 1% better in everything.”

Another example of a company that disappeared due to a self- fulfilling prophecy…Burma Shave.

As a youngster I looked forward to my family’s annual vacation to Florida. The drive was very long and tedious. But what made the 36 hour trek more enjoyable were the Burma Shave highway signs. They’ve become a treasured childhood memory.

The signs were part of a national ad campaign which began in 1927 and ended in 1963. They were a sequential set of six signs spaced miles apart each of which had a rhyme. Examples…”A shave that’s real, No cuts to heal, A soothing velvet after-feel”…Burma Shave.  Another one was “His face was loved, by just his mother, He Burma Shaved, and now…Oh, brother”…Burma Shave. Motorists were always curious to know the punch-line and looked for the last sign on the highway.

For thirty years the Burma Shave highway signs were an icon of American life. During this time Burma Shave was the #2 shaving company in America. The signs were removed when the company was sold to Phillip Morris in 1963 on the advice of their legal department. It was believed that the super highway system, the increased speed in which cars were travelling and the hectic pace of modern life made these signs obsolete.

If that were true, why do I and many others miss them so much?

Ken Rubin is the founder of Interviewing To Win. “I’ve always believed that people are far greater than any job they ever get to do.” Through my interview seminars and one on one role playing sessions, I will bring out the very best in my clients.

1 Comment


One response to “#7 THE MAN WHO SOLD HOT DOGS”

  1. Ron Harper says:

    I miss the Burma Shave signs, too. A classic marketing strategy! Great post, Ken.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *