The year was 1960. Seven shots back and a leaderboard stacked with the likes of Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead stood in the way of Arnold Palmer in the US Open at Cherry Hills. To most, the task ahead was impossible. The announcers had written Palmer off — his situation, they declared, was "hopeless," with "pure luck" his only chance of winning. Yet, as the last putt fell, concluding a miraculous round of 65, Palmer tossed his cap into the air and claimed his first (and only) U.S. Open golfing victory.
Lucky? Not a chance.
As Palmer later said: "The more I prepare, the luckier I get." Sage wisdom from one of golf’s masters, and prudent advice for all new business executives to follow. There’s a lot of luck involved in the game of golf — like getting a bounce off a tree to the fairway or having the wind pick up at just the right moment. Similarly, luck can determine whether or not an agency wins a piece of new business. If we’re lucky, our winning ideas will resonate with the client and we’ll establish a great working chemistry. But luck isn’t entirely random — it’s generated. And the more we prepare, the more easily good luck can find us.
The key to winning a pitch is always to go above and beyond — to remain focused and do everything to the best of our ability and trust that, as the late 49ers coach Bill Walsh once said, "The score will take care of itself." This attitude helped us win a pitch last year. Rather than playing it safe and presenting the expected, we deviated from our course and presented an unconventional idea that challenged the company culture. Following our gut and taking a risk made all the difference.
Although a new business win may not be on par with winning the US Open, both are intoxicating. The satisfaction that comes from performing at the highest level against the best and brightest in your industry — and winning — is incredible. It’s the rush of that magical congratulatory phone call and the ensuing team celebration that drives us to do what we do for a living. Pitches can be incredibly emotional, with incredible highs and devastating lows. And at the end of the day, of course, we all want to be the one hoisting the trophy — or signing the contract.
Palmer knew, going into the final round, that there was work to do. But it was not hopeless. Taking bold calculated risks and embodying a spirit of confidence and optimism led to a victory. And as he so valiantly displayed, the harder we work, the luckier we get.
Brooks Day is SVP, business development, with FCB West.