Lesson #4: Low Risk Means Low Rewards
When it came to taking the road less traveled, Warner was all about accepting risk. And not just a little bit of risk; Warner knew that the more risk he was willing to take, the greater the reward would be in the end.
It is not every entrepreneur that would see the correlation between a Rolls Royce and stuffed animals, but Warner thought the two could not be more perfect for each other. In his early days selling toys for the San Francisco-based toy company Dakin, Warner began to experiment with different marketing ploys.
No matter how eccentric he may have appeared, Warner believed there was value in dressing up in a fur coat and top hat, while carrying a cane, and driving around in a white Rolls Royce convertible as he arrived for appointments with retailers. He wanted to make them curious about what he was selling. And, he wanted to make them curious about the man behind the products.
In one of his rare public interviews, Warner said, "I figured if I was eccentric-looking, people would think, ‘What is he selling? Let's look in his case.'" Warner did not care how other people might have perceived him in his eccentric clothing or fancy car. "It was all to get in to see the buyer," he explained.
That willingness to take risks is something Warner carries with him from childhood. It is not everyone who would be willing to drop out of college to follow their dream. Even if it meant pumping gas and selling cameras door to door on the streets of Hollywood, Warner was determined to try his hand at acting. It took even more courage still to admit that he was not destined for the big screen and return to Chicago to begin working with Dakin. And, when he realized that he was no longer happy with Dakin, Warner took yet another risk in quitting and moving to Italy with no idea of what he was going to do in the future.
As Chairman and CEO of his own company, Warner continued his passion for taking the road less traveled and braving the risks. First, he plunged his entire life savings into a $5 to $20 product. He took up two mortgages on his house and used his father's inheritance to jump start his vision.
Second, Warner shunned traditional advertising campaigns and the large, national toy store chains for distribution, saying, "It's better selling 40,000 accounts than it is 5 accounts. It's more difficult to do, but for the longevity of the company and the profit margins, it's the better of the two."
Warner did little that was by the book. From plunging his life savings into a new venture that would not retail for very high, to dressing in eccentric outfits, to opting for non-traditional routes of distribution and marketing, Warner took the risks he needed to succeed. In the end, Warner learned that taking greater risks meant realizing greater rewards.
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