“How did you get the Interviews?”

February 12, 2008

Oddly enough, the question we get asked the most is not “do you know how beautiful you are?” “How did you get so beautiful?” Or “Can copies of your book be bought by the lorry load?” Instead, it’s usually “How did you get these people to speak with you?”

While this isn’t as good a question as the other three, it’s probably worth addressing here.

The answer is two-fold. First, we benefited hugely from living in a country where the types of people interviewed in this book aren’t perpetually hounded by the press. Depending on where in Canada you are, you can find our CEOs, politicians, artists, and community leaders doing the crossword puzzle at your local Timmy’s (or Timothy’s or Starbucks, depending). We found that, in true Canadian fashion, most of the people we approached for an interview tried to talk us out of it, blushing with embarrassment that they had been asked at all.

The second key to getting folks to sit down with us was bugging them. We sent introductory letters and then we phoned to follow up. Then we phoned again. And then we phoned again. In some cases, the chase went on for months, with Andrew calling daily. He is the cold call king. He’s relentless. While he lost a few big fish, Andrew managed to secure interviews with some of the most influential and successful people in the country.

That’s not to say that we never used connections. We didn’t have many, but we used them where we could. At the end of every interview, we asked the subject to recommend another person we should talk to. Then we asked if they would recommend us. It didn’t always work, but 1 out of 10 ain’t bad.

That is one of the principal lessons we’ve taken from this project. You can’t be afraid to lose or look stupid. If you ask fifty people and fifty people spit in your face, it’s all worth it, if you can hook just one.

That’s a lesson the participants kept speaking of as well. The old “if at first you don’t succeed” adage may sound trite when you’ve heard it a thousand times, but when someone who’s succeeded tells you the first six banks turned them down for a loan before the hail mary seventh came through, it suddenly reveals itself to be true.

If you keep phoning, they will talk.

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