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You Don’t Know Jack

There aren’t many people in the world that I really admire. There’s you, of course. And me, of course. And, of course, there is Jack Nadel.

You say you’ve never heard of Jack Nadel? Doesn’t matter. If you’ve ever owned a ballpoint pen with a company logo on it, or proudly displayed a refrigerator magnet with a company logo on it, or strolled through the park holding a balloon with a company logo on it, you’re part of the Jack Nadel experience.

That’s right — Jack Nadel is the tchotchke king. Whatever companies give away, Jack sells. He’s making money on all the free junk that clutters your desk, your drawers and your life. And do you ever think of writing Jack a thank-you note? Don’t bother. Jack Nadel is such a good-hearted businessman that he has written a book, which selflessly teaching you how to achieve the success that he has experienced in over 65 years in business.


“Use What You Have to Get What You Want, 100 Basic Ideas That Mean Business” is a thin book, but that’s understandable. Jack is a busy guy. Those refrigerator magnets don’t make themselves, you know.

To start with Basic Idea No. 1, Jack suggests that the best way to build a business is to “find a need and fill it.” That’s your problem in a nutshell. You never realized there was a need for a “mophead bug,” a tiny purple pompom adorned with a cartoon face and trailing a ribbon that says “Climb The Ladder.”

Jack knows a need when he sees it and fills it. Case in point — his very first deal. As Jack explains, “the Chinese government was looking for navy blue woolen material to make uniforms. There was none available. There was, however, army olive drab in large quantities for sale at war surplus (WWII). I bought army olive drab and had it dyed navy, and sold it to the Chinese.”

Flash forward half a century or so, and the United States owes China over one trillion dollars. (We don’t know if China is still peeved about the financial shellacking they took from Jack. So until we can pay them back, I suggest you keep Jack’s little business maneuver to yourself.)

Basic Idea No. 2 is to “always confirm your agreements in writing.” Once Jack made a deal to buy a large piece of property, but the seller suddenly wanted to renegotiate. Jack had no written agreement so the deal fell through. Fortunately, Jack was able to dye the seller navy and sell him to China. No one messes with Jack.

Basic Idea No. 59 is “Lawyers and accountants, like taxi drivers, like to keep the meter running.”

As Jack tells the story, “we were being sued. During a deposition, the opposition attorney questioned me on some references I had made in a book I wrote. It had no relationship to the case. The next month, my attorney charged me an outrageous amount of money for having one of his assistants read my book.”

Candidly, I think Jack is a little off base here, but I trust Jack will come to his senses when he gets my bill for reading his latest tome.

“The best place to manufacture is where you get the best quality at the lowest price” is Basic Idea No. 66. No fan of political correctness, Jack believes “customers don’t care where a product is made.” He may be right. This column is being written by a 13-year-old girl in Malaysia, who is making 34 cents an hour. Call me a capitalist oppressor, but it’s a lot more than she gets for writing for Fox News.

At this point, you’re probably dying to know Jack’s Basic Idea No. 100, and I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn it’s solid gold: “If I give you a dollar and you give me a dollar, we each have a dollar. If I give you an idea and you give me an idea, we each have two ideas.”

I must admit that at first I didn’t understand the Zen-like brilliance of Idea No. 100. Like you, I’ve got lots of ideas but very few dollars. Fortunately, Jack explained that “by sharing with others, we increase our own capacity. By giving to others, we do not take something away from ourselves.”

Your next move is obvious. Send me a dollar. Or two. You’ll end up an idea — an idea that you’re an idiot. And I’ll have two dollars that I can dye blue and sell to the Chinese. Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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