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Domino by Nick Tasler

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15To Lead Is to Decide

In 2005, Fortune magazine named Ruth Handler's decision to sponsor The Mickey Mouse Club one of the five best business decisions of all time. Indeed, it all worked out magnificently for Ruth and for Mattel.

But I want to take us back now to the start of 1955, right after Ruth returned the call to the executive from ABC and told him that Mattel would love to sponsor the show. After the initial excitement faded a few days later, probably after they had to write that first six-figure check to ABC, another emotion crept in.

Fear.

Fear that the sponsorship cost too much money. Fear that this new show would fail. Fear that television wasn't as big a deal as everyone thought it would be. Fear that they were too rash in their bold decision. Fear that sponsorship wouldn't translate into purchases. Fear that they were just plain wrong.

Three months into their new arrangement, to reward Ruth and Elliot for their leap of faith and to allay their fears and doubts, guess what happened?

Nothing. No spike in sales. No additional phones ringing or orders being placed. The silence was deafening.

Six months later, guess what happened? Still nothing.

Nine months later, more of the same. Nothing.

Then finally, after a painstaking year of trying to keep their spirits high and their blood pressure low, while they fought the good fight one decision at a time, the fourth quarter rolled around. And with the fourth quarter came the holiday shopping season. All of the sudden, demand ...

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