When I was in radio, one of my bosses mentioned “corner store marketing,” and I totally got the concept—because I had actually, quite literally, lived it. While the concept of corner store marketing may not be anything original, I have been telling this story to staff members and students for 15 years because it has led me to a deep understanding of the importance of building relationships, and now I’d like to share it with you.

I grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts, in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. We lived in a three-decker, dumbbell tenement in which my mother and my sister had to walk through my bedroom to get to their own rooms. My sister’s bedroom was basically a storage room or oversized closet. There were ...

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