If I asked you to name a high profile businessman with explosive energy, odds are you would say, “Donald Trump.”
I suppose you would be right, but this article is about a pyromaniac with literally explosive energy who became a marketing genius.
By the time Samuel Colt was a teenager, he had played with explosives often enough that he decided to take the show on the road. “Sam’l colt will blow a raft skyhigh on Ware pond, July 4. 1829,” read a sign that he posted in his father’s warehouse. The crowd that gathered along the shoreline proved to Colt that he wasn’t alone in loving adventure.
The demonstration was said to be a success, but some bystanders were less than pleased to walk away with their fine clothes covered in mud.
Colt was kicked out of school the following year when one his 4th of July experiments went awry. The school building was set on fire, and Samuel’s father sent him overseas.
Still obsessed with explosives and weapons, young Samuel Colt came up with an idea while watching the captain steer the ship. By using a clutch, the captain not only could steer his ship with the wheel, but could also lock it into place. Colt would later say this observation triggered his idea for a revolving pistol.
Whittling a model of his revolver rather than twiddling his thumbs, Colt moved from idea to action. When he finally arrived back in the United States, he had a working prototype built which would lead to one of the most successful businesses of his day. In a sense, Colt “pirated” the idea of the rotating revolver from the ships helm. Great ideas don’t have to be completely original.
Product placement didn’t start with Hollywood. Long before “Wilson” arrived in a floating FedEx package in the Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away, Samuel Colt had begun paying painters to feature his pistols in dramatic Western scenes.
Colt payed writers to feature his guns in their stories, and he gave gold-plated editions to world rulers. He understood how to get his products onto the minds of potential customers. And it worked.
Salvaging a Lesson
Like Trump, Colt had his problems. He was arrogant and bombastic. He earned a living as a charlatan for a while. He failed miserably in business before becoming a great success.
In spite of his flaws, this out-of-control pyromaniac learned to channel his energy, and he never stopped trying something new. The world’s most successful people deserve some criticism. But in your eagerness to tear them down to size, don’t miss out on an opportunity to learn something. Maybe you’ll make an explosion of your own someday.