I was at a childhood friend, Gene Schepici’s, wedding recently; it was a great chance to reconnect with folks I had not seen in a while. The groom’s cousin, Jimmy Ciampa, and I struck up a conversation with Gene’s Uncle Frank and Jorge Torres, a long time bud with whom Gene and I played Little League Baseball. We were chatting about the old neighborhood and all of the guys we hung around and played sports with back then.
At one point, Jorge said, “Gomez, remember when we…” and I started laughing and said, “that’s right Jimmy, everyone called you ‘Gomez.’” We all started laughing and rattled off all the nicknames in our neighborhood. I realized that this was a scene straight from “Goodfellas” when Henry Hill introduced all the characters in the club by their nickname, but it was true to life for us as kids. Everyone had a nickname; in fact most had two or three. Just take the four guys in the conversation, for example: Frank was called “Twinkie” and “Freight Train”; Gene was “Corpy” or “Pesce”; Jorge was “Nakijima” and “Hoss”; Jimmy was “Gomez” and “Jim Brown”; and (for reasons neither I nor anyone else in the conversation can recall) I was called “Scarribs” or “Lou Magoo”.
The funny thing was that as we rattled off each nickname, the guys knew who had started the name in the first place. It was a hysterical conversation. Jimmy was the guy who coined names the best. He came up with most of the ones I just listed, including my two (which Jimmy laughed about not having a clue why he donned those upon me).
The conversation got me thinking on the ride home from the wedding. We remembered all of these guys we hadn’t seen in 30 years in intricate detail because of their nicknames. Every time a new nickname was mentioned, one of the guys had a story and information about the person. These nicknames were our personal brands. They equaled something and triggered details about the person who possessed them.
I always thought it was just a funny way that dudes busted on each other and never really understood the power that it had in building relationships. The endearment it possessed for the people who were dubbed with these names was amazing. It also made me think of other groups of friends I have and their nicknames – “Snax”, “Weaz”, “Little Lenny” & “Marty” (whose name is actually Mark). And how could I forget, Tossed Salad (hi Lisa). As I went through the list, I realized there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for any of these guys if they needed me. Recently, a high school buddy of mine, “Flash” (Tim Flaherty), ran for State Senate; our pals Johnny Mac and Z reached out to me to lend some support, and my answer was, “Of course, absolutely,” (and Tim is a Democrat). It wasn’t even a question; how could I say no to “Flash”?
We spend a lot of time and effort to remember folks in business, as well as be remembered, and to create strong, unbreakable relationships. Maybe, just maybe, in our day-to-day business interaction, we should start giving our associates nicknames. This way, we can all be individually branded, and hopefully build equity around that brand, so that the relationship isn’t one of convenience, but one that is a tight bond that will aid us in our efforts to grow and be successful.
Hmmm, I like it. Unfortunately, once the lawyers get a hold of it we are all doomed… I can just see it now – Nickname Infringement or Personal Branding Harassment. Ha!
Humor aside, I believe there is great power in the nickname. I know it makes me react faster and in a more positive manner. One day, when I was with the Pats, my assistant called into my office and said, “Paul McAleer is on the line for you.” I asked her, “Who is he?” She said that he went to BC with me and he wanted to chat about an idea. I said to her, quite emphatically, “I never went to school with a Paul McAleer – take his information and I’ll figure out who he is.” I got the little pink message sheet later in the day, and it read, “Please call Paul McAleer – aka Shovel Head.” My jaw dropped – I saw “Shovel Head” just about every day at BC and I never knew his real name was McAleer (sorry, Paul).
What do you mean to others? What is your personal brand? Are you doing what it takes to be remembered and to really know whom you are doing business with? Let me ask you this…
What is your nickname?