No.16 / June 19, 2006

The Corporate Muse

Welcome to all our readers of The Corporate Muse.  This month, we've chosen to look at a successful business model, networking model and word usage.  We hope you enjoy it. As always, we'd love to hear from you.  Send your comments to:




What Does Wall Drug Have That You Don't?



My husband and I recently attended my niece's wedding in Spearfish, South Dakota. For hundreds of miles on the way and 60 or so on our return, we read the signs announcing all the wonderful things to see and do at Wall drug. 


Because the timing was right, we decided to stop on our way home. Though I'd been there once before, Andy never had, so we took time to explore and enjoy some of their delicious homemade ice cream and five cent coffee. 


As I sat waiting for my strawberry cheesecake confection, I noticed a stack of bright yellow plastic cups on the counter. It piqued my curiosity. A few minutes later, Andy returned with two of them filled with fresh ice water. Stamped on the outside was this message:  Free Ice Water Hustead's Wall Drug.


In my previous visit, I'd failed to learn the story behind the Wall Drug success and was surprised by what I read in the flyer Andy brought along with the refreshments. Wall Drug's fame and fortune had derived from advertising free ice water. Yup, you heard me right.


Let me set the stage. Perhaps you haven't traveled across the South Dakotan plains, but more than likely you've traversed Kansas or Nebraska. In the summer, it gets mighty hot and watering holes can be few and far between. Now imagine you lived in the 1930's during the Great Depression.


It was 1936 when Dorothy Hustead put up the first sign for free ice water. Her ingenuity paid off. Thirsty travelers flocked there -- then and ever since. Of course, it's grown from a tiny apothecary in Wall, SD to a booming enterprise with hundreds of billboards all over the world. 


Dorothy Hustead was one smart cookie. First, she assessed the problem: how to get tourists on their way to the Black Hills to stop at their store. Secondly, she considered a need: parched vacationers. Next, she found a way to meet that need: free ice water. Lastly, she promoted it: signs along the road. 


She understood that people aren't interested in what you try to sell them unless it solves a problem. And if you can do it for free, so much the better. Draw your prospects in with an enticing offer they find hard to resist and they're liable to purchase even more from you. Chances are, the Husteads sold countless candy bars and potato chips to go along with that cup of free water.


Most folks wouldn't think to market free ice water. Face it, most places don't even offer it anymore. But Dorothy's situation was unique. She capitalized on location of their business and the hard times. In those days, the highway ran right by their door. For miles, travelers licked their lips in anticipation as they passed those road signs. It must have seemed like an oasis in the desert to them. 


It's a good bet giving away water wouldn't do much for a business today, but the principles Dorothy Hustead employed are still valid. Discovering a unique answer to a need or want is an essential component to the success of any enterprise. 


If you’re having a tough time right now, think of Dorothy. If she can build an empire from a six ounce cup of ice water in the middle of the Depression, what can you do?   (SKC)


  © QuickSilver Copywriters 2006 -- Andy & Shawn Catsimanes;; mailto:; Sign up for The Corporate Muse:



"I'm endlessly curious about people. I really am. It's funny, because on the one hand, there's nothing new under the sun; we all have a lot in common. On the other hand, people are so different and they're so interesting. To me, networking starts from that point of view. It starts from the attitude and belief that other people are interesting and to find out about them and talk to them about things that are interesting to both of us." This quote came from my interview with David Garfinkel a few months ago.


Approaching networking with the idea of, "What can I learn?" rather than, "What can I gain?" will take you a long way.  


If we're nervous or apprehensive before an event, it's because we're focusing on ourselves. I have to admit, that statement caused me to wince. But like it or not, it's the truth. Think about it. You can only become uneasy if you're letting yourself worry about how you're going to "come off" to other people.


David Garfinkel offers an alternative.  Be endlessly curious. 


Asking questions about the other person's business is the easiest way to tackle this approach. When you're inquisitive, it naturally leads to a desire for more information. The more you spotlight the other person, the less you think about yourself. You become involved in his story -- engaged in his passion. 


The important thing here is to just listen. Learn everything he's willing to share with you about his life and his life's work. 


Remember, this is not about positioning yourself to meet his needs; it's about getting to know everything you can about how he operates. If the two of you are a good fit, you'll be able to offer the answers to his problems when the moment is right.


This technique may go against everything you've ever been taught. You may have spent years of training in sales or marketing. You may feel you need to "always be closing."  Or you're wasting your time if you're not giving him your feverishly prepared pitch or handing him your business card. But the truth is people simply don't care what you have to say if they don't believe you're genuinely interested in them. 


Cultivating curiosity will help you develop that sense of wonder about other people. Like everything else, the more you practice it, the easier it will become. Soon you'll find curiosity replacing your shyness and anxieties. And if you're not careful, you'll find yourself being excited about attending a networking event instead of dreading it.






Adjectives get a bad rap. Many writers and copywriters shun them completely. It's true that their overuse diminishes or even ruins otherwise good prose or copy. But still, they have their place.


Take for instance, adding an adjective to a person's name to describe his/her character. After I quit college, I moved to Billings, MT to take a medical receptionist course. I made friends with a few of my classmates and ended up living with a couple of them. As it happens, I became a part of their circle of friends, including a girl who went by the name of Weird Sheri. 


Weird Sheri had the wildest hair I've ever seen -- blonde, frizzy and generally stood straight up. She wore electric blue eye shadow, clothes that didn't match and went barefoot most of the time.


Her actions fit her name, too. I once witnessed her ask an older couple at a drive in if she could have some of their tater tots. Another time, on her return from the hospital, she had us stop at a stranger's house. She walked up to the door, knocked and asked the lady if she could have some of her flowers. In both instances, her requests were granted. 


Of course that's just a small sample of the antics Weird Sheri pulled. The whole time I knew her, she preferred to be called Weird Sheri. Unfortunately, a few years ago, Weird Sheri was afflicted with a rare disease that took her legs and eventually her life. I'm glad I had the chance to know her. It added a level of color to my life I would not have had otherwise. 


Maybe you've had such a friend, family member, or even enemy. Someone whose name you embellished with a suitable adjective. Would they be the same without it? Would you think of them with the same emotion? 


Nouns and verbs should be your first choice when writing a descriptive paragraph, but as illustrated above, there are times when only an adjective will do. Anyone who's seen the movie, Never Been Kissed, won't forget the scene where Drew Barrymore shrieks, "I'm not Josie Grossie anymore!" 


Be judicious with adjectives (and adverbs), be don't be afraid to apply them when appropriate.




Thanks for reading.  See you next month!


Andy & Shawn Catsimanes


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