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Giving freebies builds a big business

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

In the early 1970s, Phil Romano owned restaurants in Florida. One of the eateries included an adjacent bar.

Romano needed to draw more patrons to the bar. Amid a sputtering economy, he came up with an idea: He’d launch a club for professional women and give them a free dinner at the bar.

He invited five women—an accountant, hairdresser, travel agent, architect and corporate executive—to an introductory meal. He told them that men can network through many channels but women have fewer such opportunities.

“Just think what you could accomplish if you got 100 women together,” he told them. “None of your group would be out of a job.”

He urged them to bring five friends to the bar for a weekly networking function that included free food. When they did, Romano asked the five newcomers to bring five more friends. The crowd soon swelled to 300.

Eventually, the weekly parties turned into daily gatherings of about 80 women.Romano, who gave them discounts, spotted another opportunity. With so many young professional women converging on the bar after work each day, he started charging men $5 admission. He split the $5 cover charge with the women’s club.

— Adapted from Food for Thought, Philip J. Romano, Dearborn Trade Publishing.

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