Two Words with the Power to Change Lives

Our Brand Junkies hosts sat down to talk with David Wilk, President, and co-founder of Four Day Weekend, an improvisational comedy troupe based in Fort Worth, Texas. When Four Day Weekend was founded in 1997, it was a small organization that had to fight to stay alive. Since then, they sell out almost every performance, have been named Fort Worth’s small business of the year, created a best-selling book about their business practices, offer an award-winning comedy training program, were the keynote speakers for the United States Congress, and even got to meet the President.

How did a simple comedy troupe gain so much success and recognition?

David Wilk attributes all of their accolades to two very simple words. These two words have profoundly changed the lives of Four Day Weekend for the better, and now make up the core of their business practice.

David Wilk: “The year was early 2000 and we were starting to roll. We really needed to revamp the business and had to figure out our business philosophy. Somebody said “well, 'yes and' works so well on stage” because it’s the building block, the fundamental philosophy of improv. No doesn't exist in improv, so you have to say yes. It worked so well for us on stage, what if we took it off stage and made it our business philosophy? So we did.

Then one night somebody sees the show and comes up to us afterward and says “this was so fun, I’ve never seen a clean comedy show that I laughed this hard at. I'd love this at our company event, do you ever do corporate events?” We'd never heard of a corporate event. What the hell is a corporate event? But we don't say no, so we said “yes and we'd love to do yours.”

Once we did one, we did another. The companies talk, and through word of mouth we started getting known as ‘the safe clean comedy act that people enjoy and nobody's getting a call from HR when they're done.’ Then one kid came up to me after a show and said: “this is great, I wanna learn how to do this, do you teach classes?” At that point, we were not teaching classes. But we say “yes and check the website, I believe classes are starting very soon.” Now there's a five-level training center with hundreds of students and unbelievable things coming out of it.

We worked on refining our ‘yes and’ business presentation to teach other companies, and Southwest Airlines hears about it. They come to us and say “hey, we want you to teach this at Southwest…. Also, we’re doing an article on creativity in the workspace, would you mind if the writer sat in?” And we said “yes and instead of sitting in, have him participate.” Somehow the creativity in the workspace article evolved into an article about Four Day Weekend's business model. A congresswoman reads it, throws it down on Chairman John Larson's desk and says “Our meetings suck, we need these guys.”

My phone rings and I hear "Hello David, this is Congressman John Larson.” Next thing we know, we're delivering the ‘yes and’ keynote to Congress, we meet the President, and now we're considered experts in our field. All these happy accidents happened because we say ‘yes and’ instead of no, and it's led us to all of these different places.”

The Takeaways:

Four Day Weekend is talented; there’s no doubt about that. But without their ‘yes and’ approach to life and business, it’s unlikely they’d be where they are today. It’s only from their willingness to embrace new opportunities without reservation that they have achieved their great success.

There’s a lesson to be learned: when a potential client asks if you offer a service, that means they want that service. At that point, there’s an open need in the community that’s going unfulfilled, which creates an opportunity for you to make fairly easy, guaranteed money if you choose to embrace it.

But how often do we actually perceive these requests as a positive thing and accept the opportunities that come our way? And what would a ‘yes and’ business philosophy look like in practice in an agency?

Does that also include the creation of more programs that employees want? What if a potential job candidate asks if you offer a yogurt bar - would you consider that a need and create one? Would your answer change if that potential employee asked about volunteer opportunities or co-worker hangouts instead? What if instead of a potential employee, a client asks if you provide a certain service or are on a specific social media platform? If your answer is no, would you be willing to devote resources to make it happen?

Sometimes, your answer should be no. But do you have the knowledge to differentiate between the two situations?

Take some time to reflect upon this:

What have you said ‘no’ to that could have benefitted from a yes? How would your life change by saying ‘yes and’ to everything that comes your way?

Is ‘yes and’ practical to have in your business? Is it even possible? Are you being close-minded if you think it isn’t possible?

Are you open to the power of ‘yes and’?

How can you be more forward thinking and address a need before it’s addressed?

David Valentine