It was the mid 90’s and Suze Orman had just published her first book, “You’ve Earned It, Don’t Lose It.” I was tapped to work with her on QVC and scheduled to work for 4 hours, directly against the Super Bowl. Ah well, that’s one of the problems when you work in broadcasting, a 24/7 business.
Suze’s plane was delayed and I did not have the chance to meet her before the show. No problem, I had read the book, which was quite good, and had even thought that her strategies would save me a lot of money. (Turned out, they really did.)
My shift was on at the same time as the Super Bowl, I figured that sales would be soft. Suze came on during a break, but no one came out with her to introduce us. We chatted for a moment and then the producer told me the break was over and to get ready to go live.
Suze was a dream to work with. I had discovered that most TV hosts, QVC or otherwise, don’t read the books from authors they interview. I always did. She responded to the questions I had perfectly, in clear, concise sound bites. I had a focused question from most of the chapters.
Success in TV Shopping is a real team effort. Having read the book, I had a list of topics to discuss with Suze. When one of them really lit up the phones, the producer would get in my ear and tell me that the audience was really responding to the current subject. I would then continue that line of discussion. We only used 10 minutes of the 12 that were scheduled. It might not seem like a long time, but 12 minutes is a eternity in TV Shopping. I used to joke that we could change the world in 5 minutes if we had to. It’s an amazing microcosm of sales and television.
There was just one small problem with the segment – no one had told me how to pronounce her name. Instead of calling her “Suz-E” (the actual pronunciation of her name) I referred to her as “Sooze.” For the entire 10 minute presentation, I called her a name that rhymes with booze. She never corrected me. Hey, she was nervous, it was her first time.
After the presentation, we went to a break. Her publisher came up on stage and hugged Suze and then told me about my pronunciation faux pas. Why her publisher hadn’t told the producer to correct me in my earpiece is one of those mysteries of the ages. In retrospect, I figure everyone was distracted because the phones went into “hyper drive” during the presentation. Suze’s book was a hit. The phones were so busy they almost locked. The computer screen that tracks phone activity was glowing purple, which it did when the phones were very, very busy.
We sold over 14,000 books in 10 minutes. America loved Suze and really responded to her common sense approach to finance. The sales put Suze on the Times Best Seller List that week and her explosion into the public eye had begun. She went on to become a national phenomenon.
Unlike some QVC guests who had found overnight fame (Suze had been working and learning in the financial industry for many years) she remained humble and one of the nicest people I had worked with. I ranked her right up there with the Bill Fenton as a real mensch. She signed a book to me and it remains one of the most treasured autographed books I own (I’m a collector).
Okay, so most good deeds do not go unpunished. My 4 hours during the Super Bowl were so successful that I was scheduled to work almost every Super Bowl Sunday until I left QVC in 2001. Why? I think it’s because I never forgot that entertainment must be part of the mix. Yes, I got a lot of grief for my on-air antics on QVC, but my high sales numbers kept me employed.
For my last few years there, they used me to help train the hosts in new and innovative sales techniques. I always stressed that hosts should be themselves and not play a character on TV. If they had a natural sense of humor, they should use it.
A host once asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that after you teach us everything you know, that we’ll outsell you? To which I answered, “What makes you think I’m teaching you everything I know?” Truth be told, I was teaching them just about everything I knew, but while teaching, I always got some new ideas that I would perfect on-air and then teach the next time around. Teaching something is one of the best ways to learn. I’ll bet Suze Orman learns new things every time she does a seminar or writes a book.
A few years ago, I saw Suze Orman on Real Time with Bill Maher. She did great as a panelist. And Bill even pronounced her name right. She continues to help people with their finances and survived a serious illness a while ago. I wish her all the best for continued great health and success!
© 2020 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.