Are you in business?
How well do you know who it is you are intending to reach?
Have you really considered who your target audience is?
Perhaps this little story about the Philippine volcano, Mount Pinatubo, will illustrate my point.
One score and six years ago, on June 15, 1991, the Philippines was devastated by the eruption of the volcano, Mount Pinatubo. The big blow occurred coincident with the arrival of Super Typhoon Yunya, barreling across the Philippine archipelago. Its eruption was 8 times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helen’s in Washington; and it was the second most devastating volcanic eruption in the 20th Century. June 15th, 1991 was known as “Black Saturday” because it was as black as midnight at noon.
Jokingly, I had dubbed the day before as “Dark Friday.”
In 1991, I was a diver, diving supervisor, and chief petty officer assigned to the Diving & Salvage Division of Ships Repair Facility, Subic Bay, in the Philippines. As a duty station in southeast Asia, we performed diving operations in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. After the war, it was business as usual, servicing ships and submarines in underwater repair and maintenance when they pulled into Subic Bay.
As seismic activity on Mount Pinatubo increased, by May 1991, an imminent eruption was expected without dig or doubt.
By Wednesday, June 12th, ash from the volcano was already falling from the sky. By Friday morning, darkness from the typhoon was approaching; and by the late afternoon, mud drops were already falling from the sky as the rain mixed with the volcanic ash.
Now, I lived in military housing at San Miguel, some 40 kilometers north of the Naval Base at Subic Bay. I had a car, a 1974 green and primer Plymouth Valiant, which I had shipped to the Philippines from Hawaii. I occasionally, drove the 80 km roundtrip; however, it wasn’t my regular habit because it was much more relaxing and enjoyable to take the bus and leave the driving to the U.S. Navy.
It was hectic on the Naval Base in the afternoon as the weather grew more inclement. As I sat in the bus with other military residents of San Miguel, we were informed by the bus driver he had received a verbal directive from his boss not to leave the base.
Of the regulars who rode the bus, the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the vehicle was a female senior chief petty officer. She was an E-8. I was a Chief Boatswain’s Mate, an E-7. She turned around in her seat and said,
“What do you think, Boats? Wanna go into town and hire a jeepney?”
“Affirmative,” I said. “I don’t want to hang out in the dive locker all weekend.”
So, rather than mutiny and commandeer the bus, we jumped ship so to speak, and after a brief headcount of those who wanted to come with us, we walked out of the main gate of U.S. Naval Station Subic Bay. Senior Chief led the way and I took up the rear to watch for stragglers and ensure no one was left behind.
Thus, the adventure began…
I could have gone on my own. In fact, as soon as I heard the bus driver, I was already planning on heading out by myself before Senior Chief asked me to accompany her. I knew the Philippines well and could speak and understand the Tagalog language passably. Nevertheless, I felt a responsibility to the group, to see them all get home safely, so I stayed with them.
Jeepneys, trikes, and other modes of transportation were assigned for certain areas in Olongapo and surrounding cities: Barrio Barretto, Subic City, San Marcelino, etc. There were some 15 color designations for vehicles; and drivers were not allowed to deviate from their route or they could be fined if caught.
Outside of the gate, we all piled into a yellow jeepney and headed off to Victory Liner Circle in downtown Olongapo City. By this time, the city was in a frenzy, a mosh pit of bodies thronging against one another. Filipinos were trying to get on Victory Liner buses and other transportation to head south toward Manila, away from the volcano.
One of the young sailors in our group was Filipino and he negotiated with a driver of a blue jeepney to take us all the way in to San Miguel.
While the young petty officer was haggling over the price, a young Filipino civilian began hitting my abdomen like it was a boxer’s speed bag. It looked comical, almost cartoonish. It didn’t hurt at all; and although I was in excellent shape, I honestly don’t think he was landing any punches to soften me up. It was supposed to be a distraction— and instantly, thankfully, my instincts were up full steam, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught another Filipino civilian sliding through the crowd to my right. It was surreal; like I could see both of these guys at the same time.
Without a thought one way or another, my knees bent and I threw my left arm forward, the heel of my open palm hitting the speed-bag-Filipino in the chest. My blow to his solar plexus sent him flying backwards into the crowd, knocking several people to the ground, my inept assailant falling on top of four people. Many naughty Tagalog expletives were hurled in my direction from those who were knocked down and nearly knocked over by the falling lad.
I immediately turned my head to look directly at the hoodlum approaching me to the right.
“Gusto mo rin?” I said, shouting at him in Tagalog, basically asking if he wanted the same thing too?
He stopped dead in his tracks.
At the very same moment, Senior Chief called to me,
“Hey, Chief, we’re ready to roll. Let’s go.”
I jumped into the back of the blue jeepney right behind the senior chief.
As we drove along in the pitch black darkness of the night, the jeepney’s wipers merely smeared muddy ash across windshield. It was a miracle we arrived at all. What typically took the bus an hour to travel took us nearly four hours in the jeepney.
When I got home, I told my wife, Lisa, about all that happened because I arrived much later than she had expected.
I laughed when I told her about the two knuckleheads who attempted to mug me. I knew why I was a target. I looked like American military (which I was) and I was also carrying a nylon gym bag over my right shoulder. If they had stolen it, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. All there was in it was some dirty laundry I didn’t want stinking up my locker over the weekend.
The two Filipinos who attempted to jump me may have even been on drugs or sniffing contact cement (Rugby). Clearly, they had failed to properly evaluate their intended target.
Neither of the two could have been more than five-foot-six and couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds each. Me, I was six-foot-one-and-a-half and weight 220 pounds. They didn’t know I had, until only a few months earlier, an extensive, intimate and proficient knowledge of many fighting styles, practicing the martial arts almost religiously since the early 1970s.
Clearly, they had underestimated with whom it was they were dealing.
I suppose one of the lessons you can take away from this is never carry a nylon gym bag with you during a typhoon on the eve of a volcanic eruption if you look American and you don’t have self-defense skills.
On the other hand…
In business, we cannot afford to just throw our products or services out there and hope they stick. We must research exactly who it is we are trying to target, not merely who will benefit from our products and services, but who it is we are trying to reach and who it is we want to have as a client. By knowing them, and ourselves, we can more easily develop our unique selling proposition to showcase our distinctive services for our potential clients.
Tell us about your volcano story or similar experience in the comments below…
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