Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Pez Outlaw

A Reel Leadership Article

My latest book, Reel Leadership, is now available on Amazon. If you love movies and leadership, you will love this book.

I was turned onto The Pez Outlaw by Bobby Hill (he’s guest posted on the site before). The Pez Outlaw, directed by Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel, is a documentary about a Michigan man who began selling Pez dispensers. The only problem was these Pez dispensers were not licensed to be sold in the United States.

The Pez Outlaw, Steve Glew, would travel overseas to Europe, where he would buy the Pez dispensers straight from the factory. He would then fly home with duffel bags full of these delightful trinkets. Attending conventions, Glew would sell these items for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

He became a Pez smuggler.

The Pez Outlaw (Steve Glew) at a US Customs inspection. Pez dispensers are strewn all over the table.

People were going nuts for these items. He was providing a service to these people. In the 11 years of buying and selling Pez dispensers, Glew earned $4.5 million, according to interviews.

And then the Pezident, Scott McWhinnie, began a campaign to get Glew’s scheme shutdown.

In the end, the Pezident wins. Glew stops selling these contraband Pez dispensers. Instead, he creates Pez of his own. Only for the Pezident to destroy him.

If you’re looking for a fun, engaging, and interesting documentary, The Pez Outlaw is the documentary for you. The Pez Outlaw is probably the best documentary I’ve seen all year. I think you’ll agree whether you watch it on iTunes or Amazon Prime.

Now, let’s get into the leadership lessons in The Pez Outlaw.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Pez Outlaw

1. If you have a good product, people will want it:

The movie is about a quirky man who travels overseas to get Pez dispensers not licensed for sale in the United States. These Pez dispensers are rare, hard to get, and unique.

Because this was in the 90s, the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. People couldn’t figure out the identity of people. That went for Steve Glew.

Glew was a strange man from a town in Michigan. He struggled with mental health issues, financial issues, and more.

He was unknown, but people wanted what he was selling.

What are you selling? Is it something that people want?

If what you’re selling is important to others, it won’t matter who you are. They will buy it.

Find that product people want. Then sell it to them.

2. Steve Glew:

But I’ve always had an inner person that knew there was more. That I could achieve more.

No one thought Glew would amount to much. He struggled with a lot of issues in his life.

People were not shy about what they thought about him. They would tell him he would fail.

But Glew had an inner voice that encouraged him. The voice told him he was made for more.

You were made for more as well. You are not a failure. You are not a loser.

You are someone of value.

Find what you do well. Do it.

3. Learn the game:

Glew became a collector of cereal boxes. He loved the unique images on the packaging. He loved what they represented.

Then he discovered the cereal premiums.

Cereal premiums are the mail-in bonuses you could receive from sending in the UPC barcodes or forms from the cereal packaging. These cereal premiums would net you cool trinkets such as Babe Ruth Umpire’s Scorekeeper, Lone Ranger KIX Cereal Atomic Bomb Ring, Cap’n Crunch Bubble Wand, and more. The cereal premiums were nothing special, but they had a following that would buy them.

Glew, who learned how to get multiple empty cereal boxes, found a way to game the system. He would use the multiple boxes he received to send in for multiple offers. He got so good at this that the cereal companies enacted rules of one per household.

Before they did this, Glew made good money getting the cereal boxes, receiving the cereal premiums, and selling them. He learned the game.

Every organization or business has a game that needs to be learned. There are tactics that help you get ahead, accelerate your career, or grow your salary.

Study what works. Study what needs to be done. Then begin to implement these strategies.

You’ll master the game in no time.

4. You don’t have to be a leader to lead:

Josh Glew, Steve’s son, had become interested in what his father was doing. He had the idea of traveling overseas, Europe specifically, to shop at the Pez manufacturing plant.

Steve was unsure of the plan. He didn’t like to travel. He didn’t like being around people.

This hesitation didn’t stop Josh from acting. He picked up the phone, found a travel agent, and booked two flights to Europe.

Josh’s actions changed everything for the family.

The title of a leader only means so much. The actions of a person can be what sets them apart. Their actions are what makes them a leader.

If you don’t have the title of leader, officer, or some other such label, don’t worry. Start doing the things leaders do.

Take responsibility. Make suggestions. Work like the organization is yours.

5. Steve Glew:

Kathy allows me my dreams until I get too far off path.

Kathy is Steve’s wife. She was a massive supporter of whatever crazy ideas Steve came up with. She didn’t say no.

Steve had someone there that helped push him toward his dreams. However, Kathy didn’t allow him to go too far. She would reel him back in if things were too out there.

We all need to have a Kathy in our lives. This person is someone who is a cheerleader. They see the potential in our dreams. And they push us to go for our dreams.

Find someone who is supportive of you. This could be your spouse, a parent, or a friend. Share your dreams with them. Let them get excited for you. Let them reign you back in when needed.

6. Sometimes leaders need to play dumb:

Steve and Josh traveled to Europe to find the Pez factory. They found the address for the factory by looking at the packaging of a Pez dispenser. There, printed clear as day, was the address.

When the two arrived at the factory, they played dumb. Steve told the guard at the factory they were there to buy Pez dispensers. The guard opened the gates and allowed the pair in.

No fancy words were said. Steve and Josh just said they were dumb Americans there to buy Pez.

Leaders like to think they have to be knowledgeable. They believe they have to show just how smart they are.

You don’t.

Playing dumb can go a long way in getting things done. When you play dumb, you give your team the opportunity to step up.

Help your team by not being the most intelligent person in the room. Be dumb once in a while.

You’ll find out that things still get done, you learn, and the organization thrives.

7. Find people who can give you access:

Glew recalls meeting two men, Johann and Gunther. Gunther turned out to be the most powerful man at Pez International.

Glew met with Gunther Leitner. He told Gunther what he was doing. Gunther wrote on a Post-It Note, gave it to Glew, and told him to show it to anyone in the factory they needed something from.

Glew would go through the factory, show the Post-It Note, and the person would jump to help him.

There are people at every level of an organization that has sway. Not all of these people are leaders by title. They may be people who have extraordinary influence.

Think of a receptionist. They have no power per se. However, they can get you into meetings, pass along information, and more.

Find the influencers. Get them on your side. Let their influence be your influence.

8. Make sure you’re advertising:

The Pezident, Scott McWhinnie, was upset over how much Glew made off of Pez dispensers from foreign countries. He wanted the profits to go to Pez USA, not some hick from a small town in Michigan.

However, Pez USA failed to do any advertising. On the other hand, Glew would take out full-page advertisements showing the products he had brought into the States.

One organization advertised. The other didn’t. One had crazy sales. The other didn’t.

What are you doing to advertise? Are you even doing anything at all?

Advertising gets eyeballs on your product or service. These days, you’re not likely to take out a full-page ad in a magazine. Instead, you might do the following:

  • Be a guest on a podcast
  • Run a sponsored post on a blog
  • Write for a major publication such as Insider, Entrepreneur, or some other business website

Advertising your business will get people interested in what you’re doing. Make sure you’re getting your name out there.

9. Leaders transition:

Glew had spent a lot of time buying and selling a product already out there. When Pez USA began to come after him, Glew changed his tactics.

Glew looked for ways still to sell Pez dispensers without the ire of Pez USA. He decided he would design Pez dispensers and then have them produced by the Pez factory.

His new products became a hit. All of the Pez fans at the Pez conventions (yes, there are Pez conventions!) went crazy for the new designs.

You will transition many times throughout your career. Your transition may be to a new role, department, or even organization.

Don’t resist change. Learn to transition when it is time.

10. Steve Glew:

You don’t just create a product. You create a story.

Glew understood that any great organization or product has to be more than the product. There has to be a story behind it.

Glew did this. He created the Pez Outlaw website. He told his story.

This got him even more attention. People loved hearing what he did, how he did it, and what happened to him (Pez basically stole his ideas, created his products, and sold them for less than he could manufacture them).

What’s your story? Why did you create your product? What does your product do for others? Where did you come from?

Tell these stories. Help people understand you, your product, and your organization.

The more stories they have to connect to, the more they will be interested in your products.

If you enjoyed this Reel Leadership article, you may enjoy our collection of Reel Leadership articles eBook. You can get this eBook for free by signing up for updates by clicking here.
Follow Me