Some of the most costly mistakes occur when we overlook the small stuff. By failing to capture critical details, we make faulty decisions.
In some professions, details determine success. Accountants, for example, cannot afford to glide through their workday without combing through tax forms and supporting documents. They are paid to focus on details and accurately crunch numbers.
How do accountants train themselves to be detail-oriented? It starts with steely concentration and intellectual curiosity. They clear their mind and seek answers to key questions. They synthesize reams of client information and produce tax returns that pass muster.
Of course, accountants make mistakes just like everyone else. But by following these six tips, you're more apt to do error-free work and catch details that others miss.
1. Put Processes To Work
If you engage in repetitive tasks, the mundane nature of the work can lead to complacency. Beware of allowing the routine to deaden your mental acuity.
Put processes in place that strengthen your performance and reduce errors. Develop reliable systems, such as quality-control measures or random audits of your output, that help you absorb relevant details.
"In my profession, you've got to make sure you have checks and balance in place," said Mike Sacco, a certified public accountant in Worcester, Mass. "This is my 33rd tax season, and I've always been big on paying attention to detail."
2. Team Up
Enlist colleagues to lend a hand. An observant, disciplined co-worker can prove invaluable in providing an extra layer of oversight.
"We use colored pencils to make sure we've seen this or that number," Sacco said. "One of us uses one color, and then the reviewer uses a different color" in going over the same material.
3. Refresh Your Mind
Even if you have supreme powers of concentration, you may eventually tire of doing meticulous work such as preparing complex tax returns. Pushing yourself to burn the midnight oil can be counterproductive, especially during tax season when accountants face pressing deadlines.
"Sometimes, you've got to reboot and look at something with fresh eyes," Sacco said. "It's knowing when it's time to walk away from it and come back later. If you're rushing (and unwilling to take a break), that's what causes mistakes."
4. Set A High Bar
Set high expectations for digesting every detail without letting up. Some of the biggest headaches result from momentary inattentiveness.
"An easy mistake in accounting, like transposing a number, can lead to a ripple effect," Sacco said. One minor mishap can trigger far larger and more intractable problems, so exercise vigilance from the outset.
5. Remove Distractions
Sensory overload can limit your attention to detail. If you're snacking at your desk or glancing at your phone, you can divert your focus from what matters most.
Michael Cecere, a certified public accountant in Canton, Mass., shuts off his phone and email alerts when he needs to concentrate on work. Eliminating potential diversions lessens the odds that your mind will stray from the task at hand.
6. Write And Hear
You may think you're writing a report that's simple and straightforward, but readers may struggle to understand your main point. Test the clarity of your message by hearing it after you write the first draft.
"When I write memos, I use Microsoft's ReadAloud (text-to-speech app)," Cecere said. "Having a computer voice read back to you what you wrote, you can tell if the sentence structure is all wrong or it didn't come together like it did in your head."
It's no secret that to make it in the cutthroat business of restaurants you have to stick to your beliefs and overcome challenging obstacles.
Cameron Mitchell has owned restaurants for more than 25 years. To survive and thrive that long in a business where trends come and go, he met many challenges along the way. Columbus, Ohio-based Cameron Mitchell Restaurants now has 60 restaurants and generates more than $300 million in annual revenue.
"Without determination, fortitude and profound drive, I wouldn't have made it," he told IBD.
How To Dig Deep, Beat The Odds
Believe. Mitchell says he's an entrepreneur by nature. That means he's used to facing tough challenges and overcoming them. When the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place, he had three restaurants scheduled to open within 45 days. He has also dealt with horrible cash shortfalls and slumps in the restaurant business
Embrace fear. Mitchell has always feared failure. That drove him as he encountered hurdles to open his first restaurant in 1993. He struggled to raise financing, gave up his apartment to live with his mother and was down to his last $70. That's when the last piece of financing came through.
"Fear is a great motivator," he said. "In my heart of hearts, I never believed failure was an option. Come hell or high water."
Play The Long Game
Patience pays. Most things that are worthwhile take a long time, says Bill Treasurer, founder and chief encouragement officer of Giant Leap Consulting, Inc., an Asheville, N.C.-based courage-building and leadership development company. If you're trying to change the company culture or create a succession plan, you'll have to persevere to get past obstacles.
"It takes perseverance and a strong stomach," Treasurer said.
See the big picture. Keep the overarching goal in mind when you're launching a new initiative, Treasurer says. That will fuel you and your team as you face setbacks.
"Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal," Treasurer said. "Keep your eyes on where you're going."
Make A Commitment
Go all-in. As Mitchell was about to open his first restaurant, the building's landlord went bankrupt. It ended up taking 14 months to get the place open, but he never considered giving up.
"In the early days, this was the only thing I knew how to do," he said. "I thought, 'There is no other choice.' I knew I had to make it work or I would work for someone else my whole life."
Rely on principles. When you're implementing a new initiative, stay grounded with some of your key tenets. One company Treasurer has worked with lists tough-mindedness as one of its core values.
"So when they face a challenge, people know this is a core value and say, 'Who are we to shy away from it?'" he said.
Get others involved. Don't try to overcome every challenge alone.
"Make sure you have a posse of perseverance around you," Treasurer said.
Be honest and open. During a recession, scuttlebutt among Mitchell's employees was that the firm would be laying off employees. Once he heard about it, he quickly called a staff meeting. He told employees the company's culture of putting people first stands firm in good times and bad. He'd cut the ad budget before laying people off.
"People would run through a brick wall for us after hearing that," he said. "I always say integrity takes years to build and days to ruin."
Gain perspective. You're going to encounter setbacks. Everyone does. Look at them from the bright side.
"As much as they suck, they can be helpful because they show what's not working," Treasurer said. "They make winning so much sweeter. To have a team of people around you high-fiving because they know what they went through, that's really such a great moment."
C.H. Robinson CEO John Wiehoff's belief in the motto "work hard, play hard" dates all the way back to his teenage years. And it has helped Wiehoff take the road less traveled in his family to where he is today.
Wiehoff is the longtime CEO and chairman of C.H. Robinson Worldwide ( CHRW), a Fortune 500 company that connects shippers and carriers to provide a portfolio of logistics services that helps shippers manage their global supply chains.
Growing up he enjoyed working with his brothers in his father's small St. Cloud, Minn., glass shop. Young John was also consumed with playing basketball.
Nobody in his family up to that time had gone to college. John became the first.
"The decision to go to college was somewhat fueled by wanting to play basketball in school but was also driven around a career," Wiehoff, 57, told IBD. "I look back and think, 'Boy, it seemed like just an interesting thing to do at the moment, but it really set a path where I wouldn't have been able to do this if I hadn't done that.' "
Bob Biesterfeld, C.H. Robinson's chief operating officer has known Wiehoff for 20 years. "If it were not for John's passion and love for continuing to play competitive basketball, he likely wouldn't have attended a university," Biesterfeld said.
As an executive, Wiehoff says he's "always been fond of the work hard/play hard motto." He feels it "ties strongly into how you build a successful company culture." Wiehoff is a firm believer in being "engaged and focused with the things that you're doing. When you're at work, work hard, be committed, do what you can. But also be an interesting person and have hobbies. Be engaged in other things outside of work too."
During Wiehoff's 17 years as CEO of C.H. Robinson, which began in May of 2002, the company's stock price has increased almost sixfold, from $16.52 when he took over to around $90 as of March. Annual revenue for the company, which was $3.3 billion in 2002, was $16.6 billion at the end of 2018. Wiehoff will be retiring in May from the CEO role while continuing as Robinson's chairman.
"John has adeptly managed and led the company through times of rapid change in the economy, the competitive landscape and the acceleration of technology," Biesterfeld said. "(C.H. Robinson) was an industry leader at the onset of his CEO tenure and we have emerged even stronger — and almost $14 billion larger — as he transitions out of that role."
As one of the world's largest third-party logistics providers, C.H. Robinson serves 124,000 customers and 76,000 active contract carriers through an integrated network of offices and more than 15,000 employees.
"John is a student of the customer and industry," said Scott Anderson, lead independent director with C.H. Robinson. "John vets strategy in an intense and thoughtful manner. This skill has been a large part of Robinson's continued transformation during his tenure as CEO."
It's a skill Wiehoff admires in Bill Gates, who he's interacted with and heard speak due to C.H. Robinson's significant business relationship with Microsoft ( MSFT). "Gates is thoughtful and analytical. He's an incredibly deep and thoughtful thinker and very big-picture oriented."
Wiehoff says while he's proud of the results during the 17 years he's been Robinson's CEO, "I'm probably more proud of the culture of the company. Being a people-driven business, it's a lot about how we interact with each other and how we challenge each other professionally to be better. So the leadership of the company is a lot about driving that, making sure we have the right caliber of people, the right culture and continuing to push ourselves to do what's right for our customers and our team.
"What we achieve matters, but how we achieve it probably matters more."
Born in St. Cloud, Wiehoff's first mentor was his father.
"My dad was very consistent and very fundamental around how you show up to work every day, how you think about your work ethic, how you interact with people and treat them with respect."
"For as long as I have known John, he's demonstrated a strong moral compass and has operated with nothing but integrity," Biesterfeld said. "He shows genuine care and concern for his employees and stakeholders. As a leader, John is approachable and open to engaging with anyone, at any level, in the organization."
Wiehoff says what defines C.H. Robinson's culture is the character of the people in the company. "We have pretty clearly defined values that we try to aspire to, which starts with integrity."
Wiehoff attended St. John's University, Collegeville, Minn. He graduated in 1984 with degrees in accounting and political science. He also played on the basketball team and found another lifelong mentor in his coach, Jim Smith.
"I'm a big believer in the competitive nature of sports," Wiehoff said. "Learning how to compete the right way, all those things that sports can do for you that provide perspective for a career in a competitive world. I definitely got a lot of that at St. Johns and from Coach Jim Smith
Wiehoff has found that sports provide a good learning environment for people going into business. "How do you respond to losses and when you don't succeed? You can either pout or figure out why you lost and make yourself better rather than blaming someone else or just giving up," he said.
"I would have loved to see John play college basketball at St. John's as I am sure his on-court demeanor matched his management style; calm, efficient, with an intense drive to win," Director Anderson said.
After obtaining his Certified Public Accountant license in 1986, Wiehoff went to work for Arthur Andersen LLP. He was there for nine years before joining C.H. Robinson in 1992 as corporate controller. From there Wiehoff became the company's treasurer, CFO, senior vice president and president before becoming CEO in 2002.
Taking The Reins
"I've tried to live more of that servant leadership approach where the higher up you are in the company, the more obligation you have to try to make sure everyone else is successful," Wiehoff said.
"Throughout his career, and all of his success, John has shown an incredible humility and has stayed close to his small town roots," Biesterfeld said. "This humility develops followership and trust with those around him. People do (trust him) and will follow John because of that sense of trust."
Anderson: "John is a true, authentic leader. His entire career has been a hallmark to his consistent ability to instill trust and inspire performance throughout the company."
When Wiehoff has spoken to groups of Robinson employees over the years, he has encouraged everyone to have a broad network of people and mentors they can learn from. "I've tried to live that as well," he said.
When Wiehoff first joined Robinson, the company took in around $1 billion annually in revenue. Today it's $16.6 billion, and Wiehoff says the company has hopes of becoming a $30 billion or $40 billion company.
Wiehoff says to grow C.H. Robinson "we often talk about people, processes and technology. Those are our core competencies, and that phrase is in our mission statement."
As he reflects on what's worked at Robinson, he said, "What I've tried to do to help lead is about having clear goals and a long-term vision for the company. But also then having a sustainable culture, something that will get you through the ups and downs. If you're pushing your people so hard that people are burning out and turning over too fast, you're not going to have good continuity or good commitment."
He notes that leaders such as Gates, Amazon's ( AMZN) Jeff Bezos and others who have grown larger companies reference their long-term vision of what they wanted their companies to be.
"In today's world there is so much pressure for short-term results," Wiehoff said. "It's easy to lose sight of the idea of having long-term goals and staying with those."
CEO of Fortune 500 company C.H. Robinson Worldwide. Has overseen a stock price increase of nearly sixfold and annual revenue growth increase from $3.3 billion in 2002 to $16.6 billion for 2018.
Overcame: Challenge to keep an industry leader growing.
Lesson: Don't be complacent or coast on past success, always look to improve.
"It's more about listening than anything you're going to say; listening, learning and treating people with respect is the key."
Quotes of the week offer inspiration on setting the right example, dealing with adversity and the power of education.
Bird On Setting Examples
Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you're ready to play as tough as you're able to, you'd better go out there and do it. Players will see right through a phony. And they can tell when you're not giving it all you've got. Larry Bird, basketball player
Carlyle On Adversity
The times are bad. Very well, you are there to make them better. Thomas Carlyle, author
Ford On Education
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. Henry Ford, automaker
Iacocca On Problem-Solving
So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late. Lee Iacocca, auto executive
Angelou On Effort
Nothing will work unless you do. Maya Angelou, poet
Trader Joe's founder Joe Coulombe learned the ropes in retailing the hard way. He took a job at the Rexall drugstore chain a few years after completing his MBA at Stanford University. While at Rexall, he launched the Pronto Markets convenience store chain. Eventually, he acquired Pronto Markets from Rexall. But after struggling with Pronto for a decade, Coulombe changed his business strategy, the store name and its operating formula. In 1967, he opened Trader Joe's in Pasadena.
Coulombe explained his initial strategy for Trader Joe's in an episode of the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast series: "I spent 10 years running Pronto Markets. … Towards the end of that, I really did not like the convenience store formula. The demographics were changing in the United States because of the GI Bill of Rights, which was the largest experiment in mass higher education in the history of the human race. And I thought that these people would want something different."
So Coulombe developed an unconventional retail formula to whet the appetites of grocery shoppers. His idea stood the test of time long after Coulombe retired in 1988.
Created A New Concept
Coulombe laid the groundwork for a thriving business and a cult following.
"He (Coulombe) actively ran the company for a little over 20 years and really built the foundation," Michael Roberto, professor of management at Bryant University, told IBD. "He put in this unorthodox strategy."
Roberto says Coulombe chose not to do what a lot of traditional grocery stores were doing. Trader Joe's didn't have promotions. And they didn't sell a lot of branded goods. Instead, they have plenty of private-label goods on their shelves.
Trader Joe's was unique in other ways. It offered no loyalty program. Physically, the stores were not overly large. And they had no self checkouts. Rather, the focus was on personalized customer service.
"(Coulombe) figured it out over time and was willing to experiment," Roberto said.
The quirky grocery chain continues to operate differently from traditional retailers. Its employees don't simply stock shelves and check out customers. Instead, they showcase Trader Joe's brand. Many taste-test the products and can offer positive comments on your purchases. Each store offers tastings of its offerings while you're shopping. And it doesn't sell online. Rather, it boasts a culture and values that are based on employee interaction with customers. To help keep costs and prices low, it still sells mostly private-label offerings.
Guided by the culture and values created by Coulombe, the privately held Trader Joe's is thriving at a time when brick-and-mortar grocers battle for share. More and more consumers buy their groceries at nontraditional stores. And competition from Amazon ( AMZN) and other online retailers is fierce. But Trader Joe's holds its own.
Sales are growing at a steady clip. Sales for the latest fiscal year were $13.56 billion, up 3.1% from the previous year, according to Supermarket News.
At the end of the latest fiscal year, Trader Joe's had 480 stores, up from 466 stores in the prior year, according to Supermarket News.
Trader Joe's is part of German discount grocery retailer Aldi Nord, which acquired it in 1979. The Aldi chain was founded by Germany's Albrecht family. But the company was split between brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht and renamed Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, respectively. When Aldi Nord acquired Trader Joe's, Coulombe agreed to stay on as CEO.
When Coulombe retired in 1988, he handed the reins to John Shields. Shields was at the helm until 2001. Shields led Trader Joe's expansion beyond California throughout the U.S. Current Chairman and CEO Dan Bane took over in 2001. Since its start, Trader Joe's has had only three CEOs.
Roberto says Coulombe stands out as a leader in a few ways. For starters, he knew how and when to take chances.
"Unfortunately, many business leaders follow the crowd and end up copying them," he said. "He was a risk taker willing to try (things) a different way and not just follow the herd. What stands out is the emphasis he made by getting the culture right. (Such a) culture is hard to build. He stands out by being able to do that."
Next, Coulombe made sure that shoppers got more than groceries at his stores.
Roberto paraphrases Coulombe's thinking early on: "We got to get the values right. If we do, we'll create a great experience. We're not selling groceries, we're selling an experience."
Roberto says Coulombe knew selling groceries is a tough business. So he changed the game. He created an incredible store experience.
"The key was how much people would enjoy the experience," he said. "So he turned a chore into a delightful experience."
Turning A Chore Into A Treasure Hunt
Trader Joe's CEO Bane reiterated this strategy in an episode of the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast series: "Our key operating values, as you know, are that we're a product-focused company, and we want our crew members to create 'wow' customer experience in each store."
"Changing the game meant" creating a "treasure hunt" experience in the stores and making it more than just buying products, adds Roberto. "He (Coulombe) realized it was about the interaction between the customers and the employees and turning something mundane into something enjoyable."
"Like any brand that comes to life, Trader Joe's has its own DNA," Gardiner told IBD. "It will continue to thrive and develop based on that initial DNA. It's hard enough to change a company's culture even if you're trying to. But if you're not trying to change it, it will reproduce itself through generations of managers. The funky, casual dress of the managers, and the super-friendly customer service never changed because it was working fantastically well. They knew that was a big part of the secret of their success. And it came from Joe Coulombe."
Neighborhood Grocer Brand
Gardiner knows firsthand the Trader Joe's way. He went to work at Trader Joe's as a crew member for $12 an hour in 2011.
"I was genuinely curious about the company's incredible cult status," he said.
Gardiner realized after a few days on the job that he had to write a book about Trader Joe's cultlike following and the success of the brand.
"His (Coulombe's) genius was to take all of the formal business institutional training he had (at Stanford) and meld that with a very old-school merchant's point of view," Gardiner said. "Trader Joe's is a big chain with the kind of customer service that's more typical of a sole proprietorship. Everyone who works there is trained and evaluated on whether or not they act as if the store is really their business and that the customer is their customer."
Gardiner says "The secret to Trader Joe's success is making people believe that the people in the stores really like them and really appreciate them. "
Coulombe also made the decision to target consumers who were "well-educated, underpaid people looking for a bargain," says professor Roberto.
His thinking was if he was going to target this demographic, he would need to hire "well educated" employees who could be "interactive" with these customers, Roberto adds.
Focus On Employees
To ensure quality performance, Coulombe believed in treating employees well. That meant offering good wages and benefits.
"The fundamental difference between Trader Joe's and all other retailers is the income level of employees," said Coulombe in a 2011 story in the Los Angeles Times. "I said the average full-time employee will make median family income for California. In those days that was about $7,000 (a year). Median family income soared, but we stayed with it."
Coulombe highlighted the way he valued employees in an episode of "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast series: "It's the quality of the people which sets Trader Joe's apart. Forget the merchandise, forget all the other stuff; it's the quality of the people in the stores."
Offering Good Value
Another component of Coulombe's strategy: Charge lower prices than traditional grocers for the same quality, Roberto says.
Trader Joe's is able to keep prices low and costs down because it doesn't sell a lot of brand-name products. More than 80% of the products sold at Trader Joe's are private label, said Tara Miller, Trader Joe's marketing director, in an "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast series episode.
Coulombe launched the first Trader Joe's private-label grocery product — granola — in 1972.
Said Roberto of Trader Joe's private-label strategy on the Freakonomics podcast "Should America Be Run by ... Trader Joe's?": "Trader Joe's has mitigated the power that suppliers might have over them. So while they're not nearly as big as (Kroger ( KR)), they can get great purchasing power because they're condensing all their buying in tomato sauce to one vendor for a very limited number of items."
Trader Joe's also carries a limited selection in its stores. Roberto says the stores typically carry 3,000 items, vs. up to 50,000 in a supermarket. Its larger stores may carry up to 4,000 items, he adds. As a result, Trade Joe's generates the most revenue per square foot in the industry, Roberto said.
"The sales-per-square-footage estimates are unbelievable. I mean, three and four times better than some of the leading players in the industry," he said.
Overcame: Retail dominance of large supermarket chains.
Lesson: Treat employees well and they'll treat customers well.
"It's the quality of the people which sets Trader Joe's apart. Forget the merchandise, forget all the other stuff; it's the quality of the people in the stores."
The better strategy: "Rather than front-loading your education, you have to adapt as the economy changes," Coleman told IBD.
Lifelong Learning Definition
What is lifelong learning? It's the self-motivated, continuous effort to improve your knowledge and understanding in any subject area for personal and professional development.
From reading to casually learning a new language with friends to enrolling in formal classes, lifelong learning takes many forms.
Benefits Of Lifelong Learning In The Workplace
Depending on what you study, higher education usually means you earn more over the span of your career. Generally speaking, you earn more if you have a college degree. If you have a bachelor's degree, you'll earn 40% more every week on average than someone who has a high school degree. And the unemployment rate for high school graduates is more than double the rate for holders of bachelor degrees.
But the economic benefits of lifelong learning are equal to or great than earning that initial college degree, Coleman says.
Technology is fueling the fastest change in the workplace that will require people to learn new skills in a hurry. Robots are replacing many of the jobs people do today. If you don't learn new skills, you will be out of work.
Lifelong learning also makes you a better leader. As more people work past their retirement age and millennials join the workforce in droves, the workplace is more diverse than ever.
"Lifelong learning keeps you fresh and engaged and lets you see alternative views," said Herb Stevenson, CEO of Cleveland Consulting Group, a leadership and executive development firm in Novelty, Ohio. "This in turn helps you manage better in a multigenerational workplace. (Lifelong learning) broadens what's acceptable and what's possible."
Make Time For Continuous Learning
What's the easiest way to keep boosting your knowledge? Read. Stevenson says many of the busy executives he coaches say they don't have time to read.
"Change your priorities," he tells them. Make it part of your job. There is nothing wrong with taking 20 minutes of quiet time in the morning to read while you're at work, Stevenson says.
"Besides, if you're good at what you do, you should be able to leave it for a little while without it falling apart," he added.
Another option: audiobooks. Listen to books while on a flight or a long drive. Even listening to Ted Talks can be an excellent way to incorporate learning into your day.
Stevenson says you also get a big bang for your buck when you enroll in intensive one- or two-week-long leadership programs at top-notch universities. They might cost between $10,000 and $12,000 but they're far cheaper than earning a traditional MBA.
Health Benefits Of Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning benefits overall psychological well-being. "Keep using your brain so your brain stays healthy," said Coleman, a contributor to Harvard Business Review.
Reading relaxes you, according to studies at the University of Sussex and Yale University. "There are studies that show reading decreases stress, even just five minutes of reading," Coleman said.
The link between lifelong learning and cognitive improvements are shaky and inconclusive. "But staying intellectually engaged (whether it's doing Sudoku, puzzles or learning new skills) keeps your cognitive levels high," Coleman said.
Stevenson says the leaders he counsels tell him reading makes them more positive and open-minded.
Lifelong Learning Feeds Curiosity
Whether you enroll in classes at the local community college or online, be sure to reach out to fellow learners. The more you engage others in your learning process, the more you grow.
"You can learn something from everyone you interact with in your life," Coleman said. "If you're observant enough and ask questions, you can learn from just about anyone around you."
"Book groups are a great way to do that," Coleman said. He and his wife occasionally host dinner and discussion nights about articles they've read, he adds.
"We achieve greater fulfillment by constantly improving ourselves," Coleman said.
Terrence "Terry" Duffy's parents would be very proud of him now. But they almost ended up homeless in the process.
Duffy — now CEO and chairman of CME Group ( CME), the world's leading financial trading marketplace — still vividly recalls an error that nearly financially ruined his family. His reaction to this harrowing misstep helped him avoid a disaster and taught him a lesson about success that powers his career to this day.
What happened? When starting out as a trader in the early 1980s, Duffy needed to buy a CME membership, a steep price which he couldn't afford. He was still working a variety of odd jobs including bartending. So he asked his parents for help.
Raising a family on the South Side of Chicago, though, his parents didn't have many assets to spare either. To come up with the money, they mortgaged their home to raise the $50,000 Duffy needed. But just months on the job as a trader, Duffy misheard an order and made a trading mistake that sparked a large loss. The loss ballooned to $150,000 as Duffy tried — unsuccessfully — to contain it.
"I was ready to quit," Duffy, 60, told IBD. But Duffy collected himself from the loss and looked for help.
He contacted his mentor, Vincent Schreiber, a longtime legendary trader who first saw promise in Duffy. Schreiber didn't bail out Duffy with money. But he bought him time to repay the loss by offering a guarantee to the clearing firm. Duffy used the time to work off the debt from the errant trade.
"It took three years of working multiple jobs and trading during the day," Duffy said. "Eventually, I was able to pay it all back."
It was a defining moment on his way to becoming head of CME group. It was right there Duffy learned a lesson that guides his career and life. Always know what you'll do if a deal doesn't work out as you expected.
"Since then, I have never gotten into a business deal unless I can see how to get out of it if need be," he said. "I have found that guiding principle to be as helpful in business as it was in trading. I always have an exit strategy."
The strategy is working. Under Duffy's leadership, CME Group is one of the most influential and essential trading platforms in the world. The company, formed from the 2007 combination of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, dominates trading in options and futures in everything from corn to Bitcoin and futures based on the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
CME Group may not be a household name like other trading marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange. But it's a powerhouse for financial professionals. Standing at a market value of $65 billion and revenue of roughly $4 billion the past 12 months, CME towers over NYSE-owner Intercontinental Exchange, valued at $43 billion, and Nasdaq at $14 billion.
CME Group handled a record average daily volume of 19.2 million contracts in 2018, up 18% from 2017. CME continues to aggressively grow. It closed a $5.5 billion acquisition of NEX Exchange, a London-based stock exchange, late last year.
Much of the firm's success is traced back to Duffy's leadership of an extremely sophisticated business that requires constant innovation amid intense competition. Duffy rose up through the business as a trader, so he understands the demands of traders and can speak their language as well as anyone, says Richard Repetto, financial analyst at Sandler O'Neill & Partners.
"He is highly respected as a guy that has worked his way up the ranks and knows the business," Repetto said. "He started as a hog trader, so he knows the business from the ground up but is now just as comfortable and confident in the board room leading this storied exchange."
Duffy is candid about lessons he's learned during his career in the financial market, including:
Forge connections outside your comfort zone. They help you see opportunities. Growing up in the South Side of Chicago, being a commodities trader wasn't a common career path. In fact, "most people I knew were firemen, police officers, teachers or blue-collar workers," Duffy said.
But Duffy's understanding of opportunities widened when he went to college. There he saw finance as a promising career opportunity that he just hadn't known about. "At the age of 18, I had been tending bar at night while I went to school during the day. I worked near the homes of many successful traders," he said.
While bartending, Duffy got to know Schreiber, who "noticed I had a knack for remembering names, orders. He asked me if I'd ever thought about trading and brought me to the floor of the exchange."
That connection opened an entire world to Duffy. "When I first visited what was the CME, I was immediately drawn to the excitement, vitality and energy of the markets. The amount of global trade that happened in the pits was remarkable," he said.
Duffy saw how he could leverage his skills to influence global commerce. "I liked how what was a small Chicago business was able to play such a critical role in the global economy every day. I wanted to be part of that." Duffy took a job as a runner and worked his way up, "first becoming a member of the exchange, then launching my own successful trading company, and then taking over leadership of the CME."
Don't let short-term fixes derail your long-term plan. It can be tempting to overweight recent events in your mind, but doing so can distract you from longer-term goals. Even after making the trading mistake that almost cost his parents their home, Duffy maintained his goal to be a trader — just one hardened with more discipline.
Duffy sees "nearsightedness" as a common problem shared by business leaders. "Problems can be tempting to solve with a short-term fix," he said. "But you want to make the right decision for the long term so that the business is stronger than it was when you came to it. That's not always an easy trade to make."
For instance, Duffy is largely credited for taking the CME into the digital era. It wasn't easy. Screens and computers replaced trading pits filled with human traders yelling and waving their hands to communicate buys and sells. But a long-term focus on building a global marketplace required letting the status quo go to make room for more future growth.
"It wasn't easy to tell floor traders that the way of the future was on the screen," he said. "But ultimately that is what helped us build a global business that now is the world's leading derivatives marketplace operating in 150 countries."
Look for the next generation of talent. They will help build your legacy. If you believe success is "what you leave behind for the next generation," as Duffy does, you'll want to start looking for the leaders who can follow you and keep your long-term vision.
To help attract young talent, Duffy is unabashedly one of the largest and most outspoken advocates for the often-maligned financial industry. Markets are his passion. "Given the nature of this 24/7 business, I don't have a lot of time for hobbies," he said.
But he looks for new employees who understand what clients want now and know enough about trading to anticipate what they will need in five years. "I look for people who are as passionate about the markets as I am and those who are really good at listening to our clients," he said. "Most people who are truly successful in this industry are motivated by the opportunity to have an impact on the global economy each day and to do what's right for the client. It's as simple as that."
CEO and chairman of CME Group
Overcame: Nearly bankrupting his family by taking a loan they couldn't afford.
Lesson: Always have an exit strategy in case things don't go as planned.
"Problems can be tempting to solve with a short-term fix, but you want to make the right decision for the long term ..."
Quotes that inspire on integrity, determination, positive thinking, having fun and focus.
Kazan On Integrity
The real challenge is not simply to survive. Hell, anyone can do that. It's to survive as yourself, undiminished. Elia Kazan,director
Smith On Determination
Behavior is based on beliefs. Action doesn't begin in the muscle, it begins in the brain. Page Smith,historian
Stengel On Outlook
The trick is growing up without growing old. Casey Stengel,baseball manager
Allen On Fun
Humor, especially the best of it, is very childish. It can be wise, philosophical, valuable, or helpful to the world. But childishness is one of the marvelous things about being human. Steve Allen,humorist
Kelly On Focus
The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention." Kevin Kelly,writer
An old political adage says define yourself or your opponent will. The same could be said of your personal brand. Define yourself or leave it to your competition, the public or chance. Follow these tips to develop your brand:
Dave Dickman, CEO of Tagger Media, an influencer marketing platform, says it's most important to "be authentic."
Find your voice and create "content in which you are talking about the areas of your industry that interest you, as well as being relevant to your audience," he told IBD.
Mark Goodman, chief marketing officer of Vistage, a global business advisory firm, says leaders should first "determine what is their mission." Decide what problem you are trying to solve. Then communicate your plan to employees and other stakeholders, he says.
Go Inside Out
Think about how you personally contribute to achieving your organization's goals every day. "What really drives you?" Goodman said.
Define your own personal success. "Have clear ideas about what success means," he added. "And then use that vision to identify the traits that will help you achieve that success."
Goodman says define your goals with traits like building trust, collaboration and empowerment. They "should become the underpinnings of your personal brand," he said.
Authentic organizations and their leaders deliver on their promises. They are intentional with their beliefs and actions, Goodman said.
They make sure their reputations truly match the reality their customers and employees experience, he says. "As an effective leader, your brand should stand for who you are, your reputation and your authentic word.
"And most importantly, when you make a mistake, own it, apologize and learn from it."
Measure And React
Whether you're communicating content strategy with your audience on LinkedIn, Twitter ( TWTR), Facebook ( FB) or Instagram, reciprocal engagement is the objective.
"Engagement is really any activity around your posts," Dickman said. It includes "likes, comments, and shares, or it could be prompting conversations or other opportunities."
Use the analytics these platforms offer to measure engagement, Dickman adds. "Building any brand is all about testing and learning," he said. "So if something isn't working, you can quickly pivot and try something new."
Social media is a huge piece of the branding puzzle. But "it's important to think about offline opportunities to brand yourself as well," Dickman said.
An established online brand can lead to speaking engagements, he says. On the flip side, if you've already built a strong offline presence in your industry, "use that to invite your communities to connect with you on your social channels for ongoing conversations," he added.
Katherine Salisbury, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Qapital, a goals-based financial app rooted in behavioral science, agreed: "The power of personal connections is more meaningful than ever.
"Building a personal brand means being visible, both outside of your office as well as online on your social platforms."
Just Keep Going
Don't let your obsession with perfection slow you down.
Preparation is key, Salisbury says. "Doing your homework is far more crucial than achieving the paragon of perfection when it comes to business success," Salisbury said. "Being prepared allows you to move nimbly without sacrificing any of the rigor or research."
Make one new connection every week, she says. Make it a point to ask at least one question relevant to your expertise when you attend an event. "As you build your brand, share your ideas and points of view on a regular basis in outlets that are the most relevant for you," Salisbury said.
When Bob Iger took over as CEO of Walt Disney Co. ( DIS) in October 2005, he had a hard act to follow.
Under Michael Eisner starting in 1984, Disney's movies were blockbusters for years, Broadway spinoffs danced off with awards. ESPN scored continuous touchdowns. Theme park attendance skyrocketed. Then management turmoil helped drive down the stock by one third over his last five years.
Many viewed the mild-mannered Iger as an Eisner puppet without the strength or creative instincts to turn things around. But over the past 13 years, he has overseen nine No. 1 movies, including 2018's "Black Panther," as well as 11 of the top 20 worldwide smash hits of all time. Disney's parks are eight of the busiest 10. He acquired Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios' superhero factory, the "Star Wars" franchise of Lucasfilm Ltd., and in 2018, received approval for the $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox. The stock has jumped from 24 a share to a recent 110. Iger, 68, announced recently he will remain chairman and CEO through the end of calendar year 2021.
"Bob Iger's gift is the ability to grow the organization while juggling multiple diverse businesses simultaneously," J. Jeff Kober, CEO of World Class Benchmarking, former Disney Institute leader, and author of " Disney, Leadership and You," told IBD. "He does so by empowering others to lead out, surrounding himself with capable people, steering them in the right direction, and allowing them to do what it takes to achieve the optimum results from their creative teams."
Iger was born in New York City and grew up in the Long Island town of Oceanside. He graduated magna cum laude from Ithaca College with a B.S. in television and radio in 1973. He dreamed of becoming a news anchor and worked as a weather forecaster for a local station for five months. Then he landed a job with ABC in New York as a studio supervisor for game shows and soap operas. That's where he found he had a knack for production.
The legendary sports newsman Roone Arledge mentored him. Iger rose rapidly in program development to become executive vice president of the network in 1988 at age 37. His reputation for a ferocious work ethic (he still gets up by 4:30 a.m.) and achieving results without the usual showbiz drama led to his being named senior vice president when Capital Cities Broadcasting acquired ABC in 1993. The following year he became president and CEO of Capital Cities/ABC.
In 1996, Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC and renamed it ABC Inc., with Iger as president until 1999. By then, Iger had been credited with fostering such long-running hits as "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," "Home Improvement," "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "The Drew Carey Show" and "America's Funniest Videos."
But Disney had been in financial decline since 1995, due in part to the death of president Frank Wells the year before and a subsequent power struggle between Eisner and other top executives, according to James Stewart in "DisneyWar." In 1999, Iger was tapped as president of Walt Disney International, which oversaw overseas operations, while also chairing the ABC Group. Less than a year later, he was named corporate president and COO of Walt Disney Co.
He focused increasingly on integrating advanced technology into every aspect of Disney's products and operations. For example, he made sports network ESPN available in high definition. He also moved to expand the company's presence in Asia, including opening Disneyland Hong Kong. ABC rebounded in the 2004-05 season with debuts of "Desperate Housewives," "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Dancing with the Stars."
The Iger Era Begins
After taking the helm in 2005, Iger wasted no time making changes. He reorganized the company and fired or moved executives to other responsibilities. At the same time, he gave new leaders time to test their skills in unfamiliar situations. He let them take risks with the understanding that near-term failures are part of the process of achieving long-term success.
Responding to complaints that corporate strategic planning had stifled creativity with micromanagement, he eliminated the division and made business units accountable for their own decisions and execution.
"Nothing is more important than the creators, the creative process and the creative output," he told Time. "You're basically making bets on people and ideas vs. anything else."
He also encouraged units to borrow each other's new technology. Under Iger, patents have quadrupled. The best-known to the public: MagicBands, free plastic wrist bands embedded with an RFID chip that allow visitors to Disney World in Orlando to do everything from interacting with employees dressed as Disney characters to helping speed through lines at its four theme parks there.
Iger set out to improve the relationship with Steve Jobs, majority shareholder of Pixar Animation Studios, who was unhappy with the production and distribution agreement it had with Disney. Iger put ABC shows on Jobs' brand-new iTunes platform for Apple Inc. ( AAPL) before any other major content provider. By early 2006, Disney had bought Pixar for $7.4 billion in stock and put its leaders in charge of all Disney animation. Results included the three most successful animated films of all time: "Frozen," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Incredibles 2".
A Vision For New Universes
The purchase of Marvel Studios in 2009 for $4.3 billion and Lucasfilm Ltd. in 2012 for $4 billion seemed to outsiders to be very pricey deals. But they led to domination of the list of top-grossing movies of all time with titles like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (No. 3, $2.068 billion) and "Avengers: Infinity War" (No. 4, $2.048 billion). Iger's management style kept the creative staff turning out not only great sequels, but also new visions of entire universes of franchised characters.
"It's not that I'm a daredevil," Iger told the Los Angeles Times of his calculated risk-taking. "But I'm just generally not a fearful person. I don't conduct my life worrying about what could happen."
The Magic Empire
The biggest acquisition in entertainment history, of 21st Century Fox, came together for three main reasons. First, it was a result of Iger's ability to build genuine friendships with powerful people. Second, founder Rupert Murdoch was concerned about the future of his media empire. And third, Iger had a bold vision of the merger he could achieve. The deal is expected to close in March 2019.
"Bob has consistently been the most strategic and curious in the industry," Peter Chernin, Murdoch's former top lieutenant and now CEO of the Chernin Co., told the New York Times. "He's the guy least interested in maintaining the status quo and the one genuinely trying to wrestle with where the world is going."
The most important part of what Fox will bring is massive additional content. This will be central to Iger's plans for offering unbundled programs, instead of exclusively the traditional packages of the most and least popular. And the new content will aid his plans for three streaming services. After partnering with Netflix Inc. ( NFLX) to create online shows, Disney has decided to go up against it and Amazon.com ( AMZN) in the space they dominate.
"Bob Iger is a big thinker who realized Disney had to be taken to an entirely new level," said Nicholas Zaldastani, managing director of Zaldastani Ventures. "And that meant making monster bets on a vision about where content and technology would be going."
Zaldastani adds Iger had to foresee the acquisitions that would produce the most synergistic long-term results.
"He also realized that Disney had a distribution system that could be utilized for anyone's content," Zaldastani said. "And (Disney) is building out a new direct-to-consumer streaming service that will offer vast and more flexible choices."
Not that everything has gone right under Iger's stewardship, of course. ABC has been through ratings turbulence. ESPN streams many live events and was accessed by 200 million Americans in a recent month on all platforms, as well as being broadcast in more than 200 countries. But it faces challenges in an increasingly unbundled cut-cord world.
Disney's revenue for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, was $59.4 billion, a 7.8% increase over the prior year. Net income was $12.6 billion, up 40.3%.
CEO and chairman of Walt Disney Co.
Overcame: Sagging morale due to micromanagement of the creative process.
Lesson: Encouraging collaboration, rather than rivalry, between business segments produces better results.
"There is no science in creativity. If you don't give yourself room to fail, you won't innovate."
Goal-driven leaders inspire us. First, they articulate their vision clearly. Then they create a culture where everyone rows together toward the finish line.
But even the most enthusiastic leaders can botch their goal-setting. In expressing what they want to achieve, they hit snags that derail their progress.
Part of the problem stems from the tendency to romanticize innovators who insist that seemingly outlandish goals are feasible. Steve Jobs applied what early Apple employees called a "reality distortion field" to goad them to produce superior results. But that doesn't work for everyone.
Some traps of goal-driven leadership and how to avoid them:
Reach far, but not too far. It's easy to get carried away by an ambitious goal. You might think that pushing people to exceed their outermost limits makes you a stronger leader. But it's actually fraught with risk.
"The largest trap is an overreach where you set goals that are too aggressive," said Juliana Stancampiano, chief executive of Oxygen, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on workplace learning. "You have to look at how much money and how many resources you have to invest" before directing people toward a lofty goal.
Know who does what. After stating your goal, you may assume it's best to step back and let your team figure out how to divvy up tasks and mobilize quickly. It's wise not to micromanage people. But it's possible to be too hands-off.
"Be very clear on everybody's role in reaching the goal," said Stancampiano, author of " Radical Outcomes." "Otherwise, people can go off and do things you didn't think they'd do," and wind up wasting time or producing faulty work.
For example, announce growth goals. Then let people feel their way forward. Stancampiano says a learning consultant "over-engineered a lot of processes for the company," which proved counterproductive. Defining each employee's roles and responsibilities would've prevented this staffer from straying from his expertise and trying to do too much in pursuit of the goal.
Radiate passion. If you're just going through the motions, people may reject your rallying cry to hit a certain target. But exhibiting deep belief in the goal — and showing some vulnerability as you make a genuine personal appeal — can boost everyone's motivation to succeed.
"Leaders need to be authentic and find what their purpose really is, not just easy words," said Robert Quinn, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan's Ross Business School. "When you're authentic, your purpose becomes the arbitrator of all decisions."
Involve your team. Leaders who devise goals in a vacuum overlook a valuable source of information: their employees. It's better to hash out your goal with the input of your staff.
"Ask for pushback," said Kate Zabriskie, president of Business Training Works, a training firm in Port Tobacco, Md. As you formulate goals, she suggests asking colleagues questions such as, "What obstacles do you foresee?" and "What other things do you think we should be measuring?"
Provide support. You can deliver a rousing call to pursue a worthy goal. But if your team lacks the tools and resources to follow through, it's all for naught.
Zabriskie warns about "getting caught in the blame game," where you expect people to produce results without giving them the proper support. They can wind up saying, "I can achieve this, boss, if I had better technology."
Give your team a running start. Tighten processes that are easy and cheap to fix. That way, you "take care of low-hanging fruit first and upgrade" as you go along, Zabriskie says.
Find wisdom in the words of famous people on topics such as building confidence, humility and setting goals.
The ego is in doing great work; it's not in telling. You can't tell somebody you're good. They have to tell you. Trevante Rhodes, actor
Phillips On Humility
Once you start thinking you're great, then you're wrong. Wade Phillips,football coach
Whatever goals we set for ourselves, we know we can go higher. Michelle Howard, U.S. Navy officer
Success at the highest level comes down to one question: Can you make the choice that your happiness can come from someone else's success? Jeff Haden, writer
You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you. If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's. Joseph Campbell,philosopher
Consumer websites were taking off at the dawn of the internet in 1996. But cloud-computing pioneer Marc Benioff was already looking farther ahead. He saw the future in delivering software applications to businesses in a new way online.
Benioff is chairman, co-CEO and founder of Salesforce.com ( CRM).
"I was intrigued by websites such as Amazon.com, which revolutionized the way consumers shopped," wrote Benioff, in a book he co-wrote with Carlyle Adler in 2009, " Behind the Cloud." "I thought the internet would change the landscape for businesses, too."
Benioff started Salesforce in 1999 with a "goal of making enterprise software as easy to use as a website like Amazon.com," he wrote. "That idea — to deliver business applications as a service over the internet — would change the way businesses use sophisticated software, applications and, ultimately, change the way the software industry works."
Blazing A Path
Turns out Benioff was right. He not only built Salesforce into the world's No. 1 customer relationship management (CRM) platform, he also revolutionized the way software is delivered. In turn, customers benefited financially, and a new industry was spawned.
"He was the father of cloud software as a service, and the first person to convince companies to trust him with their valuable data," Rob Oliver, Baird senior research analyst for software, told IBD. "When they (Salesforce) came public (in 2004) they said the addressable market was in the high-single-digit billions. Now the market is $120 billion. That gives you an idea of how bold a visionary he was to see the world differently and having the ability to solve problems for customers and expand the addressable market."
From the start, Benioff wanted Salesforce to be a different kind of company. He envisioned a new technology model — on-demand, or delivered over the internet, now called cloud computing; a new subscription business model; and a new integrated corporate philanthropy model.
Today, following Benioff's vision, the company's cloud-based CRM applications for sales, service, marketing, and more don't require IT experts to set up or manage. They just log in and start connecting to customers.
Under a new management model, Benioff shares the CEO post with Keith Block. Block was promoted to co-CEO last August from his prior post president, vice chairman and chief operating officer.
On Day 1 of the company's founding, Benioff created the 1-1-1 philanthropy model. The model leverages 1% of the company's equity, employee time and product to help improve communities worldwide.
Benioff abides by a few leadership strategies that have helped fuel Salesforce's success.
"I strongly believe in over-communication," Benioff told IBD. "I'm constantly reinforcing our values to our executives and our employees and to our customers and our key stakeholders ... and also what our vision is, that is, what we actually want; how we're getting it; what is preventing us from having it; and how we'll know when we have it."
The answer to these questions lies in a management process created by Benioff called the V2MOM (an acronym for vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures).
"Without a doubt, this process has been our best-kept secret to the fast growth and excellence we have achieved," Benioff wrote.
Benioff writes a V2MOM every year, as does every Salesforce employee.
The V2MOM consists of five levels, which Benioff described to IBD this way:
"Vision is, what do I really want, what is my dream?
"Values. What's truly important to you? What are your values for the company, for yourself, for your products, for your relationships with others and what is the prioritization of those values?
"Methods. How will you get what you want? How are you going to achieve your dream? And that also needs to be prioritized ... In many cases, our methods become our operating budget, for example.
"Obstacles. What is preventing us from achieving our success? What is preventing us from achieving our dream?
"Measures. How will we know when we are successful? What are our metrics or our measurements?"
Salesforce broadcasts its management meetings to employees all over the world.
"The most important thing is getting alignment with our employees with the V2MOM," Benioff said. "That's where over-communication comes into play. And it's that kind of a triad of alignment, awareness and over-communication that helps to make the V2MOM successful."
Salesforce is committed to a set of core values — trust, customer success, innovation and equality.
For Salesforce, company success is synonymous with customer success.
Said Benioff to IBD: " ... We're passionate advocates of our customers. This is also translated into us being the fastest-growing enterprise software company of all time.
"We've grown our business from an idea 20 years ago to what will be $16 billion in revenue this year with a market capitalization of over $100 billion, and we also continue to grow at a healthy pace and have great success. So that is very exciting because, of course, customer success is one of our core values, and by focusing on our customers it's helped our business in the same way."
Laying The Foundation
Benioff, 54, always wanted to be an entrepreneur, he wrote.
When he was 14 years old, he sold his first piece of software, "How to Juggle," for $75. He founded his first company, Liberty Software, which created video games, at 15.
Benioff earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California.
Before launching Salesforce, he spent 13 years at Oracle Corp. ( ORCL), where he was the youngest vice president in the company's history.
Benioff was guided by some of the lessons he learned from Oracle's co-founder Larry Ellison.
Benioff lists them in his book: "Always have a vision. Be passionate. Act confident, even when you're not."
Finding A Purpose
The Salesforce saga started to take shape when Benioff was on sabbatical from Oracle. He was getting restless after 10 years at the company and wasn't sure what he wanted to do.—"Quit? Start a company? Or take Oracle in a different direction?" he wrote.
To get some answers, Benioff did some soul searching for three months in Hawaii. Then for two months he traveled to India. He met with spiritual masters, including His Holiness the Dali Lama, who talked about "finding one's calling and the importance of community service," he wrote.
One meeting with guru Mata Amritanandamayi, known as the "hugging saint," had a strong impact.
"It was she, who introduced me to the idea of, and possibility of, giving back to the world, while pursuing my career ambitions," Benioff wrote. "I realized I didn't have to make a choice between doing business and doing good. I could align these two values and strive to succeed at both simultaneously."
And that's what Benioff did. When he started the company he integrated culture with service. That strategy has served him well.
Salesforce estimates fiscal 2019 (ended Jan. 31) revenue will be $13.23 billion to $13.24 billion.
"They're growing revenue by 20%," said analyst Oliver. "That says it all. And they're going to grow again at 20% in (fiscal 2020). That defies the law of large numbers. When you get to that kind of scale and are still growing at 20%, they're doing a lot of things right. There's a big appetite for what they do."
First To Market
Benioff stands out as a leader and industry pioneer.
Strategically, Salesforce came to market at a good time, says Richard Davis, research analyst at Canaccord Genuity.
"Enough dissatisfaction with now gone firms like Siebel, Baan and Act! gave Salesforce an opening to come to market with cloud software that was easier to deploy, easier to use and less expensive to pay for through annual subscriptions," Davis told IBD.
Adds Oliver: "Marc is a visionary. For me personally, the most important vision was the radical idea of pioneering hosted software, which became cloud software as a service (SaaS). Everybody knows today he was the guy that pioneered the idea that software can drive revenue and success for the customer. Now these are all industry standards, and they all are incredibly important. And they all come from Marc Benioff."
Doing The Right Thing
Benioff's core values are reflective of Benioff's leadership style, personal philosophy, and management approach. They have stood the test of time.
Benioff is known for his social activism and is one of most outspoken business leaders on promoting equality in the workplace and the community.
He cites as one example of how Salesforce has recently acted on one of its core values, equality, in the company's home base of San Francisco.
In October 2018, Benioff and Salesforce announced support of San Francisco Proposition C, a ballot measure that would tax companies in San Francisco with more than $50 million in annual revenue to generate funding for homelessness programs.
Combined, Benioff and Salesforce contributed more than $7 million to support the proposal, according to CNBC.com.
The citizens of San Francisco ended up passing the proposition in November. The tax reportedly will generate up to $300 million a year in new funds for shelters and mental health services.
Benioff says the company's work on supporting Proposition C is "very much a great illustration" of Salesforce acting on its core values.
"You can't just have values on the front door," he said. "You have to put your values into action. Are you willing to take an economic consequence when values are tested?"
Benioff says it's important to ask oneself: "What is truly important to you?"
Trust is also key for Benioff.
"There's nothing more important to me than trust and the faith that I have, and my belief in the world and how things are created," he said. "And that core value of trust that I have inside me then also translates very well to my corporate value. ... I make mistakes and I have to come back to that core value. ... When we get back trust (we can) create the world that we want."
Looking To The Future
Benioff wants Salesforce to the most trusted software company in the world.
"We're in a world today that's in a crisis of trust," he said. "And when I look at what Salesforce can offer the world, maybe it could be that we can be an example of trusted leadership."
So far, investors have been impressed with Salesforce's consistent performance. Its stock rose 31.18% in 2018.
Can investors count on Salesforce for another banner year? Analysts say 2019 might be a choppy year.
"To use a trader's phrase, that means stocks take 'escalators up and the trap door down,'" analyst Davis said. "That's the kind of market where you want a company like Salesforce in your portfolio. There aren't many companies where you get about 20% revenue growth and 20% free cash flow margins at scale out there."
Pioneered cloud software as a service.
Overcame: Threat of bankruptcy during the dot-com disaster.
Lesson: Walk the talk.
"You can't just have values on the front door. You have to put your values into action. Are you willing to take an economic consequence when values are tested."
Packard is the co-founder of Scripps Networks Interactive and former COO of HGTV, one of the fastest-growing cable networks in TV history.
Having a clear head allows you to show up for work in your most productive mental state, she says. "Peace of mind is a competitive advantage, given that today speed, focus and problem-solving are critical work skill sets."
Tips on targeting unproductive thoughts and replacing them with winning ones:
Read and react. Take a quick inventory each day of your emotional fitness, Packard says.
If you're in a good place with your peace of mind, then you can move on. If you're not, nurture emotional intelligence.
Packard has found in her own life and in the lives of leaders she works with, "meditation and mindfulness help to lessen stress and clear a cluttered mind."
She adds that a critical component of emotional intelligence "is having self-awareness. Stillness, quiet and other reflective practices help with that."
Packard cites the famous anonymous quote to use as a filter:
"Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes destiny."
Stay aggressive. Let urgency conquer fear as you invest in people and build bold ideas that will change the world, Case says.
"Don't overthink or over-analyze," she said. "Do. It's natural to want to study a problem from all angles, but getting caught up in questions like, 'What if we're wrong?'and 'What if there is a better way?'" can leave you paralyzed with fear. Allow the compelling need to act to outweigh all doubts and setbacks."
Packard adds that a way to take the emotion out of fear and setbacks is to "say what happened. Accept that it happened. Find new openings."
Make a big bet. Many people and organizations are naturally cautious, Case says.
The downside to that is they look at what seemed to work in the past and try to do more of it, "leading to only incremental advances," she said. "(But) every truly history-making transformation has occurred when people have decided to go for revolutionary change."
One example she points to: In 2008, in the middle of the financial crisis, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia boldly began to solicit investors — most of whom thought the idea of staying in the home of a stranger was crazy — and founded Airbnb. Today, some 500,000 people stay in one of Airbnb's more than 3 million listings every day. In 2017 the company had $2.6 billion in revenue.
Seize opportunities. Risk-taking is not a blind leap off a cliff but a lengthy process of trial and error, Case says. "Have the guts to try new, unproven things and the rigor to continue experimenting."
It doesn't end with the launch of a product or the start of a movement. "You need to be willing to risk the next big idea, even if it means upsetting your own status quo," she said.
Practice we, not me. Great leaders provide hope, a generous spirit and moral courage, Packard says. Whether as a leader or an employee, "perpetuate a collaborative workplace culture."
There are data on the financial benefits of doing this. She says for those who lead with principles that characterize "we" leaders, like integrity and compassion, companies' return on assets was significantly better than those who did not, as measured over a two-year time period.
"We, not me" leadership requires developing the mindset of putting "self-centered agendas to the side for the greater good of the organization," Packard said.
Famous quotes offer advice about how to be in the moment, enjoy your success, prioritize and keeping your eye on the prize.
Frost On Staying Present
Ends and beginnings — there are no such things. There are only middles. Robert Frost, poet
Rogers On Self-Satisfaction
The only way to enjoy anything in life is to earn it first. Ginger Rogers, dancer
Keller On Priorities
Your work life is divided into two distinct areas — what matters most and everything else. You will have to take what matters to the extremes and be OK with what happens to the rest. Professional success requires it. Gary Keller, entrepreneur
Allen On Bottom Line
In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result. James Allen, author
Some CEOs like to rule their company with an iron fist. But for Worldpay ( WP) leader Charles Drucker, it is his velvet glove that has paid the biggest dividends.
His passion for people and love of learning have helped him stay on top in the rapidly moving world of payment processing, allowing him to grow his company's value by more than 700% since it went public in 2012.
Drucker has turned what was once a division of Fifth Third Bank ( FITB) into a hugely successful international firm in its own right. Cincinnati's Worldpay, formerly Vantiv, has seen its market cap grow from $3.6 billion to $25.8 billion today.
Relationships Key For CEO
The son of a cabdriver, Drucker prides himself on his grounded approach. He firmly believes that keeping open lines of communication between himself, customers, employees and the wider payments industry at large has given his firm a key edge.
"In my management philosophy I believe it's always important to always stay grounded. Customers have a way of bringing you back to earth," he told IBD. "Sometimes you believe you are right to be doing certain things, that the trends are going one way, but by staying close to customers you see what is actually happening on the ground."
In addition to his focus on keeping in touch with key clients, he also enjoys spending time mingling with employees. He will even drop in on meetings unannounced as he seeks to keep his understanding of his business as fresh as possible.
"If you see me in the building, you will see me walking the floors, talking to our customer service agents who have just got off the phone with clients; you'll see me going to see people who are pitching new products or ideas," Drucker said. "I do it because I like to be close to the employees, but I do it for myself too. It's rewarding to see the results of what you do."
Worldpay's president and COO, Mark Heimbouch, said Drucker's down-to-earth personality always shines through when he deals with his staff, which helps make meetings more productive.
"Some CEOs are like Darth Vader, with everyone afraid to speak up at meetings for fear of saying the wrong thing," Heimbouch said. "With Charles, it is the opposite. If you walked in on a meeting, you would not immediately realize he is the CEO, as he is always engaging others and is always keen to hear different opinions."
Learning An Enjoyable Challenge
However, Drucker is not just someone who is strong on the communications front. According to colleagues, he also has a voracious appetite for knowledge.
"One of the things that impresses me most about Charles is his capacity for learning," Heimbouch said. "It is one of the qualities that made me want to work with him in the first place."
For his part, Drucker said it is vital for a leader in his field to keep a close eye on the technological changes that are transforming the payments business.
"You have to stay on top of technology," Drucker said. "You have to do a good amount of reading to understand where things are going."
But far from seeing research as a chore, he says keeping up to date with the rapidly evolving space keeps his job interesting, especially after more than three decades in the industry. One example of this is how merchant processors are no longer firms that profit from simply going into stores and installing point-of-sale terminals. Worldpay offers merchant customers services such as online and app-based payment systems, as well as interchange management and fraud management services.
"What I love about this industry is it changes all the time. You can be in it 30 some odd years, and it's a new challenge every day because technology changes it so much," Drucker said. "What I love about this job is you can stay in it and it'll be fresh all the time."
Knowledge Bears Fruit
His deep knowledge base of both where the payments space has been and where it is heading makes him an effective executive, according to Wedbush Securities managing director, Moshe Katri.
"Charles, the way I see it, strategically has been reading the tea leaves really well and repositioning the company competitively on a growth path," the analyst told IBD. "A lot of it has to do with how long he has been in the industry and understanding some of those trends."
His keen sense of how the industry is developing led to the firm's 2014 acquisition of Mercury Payments, whose technology helped the firm offer a wider range of services to clients and become a key player in the integrated payments space.
It also played a role in the then-Vantiv acquisition of Worldpay in a cash and stock deal valued at $10.4 billion in 2017. The British payments firm had strength in global e-commerce. This latter deal will be key going forward, according to Katri.
"They are in the process of building a global platform that will cater to merchants worldwide. This is a transaction that will provide Worldpay with both revenue and cost synergies," Katri said. "Again, strategically Charles and his team are repositioning the company competitively."
Drucker said the deals reflect his company's ability to quickly make decisive strategic moves.
"We saw the trend in integrated payments, we saw the trend in e-commerce," he said. "We're probably not at the bleeding edge of the trend, but we're more the fast follower who recognizes early and pivots our business."
Brave Step To Big Success
Its current status as a payments leader is a far cry from its beginnings as a spinoff from Fifth Third Bank. Drucker saw an opportunity for the then-Fifth Third Processing Solutions business to become a success as a separate venture.
"I was in the top management at Fifth Third Bank, and I pitched during the downturn carving out this business as a way to create capital," he said. "I also knew the business outside the bank could grow dramatically."
While many of his colleagues were fearful of change, he embraced it. He has led the firm from its days as a joint venture between the bank and private equity firm Advent International in 2009, and has never looked back.
"A lot of my peers at the bank didn't want to go near private equity because the reality is, if you do not perform, you're gone," he said. "I had confidence in myself, and that we could perform, and that was the biggest break."
Drucker said the firm has grown beyond his wildest expectations at the time.
"I love to imagine what we can be," he said. "Back then we were imagining we could process $1 billion in payment volume. It's $1.6 trillion or so we're doing now."
Strong Team Key To Growth
Like many top leaders, Drucker is quick to give the credit for the firm's monumental growth to his team.
"I got fortunate that I hired a lot of good people around me who are challenging, and we have good debates," he said.
Drucker said he looks for moral fiber as well as intelligence when selecting his employees.
"The values are doing the right thing, especially when no one is looking. It's easy to do the right thing when everyone is looking at you," he said. "Being a team player, accountability and results are also key to me."
He says people without these qualities will find it difficult to prosper in his organization.
But given how much success he has enjoyed, he is now keen to give back by getting more involved in philanthropy. The executive has humble beginnings, and through his charity work he is trying to help the next generation.
"I didn't grow up with a lot. My dad was a cabdriver in New York, and I'm interested in and do things to give back," he said. "I love to give back to early education, kids and school."
Turned a bank spinoff into a leading multibillion-dollar payment processing company.
Overcame: The challenge of growing rapidly while adapting to a changing environment.
Lesson: Listen to your customers to keep on top of current trends.
"My style is to roll up the sleeves and be close to the clients because they help you make better informed decisions."
Ask any number of leaders if it's important to operate ethically and with integrity and they'll say yes, definitely. But they don't always stick to those traits if it means losing a key client or missing out on a big contract.
Here's how to live by your principles, even in tough times.
Show the way. The CEO's actions set the tone for the entire company, says Jim Hlavacek, who runs a Charlotte, N.C.-based global management development firm. Act with integrity, and others will emulate you. But the reverse happens, too.
"The CEO's shadow cascades like a waterfall over the entire organization," said Hlavacek, who wrote " Fat Cats Don't Hunt." "Everybody watches what they say or do. If you ignore wrongdoing and do nothing, others will know integrity isn't valued."
Stay steady. Do the right thing all the time and make sure others do it, too. Ensure that mantra is followed by everyone you delegate work to and flows through the chain.
"You have to stick to it," Hlavacek told IBD. "You can do it by the simple fact there are no exceptions. Be consistent."
Don't cave. It's easy to fall prey to the pressure of hitting financial targets and bend the rules. But you'll pay a bigger price if you do that. Stick to doing things with integrity to achieve long-term success.
"Without that culture, the organization goes downhill and you're not sustainable," said Scott Deming, a speaker, author and trainer on leadership, culture and building brands.
Stay firm. If the leader puts profits ahead of integrity, employees will lie to make their financial goals, Deming says. But if the CEO does the right thing even at a cost, it resonates loudly with the employees.
Deming once ran an ad agency. A contractor for one of his big clients was continually rude and vulgar to one of his employees, who eventually said she couldn't deal with him anymore. With the woman in his office, Deming called the contractor to say he was tossing him off the campaign. One of the client's top people contacted Deming shortly after. Deming told the client he wouldn't change his mind, and the client could fire his agency if needed.
"That told her (his employee) – and she told everybody – that I'm about doing the right thing and putting that ahead of making a buck," Deming said.
The client stayed with Deming's firm.
Talk about it. Constantly spread the idea of operating with integrity across the entire organization.
Win them over. Be honest and ethical all the time and you'll earn the faith of your employees.
"You'll earn not just their respect but their trust," Hlavacek said. "If CEOs lose trust, they don't have power anymore."
Build the culture. The CEO's behavior and ideas filter through the organization, good or bad. Starbucks ( SBUX) former CEO Howard Schultz built a collaborative culture that led to tremendous success. The same goes for centering a culture on integrity.
"Schultz said when people have passion around a common purpose, anything is possible," Deming said. "Leaders that don't have that true north working aren't going to be successful in the long run."
Get out and about. Respect your people and treat them right. Hlavacek says that will in turn get them to do things honestly. Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) puts its employees and customers first and says the profits will follow.
"Leaders need to come off their perches," he said. "Show you're easy to talk to. If you treat your employees well, they'll treat customers well, and profits will follow."
Spread the word. It's not enough for the top person to act with integrity. Make sure the next layer of leadership does it, too.
"If people are undercutting you, you're not going to succeed," Deming said. "You need managers to buy into it and promote it."
Jeff Webb revolutionized an industry with the adage: If you want something done, then do it yourself.
In 1974 Webb founded and became CEO of Varsity Spirit Inc., now under the umbrella of Varsity Brands. Over the last 45 years he's built it into the world's largest cheerleading organization. It's attracted prestigious, longtime partners such as Walt Disney Co. ( DIS) and ESPN.
Webb, 68, was a yell leader for the cheerleading squad in his college days at the University of Oklahoma. He'd also been working as a cheerleading camp director for Lawrence Herkimer's National Cheerleader's Association. Webb led sessions of more than 1,000 attendees.
Upon graduation Webb wanted to go to law school, but Herkimer talked him into working for NCA full-time for a year. Saving some money before law school seemed like a great idea to the financially strapped Webb, so he accepted.
Working in the business, Webb saw an opportunity to transform cheerleading and expand it into something more athletic and entertaining.
He tried to get that accomplished with Herkimer and NCA. But they were too entrenched in the way they'd been doing things.
"Looking back, I don't blame them," Webb told IBD. "But I began to believe in my vision of where cheerleading could go. So I just said `I'll have to do this myself.' I had no idea I was an entrepreneur at heart."
Varsity Spirit began with cheerleading camps and education for high school and college students. Then Webb expanded into uniforms, equipment and organizing competitions.
It rebranded as Varsity Brands in 2001 after some mergers and acquisitions through the years. Bain Capital Private Equity bought Varsity Brands for $2.5 billion in 2018. Varsity Brands' annual revenues exceed $1.35 billion, according to the company. It has more than 4,000 full-time employees. Webb is currently Varsity Brands' chairman. The company is headquartered in Memphis, Tenn.
"The most important thing for a leader to do is have a vision for what the organization can be, what you're trying to accomplish, and the value you're going to be adding for your customers in particular and then also your team," Webb said.
Bill Seely, Varsity Spirit's president, says Webb's ability to lead people is second to none.
"Jeff's vision, drive for continuous improvement and genuine care for every employee are the personal traits of his that stand out the most for me," he told IBD.
Some 330,000 athletes in teams attend over 4,000 Varsity Spirit cheerleading training camps each summer. The curriculum for the four-day/three-night camps begins at 8 a.m. and last until 9 p.m. It includes drills on how to lead a crowd in different game situations, new cheers, stunt and gymnastic routines, and safety training.
"Jeff is still teaching and leading camps alongside our summer camp instructors," said Jackie Kennedy, Varsity Spirit's vice president of marketing and communications. "His passion permeates into all of the people here at Varsity Spirit, and Jeff cares about every single employee. He takes the time to meet every new employee. He learns their name, where they are from and what they are passionate about."
Most Varsity Spirit employees started working for the company as summer camp instructors straight out of high school, as did Kennedy.
"Jeff leads by example," Seely noted. "He leads from the field and interacts directly with every level of our company and not from a corner office. He doesn't ask anyone to do what he hasn't done."
Varsity Spirit puts on over 600 cheerleading competitions across the country annually. The events attract some 900,000 participants. The company has partnered with Disney for 25 years and hosts nearly 90,000 athletes at seven of Varsity Spirit's most premier events at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
For the last 35 years, Varsity Spirit partnered with ESPN to broadcast their cheerleading competitions around the world. The broadcasts reach over 100 million homes and 32 countries annually.
"We have a phrase I kind of coined that we use to describe our culture: 'the heart and the fist,' Webb said. "Lock arms, everybody on the same page, the group and the mission before the individual. We help each other succeed and the organization succeed by having a big heart for our team members and our customers.
"Now on the other hand, you have the fist. This is business, and it's a contact sport. We are going to be competitive. We are going to be ethical in everything we do. But we are going to be very competitive, and we are going to play to win."
One, Two, Three, Go!
Webb, born in Dallas, credits his father as being his most important mentor. Webb says his father emphasized doing the right thing and common-sense guiding principles, such as: It never hurts to talk.
"Sometimes that opens a lot of doors," Webb said. "And sometimes people don't talk. But if you stay with it and at least establish some type of rapport and openness, then things get done."
Webb faced a defining moment a few years into Varsity Spirit. After initially starting out with cheer camps, he decided to expand into the uniform and equipment business in 1979.
He found a vendor who was in the uniform sports manufacturing business. Webb leveraged all of his good will with his customers that he'd earned through cheerleading camps and education for orders. But then the vendor went bankrupt and never delivered anything.
Fortunately, Webb found another vendor. The uniforms were delivered in time after all.
"What I learned from that 'near-death experience' was to really choose your partners carefully and to make sure they have the same commitment to your customers that you do," Webb said. "We try to partner with market leaders and people that have the same kind of passion that we do."
"Jeff has an uncompromising focus on delivering tremendous value to our customers every time we come in contact with them," Seely said. "And he has the courage to do the right thing regardless of the short term consequences. Jeff's never been afraid to go against the popular decision to ensure long-term growth for our company."
Webb's Varsity Fashions now produces over a million custom uniforms annually. In the process he revolutionized cheerleading uniforms by building performance into the fabrics.
The cheerleaders not only have to look good, but they also need fabrics that stretch and are high performance, Webb says. This includes footwear that's safe and lets them climb the different cheerleading pyramids.
When Varsity Spirit we went into the uniform business, "uniforms were plain and not that imaginative," Webb said. "As we made cheerleading more exciting, we thought uniforms should be more exciting as well. So from a graphic design standpoint, a lot more color, a lot more identification. They look better, they are more exciting, but they also have a lot of great athletic function."
In 1981, Webb forged a partnership with ESPN and created the National Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Fla. Together they introduced a new style of cheerleading that highlighted athleticism and entertainment.
Varsity Spirit also has its own media platform, Varsity TV, for which it generates hundreds of thousands of hours of original content each year.
"Make sure that with partners that you bring into the business and with joint ventures you have a strong enough position where the important things philosophically, directionally and strategically that you envision for the company, your partners buy into," Webb said.
You get there, Webb says, by focusing "on building a world class organization and that's not just about making money. That's about providing an amazing service or product and value to your customers. That's about having the kind of company that people are proud to be a part of."
Founded Varsity Spirit, the world's largest cheerleading organization.
Overcame: The challenges of changing the status quo.
Lesson: Don't get overwhelmed by the task. Just focus on the mission.
"Understand there are going to be ups and downs. You're going to persevere by having the fortitude, the drive, and the commitment to hang in there and set the example for the people around you."
Morgan is a communications coach with Fortune 50 clients. His blog reaches over 100,000 readers per month.
Tips on making sure nothing is lost in translation in today's business climate:
Set time parameters. Never let an audio/remote or virtual meeting go longer than 10 minutes without a break, Morgan says. "Our attentions are not as engaged virtually, and we lose interest more quickly. Try for a nine-minute virtual meeting!"
In addition, make sure everyone has a chance to participate. "Trying to run the same meeting virtually that you used to run face to face in a meeting room won't work," he said.
Engagement is critical because with the amount of remote and virtual workers increasing all the time, "the less likely they are to feel engaged with the mission of their organization," Morgan adds.
Ensure comprehension. Assume that you are misunderstanding most of your emails, Morgan says, and that your recipients are misunderstanding most of what you send them.
He says research shows that the misunderstanding rate for text-based messages is 60% or more. "So add a one-sentence headline at the beginning of each email or text saying, 'this is what this email is about and what I mean by it.' "
Similarly, don't assume that on an audio conference silence implies agreement or consent. "In person, we can watch people react, and think," Morgan said. "We give each other up to six seconds to respond before the silence gets uncomfortable."
Err on the side of caution. Verify anything you're unsure of.
Lastly, end every virtual conversation by asking, "How did what I just said make you feel?" Then give the other people time and respect enough to hear their answers.
Quotes Of The Week presents words of wisdom about true beauty, taking the initiative, achieving greatness, and winning and losing.
King On Greatness
Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service. Martin Luther King Jr.,civil rights leader
Kubler-Ross On Positivity
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross,psychiatrist
Holtz On Perspective
You're never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you're never as bad as they say when you lose. Lou Holtz,football coach
Tournier On Belief
Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can. Paul Tournier,physician
There will always be challenges, obstacles and less-than-perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger … and more and more successful. Mark Victor Hansen,author
Anyone who watched one of the recent entertainment award shows will note that one corporate name kept recurring: Netflix. Over the last several weeks, the company has won a passel of statues from the Golden Globes to Critics Choice. And its production of "Roma" (a winner at both these outings) and its director Alfonso Cuaron are among the favorites to win Oscars next month.
So it seems odd to recall that Netflix ( NFLX) started not as a producer of original content or a provider of steaming services but as a company that mailed DVDs — other people's films — to subscribers.
But mailing movies directly to consumers — the brainchild of co-founder Reed Hastings — turned out to be the start of a multibillion-dollar company that disrupted the existing model and set the entertainment industry into an entirely new direction.
Hastings, 58, was born in Boston. He attended Bowdoin College. Then he served two years as a Peace Corps math teacher in Swaziland. He returned to the U.S. to pursue a Master's degree in computer science at Stanford. In several interviews, Hastings has said that his time there — and his first exposure to entrepreneurs he'd previously considered god like — proved a seminal experience in his life:
"It really helps to be around them, to see they are regular people with a good idea. The thing I took away was that if they can do it, I can do it."
And he did. In 1991, he started Pure Software, whose main product was Purify, a software debugging program that proved immensely popular. But, he told the New Yorker, "The product was excellent; my management style was not."
Learning From Mistakes
In a TED talk he recalled how at Pure "I was process obsessed. If someone did something wrong, we created a process so that it would never happen again."
On a Masters of Scale podcast with LinkedIn ( LNKD) co-founder Reid Hoffman, he added:
"What we failed to understand was that by dummy-proofing all of the systems, we would have a system where only dummies would want to work there. Which is exactly what happened. The average intelligence fell and then the market changed and we were unable to adapt because we had a bunch of people who valued the process more than (free) thinking."
He found himself "coding all night, trying to be CEO during the day." He believed he could solve the company's problems simply by working longer and harder.
So shortly after the company was acquired by Rational Software in 1997, he left.
He and fellow Pure exec Marc Randolph searched for the next big thing. They found it supposedly because of a $40 late fee.
Hastings told Fortune magazine that the idea for Netflix started percolating in 1997, after Blockbuster assessed him a $40 late fee for his rental of "Apollo 13".
"I remember the fee, because I was embarrassed about it. That was back in the VHS days and it got me thinking that there's a big market out there." The story has since proved apocryphal, though it helps explain what came next.
The pair admired the Amazon ( AMZN) model, and began searching for a niche the mail-order giant didn't fill. The movie rental business seemed ripe. But VHS tapes were too expensive and fragile to mail.
"I didn't know about DVDs and then a friend of mine told me they were coming. I ran out to Tower Records in Santa Cruz and mailed (music) CDs to myself. Just a disk in an envelope. It was a long 24 hours until the mail arrived back at my house, and I ripped (the envelopes) open and they (the CDs) were all in great shape."
Officially, Netflix launched on April 14, 1998, with 925 titles — virtually the entire DVD universe at the time. The company's subsequent success can largely be attributed to a variety of factors, none the least of which is Hastings' prescience. He recognized that DVDs were at least the short-term future. Also, at a time when only about 10% of the country had access to broadband, he predicted that streaming was the ultimate delivery system.
Hastings also applied what he learned from his mistakes at Pure. He created a different culture to propel his company forward. At Netflix he literally gave power to the people. "I pride myself on making fewer and fewer decisions," he told the TED audience. "Sometimes I can go a whole quarter without making a decision."
He added: "We're like the anti-Apple. They compartmentalize. We do the opposite. Everyone gets all the information."
Netflix employees are generally paid higher than the industry standard. There is no dress code. No vacation limits. But there is also full accountability, transparency and what Hastings calls radical honesty.
"We want people to speak the truth. We said to disagree silently is disloyal. It's not okay to let a discussion go through without saying your piece," Hastings has said.
Another aspect of the company's success is Hastings' restless nature. He's never satisfied, always moving forward, looking for the new.
Under his stewardship the company kept changing the traditional rules: from singular rentals to a subscription service, no late fees, no shipping charges. It developed algorithms that measured what people watched and suggested a queue of what customers might enjoy.
At the same time, he understood that mailing DVDs was an unworkable long-term formula. "Continuing to (send) DVDs by mail for another two decades would have been a failure strategy, because the underlying strata was changing and internet delivery was possible," Hastings has said.
Once the company went to streaming in 2007, its next hurdle was convincing content suppliers that Netflix was a partner, not a competitor. But film studios, afraid of online piracy, were reluctant to allow their newer products to be streamed. And, in any event, many top films were already committed to cable networks, such as HBO and Showtime.
Staying Ahead Of The Curve
In 2008, the company signed a break-through $30 million deal with cable network Starz allowing Netflix to stream its content. Other cable companies followed suit, when they realized that Netflix was not only a new source of revenue, but could actually improve the performance of the cable networks themselves. For example, when old episodes of "Breaking Bad" became available on Netflix, the ratings of new episodes jumped.
The next step, streaming all episodes of a show at the same time allowing customers to binge watch, was a logical outgrowth of what the company noticed during its DVD days. "We'd been shipping DVDs and boxed sets. People were watching HBO content. It was powerful to see all the episode sat once and it was something regular TV couldn't do," Hastings said.
"One thing I couldn't do was engender brand loyalty. 'Mad Men' was a great show, but it was an AMC show. (Viewers) didn't associate it with us even if they watched it on Netflix." Enter "House of Cards".
Taking a cue from HBO, which moved from airing films to producing original content and YouTube, a major streaming success, Netflix invested $100 million for two 13-episode seasons of the show.
"We weren't confident," Hastings recalled. "It was scary." But the program, the first on-line only series to be nominated for major Emmy Awards, was an immediate success.
"It made the brand stronger. People watched 'House of Cards' and they talked about it and would associate it with us." And while some may have questioned the size of the investment, it pales in comparison to the estimated $13 billion Netflix will spend on content this year.
The company just raised its subscription price by double-digit percentage points, which sounds worse than it really is. The lowest level sub went from $8 to $9 while the top tier went from $14 to $16. While it is probably less elsewhere in the country, single admission movie tickets in Manhattan cost as much as $16, making Netflix seem an even greater bargain. Wall Street agrees with this point of view, too. After the announcement, it presented the company with its own style award — an upswing in its price — which many consider worth more than an Oscar.
Saw the streaming future before others and created the first company to take advantage of it.
Overcame: Resistance from content suppliers who believed he was competition and not a partner, as well as his own poor background as a manager.
Lesson: Learn from past mistakes.
Quote: "We encourage employees to figure out how to improve the culture, not how to preserve it."
With a handful of high-profile millennials becoming tech billionaires, it's tempting to assume creativity and youth go hand-in-hand. But there are no age barriers to innovative thinking.
XThere's no single playbook for late-in-life innovative thinking. Some innovators spend decades concocting seemingly crazy ideas and finally hit pay dirt at an advanced age. Others go most of their careers not seeing themselves as particularly creative, only to wake up one day with an inspiring vision.
It's easier to take risks and pursue bold inventions when you're young and have less to lose. Still, many people in their 40s and up launch breakthrough businesses or unveil creative concepts. To boost your innovative thinking as you age:
Reframe how others see you. If you've repeatedly heard friends and colleagues refer to you a certain way — as a "team player," "loyal lieutenant" or "doer not a dreamer" — don't let such labels deaden your innovative spirit. Resist allowing yourself to be pigeonholed.
"Robert Frost, Alfred Hitchcock, Irving Berlin were all seen as hacks early in their career," said David Galenson, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. "Then they got into their 50s and 60s and got recognized as great innovators."
Stay in the game. Even if you go many years without trying to innovate, it's never too late. But you have to keep plugging away at your chosen field and find your work intellectually stimulating.
Late-in-life innovators "get more technically competent and accomplished as they get older," Galenson said. "They gradually accumulate more information and knowledge, and develop better methods, wisdom and judgment."
Follow the leaders in innovative thinking. It's tough to innovate in a vacuum. To stir your creativity, identify visionaries in your area of interest and track what they're doing.
Proceed by taking two steps, says Jody Holtzman, a senior managing partner at Longevity Venture Advisors in New Rochelle, N.Y. First, find out how these visionaries see the future. Then explore ways that you can ally with them to advance their goals.
"You want to know what their interests are and what their focus and hypothesis is," Holtzman said. "That forces you to look forward. You can't look at that and not have your wheels start turning."
Better yet, contact them and explore ways to contribute to their efforts. Piggybacking on their work can propel your outside-the-box thinking.
Forge connections. Mingling with like-minded people can spark fresh ideas. Spending time with curious, energetic peers who share your passion breeds potentially innovative collaboration.
"Join trade associations and professional associations," Holtzman said. "Sign up for webinars or online chat rooms. You have to stay current. It's a challenge (if) your day-to-day life is a time suck."
Broaden your definition. Resist the urge to equate innovation with college kids developing mobile apps in their dorm rooms. Visionary thinkers can emerge in the most stodgy industries — and even if they are grandparents.
"You don't have to wear a hoodie, code or live in Silicon Valley to have a profound impact," said David Shaywitz, a venture capitalist in Palo Alto, Calif. "Innovation is life experience coupled with an inquisitive mind."
Start small. Some of the most audacious breakthroughs start with a modest experiment. So take the seed of your idea and incrementally test it out. You don't need to produce earthshaking results at the outset.
"Bring an interrogative perspective to your work," added Shaywitz, co-host of the " Tech Tonics" podcast. "Insightfully question what you see and ask, 'How can this task be done differently?' "
The founder of Vanguard Group, the world's largest mutual fund firm, has relentlessly championed an investment vehicle that he pioneered decades ago.
REMEMBERING JOHN BOGLE: IBD is honoring the memory of the legendary founder of Vanguard Group, who died Wednesday at age 89, by re-posting this Leaders & Success article that appeared in the June 12, 2014, print edition. The story has not been altered.
Bogle was once clearly in the minority. But his unwavering loyalty to index funds over actively managed funds has enriched him and multitudes of followers — and forced other fund companies, including some active-management titans, to add index-fund options to their menus.
The actively managed Contrafund (valued at $107 billion), for instance, is still Fidelity's top dog, but the Boston giant's Spartan 500 index fund ($74 billion) is coming up fast.
In a country where the big score sets the tone, the patience and steady hand of index tracking is a hard sell. Bigger rewards can be had if actively managed dice roll right. But index funds are generally a cheaper investment, and over the long haul they tend to outperform the average actively managed fund. Bogle has driven these truths to the top of his field, even when the field tried to shout him down.
On The Rise
Passive index trackers that weight by market cap or target investment opportunities in specific financial markets, then stick with them through all market conditions, are as popular as they've ever been. They comprise 22% of all mutual fund assets, says investment research firm Morningstar ( MORN) .
That number might sound unimpressive, but consider: Investments in index funds and ETFs have outpaced inflow into actively managed funds in recent years, according to Charles Schwab ( SCHW), with Bogle's Vanguard Institutional Index Fund — now $168.22 billion — leading the tidal change. In all, Vanguard Group ranks No. 1 among fund families, with $2.6 trillion in net assets.
The real gravitational pull has been Bogle. You can reference his 10 books — collectively, they've sold over 880,000 copies — including his 1999 masterwork, "Common Sense on Mutual Funds," an elucidation on index tracking.
You can point to his 1999 Woodrow Wilson Award from Princeton University for "distinguished achievement in the nation's service," his 2004 Time magazine ranking among the world's most influential people, and his chairmanship of the board at the National Constitution Center, self-billed as "America's most hands-on history museum." (Successors in that post include Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton).
You can marvel at Bogle's contributions to the investment community, including, at age 85 (still vigorous after a heart transplant in 1996), an active lecturing schedule and recent articles in the Financial Analysts Journal and the Journal of Portfolio Management.
Or you can look at the breakdown of how investors invest. "Investors have withdrawn $500 billion from actively managed funds (including ETFs) and put $600 billion into index funds over the past five years," Bogle told IBD. "That's a trillion-dollar shift. It's astonishing, and it's not going to stop."
Born in Montclair, N.J., just five months before the Wall Street crash of 1929, Bogle treaded the Great Depression's tumult with aplomb. His family struggled financially, but he eased the burden by earning a full scholarship to the Blair Academy, a prestigious prep school in New Jersey.
His undergraduate degree from Princeton University led him to Wellington Management, where he thrived. Before long, CEO and fellow Princeton alum Walter Morgan made him president of what was one of the largest private investment-management firms in the world. Bogle was also named chairman of Wellington Fund, which invested in both stocks and bonds, and as such was a pioneer in the balanced mutual fund field.
A disastrous merger with a Boston-based investment firm that prized stock value over a company's intrinsic value — "shortsighted, naive, opportunistic and really stupid," Bogle recalled — ended his tenure atop the management company. It also refocused the man on the things that he wanted to do differently at Wellington Fund.
By 1974, he'd struck out on his own and created Vanguard, focusing on index-tracking tactics that the Wellington Fund eschewed.
The next year Bogle, influenced greatly by American economists Eugene Fama and Burton Malkiel, both champions of long-term investing, founded the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, the nation's first index mutual fund. Under Bogle, Vanguard grew to become the world's largest mutual fund company.
Managed since 1991 by Michael Buek, it's no longer "Jack Bogle's Vanguard," according to Morningstar, which gives the fund a B stewardship rating on an A-F scale, "but it's still a fine steward of shareholders' wealth."
Despite decades of detractors, Bogle has clearly won many followers with his index approach — including some believers who still can't completely separate themselves from active management.
Jon Ten Haagen, founder of New York-based Ten Haagen Financial Group, isn't exactly a devotee, preferring actively managed products. Yet even Ten Haagen — another Blair Academy grad who's mingled with Bogle at the Princeton Club in New York — lauds the index king.
"The man is brilliant," Ten Haagen said. "His influence is tremendous. And his success proves there are an awful lot of people who agree with him."
Bogle's love-hate relationship with other investors extends beyond U.S. borders. Jan Dymond, director of public affairs for the Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC), is quick to note that her organization is heavy into active management and that such portfolios "are certainly the dominant product in Canada." But she can't deny Bogle's influence up north or his success rate.
At the end of November, according to the IFIC, Canadian investment in active-management products easily outpaced investment in index funds — $986 billion to $56 billion. Still, those index-fund investments, according to Dymond, enjoy "an extremely good growth rate. .. . There's room for a range of products in the investment marketplace. We see index funds as a strong complementary product."
Mark Hebner, president of Irvine, Calif.-based wealth-management firm Index Fund Advisors, references the long run that Bogle's "The Little Book of Common Sense Investing" has enjoyed as the No. 1 investing book on Amazon.com and says the index king's brilliance stems from the simple fact that "markets are efficient."
Bogle — a father of six and grandfather many times over who lives in Bryn Mawr, Pa., with his wife, Eve — is hard-pressed to say which of his myriad accomplishments ranks highest on his personal list — slowly converting the actively managed set, starting Vanguard or selling all those books.
The fact that his "Little Book of Common Sense Investing" has such high standing since it debuted in 2007 would be more impressive, he noted, if it were No. 1 in a more popular grouping: "I don't know how many books on Amazon have been at the top of their genre for that long, but the mutual funds genre is not exactly the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' genre."
Bottom line, Bogle believes that index funds will become more popular than actively managed products. "You've got to give it time to happen ... this industry won't be converted overnight," he noted, with a wry nod to the four decades he's spent promoting index funds.
Bogle's belief in doing what he considers right is why, from early on, he's shared his successes with the people and places that got him there; Ten Haagen calls Bogle "the most philanthropic person I've ever met, and a great contributor to Blair Academy over the years."
Bogle likes to say his basic rule of investing — be satisfied to get your fair share — is simple: "The brokerage firm is based on 'Don't just stand there, do something.' My rule is 'Don't do something, just stand there.' People understand things better when they're put in simple terms."
And it's why the man will be comfortable with the verdict when history passes its final judgment.
"The only things I ever brought to the table were common sense and determination," Bogle said. "A detractor once said I also have an uncanny ability to recognize the obvious. That's true, but here's the irony: The obvious is something anybody can recognize, and it doesn't take an uncanny ability.
"I've done what I've done, and it's up to other people to judge it. So what do I want on my tombstone? 'He did his best,' I guess."
The global creative economy — products and services based on intellectual property — has reached an estimated $2.25 trillion in annual revenue, according to a 2015 study by Ernst & Young.
XCreative economy sectors range from architecture and design to digital media, gaming, virtual reality, animation, art and robotics.
"People often overlook creative entrepreneurs as economic forces because they are not yet familiar with the numbers the creative economy produces," say Alice Loy and Tom Aageson in their book, " Creative Economy Entrepreneurs, From Startup to Success: How Entrepreneurs in the Creative Industries Are Transforming the Global Economy."
Tips on implementing the strategies of a creative economy for any business:
Startup ventures and established firms need Big Data and diagnostic tools to beat the competition, Loy says.
Streams of data from customers, competitors, the market and more can shape everything in business planning — from new product development to marketing, to hiring techniques to global strategy, she adds.
In addition, gathering data becomes ever easier thanks to technology, and creatively analyzing it to generate solutions is what's key, Loy says. "Start gathering data from Day One!"
Hire For Ingenuity
Since companies can increasingly outsource efficiency needs to machines, Loy says, management would be wise to bring aboard employees who have a distinct way of problem solving.
"Creativity is replacing efficiency as the best predictor of company success," she said.
Lure And Challenge Talent
Today's best and brightest college grads and employees seek jobs that offer opportunities for creative development and personal growth, in addition to financial rewards, Loy says. Therefore, smart leadership means providing employees with lateral opportunities, such as offering retraining to help staffers move from one area of a company to another, she says.
"Designers can become salespeople. And salespeople can move into management," Loy said. "Instead of losing team members due to boredom, keep their creative juices flowing by shifting their roles every few years."
Loy terms creativity a team sport. She says the singular genius-mind generating a constant flow of ideas "is a myth." "In reality," she said, "humans generate new ideas and disruptive solutions through working in diverse teams."
Engage Your Customers
With the internet and multiple access devices, consumers are online 24/7 and are more informed and more savvy. They're also more particular about the brands they choose than ever before.
That's according to Steve Lucas, author of " Engage to Win: A Blueprint for Success in the Engagement Economy." "Consumers want information now." Lucas is the CEO of Marketo, a marketing software company.
Consumers also want brands that share their values and interests, he adds. "Attention is the new currency. Our challenge is to find ways to deliver personalized experiences at the scale of thousands or even millions of individuals throughout organizations."
Lucas says to take revenue metrics and "enrich them with a clear view of not only how much revenue you're driving now, but how many meaningful relationships you're cultivating in the long term."
Create Brand Advocates
Customers expect a seamless and exceptional experience at every point of contact in their customer journey, Lucas says. "One subpar experience for one customer can cost you many customers."
He emphasizes that if you focus on engaging by creating meaningful relationships, understanding the voice of your customer, and consistently standing by your values, "you will cultivate a passionate following. Customers want to advocate for brands that reflect their own values and above all, care."
None of your outbound content, Lucas wrote, including emails, video, or anything else, "should ever leave your company without being vetted by some type of focus group or feedback pool."
He says in today's age of hyperactivity, where brands are no longer controlled by companies, but by their customers, "this is a must."
Challenge Your Assumptions
Never assume what you knew to be true yesterday is still true today, Lucas advises. "The world is evolving at an unprecedented, accelerated pace in terms of norms, tastes, preferences, beliefs, biases, and on and on."
Satya Nadella was a surprise choice as the CEO of Microsoft ( MSFT) in February 2014, only the third in its 40 years, after the legendary Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.
XHe'd been the quiet and effective leader in charge of starting to move Microsoft's focus from permanent licensing software to cloud-based recurring subscription services, which pool computing resources to manage the tidal wave of data that overwhelmed traditional client-server networks.
Though Microsoft remained the largest desktop software maker, morale was low because PC sales were declining, none of its recent products had been hits, and it had largely missed out on the market shift to search, mobile devices, and social networking. Apple ( AAPL) had surpassed it as the world's most valuable company four years earlier. But Nadella provided a bold vision of the company as the preferred platform for futuristic technology for his 100,000 colleagues in 190 countries.
"The Fourth Industrial Revolution lies ahead, one in which machine intelligence will rival that of humans," wrote Nadella, 51, in " Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone." "The combination of cloud computing, sensors, Big Data, machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence, mixed reality and robotics foreshadows a socioeconomic change ripped from the pages of science fiction."
Microsoft's stock has risen from 37 when he took the helm to a high of 115 in October 2018. (It recently traded near 104.) And with its market capitalization currently around $800 billion, it's battling Amazon.com ( AMZN) to be the world's largest company by that metric.)
Born in 1967 in Hyderabad, India, Nadella aspired to be a banker — leaving him plenty of time to play cricket. That passion gradually transferred to the personal computer he received at 15. But after failing the entrance exam to the Indian Institutes of Technology, Nadella settled for a degree in electrical engineering.
He decided to join a friend at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where he earned a degree in computer science in 1990. He then moved to Silicon Valley to take a job at Sun Microsystems.
Microsoft recruited Nadella two years later to work on its Windows NT operating system at the start of the company's rise to domination of the global PC software market. He proved a quick learner and great collaborator because he was that rare combination: an innovator thinker and eager listener to the ideas of others.
Nadella flew to Chicago on weekends to earn an MBA and went back to India briefly to marry his childhood sweetheart, Anu. They would have three children, one with cerebral palsy and another with learning challenges, who helped him develop more empathy — and a passion for using technology to help those disabled or impaired.
A Chance To Run A Business
By 2008, PC sales had leveled off, smartphones and tablets from Apple and Google ( GOOGL) were rising, while Amazon.com had established itself as the leader in cloud-based services connecting the Internet of Things. Then-CEO Steve Ballmer invested billions to upgrade the response and tasked Nadella to revive its failed search engine, which would later be renamed Bing.
"For the first time, I was getting the chance to run a business end to end and I had spent five years preparing," wrote Nadella. "But I'd never worked in a consumer-facing business."
He quickly realized his team would need to: completely rethink how a network of servers would respond to the massive volume of queries; become expert at on-the-fly consumer product design to provide continuously great experiences; understand how to match the needs of consumers and advertisers; and be able to create machines that would instantly learn from their interactions. Relaunched in June 2009, Bing now handles a quarter of all U.S. searches.
Turning Frenemies Into True Partners
In 2011, Ballmer put Nadella in charge of Microsoft's server and tools business, where the cloud infrastructure experiment was located, eventually named Microsoft Azure. There was great resistance to draining resources from the big moneymaking enterprises in order to fundamentally transform its technology to reinvent productivity for its corporate customers.
"Though we would be cloud-first, our server strength would enable us to differentiate ourselves as the company that delivered a hybrid solution to customers who wanted both private, on-premise servers and access to the public cloud," Nadella argued. "One of the first decisions I made was to differentiate Azure with our data and AI capabilities. I wanted to make this available to third-party developers. … It became clear that we needed to support the Linux operating system. This posed a profound cultural challenge. Dogma at Microsoft had long held that open-source software was the enemy. … Microsoft needed to regain its soul as the company that makes powerful technology accessible to everyone and every organization."
This sea change in the way the company would view partnerships became central to his success when Nadella became CEO. Microsoft had been creating software for the Mac since 1982. It competed with Amazon in the cloud, but Bing powered Amazon searches on Fire tablets.
"We had forgotten how our talent for partnerships was a key to what made us great," wrote Nadella, who directed the effort to improve relationships with rivals.
Microsoft began building applications for competing platforms, like Google's Android operating system. He says the keys to this successful strategy have been:
Being straightforward and transparent.
Truly listening with respect.
Being open to unexpected synergies.
Focusing on long-term goals in relationships, which may sometimes require a pause or lead to acquisitions (such as of LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2 billion).
"Microsoft was leading from the safe zone of the caboose when Nadella became its super-change leader," Berny Dohrmann, chairman of the entrepreneur network CEO Space International, told IBD. "Everyone focuses on the technology transformation he engineered, but I think his most profound impact was to retool the culture from being the most fiercely competitive to one of the most cooperative and collaborative, uncorking its genius on the company's campuses worldwide."
Tech's Future Is Now Arriving
To Nadella, the C in CEO means he's in charge of curating the organization's culture.
"Our culture had been rigid," he wrote. "Each employee had to prove to everyone that he or she knew it all and was the smartest person in the room. … Meetings were formal. Everything had to be planned in perfect detail. … Hierarchy had taken control and creativity had suffered."
His goal was to have a "growth mindset culture" that was all about listening, learning, and harnessing individual passions and talents. "At the core of our business must be the curiosity to meet a customer's unarticulated and unmet needs with great technology. We need to be willing to lean into uncertainty, to take risks, and to move quickly when we make mistakes, recognizing failure happens along the way to mastery."
The company has been investing in cutting-edge tech beyond the cloud. "Mixed reality" merges the digital and physical worlds, so that all resources, like virtual-reality glasses and videoconferencing, work seamlessly with distant colleagues and those in the same room. Nadella cites the research firm Gartner in saying that VR is five to 10 years from mainstream adoption. Lowe's ( LOW) stores, however, are already using Microsoft's HoloLens to allow customers to compare customized room designs.
Artificial intelligence augments human capability with insights and greater options. Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant learns from the 18 billion questions it's been asked.
Quantum computing seeks to break the bounds of classical physics by leveraging the properties of atoms or nuclei to work together. An encryption that would now take 1 billion years to break could be cracked in less than two minutes, says Nadella.
"As we encounter more artificial intelligence, real intelligence, real empathy, and real common sense will be scarce," he wrote. "The new jobs will be predicated on knowing how to work with machines, but also on these uniquely human attributes."
"When he took the helm, Nadella realized that effective leaders get things done by giving their people a sense of community and social status, along with a paycheck, and organizations that forget this ossify and are soon outstripped by rivals that are more nimble and responsive," said Jenny Darroch, dean of the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. "One of the essential mantras of our school's founder, Peter Drucker, was that the purpose of a company is to serve its customers, and Nadella understood that Microsoft needed to adapt to its customers changing needs, making him a perfect example of this philosophy in practice."
Satya Nadella: Keys
CEO of Microsoft since 2014, he has emphasized products and services based on cloud computing and mobile devices.
Overcame: Decline in Microsoft's value by taking a fresh approach to innovation.
"Leaders need to inspire optimism, creativity, shared commitment, and growth through good times and bad."
It takes little effort to make predictions. Perhaps that's why so many people get them wrong.
Pundits guess what will happen with the economy, geopolitics or consumer behavior. Within companies, executives make sales projections, predict the cost of raw materials and assess staffing needs in the year ahead.
Some leaders seem preternaturally gifted at making accurate predictions. What do they know that others don't?
As a rule, the most astute observers of the present gain a better grip on the future. They also think logically, sift through various data points and prioritize what matters most. To enhance your predictive power:
Make Predictions That Go Beyond Your Gut
If you make predictions solely on what your gut tells you, beware of blowback. It's unlikely that your instinctive sense of what the future will bring will produce an accurate result.
"Natural human decision-making is gut-driven," said Dan Gardner, a risk communications consultant at Tactix, an Ottawa, Canada-based firm. "That often works well. But when it comes to forecasting, that's a bad way to approach it."
He cautions that what seems intuitively true may not necessarily prove true. When rushing to make predictions, it's tempting to skip a methodical analysis.
Add A Step
Rather than make predictions and then spring into action, break the process into two steps. Say to yourself, "I think this is true; now let me think about it some more," as opposed to, "I think this is true, so I'll act on it now."
"You need to slow it down," said Gardner, author of " Future Babble." "You need to engage in conscious thought."
Track Your Thinking
When you opine, proceed with care. That's especially true if you start making assertions about what hasn't happened yet.
"Sometimes, people don't realize that they've made a prediction," Gardner said. "Look at your thinking and ask, 'Is there a forecast buried in there?' Unpack your thinking and ask if it rests on certain assumptions."
Start With Stats
Say you're predicting whether one particular family owns a dog. You examine details such as the number of kids at home and the layout of the property.
A better starting point is to determine how many single-family households have dogs.
"Always start with the base rate, which is the frequency of something within a category," Gardner said. From there, broaden your analysis to incorporate details of a given situation.
Weigh The Two Rs
Heighten the odds of making a sound prediction by weighing two key factors: relevancy and reliability.
Carl Spetzler, chief executive of Strategic Decisions Group in San Mateo, Calif., suggests asking yourself, "What's relevant?" and "How reliable does my estimate have to be?" to guide your prediction.
Beware of basing your prediction on information that's most familiar to you. Don't close yourself off to strands of data that you might otherwise ignore.
"People typically fall into the trap of not looking at a wide enough range of alternatives," said Spetzler, co-author of " Decision Quality." "People have a natural tendency to jump in without asking if they're framing it right, so they frame it too narrowly."
Set A Realistic Standard
Instead of trying to predict with precision, strive to aim in the right direction. Wrapping your mind around what's more likely to occur works better than insisting on seeing the future with crystal clarity.
"The human mind is wired for all kinds of biases," Spetzler said. "There's lots of wishful thinking with rosy predictions. Take out your biases and introduce an understanding of uncertainty. It's not about certainty; it's about getting the ranges right."
First things first: Strauss Zelnick is neither a gamer nor a designer of the imaginative video games that put the company he leads, Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO), on the forefront of digital entertainment.
He insists as much. What's more, he is neither an entertainer nor a creative type of any kind.
X"I know what I'm not good at," he said in a recent interview from the New York offices of the video game publisher he has guided for more than a decade. "I always wanted to be an entertainer, to be creative, but I just didn't have the requisite talent on that side."
What he does have is an abundance of management skill, a knack for identifying talent and a passion for developing it.
With both a law degree and an M.B.A. from Harvard University, Zelnick, 61, built an executive career that spans decades and various corners of the entertainment industry — from a four-year run as president of motion-picture power 20th Century Fox in the 1980s, to heading music giant BMG Entertainment when the recording industry still thrived in the 1990s, to his current role leading Take-Two and as interim chairman of the board at CBS ( CBS).
Zelnick has been executive chairman of Take-Two since 2007 and CEO since 2011. He was named to the CBS board in November. Take-Two publishes the wildly popular "Grand Theft Auto" and "NBA2K" series of video games, and its critically acclaimed "Red Dead Redemption 2" led in 2018's holiday game sales.
All of his business leadership endeavors have proved successful. Analysts say his latest stands out as particularly impressive.
Take Two For Take-Two
Back in 2007, when Zelnick agreed to help turn around Take-Two, the company was mired in woe. It was coming off an annual loss that approached $200 million, its former chief executive had pleaded guilty to falsifying records, regulators swirled with demands, and its stock was battered.
The company had its "Grand Theft Auto" franchise of games but not much else. Zelnick said he focused first on the things he had to do: Rein in costs, shore up controls, rebuild Take-Two's reputation and push the company out of the shadow of controversy.
Zelnick said his previous experience taught him an important lesson: Do not put off tough decisions, and act swiftly when changes are necessary or problems need fixing.
It's About The Talent
Along the road to redemption for Take-Two, Zelnick focused intently on recruiting talent — and in some cases parting with underperforming employees — both on the creative and business sides. He created a vision and worked to build a team that bought into it.
He believed that video game technology at the time was powerful. It enabled designers to incorporate into games not just impressive graphics but also rich characters and evolving stories that users found engrossing, even gratifying.
And Zelnick believed that, as long as Take-Two's games evolved with fast-developing technology and expanded in number to meet the interests of a wider audience, the company would not only recover but also flourish. He was right.
It took time and an infusion of prominent video game developers. Zelnick ensured that the creative forces of the company had the resources and runway to develop the best games possible. And when a new offering was ready to go public, he made sure the company was ready to market it aggressively and shrewdly.
Pressed to set aside what appears an instinctive modesty, Zelnick acknowledges that he is uniquely gifted at identifying talented people and unwaveringly committed to making sure they get the backing needed to excel.
"I'm very devoted to the success of the enterprise," he said.
Accessibility and responsiveness to staffers' needs and questions, Zelnick added, go a long way toward successful retention. "We have very low turnover," he said. "I don't want it to be hard for anyone to get to me. It needs to be easy. That makes a big difference."
From Bust To Boom
Today, Take-Two has annual revenue of about $2 billion, nearly three times the level it was at when Zelnick took over. It has no debt and is flush with cash.
The company has nurtured and made increasingly sophisticated its GTA series, and it continues to generate robust sales. "Grand Theft Auto 5," released in 2013, had sold more than 90 million copies by early 2018. It is the best-selling console video game ever made.
"It was — and remains — the standard-bearer for the industry as far as quality, entertainment and fun," Zelnick said of GTA.
From Sports To 'Civilization'
But Take-Two also has broadened its offering considerably, venturing successfully into sports with the "NBA2K" (basketball) and "WWE2K" (wrestling) series, and into a range of other popular adventure offerings such as "X-COM" and "Sid Meier's Civilization," among others.
The company's stock has climbed more than sevenfold over the past five years. Its market capitalization tops $11.8 billion, and its September-quarter sales in the U.S. were $492.7 million. For its fiscal 2019 second quarter, ended Sept. 30, 2018, it reported net revenue as growing 11% to $492.7 million, compared to $443.6 million in 2018's fiscal second quarter.
Take-Two and larger rivals Activision Blizzard ( ATVI) and Electronic Arts ( EA) are benefiting from a steady shift from packaged games to digital delivery, which includes full-game downloads and add-on content and services. Take-Two said digitally-delivered net revenue grew 18% to $358.4 million in fiscal 2019's second quarter compared to the same time frame a year ago; it made up 73% of total net revenue.
Piper Jaffray analysts predicted in a report that, by 2023, 100% of console video games will be sold as digital downloads.
Digital delivery enables video game publishers to pass over retailers, sell directly to consumers and bolster profit margins in the process. The trend bodes well for the likes of Take-Two and helps explain why the company is upbeat on both revenue and earnings.
"They have a lot of positives in their corner," analyst Neil Macker of Morningstar said in an interview.
He said results from October's release of "Red Dead Redemption 2" — think "Grand Theft Auto" in the 1800s Wild West — should prove an important indicator of how strong the tailwinds are. If Red Dead can enter the realm of online sales performance for "Grand Theft Auto 5," Take-Two's favorable outlooks are likely to prove prescient, Macker said.
Getting It Right
While some observers wish Zelnick would pick up the pace with launching new products, he prefers to give projects the time and attention they require.
While analysts such as Macker applaud the breadth of Take-Two's catalog today compared with a decade ago, some also wish Zelnick and company would expand deeper into potential growth areas such as sports and launch new versions of its existing games at a faster pace in order to gain ground on the notably larger Activision and Electronic Arts.
"Management gets high marks," Macker said. "They have a much more robust profile of franchises. But there is still room for more."
Zelnick understands. Investors do not like waiting long stretches for new catalysts. Development costs per new game tend to run high.
But Zelnick said Take-Two's success ultimately is premised on the splendor of its games — not just the visuals, but also the nuances of the stories and uncommon challenges within the games. Game developers cannot be rushed. Taking time to get it right may leave gamers waiting longer than they like, but when they are truly dazzled with the product once it does come out, they tend to form stronger attachments to it and pass along positive reviews that help fuel long-term sales.
Take-Two's average Metacritic ratings — an aggregation of game reviews — are consistently on the high end for the industry. The sales follow. And that validates one of the three pillars of leadership that Zelnick adheres to: Never compromise integrity. The others: Listen emphatically, and show up early and work hard.
The last one comes naturally for Zelnick. From his college days, through the course of his career, and in his personal time — he is famously devoted to physical fitness, working out daily with people half his age — Zelnick digs in full-bore. But he views it more as devoting himself to cherished pursuits than hard work.
"I'm not in the coal mines. I'm blessed," he said. "This is very cool place to work."
A version of this article was published on April 11, 2018.
Strauss Zelnick: Keys
Executive posts span music, movie and video game giants.
Overcame: Steep losses to resurrect Take-Two into a video game power.
Lesson: Show up early and work hard. Listen emphatically. Never compromise integrity.
"I know what I'm not good at." Realize your strengths and capitalize on them.
Setbacks are a fact of life. It's how you respond to and overcome setbacks that sets you apart from the crowd. Here's how to take the comeback attitude:
To Help Others Overcome Setbacks, Set A Tone
The leader needs to overcome obstacles and live with a never-say-die attitude. That's how you get others to overcome setbacks, too.
"You cannot expect anybody else to be persistent if you won't," Dov Baron, CEO of Vancouver, B.C.-based leadership training and strategy firm Dov Baron International and author of "Purpose's Missing Piece," told IBD.
Find The Driving Force
People need an overarching reason to keep pushing when they hit a roadblock. That reason can't be monetary, Baron says. It won't last. If you say the company needs one key sale to pass the $1 million mark, employees won't deeply care. If you tie it to a bonus, it might work for a short time but not for the long run.
Baron tells business leaders to talk to employees about how they'll use that bonus. If an employee envisions that as a way to take a family vacation, now the incentive isn't money, it's spending time with family.
"You have to attach a purpose," Baron said. "It's not logical. It's emotional."
When you suffer a setback, look at how you contributed to it and what you can do better next time to avoid the same result, says Rick McDaniel, founder and senior pastor of Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Va.
Realize that everyone, even those at the top, encounters setbacks. Tiger Woods was the world's best golfer but ran into personal and health issues. Serena Williams, probably the best female tennis player of all time, also has encountered health issues and injuries. Progress is never just a straight line.
"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond," McDaniel said.
Set The Target Right
Some companies think they have a purpose when it's really a mission statement. However, if you aim to operate with integrity, that's part of a mission statement. Steve Jobs told people at Apple ( AAPL) that their purpose was to "make a ding in the universe."
"Purpose is something bigger than individuals and it's specific," Baron said.
Back It Up
Jobs told Apple employees each time they had a big win that they had made that ding. That reinforced their purpose and kept them fighting to get past obstacles and overcome setbacks. But management has to firmly believe in it, too.
"The leader must be connected to the purpose," Baron said. "If not, people won't buy it."
Think Good Thoughts
McDaniel calls himself "an enormous believer" in the power of a positive attitude. You can't have the mentality that if something can go wrong, it will. Believe things will turn and you'll get past a setback.
"Comebacks happen when you restore confidence and build momentum," McDaniel said. "No one has ever had a comeback when they have a setback mentality."
Get Over It
McDaniel tells people to "release your regrets." Take responsibility for your role in the original problems, but in order to overcome setbacks don't beat yourself up over them.
"Regret only imprisons a person in self-pity," he said.
Weed Out Problems
If you have people who aren't on board with the company's purpose and won't battle adversity, get rid of them, Baron says. He worked with leaders of a company that had a star salesperson who generated more than 20% of its sales. But that person was "a diva," Baron said, refusing to follow the firm's culture and harming morale. Baron guaranteed productivity would go up if the star departed. The company let that person go and sales rose above where they had previously been.
"They had to get rid of a person who did not care about the company's purpose," Baron said.
In the true spirit of an entrepreneur, Chris Rondeau followed his passion for hard work and risk taking to help build Planet Fitness ( PLNT) into a company that has turned the health club industry on its head.
Rondeau, who became CEO of Planet Fitness in January 2013, joined the company while he was in college working at the front desk of the gym in 1993, a year after the company was founded by brothers Michael and Marc Grondahl.
And he's been at Planet Fitness ever since, working his way up as a club manager, then regional manager of several locations. In 2003, he became a partner with the founders and chief operating officer. When Rondeau became CEO, he replaced Michael Grondahl, who has since left the company.
Drawing on the leadership principles shaped by his various positions at Planet Fitness and by lessons he gleaned from his father, Rondeau played a major role helping the founders develop and refine the business model that has helped grow the business into a mighty contender in the fitness industry. It's also a company whose stock has weathered the recent market downturn, and earlier choppiness in 2018, to grow its price year to date by about 48%, though it's 11% off its high set Dec. 4. The NYSE Composite, where the stock trades, is down about 13% for the year.
Rondeau learned about being an entrepreneur from his father, who dropped out of high school but eventually owned and operated several pharmacies throughout Massachusetts while Rondeau was growing up.
"As a child growing up I saw him working hard," Rondeau told IBD. "I got my work ethic from him."
"The one thing my father taught me is I could do anything I set my mind to," he added. "Coming from him without a high school education, he was living proof."
That lesson came into play when Rondeau and the Planet Fitness founders revamped the traditional health club environment aimed at fitness buffs to one that caters to first-time gymgoers with a non-intimidating, low-cost business model.
Rondeau says over 40% of current Planet Fitness members had never gone to a gym before signing up at Planet Fitness.
"The key to success in business is not to be afraid of doing things differently," said Rondeau. "Don't be afraid of going against the grain. When you think of the Apple ( AAPL) iPhone, people didn't realize there was anything better than the flip phones that were offered to them by every phone company out there. Apple wasn't afraid to abandon the flip phone and the competition by creating something new."
Similarly, Rondeau and the founders of Planet Fitness went against the grain and created a completely different gym experience than what was in the industry. People didn't realize the experience and affordability they were missing until Planet Fitness created it.
Rondeau and the founders not only created an innovative new business model, they also transformed Planet Fitness into a major force in its space.
"Planet Fitness is exceptionally competitive because of its national footprint and growing awareness of its different approach to the market aimed at non-gymgoers," Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen told IBD. "It's a business model that's revolutionized fitness because of the attractiveness of this model to a wide market and low price. It's offering a very premium gym experience at a low price."
Planet Fitness is one of the largest owners and operators of health clubs in the U.S. in terms of the number of members and locations, Dorvin Lively, president and CFO of Planet Fitness, told IBD.
It boasts over 10.5 million members, up from 7 million at the end of 2012, just before Rondeau took the helm. And it has 1,500 locations nationwide. Over 95% of its stores are owned and operated by franchisees.
"We are clearly opening more health clubs in the U.S. at a faster rate than anyone," Lively said. "We've opened roughly 200 stores a year for the past three years."
On the financial front, he adds, Planet Fitness has had 43 straight quarters of positive same-store sales.
"That's 10 years plus three quarters," Lively pointed out. In the 2017 third quarter, same-store sales jumped 9.3% from a year earlier and revenue climbed 12.1%. In November it reported its best sales growth in more than four years.
Another reflection of Planet Fitness' financial success is that — along with 95% of its stores opened in the last three years having been opened by existing franchisees — more than 90% of all of the new territory being sold has been purchased by existing franchisees, Lively says.
"That proves that the brand is growing and the profitability is there, and franchisees want to continue to invest in their businesses in their local markets to grow the brand," he added.
Rondeau, 45, grew up in Methuen, Mass. He started busing tables and dishwashing at age 14, and at 16 he got a job working at his father's pharmacy business. But at age 19, Rondeau told his father he didn't want to work for him anymore because he decided he wanted to work at a gym — Planet Fitness.
Eventually, Rondeau dropped out of college — the University of New Hampshire — to work full time at Planet Fitness, and earned an associate degree rather than a bachelor's degree.
Why did he opt to stay at Planet Fitness?
"Unfortunately, I was never one for school, yet I loved to work, and haven't stopped since my first job busing tables and dishwashing," Rondeau said. "Planet Fitness is only the third job I ever had. I liked fitness and I liked the work environment at a gym, meaning it's a positive atmosphere, and we were doing good things. I believed we were onto something special with making fitness affordable and comfortable for the masses. So I stayed, followed my passion, and chose not to pursue my bachelor's degree."
Moving up through the ranks at Planet Fitness helped Rondeau become a better leader.
"The lesson I learned from being in various jobs at Planet Fitness is being able to put yourself in the mindset of your customers and understand how they're thinking. And that allows you to service them better and market the business better," Rondeau said.
That lesson helped Rondeau and the founders design the new business model.
"In high school and college, exercise was my passion," he said. "As I continued to get older, into my late 20s, it started to become more of a chore that I had to do for health and wellness vs. a hobby."
Rondeau says that the founders shared his feelings about exercising becoming a chore as they got older with more "responsibilities on their plates."
As they built the business, that attitude about exercise helped the three of them better understand what the average person goes through when joining the gym, he adds.
Today, given his responsibilities, Rondeau says he works out more for "mental focus and energy."
Created Judgment-Free Environment
Rondeau came in on the ground floor of building the business.
When he joined Planet Fitness, it was struggling as it faced heavy competition for the same customers as the other gyms in their small town in New Hampshire — those who already had a gym membership.
Rondeau and the founders saw an opportunity to move in a different direction than the rest of the pack.
As Rondeau and the founders looked at the industry, they saw that 80% of the population didn't have a gym membership.
"We thought to ourselves 'how do we come up with a model that is affordable and comfortable that would motivate the 80% to give fitness a try?' "
The answer: Change the gym environment and create what the company calls a "Judgement Free Zone," where there was no "intimidation" and members are accepted and respected for who they are.
"The founders are truly visionaries," he adds. "We didn't have juice bars or heavy free weights. We have free pizza once a month for members and free Tootsie Rolls at the front desk. We have a very unorthodox business."
They unveiled the judgment-free philosophy and the discount business model with a $10 monthly membership in 1997. In 2003, they started franchising.
"Today, with our size and scale, we are a marketing machine that happens to be in the gym business," he said. "We're a franchise business, and the franchisees are required to spend 7% of their membership dues on marketing locally and an additional 2% of membership dues support the national marketing efforts. When you think about the marketing spending, every incremental member is 9% more dollars spent on marketing. Our budget continues to expand. Every day we sell memberships, it allows us to tap into the 80% of the population that doesn't have a gym membership."
Rondeau has nurtured a culture where both corporate and franchisees share the same passion for the brand and the company's goals.
"It's truly important that both the corporate staff and franchisees wholeheartedly believe in the judgment-free zone," said Rondeau. "A lot of our staff and franchisees have been members of our clubs, and they've seen and experienced the judgment-free zone firsthand and they believe in it. That culture keeps us grounded and doesn't allow us to get diluted as we continue to scale. We all have a common belief to make fitness comfortable, affordable and accessible to the first-time gym user."
Added Lively: "He has developed and built a corporate culture where he's able to bridge the gap and be the leader of the franchisees at the same time."
Rondeau says he looks at the franchisees as part of the team.
"If I can gain their respect and they have my passion, then they'll do right for our members," he adds. "I always tell my staff we're in a unique business with two sets of customers — our franchisees and our members. If we can make our franchisees a happy customer, then that will trickle down to our members. I have a very collaborative and open relationship with franchisees. We have about 200 different franchisee groups. I look at that as an asset. Our franchisees bring me ideas and thoughts on how to fine-tune the business and we work collaboratively."
Rondeau says an important part of his growth strategy since becoming CEO, one that's been even more important since he took the company public in August 2015, is the use of more data analytics than before.
Rondeau points out that Planet Fitness has locations in every state, every demographic and every ethnicity.
"The data we're able to hone allow us to fine-tune the business, drive same-store sales, drive store openings and better service the franchisees."
For example, because Planet Fitness is membership based, by analyzing certain data they know how far people are willing to drive to a gym.
"This insight allows us to know where the next gym location should go," he added.
Through data analytics, the company can better segment its marketing according to certain demographic groups. For example, because the company knows the names, ages and sex of its members, it knows that 49% of its members are millennials.
Analyst Chen rates Planet Fitness stock an outperform.
"We feel Planet Fitness is 'un-Amazonable' because health and wellness can't yet be purchased online," Chen said. "Looking forward, we expect Planet Fitness to execute on creative digital innovation, including predictive analytics and big data."
A version of this article was published on Feb. 5, 2018.
Chris Rondeau: Keys
Helped revolutionize the fitness industry with a business model geared to first-time gymgoers. He helped turn Planet Fitness into one of the largest owners and operators of health clubs in the U.S. in terms of the number of members and locations
Overcame: Competition from traditional gyms and skepticism from naysayers who didn't take their approach seriously.
Lesson: You can do anything you set your mind to.
"The key to success in business is not to be afraid of doing things differently. Don't be afraid of going against the grain."
It's that time of year when folks enjoy making wish lists and New Year's resolutions. For some, the holiday break is a chance to enjoy a book or two they've been too busy to read. Here are tips on how to boost your reading skills so that you can finally get through that pile of books sitting on your nightstand.
Make reading a priority. The average person reads only two or three books a year, says Jim Kwik, the founder and CEO of Kwik Learning. Kwik overcame a traumatic brain injury as a child to become a memory and speed-reading expert.
Kwik, whose podcast is a consistent leader among training shows on iTunes, says even the busiest CEOs make time to read. The average CEO reads four or five books a month
"Readers are leaders," Kwik told IBD. "Schedule your reading; if you don't schedule it, it won't happen."
Microsoft's ( MSFT) Bill Gates is a voracious reader. He reportedly reads a book a week. Kwik says Gates likes to do his weekly reading in one sitting. Others schedule shorter sessions, like an hour a day.
Berkshire Hathaway ( BRKB) CEO Warren Buffett has said reading 500 pages a day is a key to success. It doesn't have to be an entire book. It should be high-quality material, though.
Improve your reading skills. "If knowledge is power, reading is a superpower," Kwik told IBD. "Reading is not a skill we're born with. We have to train."
Kwik, who has coached some of the best-known CEOs and largest companies on reading skills, including Aphabet's ( GOOGL) Google, Zappos and Nike ( NKE), says one of the biggest obstacles to reading efficiently is lack of confidence.
"Learned helplessness and telling yourself I'm a poor reader," Kwik says, are self-fulfilling prophecies.
On a technical level, subvocalization (saying words in your head while reading) is one of the main reasons people read slowly, Kwik says.
So this year, take action for personal improvement. Get help from a reading coach to improve your reading skills, peruse the annual book lists and treat yourself to a few favorites.
"Reading is the best cognitive exercise," Kwik said. "Reading faster makes you focus better, think clearer, and remember and understand more."
Track your interests. "Keep an active book list," Kwik said. "Update it regularly."
Biographies are always popular. Among this year's most-read is " Educated," by Tara Westover, who was raised in a survivalist family in Idaho but managed to break free from her past to become an Oxford scholar — while coming to terms with her upbringing.
Another favorite is " Leonardo da Vinci" by Walter Isaacson. More than just another recounting of the famous artist's life, Isaacson delves into da Vinci's scientific accomplishments, too, and shows how his genius was based on skills that readers can emulate, like careful observation and curiosity.
A short but powerful read is " A River In Darkness," by Masaji Ishikawa, which follows the author's bittersweet escape from North Korea. And " Monsoon Mansion," by Cinelle Barnes, is a memoir of the author's life in the Philippines as she descends into poverty after living in affluence.
Kwik says reading fiction is important, too. It sparks "creativity and imagination," he said.
Topping many 2018 reading lists is " An American Marriage," by Tayari Jones, which tells the story of how a wrongful conviction affects a young African-American couple. Another top pick is " Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje, which follows the life of two teenagers whose parents abandon them in London near the end of World War II.
Inspired by a tireless work ethic and insatiable thirst for knowledge, Claude Hopkins bucked the status quo to create a new advertising paradigm that led to revolutionary changes and enduring principles.
X"Claude Hopkins knew what worked and he applied that knowledge rigorously and systematically," said Ken Burnett, author, lecturer and consultant on fundraising, marketing and communications for nonprofit organizations worldwide. "Hopkins believed advertising existed only to sell something and should be measured and justified by the results it produced."
A marketing pioneer and one of advertising's greatest copywriters, Hopkins (1866-1932) was a leader in the creation and development of modern day consumer brand advertising and direct response marketing.
In contrast to the traditional advertising of his time, which was not proved, Hopkins insisted that advertising be scientifically tested and proven as a sales tool, and described how in a landmark book he wrote on the subject, " Scientific Advertising." Using his so-called "reason-why" approach to advertising, Hopkins wrote innovative ads that brought great success and revenue for his clients and won over the confidence of industry executives.
"Hopkins was a good advertiser who became great by blending science and art," Neil O'Keefe, senior vice president, DMA Division of the Association of National Advertisers, told IBD in an email. "His use of research, sampling and key codes ranks him among the fathers of modern day direct marketers. What is trending today as direct-to-consumer is laid upon the foundation built by people like Hopkins, David Ogilvy and Lester Wunderman."
Hopkins was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1957.
But it took some doing to get there.
Research And Experience
It took years of research and experience in the business for Hopkins to come up with an approach that overcame the flaws he saw in traditional advertising:
"I have little respect for most theories of advertising, because they have not been proved," Hopkins wrote in his 1927 autobiography, " My Life In Advertising." "They are based on limited experiences, on exceptional conditions. … The reasons for success have little to do with the advertising."
Hopkins' father owned a newspaper and printing business in a Michigan lumber town, and apprenticing there as a boy Hopkins learned some early lessons in marketing. He offered to distribute advertisers' handbills for a slightly higher price than was paid to other boys, with the promise to the merchants that he could be relied on to distribute them even to the homes on the outskirts. "I asked advertisers to compare the results, and I soon obtained a monopoly," he wrote. "That was my first experience with traced results."
Hopkins father died when he was still a boy, and Hopkins recalled having to support himself and his family through a variety of odd jobs, including selling door-to-door a silver polish that his mother made. He found that when he was able to demonstrate the polish he usually made a sale, and this led to his belief later that advertisers should offer free samples.
Hopkins came from a long line of clergymen whom, he said, were "bred and schooled in poverty." He became a preacher at 17 but broke with his family, and left the vocation after delivering a sermon that espoused a more tolerant view of religion than he'd been trained in. "There was not the slightest question in the minds of my family that my career would lie in the pulpit," he wrote. "But they overdid the training. ... They made religion oppressive."
Drawing instead on other beliefs he gleaned from his mother, who taught him the value of hard work and learning, Hopkins became a bookkeeper at a boot manufacturer in Grand Rapids, then at the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company in that city, where he rose to assistant bookkeeper.
He saw his chance to ascend higher when he argued that the person hired to write an advertisement for the sweepers hadn't studied the business and knew nothing about them. He then came up with the first of many successful campaigns for the carpet sweepers, touting them as "The Queen of Christmas Presents."
"As a boy, the necessity for self-support after school hours kept me from the playgrounds," he wrote. "As a man, my desire to learn all that I could about salesmanship has kept me from wasting time. The only game I ever learned is business."
The big breakthrough in Hopkins' career came when Albert Lasker, the owner and top executive at the Chicago-based Lord & Thomas ad agency, hired him in 1907. Hopkins helped build Lord & Thomas into an industry powerhouse.
Lord & Thomas was the biggest agency — the most influential and scaled — in the early part of the 20th Century in helping define brands, Brandon Cooke, global chief communications officer for FCB ad agency network told IBD. It was "declared the largest agency in America in terms of billings in 1921, he says.
A major innovation by Hopkins was brand image, which is matching specific consumer attitudes or preferences with the advertising of a specific product, says Cooke. For example, for cereal maker Quaker Oats, Hopkins created the image of "puffed cereal shot from a gun."
"He had the idea to make the puffing process a featured element in the advertising, " added Cooke. "He used a very functional product attribute, in this case literally the way it was made, and creatively featured it in advertising as a way to the brand personality."
Cooke says another Hopkins innovation was the use of "pre-emptive claims." This is taking an ordinary attribute common to similar products, which could be made to seem exclusive by claiming it before anyone else — as in the process that went into making Schlitz beer.
Another of his focus areas was product differentiation — what makes the product different from the competition. Take the technique he used to advertise Pepsodent toothpaste, a big Lord & Thomas client. Hopkins highlighted the fact that the product contained irium (sodium lauryl sulfate, which was an ingredient in almost all toothpastes at the time) and how that ingredient helped make teeth whiter.
Hopkins was also credited as the first to use and measure effectiveness of coupons in advertising a product. He would compare sales before the coupons were used with the sales figures after — and tested the "lift" from the coupons.
"This comparison had never been done before," said Cooke. "This brought more science into the art of advertising — hence the book "Scientific Advertising." Until then, advertising was just a statement. "It wasn't highlighting the attributes of a product or company. Certainly, he was highlighting them in a way to connect with everyday people. He brought science and art at the same time to advertising."
Cooke says Hopkins also was so quick in his work that Lasker would hold the copy he produced for a couple of weeks before presenting it to clients.
"Lasker was afraid clients would expect that kind of turnaround every time," he added.
Hopkins helped fuel the agency's success and his own by passing on his principles to members of the team. He made sure to hold meetings to discuss the principles of copy, for which he received no pay. Hopkins then set down in writing the agency's principles.
"He was a leader, who led by example," Cooke said. "He was literally in the trenches helping to craft persuasive copy with the clients and also with his direct reports. He preferred to be involved in the actual work. And he worked day and night.
"Another key to his success as a leader was taking the time to show his employees how to do things step by step. There's something intimate about learning those details. He earned tremendous respect as a leader willing to come down into the trenches rather than one who sits in a glass office on high."
To further foster team spirit and enhance creativity among the Lord & Thomas copywriters, Hopkins created a copywriting department. It hadn't existed before at any ad agency, says Cooke. "He was the father of what today is known as the copywriting department, now standard at agencies around the world."
"For a lot of brand marketers pre-emptive claims, couponing and market-testing are still an important part of what they do," Cooke added. "Market-testing is particularly important with the opportunities digital advertising brings today.
"Hopkins was a source for hard-sell ad strategy throughout the 20th century. He trained leaders that went to other agencies around the world. That was his contribution to the industry and his greatest contribution."
"Claude Hopkins was the inspiration for a generation of young, results-oriented liberal thinkers, who shaped the advertising that's such a big part of our lives today," Burnett told IBD via email. "David Ogilvy and John Caples are prominent examples.
"He (Hopkins) created 'reason-why' advertising, a concept exemplified in the advertising of Ogilvy and Mather and most direct marketing ever since," Burnett said. Hopkins' philosophy was: "Don't self-indulge by creating pretty, 'clever,' usually ineffectual campaigns. Stress the benefits. Make your advertising work hard for you. This message resonated with a lot of industrialists who were appalled at the high cost of advertising and eager to make it work better for their bottom line."
Devotion To Clients
Burnett says although Hopkins took "considerable risks" in his time, he didn't take chances with his clients' ad budgets, which was a practice "significantly different" from most of his rivals. "Hopkins believed advertising existed only to sell something and should be measured and justified by the results it produced."
He thought that devoting yourself to your clients would lead to their success, which in turn leads to your success.
"Hopkins developed the idea that agencies could be partners with clients because he was focused on how advertising and marketing should drive sales," said Cooke. "He helped clients. He built a greater level of trust between the agency and clients and set the foundation for agencies being treated as true partners."
Hopkins became president of Lord & Thomas about a decade after being hired there (the exact year is unknown) and retired as the agency's president and chairman in 1923. Said Cooke: "Even Lasker was quoted as saying of Hopkins, 'No greater ad man lived or ever will live.' "
Lasker retired in 1942 and Lord & Thomas was reborn as Foote, Cone & Belding that same year. Today, FCB is part of the Interpublic Group ( IPG) and remains one of the world's leading creative agency networks with global clients that include Clorox ( CLX), Kimberly-Clark ( KMB) and Boeing ( BA).
"Hopkins credited his ability to mentor others as the reason Lasker made him president, so he could mentor and inspire the next generation," said Cooke. "That is something Lasker saw as important to business."
Hopkins, though, saw passing on his knowledge as a duty. "Any man who by a lifetime of excessive application learns more about anything than others owes a statement to successors," Hopkins wrote in the preface to his autobiography. "The results of research should be recorded. Every pioneer should blaze his trail. That is all I have tried to do."
Claude Hopkins: Keys
Created a new advertising paradigm and in the process helped lead the development and creation of consumer brand advertising and direct marketing.
Overcame: The ad industry influence of traditional advertising and created his own principles that helped vault Lord & Thomas into an ad industry powerhouse.
Lesson: Questioning and challenging the status quo can lead to revolutionary changes.
Loving your work as you love recreation enables you to be more productive and creative.
A recent Gallup Poll put employee engagement in the U.S. at around 47%. The 53% seen as disengaged represent $400-$500 billion in lost productivity annually. Sheridan argues that a joyful leadership style can energize a workforce to become more productive. Billionaire Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, has said "business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives" in order to best succeed.
Tips on energizing your workforce with an aim toward increasing productivity:
Promote The Big Picture
Joy results from employees accomplishing great things together for their company and customers, says Sheridan. His company has won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in workplace flexibility for 11 consecutive years.
Sheridan advises leaders to ask themselves two questions: "Whom do they serve?" and "What would delight look like for them?"
Answering those questions "will get our teams working hard and above their pay grade to accomplish worthy goals on behalf of those we serve," he said.
Further, Sheridan says if companies clarify to their employees what the mission is for their customers, it's "the most powerful organizational engine possible." It can help cut through company bureaucracy and relieve workers' fears about what's expected of them.
Fear drains the energy that fuels creativity, imagination, innovation and invention, Sheridan says.
Leaders should avoid "micromanaging, mistrust and performance-measurement systems that pit one team member against another," he advised.
Change Things Up
Michael Cammarata, CEO of Schmidt's Naturals, a personal-care products company, says to motivate and energize its employees and increase their skills, Schmidt's moves them from project to project.
"Someone on the deodorant team may soon find themselves on the toothpaste team to keep things from becoming redundant," he said. "Not only do employees enjoy working on new projects, but it offers them an opportunity to work with new or more experienced teammates to continue learning."
Recognize Unsung Heroes
It's imperative that we take the time to highlight the people who are making a difference in our organization, says Bill Miller, CEO of WellSky, a health care technology company.
WellSky accomplishes this, he said, by "offering a comprehensive recognition program that includes commending employees on the spot when they go above and beyond, while also acknowledging employee success with formal awards."
Miller says he knows his employees are even more capable of solving problems when they understand all the facts.
"By being open and honest, I'm inviting our employees to partner with me and the organization to fix tough challenges and empower our team," Miller said. "And they know we're in this together."
Show Enthusiasm With Your Leadership Style
Positive energy is contagious. Gallup's survey on employee engagement found that it's boosted by "satisfaction with recognition received for work accomplishments; relationships with co-workers; and supervisors."
"People react to a leader's energy," says Manlio Carrelli, executive VP with LivePerson ( LPSN), an online messaging, marketing, and analytics provider. "If you're enthusiastic, they're enthusiastic. Do not be afraid to show childlike joy, even for the smallest projects."
Schedule 'Pluses' Meetings
At these, Carrelli says, colleagues must only share something amazing that happened or that they achieved in the business.
"Do this in your next meeting and watch the energy level skyrocket," he said. "Too often we get caught up in problem-solving. This is a great way to step back and recognize what has been accomplished and can be built on."
Show Fruits Of Labor
Bring your team as close to the customer as possible, Carrelli said. "This is proven to drive up engagement."
At LivePerson, which offers a messaging platform that allows companies to engage with consumers in real time, team members visit clients' contact centers, Carrelli said, "so they can meet the people using our software and see firsthand the impact it has."
Show an interest in your team and their well-being, Carrelli says.
"Some of your best people don't look after themselves because they are so engaged in their work," he observed. "Make sure they are getting the rest they need and are eating regularly. People will appreciate you looking after them as a human, not just as an employee."
There was little doubt that Cameron Mitchell was going to live in a big house at some point in his life. The only question was whether that was going to be a comfortable family home or the Big House.
XIn an interview with IBD, Mitchell recalled his misspent youth:
"I came home (one day) when I was 9 years old and I was told my dad was leaving. I knew (my parents) fought all the time." Still his dad's departure was unexpected for the youngster and that — plus his mother's undiagnosed depression — "was the beginning of my downward spiral."
By the time he was in the eighth grade, he was into drinking, smoking and pills. More of the same in the ninth grade — only worse. He began dealing drugs, stole cars, burglarized homes and on his 16th birthday attempted suicide.
It's hard to imagine that Mitchell went on to found a company, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, that today consists of 60 food-service operations: restaurants, catering and special-event companies that employ almost 5,000 people and generate over $300 million in sales. (Two of his concept-restaurant chains, Mitchell's Fish Market and Mitchell's/Cameron's Steakhouse were sold to Ruth's Hospitality Group ( RUTH) for $92 million in 2008.) Mitchell is also the author of " Yes Is the Answer! What Is the Question?: How Faith in People and a Culture of Hospitality Built a Modern American Restaurant Company," a memoir of his redemption.
At A Dead End
It started when Mitchell was 19 years old and finally managed to wrangle his way out of high school and into a dead-end job at a local restaurant. "I was living with mom and going nowhere," he said.
"I was the laziest guy in the kitchen," Mitchell admitted. Until a Friday evening when he had an epiphany. The restaurant was unusually busy. The kitchen and bar were humming. Customers were having a great time.
"Time froze and I realized that I just love this business. I'm going to be in this business," he said. "Suddenly, instead of having the worst attitude in the kitchen, I had the best attitude in the kitchen."
So he went home and wrote himself a list of professional goals: executive chef at age 23; restaurant general manager the next year; chain regional manager at 26. And so on and so on, until he became president of a restaurant company by age 35. He wasn't thinking ownership back then, but that was the only goal missing in his dream world. That he exceeded his goals surprises him even now.
"The first time I read the entire manuscript (of 'Yes Is the Answer!')" — he'd obviously read the individual chapters as he wrote them — "I remember sitting down and saying 'I can't believe I made it.'" But he did.
Planning A Career
The first step on his journey was applying to the Culinary Institute of America, America's West Point for chefs. With his academic history however, the CIA not surprisingly turned him down — at least at first. The old Cameron Mitchell might have quit — gone back to his dark side. But, inspired by the school's willingness to take another look at his application, if he took additional courses, Mitchell enrolled in a community college and aced both courses. With those grades in hand he was accepted.
Paying tuition and living expenses was a financial struggle for Mitchell. He commuted weekends to work in New York City restaurants and recalls that during one period he went 100 consecutive days without a day off. But he had a list of goals he intended to meet and was determined that nothing would stop him.
In a what-goes-around-comes-around moment, about a month before his October 1986, graduation, he was contacted by a former supervisor at the restaurant where he had his epiphany. Impressed with Mitchell's work ethic and about to start a job as corporate chef at a new restaurant chain — it was about to open its second location — he asked Mitchell to come work for him as a sous chef.
Mitchell had no ambitions to be a chef. In fact, he didn't believe he had the chef gene. His goal was restaurant management, but he took the job because knowing what went on in the kitchen would help him toward his goal.
It worked. Six months after he started, he rose to executive chef at a different restaurant in the then-small chain and, right on his original schedule, became general manager at age 24.
Unfortunately, his rocket to the top soon began to sputter. Mitchell was called into his boss's office after a few months as GM and told eight servers threatened to quit if Mitchell didn't leave. "It was a bitter pill to swallow. I was working 70, 80 hours a week and the boss calls me and tells me these people wanted me fired and I needed to make a change."
After getting over the shock, Cameron realized that the servers and his boss were correct: "Due to my lack of experience (in the front of the house), I was too intense. I had some good experience. But I didn't really understand what leadership was all about. I didn't understand leading people.
"I thought the success of the restaurant depended on how good a job I did. It was really the opposite. It was how good everyone else did that determined the success of the restaurant. I learned to support them. And I began to thrive as a leader."
The chain thrived, as well. And as it expanded from two to four and then six locations, Mitchell's responsibilities expanded, too. About six years in, though, he realized he'd peaked at the company. He was director of operations, the No. 2 spot, reporting to the CEO — the company's operating partner who wasn't going to be going anywhere.
Entree To Entrepreneurship
He recalls trying to figure out the next steps in his life at a restaurant where he saw the chef/owner mixing with his customers, and everyone laughing. "Here was a man who had created something that was his," Mitchell wrote. "Everyone seemed to want what he had to give."
It was the moment he realized where the road was taking him, but it was a road ultimately defined by a Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces" moment.
Out for dinner with his family, he ordered a small milkshake for his son, and was told — by the waitress and a manager — that it couldn't be done, supposedly because the ice cream was preproportioned and that would throw off inventory. Mitchell knew that wasn't true, so instead he ordered a chocolate milk and an order of a la mode (on the menu with pie for an extra $2.95) and asked that the two be put in a blender.
That milkshake became part of the philosophical foundation of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. In fact, milkshakes are served at all company meetings as a reminder that Mitchell wants his servers (he calls them associates) to answer yes to every request. And Mitchell assures that they have the right attitude by putting his employees first.
And, yes, Mitchell concedes, "lots of companies say they treat their people well. But we not only talk the talk, we walk the walk."
For example, all his restaurants are closed on seven major holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas, plus Super Bowl Sunday — days when their combined revenue could reach as high as $2 million.
There were other little things. One associate kept coming in late to work. It turned out she was a single mom and had child-care issues. Her schedule was shifted so that the problem disappeared.
A sous chef's sister was dying of cancer half a continent away. She couldn't afford the airfare and didn't have vacation time left. It was August and she couldn't get back home until Thanksgiving. Mitchell arranged for her to combine her weekly days off with personal days and paid airfare for monthly trips home through Thanksgiving.
The Power Of His People
Stacy Connaughton, a corporate vice president of the restaurant chain, has been with Mitchell from the very beginning. In fact, he considers her (after himself) employee No. 2. She describes her boss (and former high school classmate) this way:
"He's a really fun guy. But he can be very intense and intimidating. He has high expectations and pushes people very hard. But he always manages to get the best performance out of them.
"He has this dream and the ability to harness the power of his people, to let them see and understand his vision and together we make it all happen."
Notes Mitchell: "When I started this company I knew I needed to create a company culture and values that went beyond just opening a restaurant. I wanted to build something that would last a long time, not just a year or two. I want it to be here 20, 30, 40 years, long after I'm gone."
Cameron Mitchell: Keys
Created a restaurant-catering business that grew into a $300 million enterprise, including 33 restaurants representing 15 different concepts, which are located in 12 states.
Overcame a difficult childhood and a problematic future.
Lesson: Anything can happen if you make it so.
"I took control of my life and realized nothing was going to happen to make it happen."
Some people land all the best jobs. They climb the ladder with ease, impressing hiring managers as they pursue career development. But what exactly makes successful candidates stand out from the rest?
Technical qualifications clearly play a role, along with an intangible blend of personality traits. How you present yourself — from the way you articulate your career goals to how you listen and ask questions — factors into the mix. To obtain your dream job:
Look Past Yourself
If your career development goals revolve around self-advancement for its own sake, broaden your thinking. Striving for more money or prestige, while understandable, can limit your appeal.
"Focus on how you're able to help others be successful," said Fred Halstead, a Dallas-based executive coach. "That's a great way to get noticed. Those leaders who make everyone around them successful will be more successful themselves."
Setting lofty goals to advance in your field can propel your ambition. Just don't get blinded by your drive to get ahead. At every step along the way, take stock of what you bring to the table.
"Assess honestly what you're good at," said Halstead, author of "Leadership Skills That Inspire Incredible Results." "Then determine how a job will play to your strengths. That way, you won't go after a job that's out of your realm."
Unleash Your Passion
It's tough to hunt for jobs when your heart isn't in it. Even if employers compete to lure you away, you might feel aimless unless you're passionate about the work itself.
"The No. 1 reason that people fail to achieve their career goal is they fail to have a compelling vision," said Dana Mayer, an executive coach in St. Petersburg, Fla. "Your vision has to set your hair on fire."
Rather than just apply for a job to boost your pay or cut your commute, ponder the larger repercussions for career development goals. For instance, seek to harness your skills to enact industry reforms or elevate ethical practices in your profession. Driven by a more sweeping vision, your goals gain fresh vibrancy.
Proceed Methodically In Your Career Development
Attaining goals won't happen by accident. You need a plan and a system to follow through.
Start by jotting your goals along with a timetable for reaching them. Keeping a written record of what you want to accomplish can prod you to persevere.
"I don't know anyone who's a high achiever who doesn't write down their goals and track them," Mayer said. "You also need a good support community for your career" that offers ongoing encouragement, provides a sounding board and opens doors for you to advance. They can be informal allies — mentors, friends, key influencers — or paid coaches.
"Be open to ideas and be willing to listen," said Patricia Lenkov, founder of Agility Executive Search in New York City. "That's better than coming in with a laundry list of must-haves and saying, 'I want this and this and this.' You may have a laundry list, but don't present it that way."
Prepare to discuss where you see yourself in five years by giving a goal-driven answer. But don't overplay your hand or you might seem overly ambitious.
"You don't want to sound too threatening, as if you'll take the hiring manager's job," said Alicia Hasell, managing partner at Boyden, a Houston-based executive search firm. "It's better to say, 'I want to run a larger P&L than I currently have' or 'I'd like international experience.' "
Quotes of the Week offers words of wisdom about leadership, intelligence, winning, courage and collaboration.
Noonan On Leadership
A good leader knows the difference between stubbornness and perseverance. When you're afraid to look like you backed down, to yourself or others, it's stubbornness. When you're willing to pay a price for where you stand, every day, it's perseverance. Peggy Noonan, columnist
James On Intelligence
In order to win you've got to have talent. But you've got to be very cerebral too. LeBron James, basketball star
Tusk On Winning
If the resources to fight aren't there, winning is unlikely. Bradley Tusk, entrepreneur
Nagel On Courage
One sure guarantee of a mediocre life is a life lived in fear. Jack Nagel,property developer
Crosby On Collaboration
Competitive effort winds up in war. Collaborative effort winds up in a symphony orchestra. David Crosby,musician
Without formal training or degrees, he worked his way up from the yards to lead and turn around the fortunes of four major railroads: Illinois Central, Canadian National Railway ( CNI), Canadian Pacific Railway ( CP) and CSX ( CSX). He came out of retirement while ill and ran the last company while on supplemental oxygen.
X He was successful wherever he went. When Harrison joined Illinois Central in 1989 — he started as chief transportation officer and was named CEO four years later — the company's operating ratio was 98%. The O.R. represents the amount of money a company has to spend to earn a dollar in revenue. In this case, it cost Illinois Central 98 cents to make a buck. In essence, it was running at just a little better than breaking even.
When CN acquired the line in 1998, Illinois Central's operating ratio was 62.3%.
It was an amazing turnaround and a portent of things to come. Harrison produced even better results at Canadian Pacific Rail. He joined CP in 2012. A year earlier, its O.R. was in the high 80s. By the end of 2016 it was an unheard of 58.6%.
He'd improved the railroad's performance by every other measurable metric: Trains were longer and they traveled faster. And they spent less time in terminals loading and unloading and more time on the road.
An Unlikely Success
Growing up in Memphis, Hunter Harrison (1944-2017) seemed an unlikely candidate for business success. The son of a bullying police officer and part-time preacher, he barely scraped through high school. In fact, the athletically gifted student was banned from sports his senior year because, as a junior, he'd failed every course but P.E.
But in 1963, after a long hiatus to accommodate returning World War II veterans, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway began hiring. Harrison took a job as oil man — lubricating railcar axles — and safety inspector. His sister Mary told Harrison's biographer, Howard Green, that in taking that job "he found himself. Up to then, he really didn't have purpose."
His bosses soon noticed his talent and enthusiasm and started him on the track to success. In a little over a decade, he moved 18 times. During one 11-month period, the Harrison family lived in three different cities — and one of them twice.
In a phone interview with IBD, Green, author of " Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison," said: "He was willing to do anything to move up and that was the way to move up. He was also a guy who wanted to excel at whatever he did. One way to excel was to move (to different cities) and see what was going on at other terminals and other locations."
Brave, Brilliant Innovations
Harrison learned that financial performance could relatively easily be improved by adding cars, driving trains faster and eliminating unnecessary stops. He seemed to see opportunities to grow business that even experienced railroaders overlooked.
Once, Harrison was approached by a third-generation railroader who managed a key terminal that was operating full-bore. The manager wanted to expand. Harrison looked at the terminal and quickly saw more than enough capacity there, but containers weren't being loaded quickly enough. He showed the manager how to do that and as a result extra capacity opened up immediately.
It all seems like simple common sense. But according to Keith Creel, current CEO of Canadian Pacific Rail, it was an act of bravery.
In a phone interview, Creel, who first went to work for him at the Illinois Central in 1996, said Harrison's concepts were "so simple and so common sense based they were brilliant. He understood the nuts and bolts of the business well enough to go against the status quo. He was swimming against the stream. Everyone said what he was doing was wrong and to go forward required a whole lot of risks."
Harrison ran into opposition from customers, unions and seemingly everyone in between. Throughout this period, railroads were losing business to the trucking industry. As a result, their customers ruled the roost. Rail companies kept rates low to keep customers from abandoning the tracks in favor of roads. Not Harrison.
At the time, freight trains essentially had no schedules. They left when a customer's loads showed up, and arrived when they got to the destination. Not with Harrison, who developed the philosophy that he's most famous for: precision scheduled railroading.
His trains left when they were supposed to, whether a customer's freight was there or not. He believed customers would pay more for assurances that their merchandise would arrive where needed and when needed. It created quite a stir, and he briefly lost some business to trucking or other rail lines.
One thing that Harrison never lacked, however, was confidence in his decisions. While still at Illinois Central, he met with an important customer who did about $100 million a year in business with the line — or about 17% of its total revenue. The customer wanted a steep cut in prices, arguing that the rail service was a commodity.
If he didn't get it, the customer would take his business elsewhere. Harrison closed his briefcase and left.
It took two years, but the customer came back when he realized he had full tank cars sitting on a siding that he'd been trying — unsuccessfully — to move for three months.
There were similar bumps in the road in convincing employees to sign up for the new way of doing business. He tried what he called "leading from the pulpit," holding regular "Hunter Camps" where he'd preach his gospel.
"His father was a lay preacher and Hunter learned to lead and motivate and tell stories from him," Green said. These were nonunion employees put up in deluxe hotels — making it clear to them that the line was a first-class operation and expected first-class results.
There'd be 200 or so at a time. "He'd speak for eight hours without notes," Green continued. "They'd never seen anything like this. They were captivated."
And, he added, "They were trapped."
Managing From The Front
Of course, not all employees were persuaded by Harrison's verbal abilities.
Early on in his career, Harrison worked alongside an old-timer; each was assigned one side of a train. Harrison did his side and then found his "partner" asleep in a shanty. "If your side gets there, my side will get there," the old-timer reasoned. "I've never seen half a car get there yet. It all pays the same. Good job. Bad job."
That experience stuck with Harrison. One of the first things he tackled when he took over CN was a similar and persistent rail problem: early quitters. A supervisor told him that it would be impossible to stop. Those workers "will shut the place down."
Hunter told Green: "If we're gonna have a fight over this we might as well start at the toughest place." That was Vancouver. He flew out there to confront "the meanest son of a bitch" — Harrison's words — at the terminal.
He didn't have to do it often. Harrison felt that — correctly, as it turned out — "that kind of thing would send a message throughout the organization."
Harrison also got the message through by the practice of "leading from the front of the train" — getting in the trenches when necessary. One evening, monitoring the CN network from his home computer, he saw an anomaly. Something was wrong between Jackson, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn. He called the dispatcher and told him to stay on the phone while Harrison pulled an all-nighter clearing up the gridlock.
On another occasion a dam broke, flooding an important segment of track. Even when the water substantially receded, the engineers were afraid to take the train across the newly formed lake. So Harrison jumped in the cab and did it.
As Green wrote: "While it was perhaps a case of major bravado, it also sent a message throughout the organization about leadership."
Hunter Harrison: Keys
Turned around the fortunes of four major railroads.
Overcame: Resistance from railroaders to change.
Lesson: You learn how to run a railroad on your way up the ladder. Don't forget those lessons.
"Don't forget what got ya there. If that's one of your powers, that's your strength; don't lose it."
In keeping with the spirit of a visionary business leader, Five Below ( FIVE) CEO Joel Anderson has created a metaphorical template for developing a winning team and culture.
XAnderson, who became CEO of the extreme-value retailer in February 2015, has been guided by the template in each of the four jobs he's had for the past 25 years. It reflects Anderson's philosophy of management and leadership, and has been the driving force behind what he calls Five Below's value-based, "wow" culture.
The template looks like this: Picture a bus with Anderson or another company leader or manager as its driver. The driver sees three billboards ahead. The first one says "people," the second says "passion" and the third says "performance."
"While the art changes (the bus driver is usually the founder of each company), the message is the same," Anderson told IBD. "It's about getting everybody on the bus heading in the same direction. If you have a great bus driver, who follows a great route and is on time (with a smile on their face), everybody wants to be on that bus. The way to rally your team is to get them on the bus going in the same direction and then you get to the three billboards."
Guided by this approach, Anderson and his team have vaulted Five Below to a top retail industry performer and a strong competitor against mighty Amazon.com ( AMZN) and other online and brick-and-mortar store rivals.
The order of the three billboards reflects Anderson's leadership philosophy and defines the company's values.
"Too many leaders focus on performance first," said Anderson, a veteran retail industry business leader. "I believe you have got to start with people. Everything I've done when I've moved to a new company has always been about people. Sometimes it's meant changing people or encouraging current people. In all cases, to be successful will require starting with the people. If you have the right people on the team and then passion for the customer, in that order, then the performance will come."
Anderson says the "Bus/3P's" approach is about achieving long-term performance. Simply focusing on the metrics without first starting with people and passion for the customer is not a winning formula in the long term.
Anderson joined Five Below in July 2014 and was president and chief operating officer from that time through January 2015. In February 2015 he was appointed president and CEO.
Anderson's long-term performance approach has served the company well. Five Below — with its on-trend extreme-value offerings that appeal to tweens, teens and beyond — has been a standout at a time when many retailers grapple with the likes of Amazon amid changing consumer-shopping habits.
Bluetooth speakers, smartphone accessories, makeup and toys are among the offerings at Five Below for $5 or less.
With a sharp focus on long-term performance, Anderson put in place a "20/20 through 2020" strategy in 2016, targeting 20% top-line and 20% bottom-line growth annually through 2020.
"We're three years into that and we haven't missed a single year," said Anderson.
Brad Thomas, equity research analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, estimates that Five Below will see closer to a 40% gain in EPS in 2018, when it reports on Dec. 5, with the benefit of a lower corporate tax rate from tax reform.
Finding A Competitive Edge
Key to Five Below's success in its space is what Anderson sees as its competitive edge.
"We're in the value space and wake up every day trying to deliver more value," said Anderson. "We also have to have a great store experience — with music playing and associates who have energy and bounce. At the heart of our competitive edge is some retailers are doing one or the other — not both. We try to deliver value in a great store experience."
Another advantage: "Five Below generally doesn't compete with Amazon," Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, told IBD. "They offer products that sell for prices below what the shipping cost would be from Amazon, which is why they have a minimal e-commerce footprint. To a certain extent they're Amazon-proof. They're like (off-price retailer) T.J. Maxx in a sense they offer a treasure-hunt opportunity. That's attractive to consumers. They're able to find multiple deals on products they wouldn't find on Amazon. But I don't know if anybody is completely Amazon-proof."
Five Below's value proposition has struck a chord with consumers, leading to strong financial growth.
"Its results are consistently good quarter after quarter," said Perkins. "It's generating above-average same-store sales growth. And in terms of its new store productivity, it's typically able to pay off the cost of opening a new store in seven to eight months, which is tremendous economics."
Investors have been impressed. Its stock price is up nearly 60% year-to-date as of Wednesday and more than 70% from a year ago.
Another long-term opportunity for Five Below is store growth, says Anderson. Five Below's store count now is around 750, and management set a target of 2,500-plus stores over the long term in U.S.
Anderson says Five Below hit a big milestone on Nov. 2 with the opening of its first Manhattan store in a top shopping location in midtown on Fifth Avenue.
"It's going to be awesome for the brand long-term because it exposes more people from more places to Five Below," said Anderson on a Nov. 9 phone interview. It's a great success story for us."
Rich In Leadership Experience
Anderson, 54, came to Five Below rich in leadership experience. Most recently he was president and CEO of Walmart.com, the multibillion-dollar U.S. dot-com unit of Walmart ( WMT), from 2011 to 2014. Before then, he was divisional senior vice president of the Northern Plains division of Walmart from 2010 to 2011. Before joining Walmart, he was president of the retail and direct-business units of Lenox Group and served in various positions at Toys R Us over a 14-year period.
Analyst Thomas gives Anderson high marks for his leadership.
"The vision and opportunity for Five Below existed before he joined," Thomas told IBD. "The challenge for him was how to grow the business, not just from a store perspective, but from same-store sales by proving the merchandise, traffic levels and the brand awareness. I think he's done a fantastic job of improving the consumer offering. And that is ultimately what the business model is predicated on."
Experiences at Walmart and principles gleaned from his parents and mentors helped shape Anderson's leadership philosophy and style.
"If there's one thing Walmart teaches you, it's scale," he said. "I'm now with a high-growth retailer and am applying the scale skills I learned at Walmart, where I managed a division with 100,000 associates and $20 billion in sales. "
Anderson says scale is a "three-legged stool: people, systems and infrastructure."
"When a company is growing as fast as we are, we have to stay in front of that growth and put scale in place ahead of sales. I really applied what I learned at Walmart so I could set us up for the long-term future. For example, we're going to build a distribution center a year for the next four years."
He cites one management book he read 20 years ago, " Gung Ho!" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, as changing his life — so much so that he gives a copy to every new Five Below associate who comes to the home office.
"From reading that I came to understand how powerful an individual's self-esteem is, teamwork secondly, and finally recognition and cheering people's successes," said Anderson.
He also learned a lot about leadership from his upbringing. "I was blessed with great parents," said Anderson.
His father was a minister and his mother was the type of person who greeted every visitor and invited people with no place to go on holidays into their home.
"From that you learn empathy and servant leadership," said Anderson.
Other life lessons came from tragedy; Anderson's oldest child died 11 years ago.
"It puts life and what's really important in perspective," he said. "I think I'm a more compassionate leader now than I was coming out of business school, when I was pretty high-charging. When you raise a special-needs daughter and she passes away at almost 13 years old you suddenly realize it's not the end of the world when someone shows up late or you miss a metric on that month's performance. You also realize that every person who works for you is going through some sort of personal issue. It helped me slow down and pay attention to the details and to people."
At the core of his leadership philosophy is a focus on values, Anderson says. "Every company has values. When I first got to Five Below we didn't have our values written down anywhere. They were learned through osmosis.
"That works great in a startup mode. When I got (here) we were trying to transition from a small company that had just gone public (in July 2012). Now we're transitioning to one going nationwide. So we had to put scale in place. The first thing we focused on was our values."
Anderson says he and his team spent his first year at Five Below defining the company's values and the behaviors needed to live up to them. They ended up with these: "Wow our customers; unleash your passion; hold the penny hostage; work hard, have fun, build a career and achieve the impossible."
Anderson says his favorite value is "unleash your passion."
"I encourage you to be yourself," he said. "You have to bring something unique to the company. The people who have thrived at Five Below are the ones who bring their passion. You can't just be part of the crowd in the background."
Anderson attributes much of Five Below's success to what he calls its wow culture, which incorporates those core values.
When Five Below moved into new headquarters a year ago, it was branded "WowTown." Five Below store associates wear shirts that say "Wow Crew," as does Anderson when he visits a Five Below store. "We're (management) part of the Wow Crew and team," said Anderson. "Our job at WowTown is to make it easier for the Wow Crew."
Joel Anderson: Keys
Vaulted Five Below to a top retail industry performer and a strong competitor.
Overcame: The retail dominance of Amazon.com, and oversaw the transition of Five Below from a small company that had recently gone public to one going nationwide.
Lesson: "If you only focus on the head and not the heart, you won't be as successful."
The top 10% represents some 86% of the wealth in the United States, and the top 0.1% represent 46% of it. To join the party, "it's not out of your control," said Melissa Carbone, author of " Ready, Fire, Aim: How I Turned A Hobby Into An Empire." In business planning, "it is all about choices; we are not victims of circumstances," she added. "The entire path to living your most extraordinary life starts with your choice, your decision."
Carbone left a mid-six-figure income as a Clear Channel Communications executive and invested her life savings to pursue her passion for Halloween and the horror genre. She founded Ten Thirty One Productions in 2009. In 2014, the company which features the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride was named the premier leader in the horror attractions industry.
When it comes to business planning, here are tips on how to mentally prepare:
"If you're going to start out, don't start out small," Carbone says. "That's my mantra of life." She's not a fan of hearing someone say they're just dipping their toe into the water or they want to take it slow.
Her philosophy: "Market yourself like you're Disney ( DIS)" from the outset.
Having ideas isn't what makes you special, Carbone says. "What makes you special is activating those ideas. That's the bridge between your most extraordinary life and a life that you're settling for."
Carbone says she hears people say they'll act on an idea when, for example, their kids are out of college, they have enough money in the bank, or as soon as they get that next promotion.
"If we continue to just wait," she said, "we think ourselves into inaction."
Fear is the reason most people don't act, she wrote. "While you think, others will activate and eat your strawberry rhubarb pie right out from under you. … Take the shot, take a hundred shots."
When business planning, doing so has to become part of your mindset. Boldness is not just something that you compartmentalize, Carbone emphasizes. She compares it to a diet, in which the implication is that at some point you'll go off it, as opposed to a lifestyle change, which is permanent.
Behave Your Beliefs
"Long-term thinkers with the modern legacy mindset work from the inside out, letting beliefs guide behaviors, as actions matter more than words alone," said Mark Miller, co-author with Lucas Conley of " Legacy In The Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand Out in a Short-Term World." Miller is also the founder of The Legacy Lab, a consulting firm.
He cites the Marriott ( MAR)-owned Ritz-Carlton hotels where employees, known as "ladies and gentlemen," gather at the beginning of each shift to discuss goals and share "wow stories." It's an example of "the brand's beliefs in action," he said.
Invent Your Own Game
Short-term thinking when business planning leads to mastering rules, accepting conventional wisdom, and maintaining the status quo, Miller says.
"In contrast, modern legacy-builders leverage long-term thinking to break rules and reconcile paradoxes, ultimately forging extraordinary and lasting change," he said.
To draw new fans to horse racing's original "must-see" event, Miller says the 150-year-old Belmont Stakes has recently drawn inspiration from other entertainment categories like casino gambling and pop culture at large. Among the updates is growing the event into a three-day festival with more races, more purse money, and A-list musical acts.
Take Leadership Personally
Short-term thinkers also traditionally embrace management systems and institutional processes in order to keep up with market trends, Miller says. In contrast, he adds, leaders with the "modern legacy mindset build their brands on a fundamentally different guiding principle: long-term personal ambition."
Quotes of the Week offers words of wisdom about sacrifice, persistence, accountability, self-improvement, and taking a leap of faith.
Ochoa Reyes On Work Ethic
You will never regret making a sacrifice. It will always pay you back. Lorena Ochoa Reyes,golf champion
Kroc On Self-Improvement
Are you green and growing or ripe and rotting? Ray Kroc,McDonald's CEO
Burns On Persistence
Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. David M. Burns,author
Rickover On Accountability
Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible. Hyman Rickover,U.S. Navy admiral
Hoffman On Risk-Taking
An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down. Reid Hoffman,entrepreneur
Companies with management that encourages all employees to voice their opinions and speak honestly tend to perform better than those that don't. A feeling of ownership and engagement rises among the group when there's open communication.
"In a culture of candor where people feel their voice is heard and they can provide honest feedback, all of the metrics get better," Matt Kincaid, managing partner of leadership development consulting firm Blue Rudder, told IBD.
In a study of more than 1,000 business decisions, professors Dan Lovallo of the University of Sydney and Olivier Sibony of HEC Paris found that open talk — involving debate and discussion — mattered six times more than analysis in the success of moves such as product launches or business acquisitions.
Here's how and why to encourage open communication.
Prove It's Safe
Do more than tell people they're free to make suggestions. Show it. Be vulnerable by admitting when you're wrong and asking questions to get their input.
"Be a question person, not an answer person," said Kincaid, co-author of " Permission to Speak Freely." "People feel safe when they trust their leader, and vulnerability is one way to win that trust."
There's a difference between making people feel heard and actually hearing them, says Maren Showkeir, Phoenix-based co-author of " Authentic Conversations." Listen to people and then take action. Sure, you can't put every idea in place. But act on some of them.
"If you listen and nothing changes, then don't go through the exercise because you're doing more harm than good," Showkeir said.
Consider Each Idea
When people offer feedback or ask you questions, treat everything they say as important and significant. The top reason people say they don't speak up at work is that they don't think it will help.
"Dignify every try," Kincaid said. "Validate the person's efforts. Be genuinely curious and ask authentic questions."
Honesty is vital, but candor doesn't have to mean brutal honesty.
"Be honest, listen to others, be open and realize many things can be true at the same time," Showkeir said. "If you're willing to tell the truth with goodwill and hear the truth with goodwill, that will foster more goodwill and people will be committed to making this successful."
Get Everyone On Board
When people know what's at stake, they'll offer ideas and won't care whether each idea gets implemented. Showkeir once worked with a health care system that was in danger of losing its Medicare business because of slow paying of claims. They talked about what could happen and the group offered ideas on how to improve. It became a rallying point and the company thrived.
"Once people understand the stakes and know that they play an important role in the business, they'll offer input and understand not everybody's ideas get in," she said.
The biggest hindrance for leaders in encouraging open communication is that they're too busy, Kincaid says. It's faster to tell people what to do and how to do it than it is to listen to their thoughts and ask them questions.
"It can be hard to be intentional and thoughtful about this," Kincaid said. "But the traditional way of thinking about leadership is wrong."
Be comfortable as a leader in not knowing all of the answers. Ask questions of your people and tell them you'd like to know more about their area of expertise. Take their suggestions into account, too.
One way: Say yes to almost everything. Kincaid suggests saying yes to an idea unless it's life or death. Let it play itself out, even if it doesn't work. People will feel empowered that their ideas get a chance.
"The best way to encourage people is to say yes," he said.
Reap The Benefits Of Open Communication
Leaders who spend the most time listening to and engaging with their people have the most success, Showkeir says.
"Many minds are better than one mind," Showkeir said. "You've hired these people for a reason. If we're not allowing people to speak freely, knowledge, creativity and all kinds of skill sets get squashed."
Quotes of the Week offers words of wisdom about problem-solving, goal-setting, risk-taking and the challenges of leadership.
Howard On Pressure
I get charged by problem-solving, usually under some kind of stress — the sun is going down and we have eight minutes and we have to solve it. Great things come out of it. Ron Howard,movie director
Joyner-Kersee On Goals
For me it's the challenge ... to try to beat myself or do better than I did in the past. I try to keep in mind not what I have accomplished but what I have to try to accomplish in the future. Jackie Joyner-Kersee,track star
Lutz On Risk
If you actually "do things" rather than merely perpetuate the status quo, there is a high probability, bordering on certainty, that you will make mistakes. Robert Lutz,auto executive
Dell On Leadership
Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people or find a different room. Michael Dell,entrepreneur
Johnson On Authenticity
The only thing worse than a coach or CEO who doesn't care about his people is one who pretends to care. People can spot a phony every time. Jimmy Johnson,football coach
The poinsettia plant, to botanists, is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima. But to everyone else, the flower that curiously blooms in the winter is synonymous with the holidays — and that's largely due to a Southern California farmer: Paul Ecke Sr.
"The poinsettia became the Christmas flower, and my grandfather has always been identified as the guy who made it so," Paul Ecke III, Paul Sr.'s grandson and CEO of Paul Ecke Ranch for 20 years, told Investor's Business Daily. "He decided to make the poinsettia the Christmas flower."
Poinsettias literally grew under other people's noses. But not until Ecke (1895-1991) did the seasonal plant turn into an enduring tradition and a huge market. Under his leadership, Ecke established a poinsettia farming empire in Southern California which, at one point, controlled 90% of the market. Poinsettias went from near obscurity to a $140 million annual market in the U.S., based on a 2015 analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the latest available. That makes poinsettias the second-largest potted flowering plant market, behind orchids at $288 million.
Hard work blended with innovation and savvy marketing turned the flower into a durable agricultural empire that remained in the family's hands from the early 1900s until it was sold in 2012. "Paul Sr. has about everything to do with our tradition of poinsettias for Christmas," Frances Le Duc, a member of the Agriculture Department at Texas State University told IBD.
Holiday traditions typically take centuries to ingrain into lore. But with Ecke's vision, the poinsettia rose to holiday ubiquity in a relative wink of Santa's eye — offering business lessons to anyone looking to build a product's popularity from scratch.
Find A Unique Angle
The poinsettia bush, native to Mexico, was first introduced to the U.S. in the early 1800s. But Paul Ecke Sr. took note of its flower's characteristic late-year blooming in the early 1920s while working on his father Albert's farm in Hollywood. He also noticed that his father's dairy and orchard operations, established after the family moved from Germany in 1900, were getting crowded out by competitors. Flowers, though — now that was something different and fresh.
"Not a lot of people were growing flowers," Paul Ecke III says. Better yet, Paul Ecke Sr. saw an opening to sell flowers in the winter, which absolutely no one was doing. He sold the cut poinsettia flowers along Hollywood's famed Sunset Boulevard and the business immediately caught on.
"My grandfather is the one who led the charge into the flower business," Paul Ecke III said. "That's how we started, and we sold more every year and grew more acres every year.
Build For The Long Term
Paul Ecke Sr. wasn't interested in simply selling flowers once a year. He wanted to build a company that could last for decades. In fact, he was a consummate long-term investor, aggressively buying investment property, too.
Finally, the opportunity to blend both his passion for flowers and real estate connected. With the movie business booming in Hollywood in the 1920s, studios, apartments and houses displaced farms in a bustling corner of Los Angeles. He had to move his farm, so he did his research and found what he thought was undervalued land in Encinitas, Calif., which at the time had a population of 600.
He bought the land and moved his company to the then-small town. It was a good move for the flower business and for his land value. Encinitas, now home to nearly 60,000, served as the headquarters of his business for decades and proved to be a lucrative investment in itself.
"He loved buying land and holding on to the land for a very long period of time," Paul Ecke III said.
Along with long-term land investments, Paul Ecke Sr. saw innovation as a way to build a long-term business. He licensed technology from a German amateur flower breeder, which allowed him to graft different poinsettia plants to change their characteristics and appearance, just as farmers graft avocado trees. The technology made Ecke plants the best. Paul Ecke Sr. offered unique varieties of poinsettias that were bushier or more attractive than those of rivals and held off competition. "This (grafting technology) was a very closely guarded secret," his grandson said. "This is one way we stayed on top of the market."
The elder Ecke's long-term view went even further. It wasn't enough for a new poinsettia variety he developed to look good. It had to stay looking good all holiday long. So he developed a room he'd call the "torture chamber," where new varieties would be tested for durability. The room simulated the conditions of a brown-thumbed and negligent poinsettia consumer. New varieties identified for their beauty would be given very little light and moisture. Only the plants that lasted were copied and sold, giving the company a reputation as having the best product.
Ecke looked to build long-term relationships outside the lab as well, John Dole of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University told IBD. "His company had a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service," Dole said. "The company employed some of the best technical support people in the industry — these folks were not only experienced but also were active in the industry, following Paul's example."
The founder's long-term touch carried through the entire business. He personally sent out thank you letters "signed with his characteristically large and striking signature using a marker," Dole said.
Being pushed out of Hollywood by the film business was just the first of many constant changes Paul Ecke Sr. faced and adapted to. "Every time the world changed, we adapted. We didn't fight it," his grandson said.
Even the fundamental way consumers wanted poinsettias changed, prompting Ecke Sr. to alter the way he sold and produced them several times.
At first, poinsettia flowers were more of an impulse buy. Nearly all poinsettias were bought as cut flowers, akin to how a bouquet is bought today. But that was limiting in several ways. Cut flowers were too delicate to ship much beyond Southern California. And consumers ultimately wanted potted plants that would last longer.
So, the company responded and moved production to greenhouses so they could grow and nurture plants, not just fields of flowers to be cut. And in another twist, the Ecke Farm sold "stock plants" — or starter plants that other growers could buy, plant and grow into poinsettias that they could sell in their local markets.
Later still, the company could just send cuttings, or small pieces of unique poinsettia varieties. Much of this evolution was powered by the rise of airfreight in the 1960s.
These adaptations helped Ecke fend off competition and dramatically expand the market. Selling stock plants and cuttings allowed Ecke to expand nationwide.
Ecke Sr.'s son, Paul Ecke Jr. (1925-2002), further boosted national demand through marketing. He gave free poinsettias to women's magazines for Christmas spreads and to morning talk shows to decorate their sets with. Readers or viewers who wanted a poinsettia plant, too, could find them locally sold by growers using Ecke's stock plant.
"Cut flowers didn't totally get eliminated, but that really wasn't a popular way to buy flowers and the market shifted 98% over to the potted plants," Paul Ecke III said. The Eckes' business grew by continually changing with the market.
Don't Cheat, Even If No One's Looking
Building a business for the long term means putting honesty over short-term profit. Paul Ecke Sr. had opportunities to pad the bottom line short term, but he skipped them as he knew the long-term cost.
For instance, he was often approached by plant breeders offering new varieties of poinsettias that he knew could be popular. The breeders brought the new varieties to Ecke knowing he had the brand name and relationships with growers to commercialize them. It would have been easy for him to shortchange the breeders, but he always paid the fair price, even before "fair trade" was a thing, his grandson says.
"We would buy these varieties from people and pay them a royalty. If we sold for four cents for every poinsettia cutting in the world, we'd pay the one cent (to the breeder) as we agreed," Ecke III said. With no formal reporting, his grandfather could have understated the number of cuttings sold. But that would have not been the best for the company's future relationships with breeders. "We could have so easily cheated people, they'd never know," the grandson said. "But it didn't come up."
Another example of Paul Ecke Sr.'s honesty emerged during World War II, when many Japanese farmers were relocated to internment camps. Several came to him to ask him to look over their farming equipment, trucks, tractors, plows and other possessions while they were captive. Four years, when they returned to their farms, the elder Ecke returned everything — which wasn't always the case with other farmers given the same trust. "My grandfather saved every single piece of their stuff," Paul Ecke III said.
"You don't cheat — even if you can, even if you can get away with it," said Paul Ecke III. "If I could pick one quality of my grandfather that stood out, it would be his honesty and ethics."
Paul Ecke Sr.: Keys
Overcame: Several major displacements in his business including the crowding out of his farm in Hollywood, a major crop-destroying freeze early in the company's history, and consumers' changing and fickle tastes.
Lesson: Don't fight change and transition since the market and consumers will alter their behavior even if you resist. Find a way to keep serving the consumer, as that will likely keep your company relevant.
"Eventually roses became the Valentine's Day flower and lilies became the Easter flower, but there was no Christmas flower until my grandfather started selling poinsettias." — Paul Ecke III, grandson of Paul Ecke Sr., and CEO of the Paul Ecke Ranch for 20 years.
Data show that 50% of consumer purchases are influenced by word-of-mouth, and 91% of all business-to-business sales are. Yet it's rare for companies to have a word-of-mouth marketing strategy.
That's according to Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, the authors of " Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers With Word of Mouth."
Baer is the founder of five multimillion dollar companies; Lemin is a former communications leader at Google ( GOOGL).
"We just assume that our customers will talk about us," Baer said. "But will they? And what will they say?"
Tips on getting a productive word-of-mouth marketing campaign started:
Seed conversations. Creating word of mouth isn't something you say differently in a marketing campaign, it's something you do differently operationally, Baer and Lemin emphasize.
Hilton's ( HLT) DoubleTree Hotels have been giving away a freshly-made in-house warm, chocolate chip cookie to every guest at check-in for nearly 30 years. Each day, they distribute some 75,000 cookies.
In the authors' national study of DoubleTree customers, they found that 34% of them have specifically told someone else about the cookies. That's about 25,500 customer conversations each day about that differentiator.
Same is lame. People discuss things that are different, and ignore things that are average, Baer says.
"Competency doesn't create conversations," he added, "and the more you try to fit in, the more your customers tune out."
To get customers to tell your story, give them something unexpected or remarkable, Baer and Lemin say. For example, the authors' national study of customers of The Cheesecake Factory ( CAKE) found that 38% of them have mentioned its huge and varied menu to someone else in the past 30 days.
Be relevant. If all you care about in word-of-mouth marketing is attention, "just rent an elephant and walk down Main Street," Lemin said.
That will create conversations, "but probably about the elephant, not your business," he added.
Reach people emotionally. Brains cause pain, says Ken Schmidt, author of " Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance." Schmidt, the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor ( HOG), says humans aren't brain-driven. "We're an emotional species that follows our gut and instincts." If a potential customer has to process data or do math "to determine whether he or she should buy from you, you've likely already lost."
Don't "give people terminology they don't understand, then put a meaningless data point in front of it!" Schmidt said.
Remember and repeat. Those are the two most important words in competing to dominate, Schmidt says.
When looking at the word-of-mouth marketing of your business, "it's the primary role of business leadership and management to determine what specifically do you want consumers to remember about you and tell others," he added.
Know what's important. Customers today don't ask businesses if they have great quality, or are focused on excellence, or care about customers, Schmidt says. "This stuff's the lowest tier of customer expectations."
Companies that generate word-of-mouth marketing do so by meeting the unmet human needs of their customers in ways they don't expect and that converts them into loyal, vocal advocates, Schmidt says. These companies "dominate those that simply meet expectations."
Stand out. When you describe and promote your business and the products and services you sell using the same language as your competitors, Schmidt said, "you're sending the market clear messages that say 'we're the same as everybody else.' It's a guaranteed way to ensure they won't remember you."
At your next trade show, he says, don't let employees use predictable, demand-killing language like "Can I help you?" Instead, watch what happens when they greet prospects with, "Hey! Wanna see something cool?"
"There's no product or service you can sell me that I can't get from someone else for less money," he said. "So stop pushing what you sell or do and instead focus your go-to-market energy on meeting customers' and prospects' basic human needs for validation, ego boosts and delight."
Quotes Of The Week looks at Thanksgiving Day with thoughts about thankfulness, gratitude, blessings, forgiveness and the kids' table.
I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. Henry David Thoreau, essayist
When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around. Willie Nelson,musician
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. Melody Beattie,author
It's like being at the kids' table at Thanksgiving — you can put your elbows on it, you don't have to talk politics … no matter how old I get, there's always a part of me that's sitting there. John Hughes,filmmaker
After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations. Oscar Wilde,playwright
When Stanley McChrystal was growing up, his parents gave him biographies of leaders to read.
"I think for much of my life I used leaders as examples," McChrystal said in a telephone interview with IBD. "These were usually heroic leaders, mythological figures: Robert E. Lee, T.E. Lawrence, John Paul Jones. Men of action. Those were the people I read about and tried to emulate."
It clearly worked. McChrystal became a four-star general who held important posts in Iraq and Afghanistan, most notably as commander of both the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and American forces there. Since his retirement in 2010, he founded the McChrystal Group, a consultancy whose motto is "Bringing Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom."
McChrystal, 64, followed his father, Maj. Gen. Herbert McChrystal Jr., to West Point, where logic dictated he'd start a stellar military career. That turned out not to be a sure thing because McChrystal had a problem following rules. By the start of his sophomore year he'd accumulated 128 hours of punishment walks — not a record, but not a portend of good things to come.
"It's interesting and we joke about it now," he said. "Only three people in my class at West Point made it to four star (general). None of us were near the top of the class academically or behaviorally. A different set of qualities make one successful in the military — not necessarily academic success or perfect behavior."
Learning In The Field
If there were leadership lessons to be learned, he learned them in the field, ultimately emulating soldiers of all ranks who impressed him.
One was Lt. Gen. John Vines, who in the summer of 2000 took over command of the 82nd Airborne Division and asked his friend McChrystal to become one of his assistant division commanders. Because of their special relationship, he also asked his new ADC a favor.
Hoping to encourage candor from his subordinates, he told McChrystal: "I want you to openly disagree with me and I want people to see how I respond."
Vines "is a pretty intimidating guy," McChrystal said. "Not intentionally, but he is."
In theory, if the troops saw McChrystal publicly challenge the boss, they would be more likely to engage Vines as well.
Recalled McChrystal: "About two weeks later and John is talking (in a staff meeting) about machine-gun training, saying here's what we're gonna do and I pipe up, 'I think that's a bad idea. It's stupid because of this reason and that reason.' And I looked at him and he had completely forgotten what he'd asked me to do. He had this look in his eyes and I thought I had seconds to live."
Gen. Vines begs to differ. Yes, "I wanted to change the paradigm of the omnipotent commander who understands everything," but, no, he never gave McChrystal the evil eye.
Management And Leadership
In a telephone interview, Vines, now a partner in the McChrystal group, maintains that his protege "is quite simply the best leader I ever met." His definition of McCrystal's skills is twofold: management and leadership.
"Both are necessary to be an effective leader," Vines said. "They are two sides of the same coin." By management he means providing people with the tools they need to do their jobs. By leadership he means "the quality, judgment and character in a way that people are confident in the decisions he makes and the structures he puts in place."
McChrystal, Vines adds, "is one of the few people I've seen who combines both of these."
McChrystal's experience with Vines was diametrically opposed to what happened during his first tour with the division. That was in 1977 and he reported to Fort Bragg as a young 2nd lieutenant platoon leader.
"We were on a 25-mile road march with full rucksacks. All of a sudden the battalion commander who I assumed was marching with us, pulled up in his jeep and started screaming at me. He was screaming at me and spittle was coming out of his mouth, all in front of my paratroopers and then he just drove away.
"I wasn't mad. I wasn't embarrassed. It was such a weird experience, I smiled. How could that lieutenant colonel misunderstand what leadership was all about? At that moment, every paratrooper hated him. At least if he'd been walking with us, he would have had some moral authority."
Commanding Special Ops
Unlike the lieutenant colonel, McChrystal made it a point to be with the troops, not watching them from the comfort of a jeep. Perhaps the best example of this happened in 2007 when he commanded special operations forces in Iraq. A British Puma helicopter went down, killing two Special Air Service operators.
As a result, the Pumas were temporarily grounded. When eventually approved to return to combat, McChrystal boarded that first mission.
"When the crash occurred, when you see how it played out, it was a real shot to the Brits' confidence. Not just to the leaders, but to the entire task force. So it was incredibly important that I be there."
Unlike the lieutenant colonel, too, McChrystal never berated one of his officers — commissioned or NCOs — in front of others. More to the point, he refused to second guess them for actions in the field.
A month before the helicopter crash, a force of special operators got trapped in the infamous Sadr City. Fighting their way out caused many Iraqi deaths — mostly combatants, but not all. As a result, McChrystal was on the receiving end of multiple calls from superior officers and politicians. But McChrystal refused to blame anyone.
"The concept of the operation wasn't bad, but suddenly you had (enemy) people coming out of the woodwork. Now the operators have a different problem on their hands. You can't extrapolate from one event. You can't restrain the troops, because then you wind up doing nothing.
"We were doing 10 high-risk operations at night and you have to give (the operators in the field) freedom to respond to them. It's a balancing act and the only way to do that is build a level of trust with your troops."
An after-action review occurred, but McChrystal made clear that he did not question the operators' actions "once the bullets started flying."
Learning From A Brave Sergeant
For the record, leadership lessons don't come exclusively from commissioned officers. McChrystal learned one from a very brave sergeant. It was the winter of 1976 and McChrystal was in Ranger school. A major had just run his company through a forced six-mile speed march, followed by physical training (PT) and then a crawl through the ice and mud in an obstacle course.
The major's philosophy seemed to be: Try to eliminate as many West Point graduates from the class as possible and do it quickly. On this cold day, the would-be Rangers' muscles started to spasm and tense up because of the ice water they were crawling through.
"It was really an irresponsible thing to do," McChrystal said. "There are things that you do to make things hard and there are things that are really stupid."
But the class had a savior: a master sergeant who on his own authority turned on the obstacle field lights and, defying the major, released the soldiers. When they got back to the barracks, some were so cold they couldn't manipulate the buttons on their uniforms; others had to be thrown in the shower fully clothed to warm up.
"I was really impressed with that master sergeant — that he had the courage to step in and do the right thing. It was a real eye-opener about command structure and common sense for a brand-new 2nd lieutenant."
He added, "Soldiers watch how you treat others. That's why we take such care to treat the bodies with such great respect. Every soldier is watching, calculating how you are going to treat them."
And McChrystal stood up to power himself. Asked to write a strategic assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, McChrystal came up with a politically untenable but truthful judgment. The only way to win the conflict was to add 40,000 more troops. "I think what we wrote was absolutely accurate," he told IBD. "I'm really proud of it. It was actually two reports. One said that you must change your approach to this war or we will lose. Don't put any more dollars into it unless you are willing to change the approach. Second, if you buy into the assessment and are willing to change, this is the troop level we will need."
McChrystal was advised to suggest a new troop level higher than 40,000, allowing some negotiating room with Washington. But he's read the Pentagon Papers and felt it wasn't the analysis of the situation in Vietnam was wrong but a decision to ignore politically difficult conclusions. So there was no exaggeration in his report.
In filing his report he assumed political leadership would trust him as he learned to trust his troops: "To be honest, it's a little bit intuition and a lot more trial and error. You increase trust over time. You have to give people an opportunity to live up to your trust and then give them the freedom they need."
Stanley McChrystal: Keys
Created strong fighting forces wherever he commanded.
Overcame: Bureaucratic resistance to change.
Lesson: Importance of building culture of cooperation and participation across commands.
"I developed the opinion that I'm never going to be smart enough. I want you to do whatever works best. If it's stupid and works it isn't stupid. Give it a shot."
His Marvel Comics boss wanted him to create a superhero group to counter DC Comics' Justice League cast of characters.
REMEMBERING STAN LEE: IBD is honoring the memory of the legendary comic-book writer, editor and publisher, who died Monday at age 95, by posting this article that appeared in the May 31, 2011, print edition. The story has been edited slightly from its original form.
Lee, Marvel's editor and art director, wanted characters that were more personal and realistic.
His boss wanted the standard, clean-cut, all-American characters that appealed to children.
What to do? A frustrated Lee, then 39, thought maybe he'd leave comics and write novels.
Fortunately, he didn't.
Lee's wife helped persuade him to follow his passion and create a new world — far from DC Comics' Superman and Batman.
"I didn't even know where Clark Kent lived, and the only personal thing I knew was that he didn't want Lois Lane to know he was Superman," said Lee, speaking to businessmen at a Saturday morning breakfast in Los Angeles.
"Other than that," he added, "he had no personal life. I wanted to make characters that, despite having superpowers, had a personal life and their own set of problems."
Kind Of All For One
That desire set the platform for the Fantastic Four, which debuted in November 1961 and ushered realism into superhero comics.
The Fantastic Four characters emerged as dysfunctional. They would argue, fight and hold grudges against one another. Lee once called them "heroes with hang-ups," characters who confronted their problems and rose above them.
From there, Lee changed the course of comic books and built a huge following that viewed the writer as the real superhero.
"Lee was the first to humanize comic book characters with real problems," Jonathan Maberry, a prizewinning author and comic-book writer, told IBD. "I can't think of a single comic book since that doesn't owe a good chunk of its theme to what Lee did. He is the father of all modern comics."
With his team of writers and artists, especially illustrators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee sparked these human traits in other Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men and the Hulk.
They display bouts of melancholy, bad temper, vanity and greed.
"Before that, characters were very one-dimensional with no complexity or depth," Maberry said.
Marvel Comics would emerge from a small division of a publishing company into a powerhouse.
Lee, at 88, was still working hard as chairman and creative officer of POW! Entertainment, a creator of intellectual property for the entertainment industry.
More than 2 billion of his comic books have been published in 75 countries and 25 languages.
He was often the center of attention at trade shows as an unofficial ambassador to the comic-book world. Though admired widely, he was also seen by some critics as a relentless self-promoter and credit hog who obscured the artistic contributions of the men he worked with.
"I am my own biggest fan," Lee said at the breakfast event.
"Interviewers were not always kind to Lee, and some were contemptuous of what he was doing generally," said Tom Spurgeon, the editor of ComicsReporter.com. "There was a level of distrust due to the huckster part of Lee's personality that rubbed some people the wrong way."
When asked during the breakfast what inspired him to create Thor, Lee quipped: "Greed."
Lee did acknowledge at the L.A. event that a team effort sparked his creativity at Marvel.
"Without those illustrators, I'd be somewhere else pushing a cart," he said. "They were brilliant. I was blessed by having great visual storytellers so that any plot I came up with, they made it look good."
The fruits of his work (at the time of this story's 2011 publication) were on the big screen with the smash movie "Thor," which had hit $162 million in U.S. ticket sales and $412 million globally. The hit movie spawned a successful sequel. The character was created by Lee in 1962. With Thor, based on a god of Norse mythology, Lee created maybe the strongest superhero of them all.
"That's the nice thing about being a writer," he said. "I can be God."
Becoming Stan Lee
Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922 in New York to Jewish-Romanian immigrant parents. As a teen, he worked a variety of odd jobs that included some writing.
With the help of a relative, Lee was offered a job as an assistant at Timely Publications, which would become Marvel. He was 16.
His first published comic book in 1941 used the pseudonym Stan Lee, which later became his legal name.
After some colleagues left the company, 18-year-old Lee was installed as interim editor.
That was interrupted in 1942 with a stint in the Army, for which he wrote manuals and copy for training films.
With World War II over in 1945, Lee returned to Marvel as editor-in-chief and wrote stories in genres that included Westerns, romance, humor and science fiction.
Yearning For More Inspiration
By the 1960s, Lee yearned for more inspiration. That's when he and his colleagues developed new concepts of storytelling.
Lee started using comic books for social commentary on topics like racism. He did the first comic book about apartheid and touched on pregnancy. He sprinkled sophisticated vocabulary to encourage readers to learn new words.
"All of this increased the reader base," Spurgeon said. "The characters and themes were so different than the standard DC Comics superheroes that did not have edge or personality. Marvel characters were livelier, lighthearted and fun."
He added: "Lee was a funny, top-notch dialogue writer who was light years ahead of people in comics at the time. Not only did he make comics more entertaining, but he could wink at you through them."
The upshot? "It sustained people as lifelong readers," Maberry said.
Lee and Kirby in 1966 also developed the Black Panther, the first black superhero in mainstream American comics.
"The Black Panther went on to become a major character, and it taught me about racial equality and diversity," Maberry said. "I learned my core values from comic books and Stan Lee."
Marvel's comic book characters eventually swung to the big screen. The first major production was 1998's "Blade," a vampire action film starring Wesley Snipes.
Two years later came "X-Men," a blockbuster that fueled a renaissance in comic superhero films, with Lee often in cameo roles. Other movie hits were "Spider-Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Fantastic Four," "Iron Man" and "Black Panther."
In 2009, Walt Disney Co. ( DIS) bought Marvel Entertainment and its library of 5,000 characters for $4 billion.
When asked what his definition of a hero is, Lee said: "It's someone who, when he or she needs to help someone, difficult or dangerous it may be, they do not walk away."
Said Maberry, "There's no one like him in the comic book industry."
The most innovative thinkers tend to make a strong impression. Their charisma fills the room as they radiate supreme confidence. But do you need to build confidence to innovate effectively?
Some creative types are bashful and diffident. They prefer to ponder in private rather than bask in the spotlight.
In many cases, however, innovators are brash and outspoken. They stir audiences by setting ambitious goals and feed off the energy of admiring acolytes. To build confidence:
Give yourself your due. If you have a track record of innovation, keep it in mind as you pursue a new challenge. Don't disregard past success and allow self-doubt to take hold.
"Creative self-efficacy is our belief that we can produce creative outcomes," said Dina Krasikova, an assistant professor of management at the University of Texas at San Antonio. If you have faith in your ability to innovate — and you've done it before — you're more likely to approach your next project in the right frame of mind.
Enlist a mentor. Left to your own devices, you may dwell on your mistakes or berate yourself for not innovating fast enough. Such negative thoughts can slow your progress and dull your creative edge.
Ideally, you have at least one or two fans who admire your curiosity and willingness to take risks by proposing seemingly off-the-wall ideas. These allies can help you build confidence when you need it most.
"Feedback is very important," Krasikova said. "A mentor or peer can tell you, 'You're great. You're doing all the right things.' "
Focus on wellness. It's tough to feel like an unstoppable force of innovation when you're cranky or sleep-deprived. Physical exhaustion and fatigue can undermine your mental acuity.
"Our self-efficacy is low when we're stressed or tired," Krasikova said. "So take breaks. Take weekends off. Take vacations."
Surround yourself with doers. If you work with confident colleagues, it can rub off. Look for opportunities to build confidence by interacting with go-getters who enjoy brainstorming and don't rush to dismiss outlandish ideas.
It's easier to build confidence if you work in an organizational culture devoted to openness and a shared sense of mission. You want those around you to feel comfortable sharing innovative suggestions, rather than withholding their input for fear of looking stupid.
"When team members have creative self-efficacy and their leaders have their own creative self-efficacy, that really helps," Krasikova said.
Anticipate criticism. Top innovators gird for resistance. Head-turning proposals rarely win universal approval, at least at first, without overcoming some skepticism.
"Creativity is analogous to problem-solving," said David Magellan Horth, director of innovation venturing at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. "If you've got a low self-image, you're less apt to produce creative ideas, especially bolder, more innovative ideas. You have to have the resilience to keep going when you're all by yourself."
Seek support. To raise your confidence level, engage family and friends. Rehearse how you'll articulate your breakthrough idea and welcome their input.
"Reach out to people you trust," said Horth, co-author of "Leadership Brand." "Say to them, 'I've got this crazy idea and I'm not sure how to phrase it to my manager.' Use them as a sounding board."
Keep tweaking. Innovators build confidence in themselves by polishing their public speaking. If you're able to deliver a persuasive pitch to key decision-makers, you'll come across as a more-dynamic visionary.
"To pitch better, use an app to practice your speech," Horth said. For example, he cites PitchVantage as a tool that provides real-time feedback to presenters to help them stay on track, master nonverbal cues and avoid stammering.
In peace and in war, George W. Hamilton never hesitated to take action, when he knew what he wanted — or had to do.
XHamilton (1892-1922) is an unsung hero from World War I, despite being that conflict's "most outstanding Marine Corps hero," wrote Col. Clyde H. Metcalf USMC, author of 1939's " A History of the United States Marine Corps."
"Hamilton never shied away from a challenge," said Mark Mortensen, author of "George W. Hamilton, USMC: America's Greatest World War I Hero," and "protecting and serving his country were always important to Hamilton."
In the Marines, Hamilton found his place. He played a key role in three battles in France critical to ending World War I: Belleau Wood, Blanc Mont and the crossing of the Meuse River. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor twice — both by fellow Marine Corps legends.
Instead, in serving with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, American Expeditionary Forces, Hamilton earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross, America's second highest awards for valor. He also received two individual Croix de Guerre decorations from France for his heroism.
No Marine officers were awarded a Medal of Honor during World War I. Mortensen thinks that was a political decision by the commander of the American forces, Gen. John J. Pershing of the Army, or by his staff, who may have believed the Marines had gotten enough publicity as a result of the Battle of Belleau Wood.
Hamilton "served as a calm leader issuing orders and offering guidance to those in need," Mortensen wrote. "At the same time the captain was also a very active participating warrior in the middle of the action, displaying acts of bravery by jeopardizing his life to save the lives of his men."
Col. Bill White, a World War I historian, wrote on the Marine Corps Association & Foundation website that Hamilton has been called by more than one historian, "the bravest of the brave." "No argument here," said White.
Hamilton was born in Washington, D.C., to a well-off family. Before the war, Hamilton was just a young man trying to find his place in the world.
He enrolled in Georgetown University in 1912, but after his first semester decided to drop out and take a job as a real estate clerk in the National Savings and Trust Company in his hometown. By Spring 1913, however, he decided he didn't want a career in banking — he want to join the Marines. He quit his job to enroll in a preparatory school and study toward a Marine Corps commission.
After passing the Marine Corps' entrance exam, he was assigned to officers school in Norfolk, Va., in November 1913.
"If there was one word to describe Hamilton it would be 'competitive,' " Mortensen said. "Competition was a part of the DNA from which he lived and breathed."
He spent his next few years as a Marine officer at sea with the Atlantic Fleet. And when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Hamilton was transferred with his detachment to Quantico, Va., and soon was among the first group of American soldiers to set foot on French soil to fight Germany. As a captain and company commander, he was part of the first major American assault, the Battle of Belleau Wood, in June 1918.
The objective of the battle was to capture the woods and clear it of German soldiers. The terrain was an open wheat field leading to a 200-acre forest 53 miles northeast of Paris.
In the dawn hours, Hamilton led his company as they crawled through a hail of machine-gun fire from an enemy lying in wait in trenches. A thousand Marines died on the first day.
As Hamilton witnessed his officers and men being shot and killed all around him, he decided bold action was the best course. Hamilton "ran up and down his line under severe fire, leading his men forward and urging them on by cheering and similar efforts. … at great personal exposure Capt. Hamilton displayed a quality of extraordinary heroism," wrote Col. Wendell Neville in recommending Hamilton for the Medal of Honor.
"It was every man for himself, kill or be killed," Mortensen wrote. "There is no better example of this than Capt. Hamilton killing four Germans in hand-to-hand combat in one wild rush. He was leading from the front.
"The Marines' continuous charge was unlike anything the Germans had ever faced or imagined. Their determination to advance under horrific conditions, using all means available including bayonets and hand-to-hand combat, gave the Germans reason to call the Marines 'Teufel Hunden,' translated to 'Devil Dog.' "
Hamilton wrote in a letter to his sister, "It was only because we rushed the positions that we were able to take them, as there were too many guns to take in any other way."
Some 20 days later, the Belleau Wood territory was finally secured by the Marines. The battle protected Paris from invasion and put the Germans on the defensive, but the cost was heavy — 2,000 U.S. military personnel died, and 8,000 were wounded.
In October 1917, the 4th Marine Brigade was tasked with the seizure of Blanc Mont Ridge in the Champagne region, as part of a plan to drive the German army out of the region. Hamilton was now a major and a battalion commander.
At around noon on Oct. 4, Hamilton and his battalion were under heavy shelling and fire. "The incessant noise from machine guns all around was overwhelming," Mortensen wrote. "Over time, the rapid fire guns overheated forcing the enemy to struggle to cool them down." German airplanes were dropping bombs with little to no resistance. Then the enemy unleashed the worst poison gas attack the Fifth Regiment had faced.
"With gas masks on, artillery shells exploding and machine guns firing across the entire terrain, one envisioned being on the threshold of hell," Mortensen wrote. Hamilton and his men pressed on, charging up the ridge despite heavy losses and monumental resistance.
"Major Hamilton was beside his men the entire way," wrote Mortenson, "and when they were surrounded … he again remained calm and led his men to safety." Once the battalion made it to the top of the ridge, Hamilton's men took about 100 prisoners as well as several machine guns. It was a key victory in that it forced a quick enemy retreat for about 18 miles.
Hamilton's Marine Corps superiors soon gave him extra responsibilities, and France presented him with his second individual Croix de Guerre and a third to his 4th Brigade.
On the night of Nov. 10, 1918, Hamilton commanded two battalions of some 2,230 men, crossing the Meuse River. They were part of an Allied effort to sever the railway network supporting the German Army in France.
A painting titled " The Last Night of the War" by Frederick C. Yohn, captures the moment. It depicts Hamilton "leading a battalion of Marines across a pontoon bridge over the Meuse under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire in an effort to establish a beachhead," Mortensen wrote.
The next day, Nov. 11, 1918, the armistice was signed ending World War I. America had lost over 53,000 men in combat, and this year marks the armistice's 100th anniversary.
After beating the odds by surviving horrendous clashes, Hamilton died piloting an airplane in 1922, when it crashed in Gettysburg during a re-enactment of the Civil War battle showcasing the technology of the day.
George W. Hamilton: Keys
Played a key role in three battles that were significant in ending World War I. Recommended for the Medal of Honor twice. Earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross, America's second highest awards for valor, and was twice awarded France's Croix de Guerre.
Overcame: Horrific conditions as a battlefield commander in World War I.
Lesson: Stay on the offensive regardless of the situation.
"Well, orders are to attack, and by God, we'll attack."
While many companies feel their products and services are enough to cause their dream clients to transfer loyalties, they must attract customers from the competition by offering greater value, a better future or a strategic outcome that customers believe they need.
That's from Anthony Iannarino, author of " Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away From Your Competition." He's also the creator of The Sales Blog.
"Without a big idea and a big result, there is no reason to change," he cautioned.
Tips on how to attract customers:
Capture their imagination. To attract customers away from your competition, "you must establish yourself as someone with a better understanding of the current environment, what needs to change, why it needs to change, and how to make those changes," Iannarino said.
Do your homework and help customers discover something new about their needs that isn't addressed elsewhere. To replace your competitors and take their chair at a prospective client's table, show that you can deliver greater results to them — if they change, he adds.
"There are new roads, old ones are sometimes closed," he adds while warning: "People have even religiously followed their GPS off a bridge that no longer exists. The same is true in business. Look at the road, not at the map."
Get personal. To attract customers from a company that already has a partner, Iannarino says, you also need relationships within the company with people who will support a changing of the guard.
He points out that in the last few years relationships have been downplayed as more transactional approaches to sales have been pursued by those who believe those models allow them to better scale.
"But relationships matter," Iannarino said. "And if some group of people aren't willing to support changing to you from their current partner, it isn't going to happen. You need to build relationships deep and wide."
Separate yourself. Iannarino says the idea in a book called "Blue Ocean Strategy" is that you should seek an innovation that allows you to eliminate competition, as Netflix ( NFLX), Airbnb and Uber have done.
While not easy, success at doing that is to see the world with different perspectives. "This is central to the success of the greatest entrepreneurs," says O'Reilly.
The creativity of these kinds of entrepreneurs lies in their ability to understand and apply ways that the world has changed, while everyone else is still following the old map, O'Reilly says. "Real breakthroughs come when we don't just use new technology to duplicate what went before or to fine-tune the way the world works now, but to reimagine how it ought to work."
O'Reilly points to Uber founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick. There were already hundreds of millions of smartphones equipped with sensors able to track the locations of both drivers and passengers.
"The notion that you could use the location sensors in the phones of driver and passenger to match them up in real time is blindingly obvious in retrospect. But the capability was around for years before anyone actually built a service to do it," O'Reilly says.
Stay vigilant. Keep waiting for the missing pieces of the puzzle to arrive, such as a particular technology.
Speech recognition has been a feature of smartphones since the 2011 launch of Apple's Siri intelligent agent, O'Reilly says. "Yet it was Amazon.com ( AMZN), not Apple ( AAPL) or Google ( GOOGL), that brought a seemingly minor change that made all the difference: The Echo had a smart agent named Alexa that was always listening to your commands without the need to first touch a button."
Even if you aren't the one to push that boundary, "once someone does it successfully, there's a huge opportunity for a fast follower," he says. "Be ready!"
Steve Jobs didn't tolerate many bosses, but there was one he wanted to work for: Nolan Bushnell.
Jobs was attracted by the unique way Bushnell, co-founder of video game pioneer Atari, was forging an entirely new industry in the early 1970s on the success of iconic games like "Pong." Bushnell tasked Steve Jobs to build a follow-up game called "Breakout," which turned out to be another big hit.
It was just one calculated risk Bushnell took while putting technology in places it's never been before, like bars and, later living rooms. Even Jobs wanted to be part of it.
"If you're truly a radical innovator, the more radical the idea, the fewer people will join," Bushnell told Investor's Business Daily. "Innovation doesn't have a constituency."
Atari is the company Bushnell is best known for, and is why he has been called the " father of electronic gaming." But he has created dozens of other businesses with varying degrees of success, with game arcade and pizza parlor Chuck E. Cheese's being the next-best known.
Using creativity as his compass, Bushnell, 75, has blended innovation, business planning and leadership to blaze a hard-charging path into areas so unfamiliar that he's forged entirely new industries along the way. He says other business leaders can boost their success by looking at things in new ways — and that innovation isn't something a lucky few are born with, it can be learned. Some of Bushnell's suggestions for business planning are:
Make optimism your default. "Entrepreneurship is driven by optimism," Bushnell said. Many large companies are set up to reward those who say no to new ideas and perhaps avoid mistakes from being made. Innovation is quashed in such an environment.
Success goes to those who find ways to make seemingly impossible ideas work. That's especially true today as new technology and innovation can expose a stagnant and unchanging business to disruption.
Bushnell recalls the early days of Atari as being very challenging since the company didn't have venture capital to keep it funded. It needed a steady stream of good ideas that could be quickly turned into cash flow. "We had to live by our wits and our retained earnings," he said. "We were constantly out of money.
"You felt like you had your hands on the controls very closely when you were constantly struggling for cash flow," Bushnell recalled. "You need to have the optimism to drive things that may be a little risky. The future is risky."
Success took coming up with a good idea and moving on it quickly. "When I think about something, I have to do it. It's not enough to just think about it," he said.
Take risks, yes, but only after you've researched them to the nth degree. Bushnell's personal situation molded his approach to risk. As the eventual father of eight children, he couldn't just launch a video game company and hope for the best. He needed to carefully consider every move and plan his reaction to any possible turn of events: "I never felt like I took any risks. Of course I did, but I had a very clear vision of how the thing would cash flow."
Today Bushnell meets many "wantapreneurs" — those who don't do their homework but think a business will magically succeed. He often consults with young people starting companies and, said Bushnell, "I start asking them simple financial questions. They say, 'Well, I'm going to get a CFO to take care of that.' Wrong!"
Bushnell says a successful entrepreneur has to know the company's numbers better than anyone. "If they can't spreadsheet their business, I don't even want to talk to them," he said.
It's not enough to have a good idea; you have to understand the numbers that make it work. That was a lesson Bushnell impressed on his children, says Alissa Bushnell, his eldest daughter. At restaurants, he would challenge his young kids to estimate how much profit the restaurant made in a day by studying guest patterns and orders coming out of the kitchen. He would then say, " 'The first one to get the answer that's in my head gets dessert,' " she told IBD.
One way to improve the ability to forecast how much money can be made from an idea is learning how to play Go, the ancient Asian board game, Bushnell says. "This is a game about planning moves five, six or seven moves in the future," he said.
Business is the same and lessons are learned in failure as much as in success. Certainly, Bushnell has had his share of business misfires, such as video game restaurant uWink, but he picks himself up and tries again.
"There's a 'youthful energy' that I get from him in his work," said David Heineman, a professor at Bloomsburg University and author of "Thinking About Video Games: Interviews With the Experts." "A weakness would be that sometimes the risk-taking behavior and pursuit of 'edginess' has led to some high-profile disagreements" and disappointments.
Bushnell, though, looks past failure and thinks about how tomorrow will be better. "Working with Nolan is like nothing else in the world I've ever experienced," said Gene Stone, who co-wrote " Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent" with Bushnell. "Whereas most people go from point A to point B, Nolan takes you on a ride from point A to point 455, to the back of a mirror, to the end of the world, and back — and then again, or not, or upside down."
Find inspiration in random places. A mundane daily routine can stunt innovation and new ideas. It's important to rejuvenate that part of your brain and there are ways to do that.
Bushnell has a secret to stoking new ideas and creativity. While traveling, especially to Las Vegas, Bushnell randomly walks into whatever trade shows are there, even if they have nothing to do with what he's working on.
"I like going to weird trade shows. I still do it," he said. While walking the halls, Bushnell looks for the best practices used in those industries and tries to find ways to connect them to his work. "There's an ability to arbitrage standards of work in one industry into the standards of work in another industry," he said.
Another way to jog the creative part of your brain is reading science fiction. "Not post-apocalyptic science fiction but the optimistic stuff," he said. If you read science fiction, look for things that should be real, but aren't. While reading, Bushnell asks himself, "How do we get there?" Books that Bushnell recommends are Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age." He's read "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons several times and finds new inspiration each time.
Know that life in the future should be frustration-free. To find new ideas, "make a list of all the things in daily life that irritate you. Then figure out: How do I get rid of that irritation? That will lead to very interesting things," he explained.
Whenever ideas occur to Bushnell, be it strolling the floor of a museum or trade show, he records notes on his cellphone. "That's my compost where ideas fester, mature and sometimes metastasize," he said.
It's the ability to see bigger opportunities from technological developments and how they might fill consumer needs that's the core of Bushnell's ability, Heineman says. Bushnell also strings together lessons from other businesses to "parlay past experiences and successes into new opportunities," said Heineman.
Tame anxiety as it will block your creativity. During the early 1970s, while Atari was in its most rapid growth phase, Nolan suffered from anxiety-induced tension headaches. Knowing that stress would choke off innovation, he met with Emmett Miller, an author and personal coach who helps creative people manage anxiety. "He taught me exercises and I have not had a single migraine after that," Bushnell said.
The first technique Bushnell uses is a variation of mindfulness. He suggests having a series of "happy places" at your mental fingertips where you can go when life gets hectic. Think of a place you've been where you're calm and relaxed, and simulate as many of the senses you experience there. "I imagine myself sitting on a balcony in Positano, Italy, with a cup of good strong Italian coffee, glass of blood orange juice, hearing the birds chirping, smelling the coffee, smelling the croissant and overlooking the Mediterranean," Bushnell said.
Here's another one. Lie down and go through every set of your muscles from toes to feet to calves. "Flex each of your muscle groups and try to find new ones each time," he says. "I don't know why it works, but it does."
Having a personal philosophy can also help the mind focus on innovation. Bushnell has adopted existentialism as his way of looking at the world — where he celebrates the journey, not the destination. "You take yourself out of the middle of everything and put yourself into role of observer," he said. Doing this allows you to look at the situation more creatively.
But it's not long before Bushnell starts thinking about what's next. "If you want to live in the future," he said, "invent it."
Nolan Bushnell: Keys
Overcame: Launching Atari with very little financing, as the industry was new and didn't have a track record, resulting in Bushnell forgoing his own pay, sometimes for months.
Lesson: Think about how to monetize a good idea, but be prepared to change an approach when the unexpected occurs.
Quote: "Sometimes the most important outcome of a new idea is you get data before everyone else. That data, even if negative, is a data point: That didn't work, but maybe if I do this it will."
Everyone asks questions. But how many of us are actually getting questions answered by using the right language and tone?
The way you frame your inquiries largely determines whether you'll get revealing responses. If you adopt an aggrieved or negative stance, you lower the odds of eliciting substantive answers. And if you show little interest in listening, you'll shut down the kind of fruitful exchange that leads to learning and insight.
Adept questioning requires keen situational awareness. Context and timing play big roles in getting questions answered, along with an ability to build rapport. To pose winning questions:
Inject surprise. If you habitually ask the same questions to the same people, you risk becoming predictable. Colleagues may tire of having to address similar issues over and over.
"Ask questions that you don't normally ask," said Terry Fadem, senior fellow at the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. "You want to force people out of the box that they've built for answers they're expecting to give."
If you like to ask detail-oriented, closed-ended questions, for example, surprise your team by launching a hypothetical that starts, "What if we … ?"
Keep at it. After you pose one good question, keep plugging away. Drill down to gather more information.
"You have to know what to do with the answer," said Fadem, author of "The Art of Asking." "Ask good follow-up questions based on what you hear."
Even if you're satisfied with the response to your initial question, invite the speaker to elaborate. By giving others a second chance to address the topic, you enable them to divulge more of themselves and admit what they might otherwise withhold from you.
Consider the setting. Calibrate your questions to fit the situation. If you're too accusatory or pushy, you can alienate potential allies. And if you're too bossy or opinionated, you risk silencing subordinates who might be ready to open up to you.
"You can get away with a lot more in private than in public, where you have to be careful about embarrassing others," Fadem said. Behind closed doors, you can ask a blunt question while looking someone in the eyes; in public, you may want to modulate the question to spark debate.
Watch your wording. A loaded question communicates your bias and telegraphs the answer that you're seeking. You're less apt to learn if your question doubles as a thinly disguised opinion.
"It's better to ask questions without judging," said Michael Marquardt, professor emeritus at George Washington University. "You want your questions to empower others, to be positive" so that respondents feel comfortable leveling with you.
Marquardt suggests asking, "What did we learn?" and "How can we increase our success?" rather than "What went wrong here?" and "How can we avoid another failure?"
Stay silent. Once you ask a question, demonstrate your desire to hear the answer. If you keep talking or answer your own question, you might muzzle others.
"If you ask a subordinate a question, that person starts liking you as a leader," said Marquardt, the author of "Leading With Questions." "It dignifies the employee while bringing out your humility," so keep quiet and wait patiently for the reply.
Muster your curiosity. Questions work best when they flow from an eagerness to learn. If you're just going through the motions — or reading from a script — you're less likely to stoke a lively back-and-forth.
"Be committed to learning," Marquardt said. "Leaders recognize they need to help those around them," and they ask questions to offer support and gain ideas.
Nine days shy of his 21st birthday, the Baltimore Orioles gave the ball to Jim Palmer for Game 2 of the 1966 World Series.
The stakes were high. The Orioles had defeated the favored defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. For the Dodgers, Game 2 was a must-win because an Orioles' victory would put the visitors in a commanding position with the series shifting to Baltimore for Games 3, 4 and 5.
Pitching for the Dodgers in Game 2 was the legendary Sandy Koufax, fresh off a 27-9 season with a stingy 1.73 earned run average. Palmer had gone 15-10 with a 3.46 ERA.
"I didn't have any trouble sleeping the night before the game," Palmer wrote in " Nine Innings To Success: A Hall of Famer's Approach to Achieving Excellence," co-written with Alan Maimon. "Despite the enormity of the situation, I felt an inner calmness. The whole thing had a surreal quality to it. I wanted to enjoy the experience, not feel stressed out about it."
"At the end of the day," Palmer has said, "organizations that enjoy success are going to foster a fun environment." That's something he's felt he learned early from Orioles minor league coaches like Cal Ripken Sr., one of whose commandments was: "You're going to have fun — and part of having fun is winning." Another, as Palmer wrote in "Nine Innings," was: "You're never going to let anyone outwork you."
Palmer studied how teammate Moe Drabowsky struck out 11 Dodgers in relief in Game 1 and then became the youngest pitcher ever to hurl a World Series shutout as the Orioles won 6-0 and went on to sweep Dodgers to win their first World Series title.
"The mental aspect of pitching was just as important as the physical one," Palmer told IBD. "It took preparation that included watching film and studying batters from the bench. When you've done your homework, there's a comfort level because of your preparation that allows you to relax and use it as a vehicle for success."
The 'Oriole Way'
Palmer went on to a long Hall of Fame career. The Orioles had an astounding run of success from 1966 to 1983, winning three World Series and appearing in six. The Orioles boasted other Hall of Famers such as Manager Earl Weaver, and players Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr., but only Palmer was the constant on all of those teams. Palmer credits the club's success in those years to the "Oriole Way."
The team sustained a level of excellence, Palmer wrote, because their system was based on the continuity of shared values regarding excellence that was instilled in those who joined it. And he advises "seize on the opportunity to assess what you and your organization can do to keep you at the top of your game."
In World Series play Palmer was 4-2, with a 3.20 ERA. In postseason play Palmer was 8-3 with a 2.61 earned run average.
Referring to the postseason, Palmer, 73, reiterated that "it's about perfect practice. It's about preparation. It's about being able to relax. The same things you do in the regular season.
"Nothing changes in the postseason if you don't change it, other than the spotlight is a little brighter."
"When you're as smart as Jim, your concentration level is off the charts," said former teammate and World Series-winning manager Davey Johnson. "Jim was not a nervous pitcher. He was so much in the moment, one pitch at a time. He knew the hitters and what their strengths were, so he could avoid those. That's why he was a great pitcher."
Palmer amassed a 268-152 regular season lifetime won/loss record, good for a great .638 winning percentage and a career ERA of 2.68.
Former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor, who joined the team in 1976, said Palmer had "that determination and that drive to be the best."
Following a career playing for the Orioles, Palmer has been an analyst for the team's TV broadcasts for the last 26 years. He also was an ABC baseball analyst from 1978-95. He and his wife Susan live in Southern California and Florida. He has two daughters and a son.
Palmer was the national sports chairman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for over two decades and is still involved in the organization.
Born in New York City, he was adopted at birth by Max and Polly Wiesen, a New York City couple. Max Wiesen owned two dress companies.
Young Jim had a great childhood in New York until his adoptive father died suddenly of a heart attack. Jim was 9 and his mother moved him and his sister, also adopted, to Beverly Hills, Calif. His mother remarried, to a character actor named Max Palmer. Jim took Palmer's name.
When it came to all three of his adoptive parents, Palmer says "I won the lottery. They were loving and supportive and taught me the difference between right and wrong."
The Palmer family relocated to Arizona where in high school Palmer starred in baseball, basketball and football.
He passed up a chance to play basketball at UCLA under John Wooden to sign with the Orioles in 1963. He then reported to Aberdeen, S.D., the Orioles' Class A minor league team where his manager was Ripken Sr., the father of Cal Ripken Jr.
Palmer said Ripken Sr. instilled "a work ethic" in young ballplayers. "One of the things Cal told us is: There are no such things as shortcuts. Try to come to the ballpark every day and have the passion to get a little bit better. It was Cal who said it's not about practice, it's about perfect practice."
After one season in the minors, Palmer made the Orioles opening day roster at 19, in 1965. The Orioles, by design, roomed him on the road with future Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts who, at 38, was at the end of his career. "I don't end up being the pitcher I became if my roommate wasn't Robin Roberts," Palmer said. "He pretty much taught me all I needed to know about pitching."
The inquisitive Palmer peppered Roberts with questions. "It's not what you know or who you know," Palmer said in his book. "It's who you know and taking the time to find out what they know." He also said it's important to pass along that knowledge.
Recalled MacGregor, "Jim always told me and I heard him say to the other guys, 'If you want to be the best, you've got to work harder than the rest.' And that was his motto."
Still, Palmer was blessed with great physical gifts for a pitcher: 190 pounds on a lanky 6-foot-3-inch frame with long arms. He had a great fastball, and good looks that led to him being Jockey International's underwear spokesman for 20 years.
"Even though Jim was by far the most athletic of all of our pitchers, he was also the hardest worker," said former Orioles pitcher Dave Leonhard. "His desire to be the best was unrivaled. His attention to detail; unbelievable. Jim also had a very clean lifestyle. He ate properly and didn't drink or party. He was very, very serious about his craft."
"I worked hard to nurture the athletic gifts that had been bestowed on me," Palmer wrote. "People have accused me of being a perfectionist, as if that word carries a negative connotation. I've never understood that. Should we make it our goal to be average? Why would anybody do that? You work as hard as you do to separate yourself from the pack."
After getting off to a 3-1 start in 1967, Palmer developed arm problems. The Orioles manager was Hank Bauer, a former major league player who'd also been a combat platoon leader in World War II. Bauer "had a rub-dirt-on-it attitude toward injuries," Palmer wrote.
Bauer was convinced Palmer's pain was all in his head. " 'OK, Hank,' " Palmer said in frustration one day, " 'If it's all in my head, why doesn't my head hurt when I throw the ball?' "
Rehabbing An Injury
Palmer wound up being diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff and spent almost two years rehabbing his injury.
Palmer's experience with adversity led him to cite psychology professor Angela Lee Duckworth, who said in a TED Talk that her research showed that "a significant predictor of success … was grit. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals."
Palmer also wrote: "A positive organizational culture helps energize people and make them more successful. Make sure that you create a culture and an environment where your employees feel they can come to you with concerns."
By 1969 Palmer was back and so were the Orioles. Palmer compiled a 16-4 record and a 2.34 ERA and the team went 109-53 to win the American League's Eastern Division. Palmer won the third and deciding game against the Minnesota Twins in the divisional playoffs to punch the Orioles' World Series ticket.
After his arm injury, Palmer won 20 games for four consecutive years. He battled injuries again in 1974, and then came back with another four consecutive years of winning 20 games or more.
In Palmer's last season, 1983, the Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series four games to one. Palmer was the winning pitcher in Game 3, pitching two innings of scoreless relief the day before his 39th birthday.
"I still think it's about work ethic," Palmer said of his long career in the spotlight. "Once you have a little bit of success, you never really take it lightly."
Jim Palmer: Keys
Pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, 1965-1983. Career won-loss record of 268-152 and winner of three Cy Young Awards. Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 1990.
Overcame: A serious arm injury in his third year in the majors that doctors weren't sure how to treat.
Lesson: Persevere during the hard times and search for answers.
"I wouldn't have been able to mount a successful comeback if I hadn't developed new skills. I was never going to be the fastball pitcher that I was before my injuries. So I became more of a control pitcher."
These quotes of the week include four thoughts on persistence and another on accepting responsibility for failure.
I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the nonsuccessful ones is pure perseverance. Steve Jobs,Apple co-founder
Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well. Dwight Eisenhower,34th U.S. president
On Bouncing Back
Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even. Muhammad Ali,boxer
Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway. Eleanor Roosevelt,first lady of the U.S. (1933-1945), activist and diplomat
There is no success without hardship. Sophocles,poet
You must persevere to get past those roadblocks that inevitably crop up in any venture. Get past them by having unshakable faith in what you're doing. That's how leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt forged ahead.
"Ask yourself what values and causes you believe in personally," said Antigoni Ladd, co-owner with her husband, Everett, of the Gettysburg, Pa.-based Tigrett Leadership Academy, which uses examples from history in its lessons.
Set your goals.Abraham Lincoln met with plenty of opposition in trying to unite the country under his vision, Ladd says. He wanted the U.S. to be a model of democracy for the world. That view helped him persevere even as he encountered fierce opposition.
"Persistence is doing whatever it takes to get you to your vision," Ladd said. "Lincoln was driven by his vision of what the U.S. should be. He was certain of what he wanted for the long term, so if he had a failure, he kept going."
Have conviction. Stick to your guns if you're confident in your ideas. Even when Winston Churchill was out of favor with British parliament before World War II began, he could see Germany was rearming. He gathered reports and studied the situation, Ladd says. Once he became prime minister, he was prepared. He sold Britain's war cabinet and the British people on the importance of going to war to stop Germany.
"He was so embedded in that vision of victory!" Ladd said.
Expect a roadblock. If you're striving to achieve something important, it's inevitable that you'll hit obstacles on the way.
"Any great accomplishment at one time was considered an impossible dream," said Joe Tye, CEO and head coach at Solon, Iowa-based consulting and training firm Values Coach. "The bigger the dream, the bigger the challenges."
Get ready. Prepare at all levels to persevere to get past hurdles, keep a positive outlook and have a clear vision of what you want to achieve to overcome them, Tye says. Many new businesses fail, but Tye says it's up to the owner. Leaders who persevere by making a call to one more bank or check in with one more potential client tend to succeed, he says.
"Businesses do not fail; owners quit," he said.
Keep at it. When Harland Sanders started trying to franchise his fried chicken concept he was rejected by many restaurants (legend has it he received 1,009 rejections) before succeeding. He had worked hard perfecting his combination of spices and method of cooking the chicken in a pressure cooker. Restaurant owners continually told him that they already knew how to make fried chicken. He forged on until he built it into Kentucky Fried Chicken.
"He knew what he wanted to accomplish and refused to give up," Ladd said.
Address the problem. It's vital to make sure your group doesn't start to lose faith if you encounter obstacles. If morale begins to slip, find the cause and deal with it. It might be a disgruntled member talking negatively or a communication problem you need to rectify.
"Once the cause is discovered and the situation can be corrected, the team morale will again enter a positive zone, all due to the perseverance of the team leader," Ladd said.
Know when to shift. Tye calls it a "broad and fuzzy line" between sticking to your guns and stubbornly persevering in your beliefs, even if your plan is unworkable.
"If something is not working, try something else, but don't quit," Tye said.
See opportunity. View hurdles as chances to achieve. Tye believes that Randy Pausch, the late Carnegie Mellon University professor who wrote " The Last Lecture," said it best: "Brick walls are not there to keep us out. Brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."
In 1933, General Motors ( GM) considered eliminating its Pontiac division. Sales had fallen 80% since the stock market crash four years earlier, and it didn't seem likely that this trend would be reversed anytime soon. So Harley Earl, the head of the company's styling department, dispatched one of his designers to look at the mock-up of the new model prepared by the division's engineers.
Told that it looked exactly like the 1932 car, Earl put his group into high gear and within two weeks they came up with a revised design that doubled sales that model year — and saved the Pontiac nameplate for more than 60 years.
"Earl practically invented the profession of automobile styling. He introduced art into the rigid mechanics of mass automobile manufacturing and thereby changed the game forever."
In a sense, Earl was born to the job. He grew up in Southern California where his father, J.W. Earl, ran a business building horse-drawn vehicles. In 1908, J.W. started Earl Automobile Works.
Harley soon developed a way to customize factory-built cars by repainting them other than the standard manufacturer-offered colors, by adding wire wheels and generally doing what he called "dolling them up."
His reputation spread and movie stars soon became regular customers. Mary Pickford, Tom Mix, Douglas Fairbanks, Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle were regular customers. Word of his designs spread beyond Tinseltown, and he was visited, in late 1925, by Lawrence Fisher, one of the brothers of Fisher Body.
At the time, Lawrence was head of GM's Cadillac division. Impressed by what he saw, he asked Earl to design the LaSalle, a new nameplate that the company planned to introduce in the 1927 model year. He did and it was met with rave notices. This inspired Fisher and GM CEO Alfred Sloan to offer Earl a job at first designing Cadillacs — but fully intending to expand his purview to the entire corporate line.
Previously, changes to cars' designs were almost exclusively a function of engineering improvements, not style. Earl's appointment changed that — but not without a fight. Engineers fought him tooth and nail. In fact, they once adjusted Earl's design of a special anniversary edition Buick without his knowledge. He would have none of it.
Knowing What Movie Stars Liked
Asked in a phone interview with IBD to name Earl's most important trait, biographer Knoedelseder said:
"His determination. His fierceness. When you have an idea that no one else has and you want to push it through, you have to be relentless and fierce. He had a really good idea of what Americans wanted, and I think he got it growing up in the world where motion pictures were made. He knew what movie stars liked and he knew Americans liked what movie stars liked."
And what was that? "Longer. Lower. Wider. Sleeker. That's what he thought cars should be. A greyhound, he used to say, is more attractive than a bulldog."
One reason car designs stayed relatively unchanged in the pre-Earl era is the high cost of retooling production lines. "Earl came up with a way to change the look of the cars without bringing down the corporation because of multimillion-dollar retooling costs," Knoedelseder said.
From Concept To Reality
Earl and his staff in GM's Art and Color group were asked to design a new Cadillac for the Chicago World's Fair, whose theme was "A Century of Progress." Called the Aerodynamic Coupe, the auto featured a V-16 engine (the first for an American passenger car), a sloping fastback rear and the absence of running boards.
It was intended to be the first-ever concept car, an automobile not intended for mass production. Instead a concept car was envisioned exclusively for car shows around the country, to whet the public's appetite for what the future held. But it proved so popular that it went into production for the 1936 model year.
Auto historians, Knoedelseder says, credit the Aerodynamic with ushering in the modern era of American car design. "It showed GM staff how much Harley and his staff could accomplish if given free rein."
In 1938, Earl's team designed what he labeled the Buick Y-Job. Among its now-standard features: a power convertible roof, power doors and windows, and retractable headlights. This proved the first true concept car in that it never went into production. But it didn't become a museum piece, either. Earl kept it for himself and began driving it to and from work every day. So it may also hold another distinction: the world's first vanity car.
Though his department created many forward-looking cars, Earl wasn't a traditional hands-on designer who drew styles he wanted. Nor could he always communicate his desires to his large staff. Knoedelseder thinks this might be because Earl was dyslexic.
"Dyslexics (sometimes) have trouble communicating because they see things from a different perspective. His way of creating was to say, 'I want to see everything, and when I see what I like I'll know.' He might look at a 100 drawings of a taillight. That's how he operated."
But he was open-minded. Bernie Smith, who worked for him and was responsible for the designs of the concept cars that GM put on display at the 1965 World's Fair, told IBD: "The best part of working for him is that he was very receptive to new designs and was willing to break down barriers."
Harley Earl And The Next Big Thing
The next big thing came after World War II. The war over, the auto companies returned to making cars in a market where demand often exceeded supply. GM decided to redesign its top-of-the line Cadillacs, figuring it could make more profit on the popular luxury car, and was the first off the line ahead of the rest of the business, with — wait for it — tail fins.
GM CEO Sloan liked the fins so much that he told the Cadillac division head, "Now you have a Cadillac in the rear as well as the front."
At first, the public seemed perplexed by the tail fins. Alarmed by falling sales, dealers called GM headquarters to insist the change was too radical and that something be done. But as the cars began appearing, perception changed and the fins became popular with the public — and every other American company.
But had the public consciousness not changed, Earl "would have been willing to give (the fins) up," Knoedelseder said. "He always knew the public had the final say. American buyers didn't like big wrenching changes, so if he saw them reacting negatively, he'd say, 'OK. That's it. We'll go on to something else.' "
But he was right far more often than not. In fact, his stock had risen so high that his style group's purview was expanded to include GM's Frigidaire home appliance division, and Earl even designed a locomotive for the company's Electro-Motive Division.
Competitors who at first scoffed at the idea of a style department soon opened their own, which in part prompted Earl to arrange with GM to offer scholarship grants to two well-known design schools, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Art Center School in L.A., both of which added automobile design courses. He also started a school in Detroit, with classes held in the GM facilities.
Still, it came as something of a shock when Earl hired seven women, graduates of Pratt Institute, to join the testosterone-filled world of GM's Art and Color Division.
Damsels Of Detroit
"Research showed that women inordinately influenced which car a couple bought," Knoedelseder said. "So they made a big deal of hiring these seven women from Pratt, calling them the Damsels of Detroit.
"They really liked him and didn't see him as exploiting or taking advantage of them. They were making $5,000 a year, the same as the men.
"Still, he was a man of his time. He assigned them to work on car interiors. Not one of them got to work on car exteriors. One of them, Susan Vanderbilt, worked on safety and literally went out to junkyards to see what happens (to cars) in accidents. GM didn't want to play that up, that cars were dangerous."
Harley Earl's Keys
Created the concept of an automobile styling department.
Overcame: The creative blocks endemic in any artistic endeavor and resistance from automotive engineers.
Lesson: Be relentless in pursuit of ideas you believe in.
"I sometimes wander into their quarters, make some irrelevant or even zany observation and then leave. ... First-class minds will seize on anything out of the ordinary and race off looking for explanations or hidden meanings. That's all I want them to do. Start exercising their imaginations. The ideas will soon pop up."
Motivational and inspirational quotes by luminaries including Mary Barra, Edwin Land, Confucius, Jim Rohn and Mario Andretti.
Do every job you're in like you're going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership of it. Mary Barra, businesswoman
An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. Edwin Land, inventor
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. Confucius, philosopher
Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value. Jim Rohn, motivational speaker
Desire is the key to motivation, but it's the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek. Mario Andretti, race car driver
Workplace learning that bridges the gap between employee skills and company needs is critical to every firm. Knowing what talents workers bring to the table currently and predicting which skills a company will need to succeed in the future is tricky. Experts say focus on reducing the impact of automation. How? Help workers develop soft skills such as communication, adaptability and critical thinking.
"The skills gap is a very real thing, and if (leaders) are not encouraging employees to learn, it might not happen," Palmer told IBD. "Simply sending employees to class alone is not working."
Creating a workplace learning culture. Apple's ( AAPL) senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts wants to move 10% of the company's retail employees to other stores around the world to provide more learning and development opportunities, according to Palmer's book.
Starbucks ( SBUX) offers to pay full tuition to employees seeking a bachelor's degree at Arizona State University, if they work at least 20 hours a week. The goal: reduce high turnover.
Offering programs is not enough. A recent LinkedIn survey found that the No. 1 challenge facing talent development in 2018 is getting workers to make time for learning.
"Yet, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development," the study stated. "The modern organization needs to meet learners where they already are — aligning development opportunities with employee aspirations, and engaging them through the platforms where they are already spending their time."
Understand power of peers. Your co-workers are often the best workplace learning resources, Palmer says.
"This idea that there is a central group that has all the knowledge is outdated," she said. "We have a wealth of knowledge from people who are learning these new skills within our company."
As a result, he came up with a list of articles, videos, classes and book chapters he found most helpful.
"Your employees become part of the curator group," Palmer said.
Combat content overload. There are thousands of online learning sources. You can easily become overwhelmed. Company leaders must guide employees. Curate the myriad resources. Help employees decide what they need to learn. Managing content overload also makes workplace learning efficient and cost-effective.
In their book, Palmer and Blake describe Mastercard's approach. As a client of Degreed.com, a learning portal of which Blake is a founder, Mastercard ( MA) lets employees search, curate, share and track learning resources on thousands of topics in various formats. The results: More employees signed up to learn new skills, less time was spent developing content and costs decreased.
Drill down. While a focus on learning soft skills can minimize the impact of automation, employers should also zero in on hard skills that will be in demand.
Key to addressing the hard skills gap is getting an accurate read of workers' current skills vs. what a company knows it will need. Palmer and Blake's clients measure with a Skills Quotient (SQ). SQ measures the skills required against the skills needed for individuals, teams and the entire company. It reflects the skill level and gap any person, team or organization has.
LinkedIn's survey says talent developers are working hardest on creating a robust workforce in cloud computing, data mining, integration software, web architecture and user interface designing. Not surprisingly, they're looking to boost hard skills in engineering, computer programming and data analysis.
For workers, the fast-changing needs of employers means one thing: Develop an ability to learn quickly.
"Learning agility is key," Palmer said. "If you can adapt and learn on the job, you will succeed."
Ralph Roberts, who became a pioneer of the modern cable television industry, didn't think that much of cable TV at first.
The future founder of cable TV, media and technology giant Comcast ( CMCSA) was 43 years old and thought the business lacked the seasonal and holiday marketing opportunities of his previous retail venture, men's fashion accessories. But Roberts' entrepreneurial curiosity led him to give cable a closer look
"I realized the cable business was the best of all the ones I had invested in and decided to go forward full boat," Roberts (1920-2015) told The Cable Center in an oral history interview. "It was exciting once we realized you got to develop programming and you could do other things that would make people want to buy. ... people loved cable television because more is better." Roberts also liked the steady residual cash flow that cable provided.
Dan Aaron, who was Comcast's head of operations, said in William Novak's "An Incredible Dream: Ralph Roberts and the Story of Comcast," that Roberts mulled over things endlessly until it was time to strike. Then, "once he goes into action, sparks fly."
"Once I make up my mind about something," Roberts said, "I like to stay the course."
And he did. Roberts was Comcast's president from 1969 to 1990, when he was succeeded by son Brian, and chairman of the board from 1969 to 2002. He then was chairman emeritus until his death at 95. Under Ralph Roberts' leadership Comcast became one of the largest global media and technology companies in the world. Its 2017 revenue was over $84.5 billion and it's the largest provider of home internet service in the U.S.
"In a big company you need certain fundamentals to believe in," Roberts said. "Around here, everyone knows that integrity comes first."
Aaron said that even when the company was just a speck on the map "(Roberts) expected that someday Comcast would be the General Motors ( GM) of the cable industry ... and everything he did was to prepare for that day." Aaron recalled that in 1969 Roberts was drawing up an organization chart — for the year 2000.
Roberts' son and current Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told IBD his father "had an incredible optimism, a risk-taking mentality, and a vision to build and go for it."
Because his father had a deep caring for his employees, "people would just walk on hot coals for him," Brian Roberts said. "He didn't ask for anything, he just supported and mentored you.
Ralph Roberts encouraged a supportive atmosphere where new ideas could be presented without fear of criticism. He said decision making was collective. "Everyone has the right to speak" with the goal to "make everyone feel involved."
"My father also listened better than anyone I know," Brian Roberts said. "He was in the moment, looked you in the eye and made you feel that you were most important person in the world to him."
Born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island, Ralph Roberts was the son of Russian immigrants. His father Robert, who passed along a burning desire to young Ralph to eventually be his own boss, went to pharmacy school and then owned a chain of drugstores in the New York City area.
But the Great Depression took its toll on the business, and tragedy came to the family when Ralph was 12, when his father died suddenly from a heart attack at 42.
Roberts recalled how his mother took charge: "She kept us strong, too. She didn't fall apart and bemoan her fate. She told us we could survive, and that we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves."
Roberts' entrepreneurial spirit then emerged: "I was always thinking, 'How could I earn a little money by doing something nobody else has ever done?'" Ingenuity and drive created part-time moneymaking opportunities to help put himself through college. And in 1940, in the fall of his senior year at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the school announced an officer-recruitment program that promised a Navy commission. War loomed and Roberts joined up.
Roberts graduated in Spring 1941, and when the U.S. entered World War II that December he asked for a Navy combat assignment but was deemed more valuable to the war effort by utilizing his business skills. He was a lieutenant assigned as a materiel superintendent in the Philadelphia Navy Yard where warships were built and repaired. He went on to become a liaison officer with other Navy yards.
He wed aspiring actress Suzanne Fleisher in 1942, and the couple had five children.
After the war and his discharge from the Navy, Roberts partnered with an engineer in 1946 to develop products to manufacture. One was a golf putter that sold 100,000 units. Sales got a boost when Roberts got backstage where Bob Hope was entertaining and asked the legendary entertainer to pose for a picture with the putter. Roberts used the photo as marketing material.
"Everything was doing fine until one day, while I was swinging a recently made putter, it bent almost in half," Roberts recalled. "I grabbed the phone and called my partner: 'What happened? The shafts are bending like pretzels!' " It turned out to be a major manufacturing error, and Roberts decided it was time to find another business.
He found work as a copy writer in a Philadelphia advertising agency where one of his accounts was the Muzak Corp. and in 1951 he was offered a position as marketing and advertising director for that company.
After 2-1/2 years of commuting from Philadelphia to Muzak's New York City office, Roberts took a job in charge of marketing and advertising at Philadelphia-based Pioneer Suspender Co. — the nation's second largest manufacturer of men's fashion accessories such as belts, cuff links, tie tacks and suspenders. Roberts asked for a right of first refusal if the owners ever decided to sell, and when they did in 1955, he bought the company.
Roberts got needed financing from the Philadelphia National Bank by convincing the lender that if the business was sold to someone who moved it out of Philadelphia, 200 to 300 jobs would leave with it.
In 1961 Roberts, suspecting that trends in men's fashion such as beltless slacks did not bode well for his business, sold Pioneer and became a venture capitalist. That led to his meeting Dan Aaron, a cable television veteran who was brokering cable systems.
Aaron pitched Roberts on buying a small community-antenna TV system in Tupelo, Miss., in 1963 that had around 1,200 subscribers. Roberts agreed, provided that Aaron would run it, since Roberts knew nothing about the cable TV business. But Roberts saw a similarity to the operation of Muzak, where he eventually became a partner in several of its franchises: "You put in the equipment and every month they send you money."
"Ralph is not one to go into anything (in) which he didn't have expert partners," Julian Brodsky, who was Comcast's head of financing, said in 1999.
Ever the marketer, Roberts desired a new name for his company, then called American Cable Systems. He wanted an invented word like Xerox ( XRX) or Kodak ( KODK) so it could be registered as a trademark. "A name that isn't an actual word is easier to remember and to advertise," Roberts said. He created the name Comcast in 1969 and incorporated it in Pennsylvania.
Roberts and Aaron expanded Comcast by acquiring several cable systems throughout the United States. But Roberts insisted that each new entity be responsible for its own financing obligations. That way if a cable system failed it didn't affect the rest of the company.
Comcast went public in 1972 and by 1988 became the nation's fifth-largest cable-TV company with more than 2 million subscribers. With the onset of the digital age in the 1990s, Microsoft ( MSFT) founder Bill Gates made a billion-dollar investment in Comcast. Meanwhile, Comcast invested in content such the Golf Channel and QVC.
Under the direction of Ralph and Brian Roberts, Comcast bought AT&T's ( T) Broadband cable systems for $45 billion in 2002. The purchase made Comcast the nation's largest cable operator with 21 million customers.
In 2011, Comcast and General Electric ( GE) completed a $6.5 billion transaction that formed NBCUniversal, creating a global media and technology company. Comcast had a 51% ownership stake and picked up the other 49% in 2013 for $16.7 billion.
Through it all, Roberts, a dedicated family man, strove to infuse a family atmosphere into Comcast and set an example of kindness and compassion.
Comcast Chief Communications Officer D'Arcy Rudnay, who worked with Roberts for 12 years, said, "I never heard Ralph raise his voice, ever. Ralph was a most respectful and gentle human being and an extraordinary leader."
"How do you maintain a family culture when the company is so big?" Ralph Roberts said. "By being warm and friendly. … I urge employees to get to know the people in their own part of the company. That's your immediate family. Be kind, do favors, and offer help to those who may be having problems."
Among Ralph Roberts' numerous honors: He was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2003 he received the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award given by the UJA-Federation.
In 2009 Ralph Roberts and his family established the Roberts Proton Therapy Center to treat cancer patients.
Ralph Roberts' Keys
Founder of Comcast who served as its president, 1969-1970, chairman of the board, 1969-2002, and chairman emeritus, 2002-2015. Under Roberts it became one of the largest broadcasting and cable television companies in the world.
Overcame: Unfamiliarity with the cable TV business.
Lesson: It's not what you know; it's what you learn.
"I used to tell our people, 'It's OK to make mistakes. I make them every day because I'm doing too much, too fast. We all are. But let's learn from our mistakes and try to make sure they're not too big.' "
Kennedy On Respect
If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safer for diversity. John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. president
O'Connor On Diligence
Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom. Sandra Day O'Connor, former Supreme Court justice
Michaels On Comedy
If your culture doesn't allow you to laugh at the leaders or things that your eyes and ears tell you are actually happening, that's not good. Lorne Michaels, TV producer
Cook On Impact
You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change. Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Orman On Priorities
People first, then money, then things. Suze Orman, financial advisor
Athletes talk about letting the game come to them. Similarly in today's business climate, you can let the customer come to you. But you have to entice them to do so with relevant content.
Today's consumer now goes online to research. They compare vendors and prices, and seek advice from peers on social media, says Iliyana Stareva, author of " Inbound PR."
In response, Stareva notes, many marketers have switched to an inbound approach that brings consumers to them.
Tips on doing so:
Change your perspective. Pull instead of pushing. Rather than sticking to old outbound tactics of direct mail or interruptive advertising, create relevant content that attracts people to your business, Stareva says.
She adds that a thought leadership blog and an engaging Facebook ( FB) or LinkedIn page are far more effective nowadays. Why? Because individuals decide whether to stay in the loop with what you're doing or not.
Outbound sales and marketing "tries to force people, and it no longer works," Stareva states. "Inbound, on the other hand, attracts them through valuable content designed specifically for them and shared on the channels that they use. When you leverage your owned media, you let your content be your 24/7 sales rep all year round, saving you time and bringing you results."
Personalize content. Your storytelling must always answer the question, "What's in it for me?" from your stakeholder persona's perspectives, not yours, Stareva says.
She says that 80% of people make purchasing decisions without ever speaking to a company representative. This means "they want you to help them make that decision through valuable content created specifically to answer their questions throughout their decision-making journey," she said.
Be aware of what your content really stands for and how you can make a difference in your audience's lives, says Justin Champion, author of " Inbound Content."
Doing so "will set the tone for your entire content marketing strategy," he adds.
Optimize your message. Creating content that enhances search engine rankings is another way to bring your customer to you.
And the best way to get your content ranking on search engines is to solve problems for the reader, Champion says. This as opposed to just optimizing your content for search engines.
Once you have a quality piece of original content that isn't just saying what everyone else is, "keep growing it to be best in class," he says. And make an effort to improve your website's domain authority by becoming a great link builder.
"This is what gets your content higher rankings on search engines."
Choose quality over quantity. It's better to have less but more in-depth content instead of a library of high-level underperforming content.
Champion reports 20% of HubSpot's ( HUBS) content accounts for 93% of their leads.
"Most people focus on creating content consistently as opposed to doubling down on creating quality content," Champion adds. "More content does not equal higher search engine rankings."
In fact, shallow content can hurt your domain authority.
Stay fluid. You don't just create content and then stagnate if you want to keep customers coming to you.
"If you make a plan and are consistent in approach, then you're giving yourself the best chance at achieving ROI from your content efforts," Champion said. "You'll have the opportunity to grow an expansive library of content, making you and your business content-wealthy."
He calls inbound marketing campaigns short-term strategic initiatives that are meant to support a long-term content strategy. "Consider launching one per quarter, every three months," he said. "Doing so will help you build a valuable and sustainable content machine."
Always test. What do customers want? Ask them.
"You should always be looking for opportunities to improve your content," Champion said. "The best way to do this is start with your current audience. Consider asking for feedback on the content they've consumed — what they like and what they want more of."
Anna Sutherland Bissell had the makings of a master brand-builder well before she took over the reins of the Bissell Carpet Co. following her husband's death in 1889.
Bissell (1846-1934) became one of America's first female CEOs and demonstrated strong leadership skills and marketing savvy from the start of the carpet-sweeper manufacturing business that she co-founded with her husband Melville. He invented an innovative, one-of-a-kind carpet sweeper and the couple patented the device and began selling it in 1876. Their company was incorporated in 1883, and the sweeper caught on in a big way.
Anna Bissell, meanwhile, learned every aspect of the business from sales and advertising to production. She traveled with her husband from town to town on sales calls to stores, becoming a top-notch salesperson and brand promoter.
When her husband died, Anna was left to raise four children alone. But she was well-prepared to take on the challenge of leading the company, drawing on leadership skills, entrepreneurial instincts and marketing prowess to build on the success that she and her husband established. Her goal: transform the company into a megabrand.
"She possessed a successful combination of intelligence, logic and intuition, and provided ethical leadership," Bissell company representatives told IBD in an email interview. "Anna was an extremely caring person, not only as a business leader but within her community."
Bissell was president and CEO of Bissell Carpet from 1889 through 1919. She remained chair of the board until 1934. During that time she developed and built the carpet-sweeper maker and marketer into a leading international brand. (The company's name changed to The Bissell Corp. in 1923 and to its current one, Bissell Inc., in 1959.)
Thanks to Bissell's strong leadership skills, aggressive marketing, insistence on product quality, and a big push into international markets, by 1899 she had created the largest corporation of its kind in the world and the world leader in home-cleaning appliances.
Bissell laid the groundwork for the success of what today continues as the family-owned Bissell Inc. Bissell is the top-selling brand in floor-care appliances based on NPD Group unit sales, according to the company website. Anna Bissell was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of fame in 1989.
"Anna Bissell built a reputable company with great, high-quality products and a heritage that her descendants are proud to continue," said the company's archivists.
Confidence And Drive
Bissell achieved great success as a business leader drawing on her own resources and self-confidence.
"Anna Bissell's success was due to her hard work, intelligence, personality, and inspiration of those around her," the archivists added. "She was clever, sure and not discouraged by hard work."
A 1904 article in the Michigan Artisan described Bissell's leadership style this way: "She takes a deep interest, constantly keeping in close touch with the business, and by her kindly ways and sincere consideration for all her employees, inspires results that, without such influence, could hardly be achieved."
As CEO, Bissell took responsibility for every aspect of the business. For example, in 1884, before her era as CEO, the company's factory burned down and was not fully insured.
"Anna showed great leadership and secured loans from the bank 19 days after the fire," said the archivists. "She was willing to pledge all her assets to secure the future of the company."
Adds Jo Ellyn Clarey, researcher and past president of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council: "She was savvy and determined as a leader, and I would say that she had good common sense. And she was bold. From the beginning she was a partner in the business."
Bissell's ability to build a megabrand was sharpened by her partnership in the business.
"She was always interested in her husband's activities and studied his business as many women study French," wrote her daughter Anna Bissell McCay in her book, "Recollections of Anna Bissell McCay." "She took no small part in the early development of the business, traveled extensively in the company's interest, and secured the first order John Wanamaker (department store) of Philadelphia ever gave for carpet sweepers. There was no detail of the business with which she was not familiar."
Added Sally J. Bjork, former project curator of the Bissell Collection, in a 1991 speech entitled "Anna Sutherland Bissell: Pioneer Businesswoman," presented by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids: "By understanding the market, and knowing what it would take in creating demand for their product, Bissell achieved tremendous success under the management of Anna."
Bissell Explores New Territory
As CEO, Bissell wasn't afraid to tread on new territory to achieve success. That included building the company and the product into an international brand with a big push overseas.
"The keys (to building the company into an international brand) were surrounding herself with great people and establishing trading offices in New York and Paris to give the company a worldwide reach," said the archivists. "It was also important to have a product the public wanted to buy at a variety of price points, provide a quality product that stores wanted to sell and employ great salesmen to spread the message around the world."
She also "vigorously defended" the company's patents and never lost a lawsuit, they added.
"She was an interesting combination of shrewdness and caution," researcher Clarey told IBD. "She was notorious for protecting their patents. She is credited with establishing guidelines for their trademarks and their patents. And she wasn't afraid of legal action to protect their patents. "
Bissell found ways to be creative and innovative with the product, despite the fact that when she was CEO, Bissell Carpet only made sweepers.
"The company was innovative in that it was continually finding different designs, woods, and iterations of the sweeper to market to every type of household in the world," said the archivists.
She was also innovative on the labor front.
"Anna was known as a progressive executive, who showed concern for her employees, introducing innovative labor-relations policies, employee compensation, insurance, pension plans and paid sick leave long before these practices were widespread," according to the company's website.
Such labor policies and practices may well have helped motivate employees and develop loyalty.
Bissell was not only strategic as a leader, she was also a hands-on executive.
"Anna was involved in every aspect of the business," said the company archivists. "She traveled extensively in the company's interest."
In terms of community leadership, Bissell was active in many civic and philanthropic organizations, especially in programs for the welfare of children. Among them was the Bissell House, which she funded and established. She also sat on the board of the D.A. Blodgett Home for children, among other involvements.
Bissell was able to strike a balance between raising a family and being a business leader.
"She was a devoted wife and mother and society leader," wrote McCay in her book.
And Bissell showed her true character when she took over the company's helm.
"In many texts, the era and her gender were often referred to as a setback," said the archivists. "But Anna Bissell's legacy refutes that notion."
They cite this statement from Bjork's speech: "Anna revealed her true courageous and progressive character. She could have, as some women if her era might have done, looked to the gender stigmas of Victorian times and handed the position over to a male, or sold the company. … She took control of the company and carried on the policies that brought the company into its initial success."
Took over the reins of Bissell Carpet Sweeper Co. as a widow and built it into the largest company of its kind at the time
Overcame: The challenge of building a megabrand and being a female executive during Victorian times
Lesson: Believe in yourself and your capabilities and you will achieve success.
"Trusting her own judgment even in the face of discouragement, she had great self reliance, believed in enterprise, and had faith in her own resources." (McCay)
Brown On Goals
The only thing that stands between you and your dream is the will to try and the belief that it is actually possible. Joel Brown,entrepreneur
Cote On Leadership
To lead, you have to address what people really want to know in a simple, transparent way. Just treating people with respect makes a big difference. David Cote, former CEO, Honeywell
Dubyak On Commitment
When the job becomes so much more than a job — when you apply your full emotional, intellectual and psychological energies toward a cause — you are fully invested in its success. Michael Dubyak,former CEO, WEX
Bariso On Trust
One of the quickest ways to gain someone's trust is to help that person. Justin Bariso, author
Hollingworth On Courage
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. James Neil Hollingworth, writer
When Goldman Sachs sought the right name for its new online banking service in 2016, it could have dreamed up a trendy-sounding moniker like Venmo or Zelle. But it settled on Marcus instead.
Marcus, as in Marcus Goldman (born Mark Goldmann), founded the storied financial firm in 1869, and he certainly didn't carry a smartphone. But the business philosophies Goldman espoused in the 1800s — which turned his firm into one of the longest-lived amid the tumult of Wall Street — apply as much now as they did then.
"Inspired by Marcus Goldman, we put our customers at the center of everything we do," Goldman Sachs spokeswoman Maria Gonzalez told IBD.
Scores of rival firms like Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns have faded away. But Goldman Sachs is still standing. It is valued at north of $80 billion. The investment bank is a key player in most major financial transactions ranging from underwriting to complex trading. The who's who of financial heavy hitters have crossed through Goldman's doors at some time. Notable alumni include former U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury Robert Rubin and Henry Paulsen, and current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Recipe For Success
But it all started with Marcus' simple rule for success in business: Be willing to look for opportunities and adapt to meet them.
"I think it is a great compliment to him that so many people still call the firm, 'Goldman' even though nearly a century has passed since a Goldman was there," Charles Ellis, financial consultant, historian and professor at Yale University and Harvard University, told IBD. "He was clearly brilliant and creative in finance during times when financial creativity was unusual."
Goldman modified his personal business strategies and approaches several times during his life before hitting upon historic success, creating a recipe that's worked since, including:
Build new skills even if they don't yet fit your interests. Goldman built businesses by finding people with problems and helping to solve them — a result of how he grew up, Sheri Caplan, financial writer and author of the essay "Marcus Goldman," told IBD. "Goldman's upbringing resounded in his business approach," she said.
This was a skill he first learned in part from observing his father. Goldman was born in 1821 in Trappstadt, Germany. He watched his father master the art of bartering to get better prices for cattle sold at market.
The ability to adapt served Goldman well after leaving Germany for better opportunities in the United States. Upon reaching Philadelphia at age 27, Goldman looked for work. His landlady's son, Manfred Muller, peddled consumer goods like tobacco. But he was limited to what he could sell from the first floor of their boardinghouse. So for three years, Goldman drove a horse-drawn wagon through the town's streets selling a broader array of items, according to " When Money Was in Fashion," by June Breton Fisher. This experience helped Goldman improve his English and learn how to sell directly to consumers.
Another, more dramatic transition would come next. Goldman noticed the throngs of German immigrants arriving in Philadelphia in need of low-cost but durable clothing. Again, he saw an opportunity. Goldman financed the purchase of a sewing machine at what today would be hundreds of dollars. Goldman morphed from a dry goods seller to clothing retailer on High Street, going as far as to Americanize his last name by dropping the second "n" in Goldmann. The clothing business boomed. Goldman again found a market others missed or failed to see much value in.
"Arriving penniless in the U.S. as a young man, he relied upon himself but observed others' successes and examined opportunities available to him," Caplan said.
With capital from his first successful business and the ability to spot markets, Goldman would make another change that would prove even more lucrative.
Find a niche, especially one others think is too small. Eyeing faster growth in New York, Goldman saw a new opportunity to reinvent himself again in 1869. He sold his clothing business and moved with his family. This time his goal was tapping the world of finance. "Exactly why Goldman decided to become a banker is not entirely clear, but it is not difficult to understand how he might have arrived at the decision," Caplan said. Other successful German-Jewish families jumped between retail and finance, so there was a precedent to follow.
Goldman's skill was the ability to find a niche. From a modest office on Pine Street in Manhattan, Goldman specialized in the unglamorous business of "trade bills."
Jewelers, tanners and other retailers in New York received IOUs from their customers worth upward of tens of thousands in today's dollars. These promissory notes strained retailers' cash reserves, as many would have to pay for their raw materials in cash, only to get these IOUs in return. Traditional banks didn't want to bother with what were trivial accounts for them. Goldman saw this as an opportunity.
Working alone to keep costs down, but dressed sharply in a Prince Albert coat and tall hat, Goldman paid merchants cash for their promissory notes at 8% to 9% below face value, according to Ellis' "The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs."
Merchants were thrilled to get quick access to cash at better terms than banks would provide. He could then sell the notes to commercial bankers at a 1.5% commission. "Goldman excelled at identifying business opportunities and market niches," Caplan said.
Stay close to customers. Goldman wasn't the only person "note shaving" at the time. But he used personal techniques to do it a little better than most. Staying close to customers — literally and figuratively — was one of his secrets. Rather than dashing between customers to buy notes, he walked the streets. This way he noted other shopkeepers with short-term financing needs, Fisher says. Business was strong — by the 1890s, Goldman's firm "was the nation's largest dealer in commercial paper," Ellis said.
This closeness to customers gave Goldman the ability to pioneer what would become the commercial paper market. This market has grown into an important corner of the fixed-income market. Today it is valued at more than $1 trillion, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Know when to bring in a team. Goldman's own work ethic and ability to keep costs down got him far. For many years, he had just one employee — a bookkeeper — and did most of the work himself. But to reach his stretch goal, buying a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, he'd need a larger team. Goldman recruited Samuel Sachs, the son of a family friend, to join the firm. Goldman would become Goldman, Sachs & Co. as more family and friends joined. By 1896, Marcus joined the NYSE, well before his death in 1904. "Goldman prized and rewarded ambition, hard work, and family," Caplan said.
Avoid the trappings of success. Goldman remained focused on keeping and building on his success. During the early days of his firm, Goldman's business was marked by a shingle that simply read, "Marcus Goldman, Banker and Broker." Goldman focused on investing, not spending, even as his wealth grew. He'd bristle at conversations about the latest (and expensive) fashions with the response, "Money is always fashionable," Caplan said.
He shunned publicity, preferring quiet hard work. By the time Goldman died, the financial firm he founded was one of the most successful in history. Yet the New York Times announced his death in a sparse obituary. It stated the basics and: "It is earnestly requested to send no flowers."
Goldman's legacy is a firm of influence and prestige few can emulate. "Goldman emphasized client service and reputation in his business dealings while disdaining publicity, and these values permeated the culture of his firm," Caplan said. "The firm's prestigious image remained largely unscathed."
And now one of Goldman Sachs' latest offerings for consumers bears his name. "In 1869, Marcus Goldman set up shop, beginning a long history of bringing financial expertise to clients," Goldman Sachs' Gonzalez said. "Today, the variety of financial services and products from Marcus by Goldman Sachs puts technology and 148 years of financial expertise to work for our customers."
Overcame: Religious discrimination in native Germany.
Lesson: Look for overlooked areas of growth, and develop the skills on the fly to prosper.
"Goldman excelled at identifying business opportunities and market niches. His strong work ethic, tenacity, intellect, and ambition underpinned his success." (Sheri Caplan, financial writer)
Some lucky go-getters pursue a lifelong passion. Their career choice is never in question. They know exactly what they want to do with their professional life — and they love every minute of it.
But for many people, one career is not enough. At some point, they grow restless and realize they want to dive into a new discipline or turn a favorite hobby into a viable source of income.
When mid- or late-career executives decide to recalibrate their goals, perils lurk around every corner. These executives can wind up regretting a job switch after it's too late. Or they might develop a newfound appreciation for what they gave up. To navigate a successful career transition:
Stay in the game. If you can afford to take time off, do so. But don't overdo it or you might struggle to re-enter the working world.
"Put some distance between what you were doing and what you will be doing, but not too much," said John Taft, vice chairman of Baird, a wealth management firm. He was chief executive of RBC Wealth Management from 2005 to 2016.
Now 63, Taft spent the first month after leaving his CEO post in an unfamiliar role, wondering what to do next. He took the summer off and then began networking.
"I stayed in the flow as much as possible," he recalled. "I told people, 'I'm looking at options and I'd love to pick your brain.' "
Craft your storyline. Succinctly describe your career arc and your goals. Weave them into a narrative that's simple, memorable and easy to follow.
"Have a hypothesis that you can explain to people," Taft said. "But it has to be flexible."
He told others that he was taking a sabbatical and didn't intend to retire for good. This helped him — and his network — frame his situation and explore potentially rewarding opportunities.
Wait to pounce. If you're unaccustomed to idleness, it's tempting to leap at the first offer that comes your way. But a little patience can pay off in the long run.
"Don't jump at opportunities just because somebody is interested in you," Taft warned. "Just because an opportunity is there doesn't mean it's the right one. A mentor told me, 'Don't swing at the first pitch.'"
Adjust your attitude. Once you reach a certain age, you might fear that your best years are behind you. If your career stalls out, beware of lapsing into negative thinking.
"It's easy to think, 'Nobody wants me. I'm too old,'" said Mark James, founder and president of Hire Consulting Services in San Diego, Calif. "It's better to think, 'There are so many opportunities for somebody with my experience. It's a buffet out there.'"
Replicate your triumphs. When you're at a career crossroads, set new goals based on past victories. Look for ways to harness your strengths and relive moments of professional glory.
"Reflect on your big wins and how they made you feel," said James, author of " Keys to the C Suite." "Then think of how you can do that again," perhaps as a consultant or executive-for-hire.
Survey your peers. Solicit input from colleagues who know you well. Invite them to offer insight into what you should do next.
"It's hard to be objective about yourself," said Nada Norval, senior vice president of Ratliff & Taylor, a talent management consultancy in Cleveland, Ohio. She suggests asking them questions such as, "What's my best skill?" and "What do you think I do really well?"
Laszlo Bock's story is the story of the American dream.
Bock, 45, was born in Romania. He and his parents fled the oppressive Nicolae Ceausescu regime. They wound up briefly in an Austrian refugee camp before making it to the U.S. when Laszlo was 2.
He went on to earn an MBA from Yale University (1999) and hold a succession of increasingly important jobs. Eventually, he landed the top HR post — senior VP of People Operations — at Google ( GOOGL). The former Google exec also wrote a best-selling book, "Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead."
Next up for Bock: Growing his startup Humu, a firm that will spread the principles he learned and created at Google to other corporations.
Ironically, early on it did not appear Bock was headed for a stellar career in human resources. His first job was at a more traditional MBA destination, consulting company McKinsey & Co.
"Consulting was like finishing school for MBAs," Bock said in a telephone interview with IBD. "I felt I had a lot to learn. The courses I enjoyed the most (at Yale) were statistics and operations management. And McKinsey promised to move you around so you get to learn a lot of different things. It seemed like a great place to keep learning."
In 2003, he decided to switch careers. "I could have done what other consultants do: go into sales or marketing or strategy and spend 20 years in a company and become a CEO. Or I could go in a different direction: go into HR, never become a CEO, but have an impact."
By impact he meant changing a corporate culture. "I realize that what frustrated me most in business was the disconnect between the values leaders espoused and what they actually delivered," Bock said.
At the time, the two companies considered to have the best human resources departments were PepsiCo ( PEP) and General Electric ( GE). So Bock cold-called four HR execs at each of the two companies. But he got only one return call, from GE. Six weeks later, he was named vice president of compensation and benefits at a division of GE Capital.
In 2006, Google hired him for a position he admits "I was not qualified for. I didn't have the right experience, and then we did some really cool things."
This was just two years after the company's IPO. Google was in many ways typical of Silicon Valley employers. That is, it "had a lot of good instincts, but not a lot of rigor," Bock said. "There were fun things (like) a communal (and free) lunch table." But there was also "a hiring process that ended with college-faculty-like tenure." And there was waste: "I took $50 million out of the food program and no one felt the difference," Bock said.
Democratizing The Workplace
But the thrust of Bock's philosophy had little to do with saving money. His major thesis was that the days of hierarchical, exclusively top-down management were on their way out; that offering higher pay gets you more, not better, applicants; and that part of the responsibility of managers is not just to lead, but also to provide an environment that will attract top candidates.
This has manifested itself in several ways, including democratization. The company has largely eliminated perk differentials that once existed between staff and top management. There are no executive dining rooms and no reserved parking spots. The company's deferred compensation program is open to everyone, not just senior executives.
Also, many key decisions now reflect data — "the wisdom of the crowds," is how Bock puts it — not a manager's gut. Consider hiring, where we tend to like people like ourselves.
Now the in-person interview process not only includes a candidate's potential manager and his/her peers, but possible subordinates as well, each of whom rates the prospect.
The interviews are structured with a list of questions provided in advance and designed to reveal the attributes a job calls for.
The process can take as long as six weeks, a seemingly long time. But the Google philosophy is not just to hire, but to also set a high bar and hire objectively — not based on a single manager's decisions. And that takes time, not only for the interviews, but also the evaluation process that follows.
Managers hated not being able to hire their own people. Interviewers were upset that they had to follow a preset formula for interviews and the subsequent evaluation. But Bock refused to give in to the pressure. And ultimately most managers recognized that the quality of new hires was improving.
Promotions, similarly, are based on reviews by committees that include employees' peers. Employees rate managers too.
The latter was part of Project Oxygen, which Bock considers the greatest achievement during his tenure at Google. Ironically it started as a test to prove that managers don't matter and turned out to reveal the exact opposite.
Follow The Data
In 2007, the company began an annual survey called Googlegeist to measure employee happiness. Intended to give Googlers an opportunity to influence the direction of the company, Googlegeist usually contains about 100 questions. Answers are in the form of a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Some of the questions — they change every year — deal with managers.
Despite the widely held Dilbert suspicion that managers stand in the way of innovation, results showed that good managers' teams tend to be more productive.
The survey revealed eight attributes the best managers shared. Bock's team designed a questionnaire that gives employees an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback on how well their supervisors connect with those attributes.
The results are provided to managers in an Upward Feedback Survey. The results do not influence performance ratings or compensation. Instead they serve as a guide to improvements. Developmental courses are available for those who need them.
The program is a significant success in that many Google managers even share the results with their teams. Jonathan Rosenberg, a Google senior VP of product management, noted in an email interview:
"The Project Oxygen work run by Laszlo's team was an aha (moment) in that it revealed what many people knew but hadn't put into practice: that for managers to scale their own impact they had to see themselves as the sum of their people's work, and not just their individual work product. Lots of things resulted from these findings, but many of them were around information flow — managers must be great communicators and prioritize information sharing to succeed and help their teams succeed. A lot of it comes down to communication."
Bock admits his innovations were greeted with a measure of skepticism. But he feels disruption of the prevailing wisdom was necessary. "For decades and decades we've been managing people the same way," he said. "If all that stuff worked, we'd be living in Utopia, and every manager would be enlightened."
His ideas must work, because during his tenure Google was recognized as an exceptional employer over 100 times.
Which leaves only one question unanswered: What in the world does Humu stand for? Wait for it: Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, the state fish of Hawaii. According to a company spokesperson, "It keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously, but we also like the way it sounds. (It) reminds us of humanity, humility, humor, all key elements of the team."
Introduced data-based decision making in personnel matters at Google.
Overcame: Skepticism and reluctance to communicate among his co-workers.
Lesson: Stay the course and don't give in to pressure.
Quote: "If you believe people are fundamentally good and worthy of trust, you must be honest and transparent with them."
The authors are co-founders of The Culture Works, a training firm. They drew from their database of more than 850,000 employee surveys to identify the traits of today's best team leaders. Up to 80% of employees' days are spent working in teams in the average company, they've found.
Former NBA All-Star center Mark Eaton, the author of "The Four Commitments of a Winning Team," says "the term 'team' is used in virtually every business, but what does it really mean? And how do I better my team and become an All-Star performer?"
Eaton is a motivational speaker who advises corporations about teamwork. He defines it as "a group of people who commit to each other."
Tips on creating winning teamwork:
Understand generations. Autonomy is one of the stronger motivators for baby boomers and Gen X workers, but younger colleagues rank it near the bottom, Gostick says.
Younger workers want coaching and mentoring about their careers, he adds. For millennials, "recognition from their bosses and co-workers is three times more important than it is for older workers."
Know your job. "You need to narrow your focus and intensify it," Eaton said. "Focus on your core skill set."
By doing so, you become most valuable to your team.
Legendary NBA center Wilt Chamberlain counseled a pre-NBA Eaton to focus on defense and protecting the basket. That was "one task that I could be great at," Eaton realized.
Take direction. Eaton did not play much in college. But he "continued to inquire what I could do better," he said. "My coach gave me a list of things, and I did them every day."
It paid off a year later. Eaton's skills improved. And an NBA coach who watched him work out drafted him.
"How clear are you about other people's priorities, and how well do you execute their requests?" Eaton asks. It's all part of being a good teammate.
Encourage openness. Feeling comfortable to express one's views, taking smart risks, and being given roughly equal time to speak up are hallmarks of today's best teams, Gostick says.
"The most innovative teams we studied have regular, intense debates," he said. "As long as discussions are respectful, and everyone gets the chance to contribute equally, most people thrive on this kind of debate — finding it important to getting to the route of problems and working out solutions."
Set ground rules. When it comes to managing robust debate within teams, Gostick and Elton recommend these:
Challenge the position not the person. Don't make it personal.
Come to the debate ready to present facts and data, not supposition.
Debates are opportunities to find the best ideas, be enlightened and learn — not score points.
Make people look good. When Eaton joined the Utah Jazz, they had a very bad team. "Our coach Frank Layden convinced us to stop fighting with one another and that the individual accolades would show up if we would trust and support each other," Eaton said. "He said no one cares if you are scoring a lot of points on a losing team. Everyone wants the players from a winning team."
Eaton said they listened. And the Utah Jazz went from being a losing team of obscure players to a winning one full of NBA All-Stars.
The key is to evaluate your own ability to make others shine. "How focused are you on making the people you work with look good on a scale of 1 to 10?" Eaton asks. "How could you improve that number?"
There was one fundamental problem looming over Domino's Pizza ( DPZ) when Patrick Doyle became its president and CEO in 2010; the pizza chain's pizza wasn't considered very good.
Domino's had made its name on price and delivery, but many consumers felt the pizza's crust had become akin to cardboard, and the sauce was ketchup-like. Complaints ranged from the pizza was, well, terrible, to microwave frozen versions were a better option. Topping it off with the economic downturn, Domino's franchisees were struggling.
Doyle, who joined Domino's in 1997, listened to and implemented the advice of his chief marketing officer, Russell Weiner; his VP of advertising, Karen Kaiser; and their outside ad agency, all of whom advised transparency. And then Doyle didn't mince words with the public.
"The way you deal with this problem is to walk out and talk about it," Doyle, 55, told IBD.
"If you spend tens of millions of dollars on advertisements talking about how lousy your product is and that you need to change it, it's really easy and credible inside the organization to say this is the example of how we want to go after everything.
"I can't take credit for the idea. I wholly acquiesced to doing it. It made a lot of sense."
Doyle put together the equivalent of a pizza-improvement task force, including the people who provided the chain's cheese, dough and sauce. He told the team that nothing was off the table, including scrapping their entire pizza recipe if necessary.
"The bar we need to get over, is we need to have a materially better-tasting, higher-quality pizza than what we have today or that our competitors have," Doyle recalled saying. "And we need to be able to prove that through a blind taste test. That was our standard."
The team went to work for over a year. They tested lots of different kinds of cheeses, sauces, doughs and flavor profiles. Ultimately everything was changed, and Domino's had its improved recipe.
Eating It Up
The new recipe was a hit. Under Doyle's other initiatives and leadership, which culminated with his decision to step down this past July, Domino's became the largest pizza company in the world based on global sales. Its stock price increased 2,100% during his tenure. That rise returned $3.4 billion to shareholders.
Domino's has some 15,000 stores in over 85 international markets. In 2017 its global retail sales doubled from when Doyle became CEO, to over $12.3 billion.
"If there is one thing we did particularly well at Domino's," Doyle said, "it's how we thought about investment and risk, and how that has driven growth in our business. We are simply not afraid of making mistakes. We have moved and changed this business at a pace that is dramatic and very unusual for a more traditional business."
"A real strength of Patrick's is he's very analytical and he's real comfortable managing data and making good business judgments based on really sound data and facts," said David Brandon, Domino's chairman, who managed Doyle for 11 years. "Patrick is also a really nice, compassionate, good person. Everybody likes him."
"Patrick is highly competitive, yet down to earth and approachable," said Tim McIntyre, Domino's executive vice president of communications, investor relations and legislative affairs.
Born in Midland, Mich., Doyle earned an economics degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
He started his career in finance at First Chicago Bank. Then, after five years, his wife encouraged him to take a chance and join medical device maker InterVascular, where he'd be based in southern France. Doyle next worked for Gerber Products before joining Domino's in 1997 as senior VP of marketing.
Upon assuming the CEO's mantle at Domino's, Doyle set three goals:
First, he wanted to create a far better customer experience that was going to generate better returns for their franchisees. While a better tasting product was the first step, it wasn't the only one.
"There was a really dramatic opportunity in technology to significantly change the customer experience and make it really easier and quicker for people to order," Doyle said. "It made our stores more efficient. Suddenly people realize that you're serious about doing something different."
Digital sales increased to 65% of Domino's total sales during Doyle's time as CEO.
Further, the average profit per store for franchise owners grew from $49,000 a year to more than $136,000 a year.
The second goal was Doyle wanted Domino's to be the largest pizza company in the world by 2020. In 2010 Pizza Hut was 50% bigger than Domino's, with $3.9 billion more in global retail sales. By 2017 Domino's had surpassed Pizza Hut in sales, with $12.3 billion.
Doyle spearheaded Domino's international expansion efforts, adding 5,000 stores, an increase of more than 130%.
"Patrick has a way of setting big goals and getting people to believe they can be achieved," McIntyre said. "He is the consummate optimist: If you believe it, you can achieve it."
Doyle's third priority was to have a leadership team and successor in place to drive Domino's to even greater heights. New CEO Richard Allison was promoted from within as was Russell Weiner, now chief operating officer of Domino's and president of its Americas division.
Extra On People
Outside of positions that require technical and functional expertise, "the advice I always gave is: Hire attitude and teach skills," Doyle said. "You can teach people most of what they need to know to be successful in their jobs.
"What generally can't be fixed is a bad attitude, people who are difficult to work with and not excited to be a part of the organization."
Doyle says No. 1 with all effective leaders is getting the right people around them. "I am very strongly in the camp of leading through relationships, leading through trust, getting people working together and empowering them as a result of that," he said. "If you get that right, then the organization can move dramatically faster."
"Patrick trusts the people around him to get the job done," McIntyre said. "He has never been one to micromanage or keep people off-balance by second-guessing them. He's always there if you need his help, but it's important to him that you have the freedom to perform."
Doyle says he spent the vast majority of his time as CEO on people; in groups, one on one, with franchisees, communicating what it was Domino's was trying to get done, and recruiting talent into the organization.
"He's just a very effective leader," Brandon added. "People respond to him. There's a high level of trust in him both as a person and as a leader. He's been able to build and retain terrific teams throughout his career at Domino's."
In looking back at his tenure as Domino's CEO, Doyle feels there is one overriding lesson to pass on: "Find things that are broken and fix them. We knew we were great at service and delivering pizza to people, but we knew that we had big perception issues around the quality of our pizza. We decided to take it head on, and doing that dramatically changed the trajectory of our business."
Doyle says there are a lot of organizations that know what their problems are but don't take them on because they just look too big and too difficult.
"It's as simple as identify where the opportunities are, and with conviction go after fixing them," Doyle said. "You just do that over and over and over again as an organization and you're going to have success."
Overcame: Changing the negative perception of Domino's pizza.
Lesson: Be transparent and keep it simple.
"It's just all too easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize. You need to be the person who is diving in."
Bezos On Change
What's dangerous is not to evolve. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO
Ellington On Drive
My attitude is never to be satisfied, never enough, never. Duke Ellington, musician
Ash On Goals
Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve. Mary Kay Ash, cosmetics entrepreneur
Gandhi On Honesty
A "No" uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a "Yes" merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. Mahatma Gandhi, statesman
Hill On Setting Examples
When your best player's working harder than everybody and holding everyone accountable, that's a winning culture. Grant Hill, basketball player
Most companies put plenty of rules in place to keep their people in line and doing what the leaders want. Not Netflix ( NFLX). It gives its people responsibility and holds them accountable to get the job done.
"We assume these are intelligent adults," Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix, told IBD. "Why have rules that treat them like children?"
Here's how to instill responsibility in your group.
Value people. One of the key tenets at Netflix is to avoid rules. Leaders trust their people to make the right decisions. That's why they were hired. McCord asks why someone with a Ph.D. in math would need to ask for a finance person's approval for a purchase of more than $10,000. They'll just do three $9,000 purchases.
"You're forcing people to game the system and make infantile decisions," said McCord, who wrote the book, "Powerful."
Be direct. Netflix calls it radical honesty. People don't beat around the bush. Be direct and willing to say things like, "I don't think you're fully informed" when discussing a matter with a colleague. The leaders need to set the tone by doing it without attacking anyone.
"It should always be with the thought that the outcome is that we'll do better," McCord said. "Then it's not personal, it's not you picking on me."
Find purpose. Donna Hicks, author of "Leading with Dignity" and associate at Harvard University's Weatherford Center for International Affairs, focuses much of her philosophy on dignity, both yours and that of others. Leaders need to strive to honor others' dignity by valuing and appreciating them. To do that, own up to missteps, she says.
"When you violate others' dignity and don't take responsibility, you violate their dignity and yours," she said.
Overcome nature. Say you make a mistake by putting a policy decision in place that hurts the entire organization. Admit the error. And tell your people how you'll correct it.
"Part of our biological tendency is we don't want to look bad," Hicks said. "Our hard-wiring does not lead us to take responsibility. It takes strength to be vulnerable."
Find your part. When people make bad decisions, Netflix flips it to have those employees' managers look at what context they set that caused a smart person to make a bad choice.
"Management is responsible for creating the culture by articulating what the company does and giving context to it," McCord said.
Reap the rewards. Blunt talk and taking responsibility breed efficiency and build trust, McCord says.
"There's less gossiping, and you can go faster if I trust you to do the right thing," McCord said.
Gain respect. When you own up to a misstep, your people are far more likely to feel empathy than to condemn you, Hicks says. Take responsibility if you've caused people harm.
"When leaders do that, people soften up," Hicks said. "It brings people closer."
Open up. Create an environment where people feel safe to speak up if their dignity has been violated. Make yourself vulnerable by talking about what you could have done better.
"That's the secret to rebuilding trust when it's broken," Hicks said. "We think vulnerability makes us weak. But the fact is it makes people become more engaged and feel there's a purpose to their job. That's invaluable."
Give feedback. Netflix promoted honesty by starting a feedback system called Start, Stop, Continue. It encouraged people to tell anyone else at the company something they'd like them to start doing, something they should stop doing and something they should continue doing.
"We said if we feel transparency and honesty are important to us, it should be done openly," McCord said.
Practice and learn. It doesn't always come naturally to own up to your mistakes. Hicks says it's vital to work on it. Try it on your significant other or kids. You'll get used to admitting errors.
If anyone has a license to brag, it's Ray Dalio. The founder of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is not only one of the world's 100 wealthiest people — he also predicted the global financial crisis of 2007.
He's even played a role in designing financial instruments ranging from inflation-protected bonds to a poultry-related futures strategy that allowed McDonald's to launch the Chicken McNugget.
Yet Dalio, when studying what made him successful, thanks his most epic failure. A market call he'd made 40 years ago was so off the mark — he predicted a depression right before a massive bull market that kicked off in the 1980s — that it practically wiped him out.
"At one point, I'd lost so much money I couldn't afford to pay the people who worked with me. One by one, I had to let them go," Dalio explains in his book, "Principles." He even had to borrow $4,000 from his dad to hold him over until he could sell his second car.
Why would failing so miserably lead to success? This paradox is the core of "Principles," a meticulous blueprint for success he created over decades of analysis and meditation. Picking himself up from his colossal mistake, Dalio realized that striving for goals and failing sets up a cycle of improvement. By learning from mistakes in painstaking detail, modifying future decisions and repeating the process, you reach what you want from life.
"I think he has been so successful precisely because he has a set of defined principles that he lives and works by," says Robert Johnson, professor of finance at Creighton University.
Better yet, Dalio says lessons he's learned about success can help anyone reach a higher level. "To do exceptionally well you have to push your limits and that, if you push your limits, you will crash and it will hurt a lot," Dalio says in "Principles."
"You will think you have failed — but that won't be true unless you give up."
How can you apply Dalio's Principles to your life? Here are five steps from his years of reflection.
Start with a lofty, but realistic, goal. A concrete and well-defined objective sets the direction of your life. People often chase too many things. Finding out what you have passion for — but something that's still rooted in reality — is the key to forming an obtainable goal.
"Life is like a giant smorgasbord with more delicious alternatives than you can ever hope to taste. Choosing a goal often means rejecting some things you want in order to get other things that you want or need even more," he wrote.
Dalio's goal? He wanted to build an investment career, but on his terms, not as a suit on Wall Street. He long bristled under rules at school and being told what to do, but realized he would excel when on his own. The same kid — a son of a musician — who refused to mow the lawn on demand hustled on a newspaper route, shoveled snow for money and worked at a local restaurant.
Goals must be realistic, too. Dalio found his calling in the financial industry when he was 12 years old. He'd invested in his first stock, Northeast Airlines, because shares were trading for below $5 apiece. "It was a dumb strategy, but I tripled my money," he says. It was then he saw he could make money doing what he enjoyed. "I was hooked."
Fail well and take meticulous notes when you do. Dalio turned failing into an art form over his decadeslong career. Watching other wealthy investors stumble and lose everything, Dalio understood the importance of constant improvement — even when on top. In his mind, success results from a series of decisions with increasingly improved outcomes. While avoiding bad decisions isn't possible, developing a system to better address your next decision is essential.
Dalio, who is Bridgewater's co-chief investment officer and co-chairman, sees failures as almost predictable and started to look forward to them as an opportunity to refine his strategy. "I began to experience painful moments in a radically different way. Instead of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, I saw pain as nature's reminder that there is something important for me to learn," he says.
Dalio's biggest mistake of his life is probably what ultimately put him on a path to success. What was this error? Dalio had gained recognition following a successful career trading commodities and setting up his own firm, Bridgewater, out of a two-bedroom apartment.
Following Mexico's 1982 sovereign debt default, Dalio appeared on financial television to give his view on the markets. He declared a depression was coming. He was sure of it — his research pointed to a collapse in the system. But he was dead wrong. Instead of crashing, the stock market rallied. And an 18-year period of prosperity ensued. The mistake turned off clients. And money flowed out of his fund in the early 1980s.
But here's the key to Dalio's success: He didn't fold. He studied why he was so wrong and what he missed, and started programming his findings into a computer. This painful experience improved Dalio's ability to understand factors that affect markets. He also discovered how computer systems could help predict markets reliably and take out human shortsightedness and bias. He began building computer systems to scan markets for patterns, which put Bridgewater at the forefront of "quantitative" investing.
Value truth over ego. Admitting you're not always the source of every best idea is central to success. Dalio hires and consults with smart people who disagree with him. The goal is to be so open-minded that you can listen to others' views to get to reality. "I just want to be right — I don't care if the right answer comes from me," he says.
To succeed, members of Bridgewater had to be completely frank with each other. Dalio started to write down the company's "Work Principles," giving employees a procedure to share thoughts openly, discuss them and vote on what's best. All these rules were written down. "Even prior to publication of (his) book, he had a document of over 100 pages, summarizing the principles, that was required reading for new employees," Johnson says. "When people know exactly what is expected of them, and don't have to guess about the culture of the firm, they are able to focus on the work at hand."
Dalio's ability to find the best answer, even if it comes from elsewhere, is a key to his success, says Marcel Muenster, a managing director of several startups who has studied Dalio's leadership style.
"Don't just make decisions based on your own biases," Muenster says. "Be open-minded enough to be challenged by others who have a better understanding. The collective wisdom of yourself and people you surround yourself with will lead to better decisions."
Quantify whatever you can. Success isn't an accident — it requires careful accounting of what works and what doesn't. Dalio learned this by studying the commodities markets. Predicting livestock price changes was complex. So Dalio took the time to find all the arcane drivers of prices, including the ratio of acreage of planted grain to rainfall levels.
He brings the same precision and analysis to other parts of his life. With employees, Dalio stored their strengths and weaknesses on "baseball cards." These cards allow Bridgewater to find the people with the right skills for specific projects. "Just as you wouldn't have a great fielder with a 0.160 batting average bat third, you wouldn't assign a big-picture person a task requiring attention to details," he says.
Dalio also took the time to quantify and study the habits of other great idea-shapers. He's studied everyone from Steve Jobs of Apple ( AAPL) and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com ( AMZN) to Reed Hastings of Netflix ( NFLX), as well as Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King Jr. Dalio asked several successful people he knew — including Microsoft's ( MSFT) Bill Gates, Elon Musk of Tesla ( TSLA), Hastings and Twitter's ( TWTR) Jack Dorsey — to take personality assessments. Dalio studied the results to find common traits and help with hiring at Bridgewater.
Avoid stagnation and evolve. Dalio forms much of his worldview by studying the natural world. He sees the physical sciences as a benchmark of the way things work. Dalio studied psychology to better understand how the mind functions and to be a better manager and father. He studied biology to understand how organisms morph over time to ensure their survival. Dalio sees the process of evolution as the one system that endures over time — and the one worth mimicking when striving for lasting success. All systems break down over time, unless they change.
"Evolving is life's greatest accomplishment and its greatest reward," he says.
Overcame: An off-the-mark market call for a depression right before the bull market in the 1980s that practically wiped him out.
Lesson: Don't fear failure. Expect it and begin to enjoy the lessons it teaches.
"I can say that being strong is better than being weak, and that struggling gives one strength."
"If you want to succeed in a world where buyers are more informed and empowered than ever," due to the internet, "you'll need to change the way you sell to match how people buy," said Signorelli, who is also director of HubSpot's Global Sales Partner Program.
Tips on remaking the customer experience in the self-service age:
Humanize connections. Modern sales representatives must "personalize, personalize, personalize," Signorelli said.
"What really matters the most," he emphasized, is "having an open and genuine conversation with someone. Ditch the script. It'll reframe how you think and behave in every conversation, for the better."
Demonstrate your worth. If a salesperson "cannot provide insight or information that a prospect could otherwise find on their own, they have no reason to speak with you," Signorelli said. "Period."
Data from marketing firm Corporate Visions shows that 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value.
"Pay close attention to what your prospects share with you," Signorelli said. "And use this insight to your advantage."
Pounce on opportunities. When today's internet-savvy buyer actually wants to speak with a sales rep, "they want to speak right then and there, not wait for a callback, Signorelli said.
This is so important that the business responding to a buyer's inquiry first ends up winning the customer's business 35% to 50% of the time, Signorelli says. "The best sellers leverage technology to engage buyers quickly through the buyer's preferred communication channel."
Bliss adds that 77% of global consumers think more favorably of a company when they receive proactive alerts and notifications from it.
Seek caring employees. Know the human behind the resume. Why? Because they are the ones most in contact with your customers.
Bliss points out that companies such as Southwest Airlines ( LUV) spend significant time with candidates to know their life priorities.
Be there. Bliss cites PetSmart's ( PETM) Chewy.com. It provides 24/7 customer service by person, chat or email. "Service is delivered from people who care and who know the answers," Bliss said. "They've earned sales of over $2 billion, up from $26 million in 2012."
Bliss suggests evaluating how long you put customers on hold and rethinking the concept of work hours. "Are you working on customer time, or company time?"
"Failure to empathize or take the customers' situation seriously is one of the most-cited reasons for customers to walk away from a company," she added.
Give to get. Lemonade Insurance wanted to remove the imbalance that sometimes defines the insurance experience, Bliss says. So its claims process includes an honesty pledge — by which it chooses to believe customers' words
Bliss advises that you complete a customer trust review. "Look at all your paperwork — is there any fine print that reads like it was written to protect you from customers?"
And move your people from being " 'policy cops' to people able to honor customers," she said.
The cards were stacked against Rebecca Lukens when she honored her husband's deathbed request and took over the Brandywine Iron Works & Nail Factory in 1825.
At the time, the ironworks was in debt. Lukens (1794-1854) was raising young children and was pregnant with another. That meant she faced running the business and her household alone. And the fact that a woman would be heading an ironworks didn't help matters.
Still, motivated by her Quaker faith, perseverance and courage, Lukens overcame the adversity. She drew on her leadership skills to pursue her goal of continuing and improving the business she had built with her husband as his partner.
"As a leader, she was resilient, courageous and had a strategic outlook," LeAnne Zolovich, educational services manager at the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum, told IBD. "She was a practical person and a sharp judge of character."
Lukens was proprietor (or what we would call the CEO today) of the Brandywine Iron Works in 1825 through 1847. Later she became a silent partner with her son-in-law Abram Gibbons. She fully retired in 1850. During that time, Lukens not only got the business out of debt, she also strengthened its reputation for making quality boiler plates (the pieces of iron that were formed together to create boilers for steam technology) and built it into a powerful force in the industry. Fortune inducted her into the Business Hall of Fame in 1994.
She became one of America's few female iron masters and the country's first female industrialist.
Lukens demonstrated strong leadership skills from the very start of her tenure. She laid the groundwork for what eventually became Lukens Steel.
"She demonstrated she had the ability to run the business, and the business grew at a rate that (her husband) Charles would not have imagined," author Susannah Brody told IBD. She was very successful in business, and she was also a leader in the community as an orthodox Quaker."
Lukens forged success while facing many personal and professional obstacles. But she never gave up. She pushed forward to meet the challenges head on, drawing on her survival instincts to find courage.
"She was like George Washington at Valley Forge," Gene DiOrio, historical advisor to the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum, told IBD. "She faced a million instances where rather than give up and walk away, Rebecca stayed with the problem and worked her way through it. She was a shining example of courage."
Staged A Turnaround
Among the challenges was the fact the business was in debt when Lukens took over, Zolovich says.
Lukens, a savvy business manager and strategic thinker, moved quickly to get her house in order. She got out of debt by taking out lines of credit from local businessmen, some of whom were associates or friends, at decent rates, says Zolovich.
"She also invested in her employees and the mill to increase production and make quality products," she added.
Lukens implemented many changes to make the mill more profitable and competitive, including improving the mill's working conditions.
At the physical site, she rebuilt the dam, installed a new water wheel and built larger furnaces, which allowed her to increase production, says Zolovich. Lukens also adopted new technology as it became available.
On the business side, Lukens pursued specialty markets.
"Rather than just making iron and sell it, she would go to customers and ask what they wanted specifically, and then make that for the customer," Zolovich said.
Zolovich says Lukens ensured the business was profitable and that it didn't operate at a loss.
"If she had to stop production to avoid losing money, she'd do that," she added. "And she made sure she manufactured quality products."
Lukens motivated employees by treating them well and gaining their loyalty. She built housing for them. And she made sure they always had income, even during troubled times, says Zolovich.
That strategy came into play during the major recession known as the Panic of 1837, which wreaked havoc on businesses, including the Brandywine Iron Works.
Lukens invented new jobs and tasks to stay away from layoffs and keep workers committed. At times when production stopped at the mill, Lukens hired her workers to work on the farm she owned, do maintenance on the equipment, or repair the damn.
The strategy paid off.
"When the economy recovered she still had skilled, experienced iron workers at the mill," said Brody. "So she didn't have to find new ones or train new workers. From the perspective of the workers, you can imagine how they felt about her. They didn't lose their jobs and they didn't lose their pay."
Lukens was a hands-on executive, who knew how to delegate responsibility. She didn't handle the smaller, day-to-day operations of the mill, says Zolovich. Her brother-in-law, Solomon Lukens, oversaw the employees and daily production. In today's terms, he would be plant manager.
Her management style was apparent when she was dealing with suppliers and insisting on quality materials.
"She was there supervising and making sure her workers produced quality products," said Brody. "That's what they were known for — quality and being very reliable."
There were times when Lukens returned the iron and refused to pay for it because the iron they produced didn't meet her standards, says Brody. And the suppliers ended up suing her.
Lukens found strength and courage in adversity. One obstacle was the fact that Martha, her mother, "did not fully support her ownership and operations of the ironworks," says Zolovich.
Zolovich says another major challenge was the fact Lukens took over the business as a single mother, who took care of her children by herself and never remarried.
But Lukens found a balance between leading a business and taking care of her family.
She recognized the importance of family: "Rebecca made sure to successfully care for her family and never let the business take over life," said Zolovich.
Then there was the challenge of being a female executive in a male industry.
"While there is actually no record from Rebecca that she was discriminated against, she was a woman in a male industry at a time in history when women rarely worked outside the home, no less owned an iron business," said Zolovich.
That didn't stop Lukens from being a mighty contender.
"I believe she felt herself capable of doing whatever a man would have done in the same position," said Brody. "And she was very successful at it."
Adds DiOrio: "Many other women would have said 'this is beyond me' and quit. But she was a very responsible person who had a family. And she also felt responsible for the workers at the ironworks. And she took on a management position as a woman at a time when it was definitely a man's world."
Lukens possessed qualities and values that made her a rare woman in business and helped her overcome the challenges.
She benefitted from her upbringing. She was highly educated. Lukens attended school until she was 18, which was longer than many boys and girls of that era, says Zolovich.
Her father, Isaac Pennock, prepared her to eventually take over the family's iron business. Lukens' Quaker faith influenced her upbringing and principles. For one, Quakers accepted the education and employment of women, says Zolovich.
Further, Quaker culture emphasizes the "Rules of Discipline," which asks Quakers to use "friendly action" when conflict arises.
"The general idea was Quakers were expected to use mediators to solve conflict or friendly action if they had to solve it themselves," said Zolovich.
She says Lukens followed these rules when she faced legal transactions.
In terms of leadership style, Lukens was not a risk-taker, but she was courageous, says Zolovich.
"Was taking over an iron business a risk? Absolutely," she said. "But Rebecca was a woman of her time in the sense that home and family were equally, if not more, important than the business. She was conservative in her decision-making and did not risk herself, her family, her business or employees."
Still, she was aware of the changes in technology and transportation brought on by the Industrial Revolution.
She took a chance in adopting the railroad as a means of transportation for her products.
"She was very wise and immediately used the (Philadelphia & Columbia) railroad to expand her market when it became active in Coatesville in 1834," said Brody, noting that in the past, the product was shipped by horse and wagon.
The railroad allowed Brandywine Iron Works' product to reach markets throughout the U.S. It extended from New York, Washington, Baltimore and as far as New Orleans, says Brody.
"That's how she became known as the premier boiler plate maker," she added.
Believed In Herself
Lukens was an assertive business leader and a shrewd business manager. She knew how to price her products well.
"She had a strong ability to determine prices for her products — high enough to make a profit, yet not so high to go above the market," according to an article on the museum's website entitled "Rebecca Lukens — Forged in America."
She was also adept at dealing with suppliers.
"She knew how to purchase supplies at the right cost," said Zolovich. "When dealing with suppliers, if she was given a price that was too high, she'd go back to them and negotiate a lower price."
The Brandywine Iron Works saga can be traced to Rebecca's father, Isaac, who established it in 1810. Her father taught Rebecca, the eldest child, the iron business. While home from school, Rebecca joined her father at the ironworks, according to the museum article.
Rebecca and her husband took over business operations by 1817. Rebecca's husband operated the business until his death. Then Rebecca took over.
And what a success she was. By the time Rebecca retired, many American ironworks went out of business, says the museum article. But the Brandywine Iron Works made it through the recession "with strength and success."
Steel came decades later in 1881, when the site rolled its first steel. The name changed to Lukens Iron & Steel in 1890, then to Lukens Steel in 1917. Bethlehem Steel bought Lukens for $740 million in 1998.
Took the reins of Brandywine Iron Works & Nail Factory as a single woman, rescued it from debt and built it into a powerful force in the industry.
Overcame: Running a business and raising a family alone as a widow and being a female executive in a male industry.
Lesson: Push forward to meet the challenges head on and find strength and courage in adversity.
"'I will not dwell on my feelings, when I begin to look around me, but necessity is a stern taskmistress (and) my every want gave me courage."
Innovators may be brilliant. But that doesn't mean they're adept at communicating their breakthroughs to others.
It's not enough to come up with great ideas. To make a lasting impact, you need to induce others to buy into your grand vision.
The challenge gets harder when you face off against skeptics who resist change or favor a different option. They may reject your innovation unless you pry open their minds to consider your case.
To persuade others to embrace your inventive solution, tailor your argument to appeal to your audience. Highlight what they will gain and make it easy for them to hop on the bandwagon. To win them over:
Forge a connection. Regaling people about the beauty and benefits of your innovation has its limits. Regardless of how well you deliver your pitch, the real test is whether you engage others and make them feel like participants in the creative process.
"People who invent something aren't necessarily good communicators," said Alex Goryachev, managing director of innovation strategy at Cisco Systems ( CSCO). "Communication requires listening."
Soliciting feedback from others, especially potential resistors, helps you build trust and connect with them. When you're ready to release your prototype, they're more apt to feel like a part of your success if they were involved along the way.
Balance passion with humility. Driven by passion, innovators might assume that their enthusiasm will prove contagious. It might, but you still need to admit what you don't know and show a willingness to bend and accommodate others' preferences.
"If you have passion, you have to channel it in the right areas," Goryachev said. "You need a certain discipline so that as you listen to others, you're able to pivot" to integrate their input, refine your thinking and meet their needs.
Enlist colleagues. If you've invented something that's revolutionary, you may figure you're the only person qualified to talk about it. But you may attract more fans by joining forces with others who can reach out to key constituencies.
"Build a diverse team and play to your strengths," Goryachev said. "I often see founders who insist on communicating themselves (about their innovation). Sometimes it's better to step aside and bring in an expert to communicate" on your behalf, especially if you're not accustomed to interacting with certain groups such as the media or institutional investors.
Keep it human. Innovators can get so enamored of algorithms, systems and technology that they overlook the human factor. If you keep emphasizing how your breakthrough harnesses the latest tech advances, you can lose potential allies.
"Often, I see (innovators) focus on features and technology," Goryachev said. "Rarely do I see them focus on what problem they're solving and why. So start with a business need rather than making a business case for your technology."
Tell a story. Help others understand how you developed your idea. Trace your thought process in an engaging manner and create a narrative arc that led to your brainstorm.
"Tell a very simple and convincing story about your innovation," said Jessica Baxmann, who leads communication for the chief innovation officer at SAP ( SAP), a Germany-based software firm. "Ideally, create pictures in people's mind."
To craft your story, she suggests asking a colleague to interview you about how your innovation came about. What was the genesis of your idea? What barriers arose in pursuing it? How did you overcome them?
"[Strive for] open, honest communication where you explain why you proceeded in a certain way," Baxmann said. "Make the process transparent" and you'll captivate a wider audience.
Before Neil Simon was a successful playwright, he was a successful television comedy writer. He won Emmys for his work on ''The Sid Caesar Show'' (1957) and ''The Phil Silvers Show'' (1959). But he was unhappy.
He compared TV writing to a kind of warfare: He constantly had to battle to make his voice heard in the raucous room where writers devised skits and comedy bits for ''The Sid Caesar Show. '' Besides, Simon's dream was to write plays.
If he didn't devote himself full time to his real goal, ''I realized I'd never do it,'' he said. ''I'd stay in television the rest of my life. ''
So the New York native gave up his steady TV gigs and began working on what became ''Come Blow Your Horn. '' The play premiered in 1961, ran for close to 700 performances and was the first in a string of hits that would earn him numerous laurels, including three Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize (in 1991 for ''Lost in Yonkers'') and the Kennedy Center Honors (1995).
REMEMBERING NEIL SIMON: IBD is honoring the memory of the playwright and comedy writer who died Aug. 26 at age 91 by posting this article that originally published in the Oct. 7, 1999, print edition.
Simon also wrote two volumes of memoirs, ''Re-Writes'' (1996) and ''The Play Goes On'' (1999), as well as numerous original screenplays and adaptations of his plays.
His body of work is not only large and much admired, but it's accessible to the masses in the way that Shakespeare's work was accessible 400 years ago.
Neil Simon Biography: Finding Ideas
Simon looked for and found inspiration everywhere. He once visited his older brother, Danny, who was recently divorced and was rooming with another divorced friend. While others might have seen an apartment in chaos, Simon saw a play. It became ''The Odd Couple. ''
''I'm reminded of the scene in 'The Treasure of Sierra Madre' where they want to give up looking for the gold, and the old man is jumping up and down yelling, 'You can see where it is. It's right here!' People don't see it (the gold) very often,'' Simon said. ''You have to be ever vigilant, see that there is something here. ''
Though he learned the formula for hit plays early in his career, he always moved in new directions, expanding his horizons. Doing the same thing over and over, he decided, would make him stale. He preferred to push boundaries. Simon's plays became more introspective, more layered, more meaningful.
''If I had stayed writing light comedies, I'd have been through 15 years ago,'' he said. ''It wouldn't have sustained me or the audience. The plays had to become more profound, because I was getting older and more profound. ''
However, by ignoring a proven formula, Simon was courting failure. His audience might walk away disappointed because he hadn't delivered what they expected — a Simon play sans message but full of belly laughs.
Willing To Risk
''The trouble is when you deviate from what you did that was successful, they knock you down,'' he said. But Simon felt the risk was worth it. ''I always felt you can't be afraid to fail. You have to look failure in the face and say, 'I'm going to do my next play, and I'm not going to play it safe.' ''
Finding ideas for projects was never a problem. In ''The Play Goes On,'' he wrote that they came to him in torrents, like a waterfall. Picking which ideas to work on was a bit more complicated, and he never made that decision in the heat of the moment. He'd draw back and wait until he felt he could be objective.
Usually he'd write an outline or actual pages of a play ''and just let it sit there.'' He'd put that effort in a drawer and take it out weeks later to see whether the subject still resonated with him.
Simon surrounded himself with people he trusted and who shared his worldview.
''I've been lucky,'' he said. ''But I've also been smart. If you're not smart, you pick the wrong people. I was always very discerning about what (would-be producers' and collaborators') aims and goals are.
''If they were looking for quality material that also had commercial possibilities, they were OK,'' he said. He dismissed those looking for a quick buck.
His best advisor was his gut.
''It's a dangerous thing to turn power over to someone else,'' Simon said. ''You've got to trust yourself. There are so many people who'll say no to what you're doing. Even in the face of that lack of encouragement, if you feel it's good, you have to persevere. There probably aren't too many experts out there who know more about what you're doing than you do. ''
Importance Of Appreciation
Simon believed that everyone, even a successful playwright, needs to be told he is appreciated. In ''The Play Goes On,'' he wrote, ''Creation needs to be nurtured by those who hold the creation and the creator in esteem, because I'm an authority on how quickly confidence, with no one to bolster it, can disappear on a daily basis. ''
But don't look for empty praise, he once cautioned. ''You need encouragement, but you need it from the right people. By encouragement I don't mean people who just say a play is good, but (those) who'll tell me it's good and this is what you can do to make it better.''
When he was growing up, Simon made it a point to read the great humorists, such as Robert Benchley and Ring Lardner. But he discovered that nothing on the printed page taught him more than real life.
''I learned a little about craftsmanship by reading the masters,'' he said. ''But you learn a lot more by observing people. You can have all the craftsmanship in the world, but if it doesn't have the essence and vitality of reality, you have nothing.''
Navy pilot John McCain knew what he needed to do. When his North Vietnamese captors dangled freedom in front of him, McCain said no.
His stubbornness only invited torture. He was savagely beaten by 10 guards as they laughed. His broken arms were cinched around the back of a chair. He was starved and isolated. But McCain didn't want to be released and go home. He knew that would be wrong — it would violate U.S. military rules, which dictate that prisoners of war return in the order they are captured. He also didn't want the North Vietnamese to look good by releasing McCain, the injured son of the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.
So he stood his ground.
''The prison experience taught me in spades to hold true to the things you believe are right,'' he told Investor's Business Daily in a 1999 interview. ''When I'm down at the old soldiers home with my feet up on the railing, the only question I'm going to ask myself is: 'Did I try to do the right thing?' ''
It's a principle he continued to practice. During his 31 years as U.S. senator from Arizona and two terms in the House of Representatives, McCain, a Republican, earned a reputation as a maverick, upholding his convictions even if they angered his constituents and colleagues.
REMEMBERING JOHN McCAIN: In memory of the politician and war hero who died Aug. 25 at age 81, Investor's Business Daily is posting, with minor updates, this article originally published in the April 27, 1999, print edition.
In 1983, his first year in Congress, McCain objected to President Reagan's decision to deploy U.S. troops in Lebanon. Soon after, terrorists bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 soldiers.
In 1995, McCain backed the Clinton administration's decision to renew relations with Vietnam, resulting in condemnation from Republicans and other war veterans.
''He puts principle ahead of politics,'' Carl Smith, who flew with McCain in the Navy, said in an April 1997 article in the National Journal.
John McCain Biography: Navy Career
Before entering politics, McCain served 22 years in the Navy and earned multiple decorations.
He was in a bombing mission over Hanoi on Oct. 12, 1967, when his jet was downed by a missile. He ejected, shattering a knee and breaking both arms in the process. He fell into a shallow lake; Vietnamese soldiers fished him out, smashed his shoulder and wounded him with a bayonet.
McCain was taken to a prison in Hanoi, where his wounds were bandaged. But he was told medical treatment would stop until he provided military information.
Determined to uphold the military code, McCain gave only his name, rank, serial number and birth date. The guards became livid and beat him.
''That just knocked me out, so the interrogations were fairly short,'' McCain said in ''The Nightingale's Song'' by Robert Timberg.
He remained a prisoner for the next 5-1/2 years. To survive and maintain his morale, McCain used various strategies.
John McCain: Self-Respect As POW
He often talked back to his captors, an exercise that ''got him through the night, kept him sane, helped him maintain his self-respect,'' Timberg wrote.
Once, McCain lashed out at a crowd of North Vietnamese dignitaries who entered his cellblock.
''It was some of the most colorful profanity that you would ever hope to hear,'' fellow prisoner of war Jack Van Loan said in Timberg's book. ''He was calling them every name in the book, and telling them that he was not going home early, that he wasn't going to ask for amnesty and not to ask him again to get out.''
Communication with inmates was critical, McCain said. Alone in his cell, he developed a tapping code to talk to other prisoners — one for an ''a,'' two for ''b'' and so on. He began learning the names of POWs being held by North Vietnam, memorizing them by building word associations. For example: Brudno with ''brute'' and Baker with a loaf of bread. During one period in solitary confinement, he memorized the names of 335 POWs. This helped McCain and other inmates smuggle out a roster of American POWs to the U.S. government.
He used his memory to keep his morale up. He and fellow inmates recited by heart and went over the meaning of passages from Shakespeare's ''Hamlet'' and ''Macbeth.'' They recalled famous lines from sea battles, such as John Paul Jones' ''I have not yet begun to fight,'' and speeches by Douglas MacArthur and Winston Churchill.
McCain's captors demanded that he confess to war crimes against the North Vietnamese but he refused. His defiance resulted in daily beatings that sometimes left him lying in a pool of his own blood. After years of this abuse, McCain did confess. He was finally released on March 14, 1973, shortly after the U.S. agreed to end its role in the Vietnam War.
McCain: 'Be Tougher, Be Stronger'
He credited his survival with his mental attitude during his imprisonment. ''Be tougher, be stronger'' than normal, he said.
After his release, McCain became the Navy's attache to the Senate. Watching policymakers up close sparked a fire under him — he decided he wanted to make a difference in the way the country was run. He ran for Congress from Arizona and won in 1982.
Having just moved to the state, he was branded a carpetbagger. But he refused to be labeled that way. Arizona Republic columnist John Kolbe recalled McCain's reply when he was once called an interloper.
''I grew up as a Navy brat, and we lived all over the world,'' McCain said. ''In fact, the longest time I lived anywhere in my life was Hanoi.''
Kolbe noted: ''There was a moment of silence where people sort of processed what he was saying. To this day, it remains the most effective response to a potentially troubling (accusation) that I've ever seen by a politician.''
Avoiding Personal Attacks
After serving two terms in the House of Representatives, McCain ran for and was elected to the Senate in 1986. Known for being even-tempered, he had a method for talking to colleagues on Capitol Hill when the air became contentious.
''When you get into heated discussions about issues and debates, never, ever get personal,'' he said. ''I can get into the fiercest debate with somebody, and he'll forget it the next day. But if I impugn his motives or integrity, (he'll) never forget it. Too often in American politics, we do that.''
McCain relied on a line he first used in the Navy — ''take a steady strain'' — as a guideline for handling both successes and failures. It means staying on an even keel emotionally, whether things are going well or poorly.
''I really learned that in prison,'' he said. ''We would get our hopes up that we were going to be released, and then they'd be dashed. I determined that the best thing was to wait until I saw an American uniform at the airport in Hanoi.''
McCain transformed his POW experience into a positive force in life. ''You either go in one of two directions,'' he said in Timberg's book. ''Either you go forward and try to rebuild your life — not just the material part, but the spiritual part, too — or you look back in anger. If you look back in anger, it can be not only nonproductive but self-destructive.''
Family values are often cited by top leaders as a reason for their success.
But CEO Larry Mendelson took this farther than most by teaming up with his sons Eric and Victor to transform HEICO ( HEI) from a small player into one of the leading names in aerospace.
Indeed it was the 80-year-old's boys, who were attending Columbia University at the time and inspired by the '80s leveraged buyout boom, who went to their father and asked him to help them take over the Florida company.
"They were doing research and it was in the midst of the 1980s when the LBO boom and the Michael Milken stuff was going on," Mendelson said. "They saw all this activity up in New York and said, 'Dad why don't we take over an industrial company and build it as a family business?' I had been in the real estate business, and I said 'OK that sounds like a good idea, why don't we do that.'"
Mendelson had already built valuable business experience as a certified public accountant for Arthur Andersen. He had also branched out on his own as a successful real estate developer, before launching what would be his third, most successful, career.
When the New York-born mogul and his sons took over HEICO in 1990, it was worth just $25 million. Today the company, which manufactures replacement parts and systems for aircraft, has a market cap of $10 billion.
"The firm essentially had one product line. It had a combustor for JT8D engine," Mendelson said. "And of course we knew you can't run a big successful company on one product. So we theorized if we could get FAA approval for the single combustor, why couldn't we get FAA approval for multiple products?"
In their first year they managed to get four approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration for replacement parts. Now they get 300 to 400 every year.
A further hurdle was persuading aircraft operators to actually use their parts. They faced resistance even though they were cheaper than replacements from the likes of General Electric ( GE) and Pratt & Whitney.
"The (original equipment manufacturer) is a tough competitor," Mendelson said. "They would say, 'Why would you want to buy products from that little company in Florida? You can't rely on them. They're not safe.' Of course that was not true as the FAA had approved them. But competitors will say anything. It is like politics. The other side will accuse the other one of anything. It doesn't have to be true. But they'll say it anyway."
A key moment came in 1996 when they started doing business with German aircraft maintenance giant Lufthansa Technik, which has a reputation for only using top-quality parts.
"OEMs could no longer tell the customer you can't trust HEICO's parts because Lufthansa was considered the best quality German engineering, repair and overhaul" company, Mendelson said. "Lufthansa did great because they got parts at a significantly lower cost, and Heico gained credibility plus a good customer. That was a major help for us."
Another challenge they faced in their early days at the company was a $100 million lawsuit from United Technologies ( UTX), which accused them of stealing trade secrets and unfair competition.
"They were so big they were hoping the legal fees would put us out of business," Mendelson said. "Very interestingly, we had an insurance policy, a strange policy, which probably paid $18 million or $20 million in legal fees over a period of close to the first 10 years," Mendelson said. "We prevailed in the lawsuit, and there were never any damages. But that was a very tough time."
The firm, which was founded in 1957, has massively expanded since Mendelson's early days. Nowadays its products are found in aircraft, spacecraft and a plethora of defense equipment. It operates in two segments, with a Flight Support group and an Electronic Technologies group.
Keeping It In The Family
A key reason for their sustained success is the strong management team, which is led by Mendelson and his sons Eric and Victor, who serve as co-presidents.
"They had worked with me in the real estate business since they were young kids, so going into business with them later in life was a natural progression. Working with them is a pleasure," Mendelson said.
Victor Mendelson said he got the best training possible in business, thanks to his father.
"He would take us to his developments and he would ask us for our input on any range of topics, whether it was sales, architecture development, marketing, management, and then he would let us work in the business and treat us as adults. That had a tremendous impact on our confidence," the 51-year-old said. "He didn't instruct us, but he guided us and showed us the path by example."
Nowadays they follow a strict collective responsibility policy. No major decisions are made without unanimous approval. They believe this ensures no one is ever left feeling disenfranchised by the decision making process.
Eric Mendelson, 52, said their family's investment and ongoing control of the company is a major reason for its excellent performance.
"Without the family dynamic, Heico would be a very different company. And I do not believe it would have experienced the success that it has today," Eric said.
Larry Mendelson believes that placing trust in employees, and giving them a stake in the firm, is one of the key secrets to its success. A select band of staff members who have been at the company the longest have been given shares worth $1.5 million to $6 million. Many more have stock worth up to $1.5 million. And these perks are not just funneled to executives, but also to secretaries, factory workers, shipping clerks and others.
"One of the basic philosophies we had to make sure is our employees, we call them team members, are owners too," Mendelson said."It makes me very happy to know that these people who have worked so hard and done good things and made millions for shareholders are making millions for themselves."
The Mendelson family has also been richly rewarded for their decades of hard work. Their original $5 million stake of the company is now worth around $800 million.
Another important factor to the company's success is the level of trust management shows in their staff.
Mendelson says micromanaging workers is anti-productive, especially when you have talented engineers and managers bustling with creative spirit and expertise.
"When you get on an airplane you don't say to the captain, 'Let me see what you're doing, are you going at the right compass angle?' " he said. "It's the same thing in running a business – when you have competent, trained, knowledgeable people, let them go. The only thing Eric, Victor and I really say is, 'How can we help you?' "
Learning Through Experience
Mendelson's love of initiative translated into his parenting style. He encouraged his sons to think for themselves, and helped them develop a sense of entrepreneurship.
One memorable moment of parenting was when his boys, who were only 13 and 15 at the time, decided they would attempt to flip an apartment at one of Mendelson's developments so they could buy a BMW with the profits. However the buyer they secured backed out of the deal at the last minute, leaving them at risk of losing their deposit. Despite his wife's begging, Mendelson refused to bail them out.
"I said, 'Arlene this is the best lesson that could ever happen, because if they went to business school for 20 years they would never know the real life experience,' " Mendelson said. "You study a book, but you don't get that feeling inside your bones when a deal doesn't work out."
Eventually his boys managed to find another buyer, though they made a more modest profit. This still allowed the pair to buy a car, though it was a Ford Mustang rather than the BMW they had hoped for.
Land Of Opportunity
Due to his success, Mendelson has been able to travel all over the world. But he believes people who live in the United States are extremely lucky due to the plethora of opportunities available to honest, hard-working people.
"The whole trick is to get an education and work hard," he said. "Do those two things, and I think anybody can make it in this country."
Transformed a small company into a leading multibillion dollar business.
Overcame: A market dominated by original equipment manufacturers.
Lesson: Set yourself a goal and stick to it.
"If you do what you love doing, set yourself a goal and then devote yourself to accomplishing that task, I believe in most cases you are going to succeed."
She asked 900 people with full-time jobs and families to keep track of their time for a day. "The strategies I learned can help anyone feel less busy while getting more done," she told IBD.
Tips on taming time:
Monitor it. When we don't know where our time is going, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, Vanderkam says. "When we do know, we can change what needs to be and celebrate what's working. Time discipline leads to time freedom."
Vanderkam has been tracking her time on weekly spreadsheets for three years.
"I promise the results will be enlightening," she said. "Just as we seek out good data for making business decisions, time data leads to better life choices."
Make life memorable. When it's not, it feels like time is slipping through our fingers, Vanderkam says.
She advises that each day you ask yourself this question: "Why is today different from other days?" If you don't have a good answer, "see if you can plan a mini-adventure in your life."
It doesn't have to be elaborate. "Maybe you call a few colleagues and try out a new restaurant for lunch," she said. "Maybe you surprise your spouse with movie tickets on a Monday night! Maybe you take your family to the park after dinner instead of just watching TV."
The key is this, she said: "if you do something memorable, you will remember it. And that will make you feel like you have more time."
Target productive periods. Good time management includes considerations of when we are at our peak energy mentally, physically and emotionally. Experts from neuroscience, medicine, business and psychology confirm this.
Camuto suggests starting with the big picture view of a day, week, month and quarter. "What is most important in a day? This type of big picture prioritization is not about quantity but about quality – top goals, projects, work relationships, business growth/development or crisis trouble shooting," she said.
Define wins. Camuto views her day as a success if she meets her three most important tasks, even at the expense of eliminating less vital ones that were planned. "As leaders, focus, delegate and help your teams do the same," she said. "There is good science behind this approach."
The skill of prioritization is critical, she adds. "Walk in to work with the mindset that you will have enough time to do the most important things. The day will probably not be perfect, but you will succeed and have a good one if you understand the following:"
What work is most important and requires your peak focus?
What time periods are usually your best times for focus?
What relationships need attention?
What meetings are a waste of your time?
When will you take breaks to refocus and re-energize?
Manage your phone. People have available leisure time but choose to chop it up with frequent glances at their phones, Vanderkam's research found. Then, an hour that could be spent more productively "disappears into unnecessary email deleting, headline checking and social media perusal."
Try putting your phone in airplane mode occasionally to remove "the temptation to check mindlessly," she said. "You'll likely feel like you have more time."
Let it go. Problematic expectations eat up time, and ruminating keeps us from enjoying the time we have, Vanderkam says.
Try being understanding with yourself, she advises. "Rather than lament all you're not getting done, celebrate what you have accomplished," Vanderkam said. "This will likely inspire you to take a few more small steps, rather than giving up entirely."
Aretha Franklin had been recording albums for more than a decade when she sat down at the piano in a Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama on Jan. 27, 1967.
She'd had some hits and been recognized as a powerful singer, yet she'd never really found her niche. Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler had an idea: Rather than try to shoehorn her into a particular format, why not just let Aretha be Aretha?
Franklin agreed. She stepped into the recording booth, took in a breath, paused and let loose from the very bottom of her soul.
After all those lost, frustrating years recording pop and jazz, it was like a dam had burst. Two hours into her first Atlantic session, Franklin had recorded the soul masterpiece, "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)."
REMEMBERING ARETHA FRANKLIN: IBD is honoring the memory of the legendary singer who died this week at age 76 by posting this article that originally published in the Oct. 17, 2006, print edition.
Wexler was stunned when he heard the recording. "I couldn't believe it was that good. I said, 'That's my first record with her, and it can't be this good,' " he commented, according to Mark Bego's "Aretha Franklin: Queen of Soul."
But it was — and it was no fluke. In the following years, Franklin dominated the music world like few women before or since, racking up one classic hit after another and earning the title "The Queen of Soul." Regarded as one of the top vocalists ever, she's had 17 top 10 pop hits, 12 gold records and five multiplatinum records. She's also won 18 Grammy Awards, more than any other female artist.
Franklin realized she'd struggled to make her mark because others were calling the shots. Only after she decided to follow her instincts did she come into her own.
After "I Never Loved a Man," she remained the central orchestrator of her own sound, the essential contributor and final arbiter of what fit or did not fit her musical persona," Wexler said in his memoir, "Rhythm and the Blues."
Aretha Franklin Biography: Family Background
Music came naturally to Franklin. She had a magnificent voice, and she grew up in a world saturated with the best of gospel and soul music.
Her excellence came from her ability to absorb the best of what she saw and heard. Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tenn. Her family moved shortly after that to Detroit. Her father, C.L. Franklin, a Baptist minister, took over a congregation in a hard-hit urban area. The church soon rocked to the sounds of heavenly testifying.
Franklin listened to her father and memorized the cadences and rhythms he used when he preached and sang. She applied them when she sang.
"Most of what I learned vocally came from him. He gave me a sense of timing in music," Franklin said of her father, according to Phil Garland's "The Sound of Soul." "Timing is important in everything."
His wasn't the only influence. The Franklin household could count as family friends a who's who of musical greats. Gospel legends James Cleveland and Mahalia Jackson, jazz master Art Tatum, soul legend Sam Cooke and numerous Motown stars-to-be such as Smokey Robinson, Otis Williams of the Temptations, and Diana Ross and Mary Wilson of the Supremes regularly dropped by. Franklin made a careful study of all of them.
Franklin's sisters were talented musicians in their own right. Erma Franklin recorded the original version of the soul classic, "Piece of My Heart," later a hit for Janis Joplin. Carolyn Franklin wrote several of Aretha's songs. Both sang backup on several of Aretha's classic recordings.
Aretha Franklin: Early Recordings
Studying wasn't enough, however; Franklin had to practice what she heard. She taught herself the piano at age 10 so she could imitate the notes more accurately. She learned tunes by copying the musical houseguests and adding her own flourishes.
Her father tried to get Franklin to take piano and voice lessons, but she was intimidated. She hid whenever the teacher came by, preferring to learn instinctively.
"We'd poke our heads into the music room and (be) amazed," recalled Smokey Robinson in his memoir, "Smokey: Inside My Life." "Seated behind the baby grand was a baby herself, singing like an angel."
Franklin learned about live performance firsthand. She began spending her summer vacations traveling with her father's gospel choir. On the road, Franklin watched the older singers and mimicked their movements. If a move felt unnatural to her, she dropped it.
In 1956, at the age of 13, she recorded her first album of gospel music, "Songs of Faith," for Chicago's Chess Records. A few years later the prodigy was signed to Columbia Records by legendary talent scout John Hammond, whose other discoveries included Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
But Columbia didn't know what to do with Franklin. Natural talent, musical chops and good influences meant little when she wasn't using them effectively.
"I was being classified as a jazz singer, and I never, ever felt I was a jazz singer," Franklin was quoted as saying in Bego's book.
Still, she tried to fit the mold. She sang every way she was instructed, but the sound was never quite right. After seven frustrating years in which she recorded jazz, pop, show tunes and blues, Columbia let her contract lapse. Atlantic Records then picked her up.
By then, the 25-year-old diva was considered almost a washout.
Perseverance And Success
Franklin vowed to prove everyone wrong. She carefully chose songs that suited her voice. When she couldn't find them, she wrote them herself.
In every song, Franklin searched for an emotional connection with the lyrics. If she understood the emotion expressed, she could infuse the sound with the feeling and translate it to listeners.
"I sing to the realist, people who accept it like it is," Franklin said in Craig Werner's history of soul music, "Higher Ground." "I express problems. There are tears when it's sad and smiles when it's happy. It seems simple to me, but for some people I guess feeling takes courage."
Knowing preparation would make her recording sessions smoother, Franklin worked out all the arrangements for her songs herself before she entered the studio. She made sure she knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it.
Once Franklin walked into the studio, she explained to each musician exactly how his or her part should sound. She did the same with the backing vocalists. To ensure they all understood, she sang their parts for them in the run-throughs.
Recognizing that music often narrates people's lives, Franklin chose her lyrics carefully. Many of her songs carry an uplifting message.
Aretha Franklin Bio: Musical Influence
"Those records were so damn good because she took care of business at home," Wexler said in his memoir.
She kept her success in perspective and was careful never to move too far away from the sources of her inspiration. At the height of her early fame in 1972 she recorded "Amazing Grace," a live album of gospel music that's widely regarded by critics and fans as one of her finest efforts.
Her influence has radiated to every form of music. It even touched the political sphere. Much of her gutsy, determined music served as a soundtrack for the civil rights era. As Werner noted:
"Aretha's voice illuminated the gospel vision that sustained the foot soldiers of the movement, the ordinary people whose tears, sweat and — far too often — blood changed America in ways that seemed impossible ... a generation before."
Shortly after she started T3 (The Think Tank), an Austin, Texas-based advertising agency, Gay Gaddis was asked to do pro bono work for the local Salvation Army. It was the early '90s. There'd been a downturn in the Texas economy, and many donors were not able to fulfill pledges made in better times. The organization was in dire straits.
She came up with a great idea: a simple, all-type ad that said:
"To you it's a newspaper. To the homeless it's a blanket."
But to make it work required a center spread in the local newspaper, the American-Statesman. So Gaddis met with the editor who loved the concept, but claimed that he couldn't donate the centerfold she requested. He offered two tabloid-size pages, but they were obviously too small, the size of rags, not blankets. She told him: "I need the centerfold of the main section."
And then she sat there, said nothing, and waited. And waited. Finally he relented, proving one of Gaddis' basic rules of negotiating: He who speaks first loses.
It's one of several helpful pieces of down-home advice in her book " Cowgirl Power: How to Kick Ass in Business and in Life," a "Lean-In" for country girls (and guys). It's filled with the rules she followed as she built one of the largest female-owned advertising agencies in the country, with annual revenue of $38 million.
Gaddis grew up in modest circumstances in the small town of Liberty, Texas, where she began riding horses and herding cattle when she was just 6 years old. But she also demonstrated creative skills early on and eventually won an art scholarship to the University of Texas.
After graduation she held a series of jobs in advertising and public relations, some better than others. In her first, she found herself in "Mad Men" territory — ignored, given menial jobs and the recipient of blatant sexist comments.
In another she found herself writing copy for a product called Buck Magnet, which she discovered was simply doe urine. But she approached that assignment with the same vigor she gave to larger, more mainstream clients.
And in each job, she learned a little more about both the creative and financial ends of the business. And she gained confidence. In 1989, disappointed in the direction the agency was taking, she proffered her boss a new business plan.
"I thought I was going to reinvent the agency business," she said in a telephone interview with IBD. The boss disagreed and turned down her proposal. Humiliated and angry, she quit.
Striking Out On Her Own
Once she decided to leave, opening her own shop was an easy choice. "The economy was so bad, I probably couldn't have gotten another job anyway," she said. Fortunately, she had worked out an agreement with her employer that, in exchange for a percentage of earnings for a few years, she could take a passel of clients with her.
The process actually illustrates two of Gaddis' mantras.
The first was to develop an area of expertise. Hers was marketing hospitals. By 1989, she was probably the most knowledgeable person in the state in this area and had loyal clients in many major Texas markets.
The second mantra: Negotiate from a position of strength. She knew — and her boss knew — that if she left, her hospital clients would leave with her.
At the urging of her husband, Lee, Gaddis came up with a simple, if slightly PG-rated business plan as she created her own agency: "I want to do kick-ass work for clients who want to kick ass."
To accomplish that goal, she decided to take a holistic approach to the agency business. She did not want to do just advertising, but the entire marketing area, whatever worked best for the client. So she made nontraditional — especially for the time — hires: architects, psychologists, presentation experts and, generally, people who could think on their feet.
Gaddis recalls when the first big potential client came in to interview the agency, the phones outside her office were ringing off the hook. After the meeting concluded, Gaddis asked her assistant who called. No one, she said. She just kept calling herself to make the office seem busy.
Not surprisingly, T3 soon built a reputation for not allowing budget constraints to stand in the way of outstanding creative ideas. Consider the work the agency did for a company called US Brick.
"A brick is a brick to most people," Gaddis said. "The competition was using (then-Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Troy Aikman and they had more money for bigger television spots. It was daunting to compete."
T3 took a two-tier approach. First they created a 15-second commercial using stock footage of a building imploding and added a tag line: "Looks Like They Should Have Used US Brick."
T3 also hired a local mural artist to paint the company's vans to look like bricks, even mixing sand in with the paint to give the vans a brick-like texture. The vans were now moving billboards and won the agency a national advertising award.
Taking It To The Next Level
Quality work soon attracted larger clients. In 1993, the agency was asked to take on a small project for Dell. The company was having difficulty managing its direct-mail database and was looking for help. Gaddis' company came up with suggestions for technical improvements — but didn't stop there. Unbidden, they offered creative ideas, and Dell gave them a shot. The campaign worked, and T3 started picking up additional Dell assignments.
Not surprisingly, Gaddis offers a cowgirl explanation of why she provided Dell with more than the company asked for:
"We over-deliver for big new accounts to get them in. We're like coyotes. They start eating the underbelly first and [then eat] the rest of the kill from within. Once you are in, you really have the opportunity to stand out and be really creative."
In 1996, Dell decided to start selling its computers online. Although that seems so obvious now, people at the time — both clients and staff — thought Gaddis was nuts when she decided to buy into the concept. In the same way she developed expertise in marketing hospitals a decade earlier, she committed to the internet.
"We found people who were fascinated by the internet, a few geeks," Gaddis said. "We got help from people from Dell. We would trade people back and forth. Their analytics guy worked in our office for a while.
"It was amazing the way we jumped into the internet."
Today, digital marketing campaigns for Fortune 200 companies ranging from Pizza Hut to Home Depot are at the center of T3's business.
Providing A Progressive Workplace
One of the areas that Gaddis feels has fueled her growth is that she has created a happy work environment. For example, early in her agency's life, four of its 24 employees got pregnant within four weeks of each other. "It must have been an ice storm," Gaddis suggested.
She didn't want to lose them for the duration of a maternity leave or — potentially worse — forever if they decided not to come back to work. So, thinking outside the box, she allowed new parents — men and women — to bring their children to work. "It's not licensed day care," Gaddis said. Parents were responsible for their children, and "over the last 27 years over 100 employees have taken advantage of the program," called T3 & Under.
It's made all the difference in the world for Kelsi Brown who works in the company's human resources department. "It was a lifesaver," she told IBD.
"It was a great thing from the perspective of a new mother to have that option. We always prep managers that the parents/employees are not necessarily going to be operating at full speed. In my situation, it was a lot of communicating about my daughter's nap and feeding schedule.
"Without this program, I don't know what I would have done. But this certainly made me more comfortable."
The program has had a positive impact in a number of ways. For one thing, there has been a substantial amount of positive publicity about it, including several appearances on national TV. And clients noticed. But, most important, the infants were not disruptive. On the contrary, they seemed to help bond everyone.
Positive attitude is something she encourages. She refuses to tolerate people who behave badly: They are dismissed as soon as they show their true colors. To avoid hiring mistakes, prospective employees go through an interesting vetting process. They meet with representatives of human resources but also with members of the team they'll be working with if hired.
"We want to know if a person is going to fit in," Gaddis said. "They'll take them to lunch, and no matter what skills they have we won't hire them unless other people say we want this person on our team. Because then they are a stakeholder in his or her future.
"We don't want to have to (fire the wrong hire). That's the last thing you want to do. You want to get the right person to begin with."
Overcame: Industry bias against women to build a holistic approach to advertising.
Lesson: Develop an expertise and believe in yourself.
"I found that an agency that works on just one piece of business can't attract the best people. We'd become a one-trick pony and that would kill us."
When facing a tough decision, you want to clear your head, assess all relevant facts and arrive at a sound conclusion. But you can still make costly mistakes along the way.
Top leaders fight off cognitive traps that can result in faulty decisions. They guard against biases and maintain a keen awareness of how they think and process information.
When grappling with a high-stakes decision, adopt a learning mindset. Extract lessons from the outcome — positive or negative — so that you approach the next decision with more confidence and knowledge. Watch for these potential pitfalls:
Blinded by rightness. It's great to exude can-do optimism and self-assuredness. But if you render every big decision with the certainty that you're right, you're setting yourself up for a fall.
"The worst habit is making up your mind before you have all the facts," said Tom Redman, founder of Data Quality Solutions, a consulting firm in Rumson, N.J. "That happens to people who think they already know everything."
The more experience you have, the more likely you may be wedded to your rightness. That's why Redman might challenge those who proclaim, "I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've seen everything that can happen."
Limited by groupthink. Decisions are easy if everyone around you nods and agrees. But surrounding yourself with like-minded minions constrains your ability to hear all sides of a case.
"Bad decision-makers only seek advice from people who think exactly the way they do," Redman said. "Rather than test your thinking, you'll just reinforce it."
Stymied by data. Rarely do leaders make decisions with every conceivable piece of information at their fingertips. More often, they must make do with some but not all of the data they'd ideally like to see.
"You can reduce uncertainty by getting more data," Redman said. "But that can lead to analysis paralysis where you delay, delay, delay for fear of being wrong."
Overwhelmed by too many decisions. At some point, effective leaders learn to delegate. They assign lower-level tasks to underlings so that they can concentrate on what matters most.
Some poor decision-makers, by contrast, insert themselves into even the least significant issues. Unable to prioritize, they insist on making every decision.
"My job is to focus on six important decisions a year and let others deal with the rest," a senior executive told Redman. As a result, the executive maximized his productivity while boosting morale among his subordinates who thrived on their own.
Biased by beliefs. Long-held, deeply rooted opinions can exert more influence than you realize. They may serve as a lens through which you see and interpret the world — and lead you to make misguided decisions through what's known as confirmation bias.
"It's when you seek information, data and anecdotes that support what you already believe and what you already want to do," said Rich Horwath, founder and chief executive of the Strategic Thinking Institute, a Chicago-based leadership development firm. "And you discount any information, data and anecdotes that's not what you believe and not what you want to do."
Wise leaders welcome differing perspectives and consider them with an open mind. They seek out diverse views and "treat others as teachers," Horwath adds.
Ensnared in the status quo. Botched decisions can flow from the sunk-cost effect, when you're unwilling to pull the plug after months of committing to the wrong course of action.
"It's continuing to invest in it only because you've invested in the past," Horwath said. "If you stop, you acknowledge you've made a (mistake)," and that can prove too painful to bear.
Cal Turner Jr. figures that Dollar General ( DG) probably wouldn't exist today if not for the doggedness of his grandfather, who launched the family's first retail business, and his father, who founded what became Dollar General.
"My grandfather and father were two of the most persistent people," Turner, author of "My Father's Business" and retired CEO of Dollar General, told IBD.
Here's how to get people on your team to keep grinding and battle back from adversity.
Always fight. Turner's grandfather, Luther Turner, opened a single store in the 1920s in Scottsville, Ky., where Cal Turner Jr. grew up. He led it through the Great Depression before his son, Cal Turner Sr., opened a wholesale business with his father in 1939 that later became Dollar General. They faced plenty of obstacles getting the business off the ground during World War II and later, including facing a Teamsters strike.
"Their mission was survival," Turner Jr. said. "They always seemed to feel just a step ahead of going under. There was an intensity of work, where they felt they had to do it well and do it right. The company would not exist without the initial tenacity of Luther and Cal."
Show the way. Set the example for your people by refusing to give in when challenges arise and things go awry.
"Make sure as leaders you'll persevere no matter what the challenges are," said Pete Luongo, the Dayton, Ohio-based retired CEO of the Berry Co., a Yellow Pages ad agency. "You can't lead where you're not willing to go."
Build a bond. Give people a reason to care about the company, or the notion of persevering through tough times won't spread through the organization.
"One thing common to all generations is people want to be part of something bigger than themselves," Luongo said.
Take responsibility. Don't point fingers when trouble arises. Instead, view the challenge as a way to learn how to do something better next time.
"When something goes wrong, we're not going to look for someone to blame," Turner said of his philosophy. "We're going to look at it as a learning and development opportunity. If you don't have that in your organization, your obituary is close to being written."
Choose wisely. Hire people who will persevere through tough times. After BellSouth acquired Berry in 1986, the firm lost several accounts, Luongo says.
"We said to our people, 'If we don't turn this around, we're going to be out of business,' " Luongo said. "Every day was halftime, down 13-6."
The employees fought to overcome the setbacks and rallied the company.
Stay steady. Don't change your demeanor when problems arise. People tend to put on the pressure amid adversity. But Luongo says if you do that, your people will realize you're acting differently and that you lack a process to manage through trouble.
"If the leader panics, they panic and lose trust," Luongo said.
Deal with problems head-on. Turner faced what he calls "the toughest decision of my life" in the late 1980s. His brother, Steve, was COO. Turner felt his brother wasn't taking control of the company's merchandising and operations as he should have. And they had frequent personality clashes. Steve wouldn't resign. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Turner had to fire his brother even though it would hurt him and the family.
"When I understood what had to be done, I developed the spine to get it done," Turner said.
Get help. Turner faced adversity when he took over as CEO. He felt as if he remained in his father's shadow.
"I wanted to be my own man," he said. "I handled it by saying, 'I got this job because I'm the boss' son. I consider myself unqualified, and I need your help.'"
He sought input from his people, who were inspired to pitch in.
Johns Hopkins cardiologist Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig broke barriers and defied conventional wisdom to pursue her goal of helping patients who lacked medical treatment options.
A pioneer and innovator, Taussig (1898-1986) founded the field of pediatric cardiology. She tread on new territory to devise breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating children with congenital heart disease. Among her many achievements, Taussig helped develop the groundbreaking surgical procedure known as the "blue baby" operation.
Taussig was determined to challenge the status quo. She overcame personal and professional obstacles, including an initial rejection to medical school due to gender discrimination and hearing loss. And she drew strength from her struggle.
Passion also motivated Taussig. She was in constant pursuit to fill the void of what was missing in pediatric care.
"To be a leader, you have to recognize where the gaps are," Dr. Anne Murphy, pediatric cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, told IBD. "She recognized there was a gap in caring for these patients with heart defects that caused them to be blue due to low oxygen in the arteries. And she made the effort to work with others to make a difference. She inspired the people she trained to do the same and make a difference."
In so doing, Taussig left an indelible mark on the field of medicine.
"Her fundamental concepts have made possible the modern surgery of the heart which enables countless children to lead productive lives," reads the inscription on the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, presented to Taussig in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Followed Her Passion
Taussig never relented in her quest to find solutions.
"She was passionate about her patients," Murphy said. "To be able to look your patient in the eye and say, 'A few years ago, we didn't have anything we could do for you, but now we're looking toward a different future,' is what I think motivated her, from everything I heard from people who worked with her directly. That's what drove her."
Taussig studied afflictions that had no medical remedies. This focus led to breakthroughs. Taussig co-developed the blue baby operation performed in 1944 with Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock and his surgical technician, Vivien Thomas.
"It is very much believed she was a wonderful, gentle person," said Murphy, who worked with many of Taussig's colleagues in the 1950s. "But to survive in the academic environment in those days and to get things to move forward, she had to be tough, in my opinion. She really believed she had to offer help to blue babies, who had no other options. She really wanted to be able to offer some hope and to move the field forward."
Taussig received her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1927. The journey that led to her concept for the blue baby operation started in 1930. That's when Taussig accepted an offer by Johns Hopkins Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Edwards Park to head Hopkins' new pediatric cardiology heart clinic.
Dr. Park, who was an academic mentor for Taussig, urged her to use the clinic's radiographic equipment to study congenital heart disease, wrote Murphy in a paper she co-authored with pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kathryn Neubauer entitled "Helen Brooke Taussig: Pediatric Cardiology Leader and Innovator."
Taussig soon developed an interest in congenital heart disease and the "blue babies" seen at the clinic. She became unstoppable in pursuing a course that transformed the care of children with congenital heart disease. Taussig laid the foundation for today's heart surgery.
Pioneered New Approaches
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, there was no way to treat congenital heart disease. There were no surgeries, and the diagnostic tools were minimal.
But Taussig challenged proven science and experimented in unknown territory. Taussig's study of afflictions that had no medical remedies led to breakthroughs.
"Part of (Taussig's) work was to try to characterize how children with heart defects presented themselves through clinical manifestations," Murphy said. "The way it's been described to me talking to her colleagues is she recognized that blue babies had heart defects in which there was decreased blood flow to the lungs. She reasoned that if there was a way to produce more blood flow to the lungs, this would help these children who were blue."
Then Taussig worked on a way to produce more blood flow to the lungs of these children.
Murphy says Dr. Robert Gross was the first to do a surgery where there was an artery that remained open after birth and caused babies to breathe more quickly and not grow as well.
"He figured out you could ligate (close off) this artery," Murphy said.
After learning of Dr. Gross' surgery, Taussig thought that "diverting an artery to supply more blood to the lungs might help her patients who were cyanotic because of reduced lung blood flow," according to Murphy.
"Taussig proposed her idea to Dr. Gross, who said he was not interested in her idea," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
Taussig wouldn't accept defeat. She pushed forward. She took her idea to Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock, who was receptive to the idea.
"There was a very nice collaboration between Dr. Blalock and Vivien Thomas, who was known as a brilliant technician, to develop this procedure before the approach was used to treat a child," Murphy said.
The historic surgery was performed on an infant on Nov. 29, 1944.
"The infant survived to go home from the hospital, but died at a second surgery a few months later," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
After two more successful surgeries were performed, Taussig and Blalock published their work, "The Surgical Treatment of Malformations of the Heart" in May 1945.
Dr. James Moller, pediatric cardiologist at University of Minnesota Medical Center, describes the procedure this way: "They took a major blood vessel that went to the arm and divided it and turned it down and hooked it into the blood vessel going into the lungs," he told IBD. "And children flocked to Hopkins to get this done."
Added Murphy: "The success of this technique came from moving forward with it in patients, which was an incredible feat. Any surgery performed on a child in the 1940s was a drastic procedure. The surgery involved a large incision in the chest of these very little babies, who were extremely ill."
Taussig founded the field of pediatric cardiology by challenging the status quo.
"Taussig is recognized as the founder of pediatric cardiology because of her ability to characterize and understand the heart defects in patients, who were living, while in the past they had been described using an autopsy," Murphy said. "She began to understand it in terms of patients she was caring for in her clinic. That was her legacy."
Another reason Taussig is considered the founder of pediatric cardiology: "She was the first person in the world to have a precise interest in children with heart disease," said Moller. "She was dedicated to studying congenital heart disease in children."
Paved A Way
Taussig developed a teaching regime at Johns Hopkins and drew people from all over the world to train, Murphy says.
"She really trained the first generation of pediatric cardiologists," she said.
Taussig also published in 1947 the first textbook exclusively on congenital heart defects: "Congenital Malformations of the Heart."
This textbook continued to be the bible of pediatric cardiology for decades, according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
Taussig was born in Cambridge, Mass. Her father was a well-known professor at Harvard. Her mother studied biology at Radcliffe College. She died when Taussig was only 11.
Success did not come easy for Taussig, starting with an early childhood handicap of dyslexia, causing her "difficulty with reading comprehension throughout school," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
Her father helped her with her reading and homework, the paper says.
Taussig started at Radcliffe College and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where she received her A.B. degree in 1921. Then she started to think about a medical career. She met with the dean of the Harvard School of Public Health to discuss her career only to learn Harvard would allow women to attend medical classes, but would not admit women as degree candidates at the time.
As Taussig became more interested in pursuing a career as a doctor, she realized Harvard wasn't the place for her. She decided to go to Boston University, where women were welcome to take pre-med courses and earn credit for them, the paper says.
Paid It Forward
After completing her pre-med requirements at Boston University, she went to medical school at Johns Hopkins University, which has had a policy to admit women and men equally since its founding.
"She clearly did what the founders wanted, which is to move forward not just in patient care and academics, but in moving medicine toward the future," Murphy said.
For Taussig that meant "moving toward the future of heart surgery in general and for children with birth defects in particular," Murphy said.
But Taussig faced many other obstacles along the way. She also had to overcome hearing loss, which she developed early on as director of the pediatric cardiology clinic. This caused problems using the stethoscope. She tried hearing aids and other methods to overcome the problem.
"None if these worked as well as when she learned to 'listen' with her hands, a talent she perfected over the years by laying her hands extremely gently over a child's chest, feeling murmurs other physicians could not hear with a stethoscope," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
While Taussig is best known for co-developing the blue baby operation, she made many contributions to general pediatrics, pediatric cardiology and medical education.
In 1962 she traveled to Germany to investigate claims that Thalidomide was causing birth defects. The drug had been prescribed as a sleeping aid. The drug was taken off the market in Europe.
Taussig's reports to the medical profession in the U.S. and her testimony before Congress were key in blocking FDA approval for Thalidomide's use in the U.S.
Taussig's career in medicine spanned a lifetime. She remained the head of the Harriet Lane Cardiac Clinic until 1963. She also served on the faculty of the school of medicine from 1930 until 1963, when she became professor emeritus.
Taussig was killed in an automobile accident at age 87.
Co-developed the groundbreaking surgical procedure known as the "blue baby operation" and founded the field of pediatric cardiology.
Overcame: Obstacles including dyslexia, hearing loss and an initial rejection to medical school due to gender discrimination.
"No," he said in a phone interview with IBD, "I don't think calling me kind of crazy is accurate."
The issue was raised because of Itzler's idiosyncratic life. For example, over the last 25 years he's run more than 36,000 miles (including 50-plus marathons), participated in marathonlike bike races, and paddled 30 miles around Manhattan in a stand-up paddleboard competition.
He hired a retired Navy SEAL to live with him for a month of intensive no-nonsense training. That became the basis of his best-selling book, "Living With a Seal: 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet."
More recently, perhaps just to relax (though he denies it), he spent a month in a monastery, the subject of his just-published "Living With the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me About Happiness, Gratitude and Focus."
"I'm not crazy in my head," he insisted. "Maybe in everybody else's."
As proof, Itzler points to his many business accomplishments. He co-founded Marquis Jets, a private aircraft leasing company he subsequently sold to NetJets. There was Zico Coconut Water that he helped take national and subsequently sold to Coca-Cola. And there is his newest venture, 29029 Everest.
For that, he rents a mountain resort for a long weekend and runs a music festival type event. There's music, of course. There's food, of course. But there's also climbing. Participants walk, run, crawl up a peak, take the gondola down, and repeat until they've climbed 29029 feet, the height of Mt. Everest.
Thinking about that venture he reconsiders. "I guess you could say I'm a little crazy," he admitted.
But crazy or not, it's hard to deny his serial successes, built in large measure on a willingness to go with his gut. "For me, it's a passion for doing what I enjoy and asking how do you do it differently. Where's the white space?"
From Jingles To Jets
Itzler, 49, grew up on Long Island, N.Y., in the 1970s, "in the middle of the evolution of a whole new [hip-hop] culture and rap music," he said. "It was very easy to get caught up in that. I took a liking to it and gravitated toward it."
Shortly after graduating college (American University, B.A., '90), Itzler landed a contract with a record label. In 1992 he released his first album, which contained a song he wrote — wait for it — "Shake It Like a White Girl" that would prove his one and only rap hit. But it provided him with a vision for a different kind of musical success.
A New York Knicks fan, he was sure the team could use a theme song. "To convince them [in 1993] I made a demo on my own nickel," he said. "I wanted to go into them with something solid, not just a PowerPoint demonstration. I took the risk of writing the song and playing it for them."
The Knicks bought it and the song, "Go, New York, Go," has been its anthem ever since. After expenses, he barely broke-even, but that was OK. "I didn't do it for the money. That one decision was pivotal." It provided entry into an entirely new industry, the white space he spoke about earlier.
The Knicks song's success "put me in the media spotlight. It taught me a lot about how to market and negotiate; I cut a bad deal for myself, but it showed me I was in the right lane," Itzler said. "It gave me confidence in my ability and showed me I could take a project and get it sold. And I learned all these lessons when I was 21 years old and then it became supersuccessful."
The following year he wrote, produced and sang a similarly themed jingle for the NBA, "I Love This Game," which won him an Emmy Award.
Not only had he found the right lane, but he was all by himself on a straightaway driving a Maserati. So, in 1995, he co-founded Alphabet City Sports Records. The company ultimately wrote theme songs for 50 sports franchises (as well as private companies such as Foot Locker ( FL) and Coca-Cola ( KO)) that combined music and usually archival footage of great plays members of that team made.
He learned something from his Knicks and NBA experiences. Now not only was he paid to write and produce, but he also kept back-end royalties, a portion of the CD and DVD sales purchased by fans.
Just three years later, he and his partner sold the company to SFX Entertainment for, he says, $4 million in stock and cash up front, plus a percentage of future earnings.
It was around this time that Itzler and his Alphabet City partner (and childhood friend) Kenny Dichter took their first flight on a private jet. At the time there were only a couple of ways (other than an invitation to someone else's jet) that people could share in the experience. The first, of course, was to be superwealthy and purchase your own plane. You could charter your own plane, though that, he says, was always hit and miss, "a process that has a lot of moving parts or inconsistencies."
Or you could sign up with a company like NetJets, but that required a five-year commitment. If only there were something easier, he thought, sensing white space. What if, instead of a five-year commitment, you only needed to buy 25 hours in advance, like a Starbucks card, he wrote, only for planes. But how to do that.
Relationships And Experiences
The biggest player in the field was NetJets, and here karma played a role. Some years earlier, while still in the music business, a friend asked if he could get tickets for a Christina Aguilera concert for the daughter of someone Itzler did not know.
Not only did Itzler get tickets for the man and his daughter, but he also arranged for the young girl to be on stage as a backup singer (with her mic turned off). The next day, that man called to thank Itzler, telling him "If there's anything I can ever do ..."
That man was Jim Jacobs, now president of NetJets, proving what goes around comes around. He called Jacobs, reminded him of their connection and arranged an appointment with Jacobs and NetJet CEO Richard Santulli. Itzler didn't know much about the private jet business, but his philosophy was get your foot in the door and figure out the rest later. Another Itzler maxim: Nothing happens unless you ask for it.
The meeting did not go entirely as planned. Santulli said he'd never let two 29-year-olds use any of his 500-plane fleet. But Jacobs saw merit in their proposal. He told the pair to tweak their ideas and he'd try to get them another appointment.
A week later they were back at NetJets headquarters, with a living presentation. Instead of presenting dry statistics, they brought along contacts they'd made at Alphabet City: a New York Giant football player, members of a rap group, a well-known NBA agent and a successful Wall Street guy. They all said while they never would purchase a NetJets fraction, they'd likely buy a 25-hour or so jet card every year.
It took additional meetings, but eventually the NetJets brass bought into the concept, which, given the company's excess capacity, proved a win-win for all. Itzler's company, Marquis Jets, sold time on NetJets aircraft in 25-hour increments. After a 10-year-run, the pair sold the business to NetJets (a Berkshire Hathaway company) for an undisclosed amount. "I'll put it this way," Itzler said. "We were extremely profitable. We did cumulatively $5 billion over the 10 years."
His next endeavor was to form The 100 Mile Group, an incubator in search of more white space. Again, he found it in his private life.
"I ran a 100-mile marathon, and I was powered by coconut water. I'd done a lot of research on hydration and what to drink when you are this exhausted. After completing this race I was inspired by my success drinking pure coconut water."
His first plan was to start a company importing coconut water, but that proved unfeasible. Instead, he partnered with Zico, a small brand.
Marc Adelman, COO of 100 Mile Group recalls, in 2009 "we created a partnership. What we added was marketing, various forms of influence marketing. We brought in a lot of celebrity endorsers Jesse knows and we did some guerrilla marketing."
Itzler was also "instrumental in helping Coke come in because we were talking with Coke about another deal."
In 2012, Coke bought out the partners for what Itzler described only as a "sizable amount."
Adelman, a childhood friend, says the Zico deal is typical of Itzler's successes: "I think it's his relationships and how he connects with people. If you meet him in person you can feel his energy. He's a very dynamic person who lights up a room. He's very determined and creative and combine that with his dynamic energy. It's hard to describe, but that's why he's successful."
Used his life experiences to discover areas where his entrepreneurial skills could disrupt the marketplace.
Overcame: Skepticism from many who doubt new ideas.
Lesson: Keep trying.
Quote: "I love diving into the unknown. That's been my M.O. ever since I was a kid. It's just the stage has gotten bigger. That's all. The theme has been there since I was 8 years old."