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Will Hurricane Sandy (1-175-485) Again Demonstrate Need to Enhance Saffir-Simpson Scale?

Hurricane Ike killed 112 (per Wikipedia) in the United States in 2008, most due to the storm surge. At the time I wrote a blog post advocating an enhancement to the Saffir-Simpson Scale to improve the risk assessment and public communication tool. With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the New Jersey coast, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this old post. As many of you know, I almost studied meteorology in college and have maintained an active, detailed and lifetime fascination with severe weather events and severe weather warning communication processes.

Before I get into recapping the idea, I would like to point out some of the unique features of this life threatening storm:

– The sheer size of Hurricane Sandy has tropical force winds extending 485 miles from the center in the latest advisory. Hurricane Katrina, though massively more intense in terms of hurricane wind speed, had tropical force storm winds only 205 miles from the center per NHC Hurricane Katrina advisory #28.

– The sharp angles of the shape of the New York and New Jersey coast landfall potentially may have unprecedented adverse impacts in regards to the severity of tidal flooding and storm surge.

– The predicted sharp left turn to the west is highly abnormal for a hurricane at this northerly latitude and may impact the water and storm surge projection models in unanticipated ways.

Now let’s review what I wrote in that 2008 Hurricane Ike blog post. In the aftermath, I advocated a change to the Saffir-Simpson scale to more clearly communicate information already communicated in a verbose way. As you may recall, I advocated a change to show Saffir-Simpson Scale number / Miles of Hurricane Force winds from the center / Miles of Tropical Force winds from the center as one aggregated metric at the top of the advisory for public to better understand the impacts. For Hurricane Ike this was 2-120-275. For Hurricane Sandy this is currently 1-175-485. Based on current trends, Hurricane Sandy may well reach category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale prior to landfall which would make it 2-175-485.

In the National Hurricane Center Hurricane Sandy advisory 29, the National Weather Service did not even use the Saffir-Simpson scale in the advisory. It is not clear why. Potentially it is their unprecedented, advance planning for migrating the storm away from National Hurricane Center forecast control?

Certainly there are many other complicating factors that affect storm surge such as water depth, slope of coast, etc. but the width of the hurricane force and tropical storm force wind fields are already included in the advisory and changing the aggregation of the data would make it easier for the public to comprehend and media to immediately communicate. As such I repeat my 2008 request to the National Hurricane Center to adapt and change the Saffir-Simpson Scale in the manner above.

There are also many financial services and business operation risk models of the late twentieth century that also need adjustment to prevent disaster. Most of the risks are not currently assessed fully. It is not about big data, it is about high levels of common sense and business acumen guiding management to think differently. These issues affect business and society potentially as much if not more as Hurricane Sandy, but without the benefits of intense media focus of natural disasters.

Hurricane Sandy

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Business Author Ro Khanna Discusses His Thought Provoking Book Entrepreneurial Nation

ro khanna, entrepreneurial nation why manufacturing is still key to americasThe nice folks at McGraw-Hill sent me a freshly minted copy of Ro Khanna’s new book Entrepreneurial Nation : Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America’s Future.  As someone who would like to help the CEOs and board of directors transform the sales and marketing of America’s manufacturers to make them into international growth companies, I was excited to see this title as I hope it will bring focus to an important and related issue – where and how corporation resources and employees are allocated for utilization.

In Entrepreneurial Nation, Ro Khanna presents a highly valid yet contrarian book about the potential for USA manufacturing resurgence. Ro advocates reversing certain strategy consulting dogma of the late twentieth century to create this reality. People would be wise to listen to and act on Ro’s message.

The book is a highly unique combination of personal memoir, business and government stories. If the book were to go mainstream, I would  think that the world might discover that his core concept has applications in other areas. Ro was kind enough to answer some questions:

In Chapter 1 you state, “The best American manufacturers consider the intellectual contributions of all of their employees.” Critical and divergent thinkers are critical, but the majority of companies are not yet replacing their leadership ranks with these types of transformational leaders.  What has to change for this to occur at more companies more quickly?

Ro Khanna: We cannot compete with China in a race to the bottom or lower wages.  So, we have to outcompete them by offering more innovative products, finding efficiencies in production, or customizing products to meet consumer’s unique needs.  The best manufacturers recognize this fact, and their leadership creates the culture for employees to make meaningful contributions to a product’s design and the production process.  The result is gain in productivity and also better products.
My hope is the manufacturers that I profile can serve as a model to many of American companies.  They show that empowering employees makes business sense.  A bottom-up culture is perhaps the only way American companies can compete with low-wage labor.  We can’t compete on price. We need to compete by being more creative.

You had the privilege and honor of meeting with one of the most brilliant business people ever, Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel. He argues strongly against outsourcing manufacturing ? Yet it occurs. so who exactly are people listening to for this advice that is contrary to Andy Grove’s great wisdom?

Ro Khanna: Yes, Andy Grove is one of the most brilliant and passionate people I’ve met.  I wish more policy-makers were listening to him about the importance of keeping a manufacturing base for the purpose of innovation.  Some neo-classical economists have argued that we should be indifferent about whether we have a manufacturing base or not.  That may be nice in theory, but what Grove shows is that it cannot work in practice.  Losing manufacturing would mean losing millions of good paying jobs.  It would also hamper our ability to innovate because as Grove shows design and production cannot be separated.  I am disappointed that Grove’s ideas on the importance of manufacturing have not captured more of the attention of the Beltway.  It’s partly why I wrote the book, and Grove arguably is the protagonist of the story.  Washington should listen to people like Andy Grove who have actually implemented successful manufacturing processes and created thousands of jobs here.

I found your research finding that a number of companies were starting to “recognize that machines don’t always improve productivity” to be fascinating as it validates much of my research about white collar management, business strategy and marketing operations. Please discuss how you discovered these fascinating bits of information …

Ro Khanna:  When I would ask manufacturers about why all their jobs could not be automated, they would laugh at the naivete of such a thought.  One of the senior managers at GE explained that individuals were actually more efficient and accurate at tasks such as packaging compared to robots because they were more portable.  Keith Busse of Steel Dynamics also went into considerable detail about the types of jobs in steel manufacturing that he could not see automated any time in the near future.  In general, it’s a gross oversimplification to say that automation will render human workers unnecessary.  A better question is to figure out what types of workers are needed with increasing automation, and what skills they need to develop.

You discussed a manufacturing skills gap in Chapter 7. Recruiting expert Libby Sartain is famous for saying “Hire for attitude, train for skills.” Jeffrey J. Fox asserts companies do not spend enough on training employees. Is there really a skills gap or is there a management problem combined with a lack of vision around how to hire talent that could be trained to do these jobs in a short period of time?

Ro Khanna:  Great question.  You are absolutely correct that companies should invest in training workers.  But, we need to provide them with the incentives to do so.  If we expect companies to take a financial risk and invest in training workers for specific skills —skills that these workers presumably did not acquire through public schooling, college, or vocational education –then companies should receive some tax incentive to do so. We have to make the economics of investing in worker training attractive for a company’s bottom line.  Yes, visionary corporate leaders may get the importance of doing so, and understand that you hire talent not resumes.  But, having incentives can help them justify such  long-term investment decisions to their Board and shareholders. Companies can also partner with trade unions to invest to help cultivate the best workforce.

How did the lecturing gig at Stanford come about?

Ro Khanna: I was speaking at Stanford about how historically there has been a bipartisan vision of supporting American manufacturing.  I talked about Hamilton’s Report on Manufacturing, about Coolidge’s investment in our aviation industry, about Reagan’s investments in our semiconductor industry.  Many of the students had no idea about this aspect of American economic history, and said that they often did not get that perspective in their classes.  Their economics classes were like math classes. So, I thought it would be fun to discuss with students the practical aspects of American economic policy-making, and how that may not easily fit into classical economics or Keynesianism.

What did you personally learn about manufacturing as a result of writing this book?

Ro Khanna: I was inspired about the resilience of American manufacturers I met, and how they went about just doing their work with determination.  I write in the book that, in a deeper sense, the American manufacturers I met speak to who we are as a people. Those talking heads who predict America’s decline need to travel this country and see the hundreds of innovative businesses that are thriving.  There is a reason that the skeptics were wrong when they wrote us off during the early years of the Cold War.  There is a reason they were wrong again when they predicted in the 1980s that Japan and Germany would be the dominant post Cold War economies.  These skeptics always miss the entrepreneurial culture, the hard work, and the sense of optimism that defines America.  After meeting dozens of manufacturers, I am very confident about the future of American manufacturing.  We just need to get the policies right to make their lives easier, and encourage our manufacturers to adapt to the global economy.  That’s why the work you are doing is so important.

Was there anything you learned after the book went to press  that you’d like to share?

Ro Khanna:  Almost every person who has read the book says what they find most interesting is the stories.  I spent a lot of time worrying about taking on the economists such as Jagdish Bhagwati who argues that manufacturing no longer matters.  I spent time arguing for the right policies our nation needs to support manufacturing.  But what seems to touch readers is the concrete stories of Americans who are succeeding in making things.  If the book accomplishes one thing, I hope it shines a spotlight on those Americans who are figuring out how to compete successfully, despite the difficult odds.

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Jeffrey J. Fox on the Future Transformative CEO

Recently, I had the great pleasure of hosting a podcast with Jeffrey J. Fox on Total Picture Radio. Over the years, Jeffrey’s books have been a tremendously positive influence on me.  He did the crisp and clear short book to perfection before it became fashionable and without losing meaning.  As I study the book business and art and craft of making a book myself, I’ve become further impressed by not only his achievements but also his longevity.

I’m excited about his most current book for a variety of reasons:

– Leadership – For a long, long time many have focused on doing the same activities harder, better or with tiny improvement. This book gives permission to do something in a different way.

– Inspiration – Leaders need to be inspired to take that first step to lead change consistently. The first step is often the hardest.

– Permission – Leaders need permission to know that letting go of the past to take another path is OK. All too often this serves as a roadblock.

Why else am I excited about this book? Put simply, this book’s message stimulates demand for the services and abilities I have to offer businesses align their operations and business models to grow revenue, cashflow and market share. It is an exciting time in that regard.

The Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of all companies need to take immediate action to start the long  journey of recreating customer focused organizations that serve a need, in a way that is better than anyone else in their industry, do it in a way that is effective and empowers people across the organization to make incremental, real-time decisions. This is the model and culture that existed at BlackRock during it’s hypergrowth phase and it the the model culture that any organization can strive to build.

There is a long journey ahead, it will be successful for those who take action while others stand still. It is time for the Transformative CEO. I look forward to traveling with those who chose to go on it.



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Suddenly in Charge : Roberta Chinsky Matuson Book Interview

Suddenly in Charge by Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Suddenly in Charge by Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Suddenly in Charge by Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Recently I read Roberta Chinsky Matuson’s Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down and Succeeding All Around(Niocolas Brealey). Really unique book, especially the managing up part, as I’ve never seen extensive writing about that issue previously. Insightful stuff. Roberta was kind enough to grant an interview.

In the chapter on Office Politics you mention the three issues power affects most: allocation of resources, administrative succession and organizational structure. Some assert that many offices are becoming more political overall. If that were true in an individual case what is generally causing that and what should executive teams do to start to rectify it?

There is a direct correlation between resources and office politics. When resources are plentiful, there is no need to go to battle for what you believe should be yours as there is plenty to go around. Of course the opposite is true as well. When resources are tight, savvy workers will do what is necessary to claim the resources they need to get their jobs done and to obtain highly prized promotions.

It’s funny that you should ask what executive teams should do to rectify this as those on the executive team are often the most political. That being said, executives can make sure people have the resources to do their work. They should also promote people based on ability, rather than on likeability.

In Chapter 5 of the Managing Up portion of the book you discuss the concept of positive self-promotion. Could you elaborate on why you consider this concept to be so important?

In today’s workplace, there is so much competition for attention. You have to toot your own horn to be heard in a sea of cubicles. Pump up the volume and make enough noise so people in the organization know who you are and what you are capable of doing.

Operating under the assumption that your work will speak for itself is wrong. If that were the case, then why is it that so many great artists never got noticed until they died? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be recognized and rewarded while I’m alive.

Two chapters later you mention how to handle those who might seek to cheat shareholders and how to deal with them…what advice would you give to someone in a less explicit situation such as someone protecting a pet project or seeking to maintain funding for an activity that is no longer optimal for most organizational stakeholders?

Do you really have all the information you need and the expertise to determine if a project is optimal for most organizational stakeholders? If the answer is no, then I would recommend you continue to work on the assignment. If the answer is yes, then you have to weigh out your options. The person who is protecting a pet project isn’t going to be easily swayed by someone challenging their project, so most likely you will have to go above their head. You will need to examine what might happen if you do so, before you take your case further.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson - Human Resource Solutions
Roberta Chinsky Matuson – Human Resource Solutions

Why do organizations struggle to hire the optimal people with the right skills?

There are many reasons why organizations struggle to hire the optimal people with the right skills. In my new book, The Magnetic Workplace: How to Attract Top Talent that Will Stick Around (Nicholas Brealey, 2013), I talk about how there has never been a better time to hire top talent, but employers are taking too long. Many are operating under the assumption that nothing has changed in the employment landscape. In my book, I discuss the importance of removing barriers that may be slowing your company down in the hiring process, as in this new economy; speed will be of utmost importance.

Employers focus too much on skills and not enough on fit. You can train the right people to do most skills, but you can’t really train a forty-year old to play nice with others or to be extremely detail oriented. I recommend hiring on fit and training for skill.

Over the years, I’ve taught thousands of people how to hire for fit. It’s a skill that is easily learned. Like most skills, the more you practice, the better you get.

In your acknowledgement section you state, “My deepest gratitude goes to my mentor, Alan Weiss, who has offered guidance and support throughout my consulting practice.” (I’ve interviewed Alan Weiss previously.) Could you please expand on type of mentorship he has provided to you and how it has impacted you?

I have been a part of Alan’s community for years and have enrolled in his mentoring program numerous times. Having access to someone who has achieved what you are trying to achieve is priceless.

Through my work with Alan, I’ve learned that mentorship and coaching is one of the fastest ways to create change and to help people reach their full potential. I now offer these services to my clients and am always thrilled to see how quickly they are able to attain the results they seek. I believe this is so because they are fully committed to their personal and professional growth. Of course having someone to help keep them accountable certainly doesn’t hurt!

What did you learn from the process of publishing a book?

I learned many things from the process of publishing a book. Here are a few of those things in no particular order.

Determination is key. If you want something bad enough and you are willing to put in the work, then anything is possible.

When you engage an agent, it’s a partnership. You have to trust that your agent knows what he or she is doing and that they have your best interest in mind. If you don’t trust your agent then look for another agent.

Bigger isn’t always better. In my dreams, I always imagined I would be with a big publishing house. But in the end, it was a small publisher who agreed to publish Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around. In retrospect, being with a smaller house gave me opportunities that I never would have gotten with one of the larger publishers. For example, I was the one who suggested we flip the book (one side of the book is on managing up and the other side is on managing down.) Rather than discard the idea, my publishing team said they would see if it was possible. The unique format of Suddenly in Charge has helped my book stand out from a crowded field of management books.

Many people don’t realize that publishers pay for the space in airport bookstores. Of course the authors who don’t need all that much visibility (e.g., Danielle Steele, Marshall Goldsmith, etc.) are the ones who the publishers are willing to make that kind of investment in. My publisher invested in me, and my book was distributed at WH Smith Stores in airports and train stations around the globe. I still recall the day when a colleague snapped a photo of my book next to Sir Richard Branson. His book was charting at number nine and mine was number ten!

The process of writing a book is only the beginning. Just as you catch your breath you receive the edits, which may require some rewrites. You take another breath and it’s time to find people who are willing to endorse your book. Next comes the promotion of the book, which is usually on the shoulders of the author. And then it all starts again when you decide like me to write another book.

What are the three trigger events that should lead to someone contacting you about your services?

1. Your company is experiencing growth and you recognize that the people you have on board don’t have the skills needed to take the business to the next level.

2. You or someone on your team has just been tossed into a leadership role.

3. Your company is going through an acquisition or a merger.

For more information, please visit Roberta’s website,

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Jeffrey Hayzlett Book Interview – Running the Gauntlet : Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits

Jeffrey Hayzlett - Running the Gauntlet : Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits In the highly anticipated follow up to The Mirror Test, Jeffrey Hayzlett now brings us Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits due from McGraw-Hill in January 2012. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to know Jeffrey, he’s certainly a unique bird. He’s engaged me not only on stage buy off with invites to special events at conferences, restaurants and has already introduced me to many interesting people I never would have met otherwise. I can only imagine what lies ahead! The mutual lifelong learning and fun back and forth is awesome. Jeffrey was kind enough to grant us one of the first reads of the book and interviews. Let’s get to it!

Q: You mention Henry Ford creating the assembly line: “Productivity was so astounding that Ford stopped measuring it. By 1914, other companies needed for five times as many workers to build the same hundreds of thousands of cars as Ford.” Henry Ford was also known for paying workers well. It seems the best way to improve standards of living is large productivity gains?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: That’s one way, I don’t know if it’s the only way or the best way.  It’s more of a philosophy, give people what they want and get the things you want.  Provide a great product or service, of high quality, and there will be consumers.  The same theory can be applied to anything you are advertising, marketing or promoting.  For example, use the workers in Henry Ford’s plant and productivity. In Ford’s plants they became so good they stopped measuring.  It was about not only paying workers a fair wage – a good wage – but about offering them other things, enticing them, so they could buy the product they made, have pride in ownership, pride in building the products they created.  There are lots of different ways to go about getting the things you want.  Money may not always be the greatest incentive when gaining productivity or motivation.  Again, find out what people want and then give it to them.  Motivating my salespeople isn’t always about making good money – it can be a way to keep “score” – but sometimes it can be offering incentives such as golf balls, trips, even cowboy boots to get the team excited to want to go out and do more on the company’s behalf.

Q: Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 but didn’t launch it back then……why?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: Their success led to their own demise.  Because they were trying to protect the great margins film had – you had a product that was 70, 80 even as high as 90% in terms of profitability.  They were doing everything they could to keep that alive for as long as they could.  The problem became they forgot what type of company they were.  They started to believe they were a film company rather than a company that would help people make images and move information, a company focused on innovation, a company providing emotional technology.  They had the only product people would actually run into a burning building to save, yet they focused on being a film company rather than a company that can innovate and recreate itself again and again and again.  If we look at the most successful companies, whether it be IBM, Apple or a host of others it’s about being able to reinvent yourself as well as remembering at the core of it all who you really are.

Q: You suggest a fear of change and that this can inhibit healthy debate with those that disagree with us. What is the best way to create culture that can thrive on healthy debate, starting with how we pick a new breed of leaders?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: We all know that leadership starts at the top but is also reinforced and thrives at the bottom.  So across the organization if you don’t have leaders at the top of the org that are willing to not only to create tension but take it as well then you are not going to get the give and take that you want at an organization.  You won’t be able to encourage innovation, encourage change and encourage growth because everybody will be looking out after themselves because they are afraid of what they might say because the boss might have retribution.  So the key is to create an organization where people can stand up and question things.  By standing up and questioning things you create the tension in the system and you get something better than you first started with.  If I start with item A and someone starts with item Z and we start creating so much friction back and forth and this friction creates a fire of new ideas somehow we’ll go one way or the other to move the new idea to a better place.  I think that’s what great leaders try to do.

Q: When I worked at BlackRock(BLK) there was discipline around process, but it was flexible to allow breakthrough ideas. In Chapter 14 you wrote “Some people get caught up in the idea rather than the process, but I think the process leads to the idea.” Please elaborate on this concept…

Jeffrey Hayzlett: It’s a little bit of both in this particular case.  Certainly you can have a great idea but if you can’t get it out and get it through the process it will never see itself through fruition – it will never make it to market.  I can remember one time sitting in a meeting with a chief technology officer – one of the smartest guys in the world that I had ever met.  He said, “Jeff, you realize because I make this product, I create this software program – if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have a job.”  I had to remind him that it could be the greatest product in the world but if it weren’t for me selling it and marketing it – getting it out through the process and to the customers’ hands that he wouldn’t have anything.  So that’s what I’m talking about the process leads to the idea.  By having great processes and great systems set up then you can try to push things through to allow things to be able to win. If you don’t have a great process, even the greatest ideas will lose before they begin.

Q: So when done right, this can allow a company to focus on the future more effectively?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: Absolutely, by having a great system, a great process, a great way of channeling greatness then you’re going to be able to look for more things to put through to your following.  Look at the greatest sports teams in the world, it is those that focus on the fundamentals of having great athletes – not just one great player or two and then try to build the team around them but yet having a great team made up of different people and that’s what process does for us.

Q: In the 1993 classic book, Reengineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and John Champy they mention that executives are “frighteningly unfamiliar” with three forces, separately and in combination: Customers, Competition and Change. You actively did this in those retail stores. Given the popularity of that book almost two decades ago, why do you think companies are still so unable to focus on these basics?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: I think so many companies focus on the next big thing, the big peel, the magic peel.  I think especially in the US we look to that one big thing that will do it for us rather than again getting back to that process, getting back to good and hard work.  If it was easy anyone could do it – it’s not supposed to be easy.  Therefore, the focus on competition, the focus on customers, the focus on change are just as good today as they were decades before.  It’s important for us to be able to take a look at how we implement change, look at customer and competitors to be able to drive and channel the forces behind being successful.

Q: “Radical transparency is not a one-way street of engagement.” Why do people have such a hard time developing a 2-way mindset in search marketing and social media?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: Inherently, I think it’s because people are scared.  Most people don’t like to get feedback.  I was one time in a phase in my life where I wore all black all the time.  Someone asked me why and I said because it makes you look slimmer.  The person turned back to me and said, well it’s not working.  I think a lot of people are afraid to hear that feedback sometimes and it takes a very strong leader and a strong person to get into that 2-way mindset, that it’s ok to get feedback – both positive and negative.  By the way, look at the negatives as a gift because that’s a way for you to be able to change, to turn around that potential customer or that person who’s had a negative experience.  I’ve heard from brand leaders and internal departments (HR, Legal) where they want to try to control the situation but you can’t control the situation. When it comes to brands especially, you can’t control it because a brand is nothing but a promise delivered.  It’s about delivering a promise and when you deliver that promise or opportunity up to the customer it’s going to be interpreted in different ways.  Sometimes that’s positive and many times its also negative.  Yet you should be strong enough in your leadership abilities, strong enough in your offering to be able to understand that this will come with everything.  There’s going to be a good, a bad and an ugly but the good should always outweigh the other two.

For more information, please visit Thank you!

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THE MACKAY MBA OF SELLING IN THE REAL WORLD Last year Harvey Mackay visited Chicago for a media tour for his previous book last year and I got to travel from media outlet to media outlet with him for a day as he did so. The experience would be hard to describe beyond that it will never be forgotten as long as I live and was amazing media training. His focus on others is always present as he seeks to learn every detail of the life of his next interview. Harvey is truly a one of a kind individual and I consider myself fortunate for having spent a day with him.

His lasted book is THE MACKAY MBA OF SELLING IN THE REAL WORLD (Portfolio, 2011). The wonderful publicity folks retained by Mr. Mackay were kind enough to grant me an email interview after I read the book. His answers below build on a great read and create the basis for a larger conversation that the world desperately needs to have. Harvey is part of an increasingly rare breed of business leader who understands that people, human capital and organizational transformation are vital to success. For our society to survive as we know it, we must rapidly work to reverse this trend and create a new generation of leaders with these all too rare skills. You feel the sense of urgency in his answers below. I can’t wait to spend another day with Harvey Mackay, the mutual learning would be overwhelming.

You stated “Fostering employee loyalty is the first step to creating customer loyalty” in Chapter 4. Over the past two decades, many companies have treated employees as disposable assets. How would you convince management to reverse this unfortunate trend?

Harvey Mackay: Our company mission statement is to be in business forever.  That means no compromising … not compromising your core principles and taking any shortcuts.  It is virtually impossible to stay in business over a long period of time if you treat your employees as disposable assets.  In 50-plus years in the business world, I know of no one who stayed in business with a revolving door of employees.  It’s sad to say, but in these difficult economic times there are still too many businesses that still don’t get it.

Chapter 15 states, “Your past is not your potential” and “Far too many people exist in a world of “what is” rather than applying their energies to “what can be”.” Today skills are dynamic and changing; this has implications for returning to the basics of recruiting naturally curious lifelong learners based with the vision to lead change. How can companies best stop the practice of picking leaders of the past?

Harvey Mackay: I have hired over 500 people in my career, and the single most important word in the dictionary that I look for and demand is trust.  Once I have established that, then I immediately look for capacity and willingness to learn.  I can’t begin to tell you how many people out there in the marketplace and disciples of the Peter Principle.  There has been a seismic shift in the business world.  The great classical business principles still hold true but they need to be fused with cutting edge internet technology.  That’s the kind of leaders that companies should be looking for.

Fred Smith got a “C” on his term paper for his idea for Federal Express. Mike Bloomberg was told his idea for what became the Bloomberg terminal would never work by his former employer. Why is it often so difficult for most executives to grasp paradigm changing business ideas?

Harvey Mackay: It’s way easier to stay in the comfort zone, especially when things are going good than to go out on a limb and take some risks.  My philosophy is exactly the opposite:  Sometimes it’s risky not to take a risk.  And remember, if you walk backwards, you will never stub your toe.  One of the most difficult things in life for any individual or business is to accept and adopt change.

So, as you like to say, “People don’t know what they don’t know?”

Harvey Mackay: The way I like to fine tune this statement that I made up in college is – I know that you don’t know, but you don’t know that you don’t know!  By that I mean there are three reasons why individuals and businesses fail:

1.    Arrogance

2.    Arrogance

3.    Arrogance

There has been a consistent, gradual decline in ethical business practices in the United States for about 50 years, and it reached new extremes in the “daisy chain” of the sub-prime mortgage industry in the period of 2002-2008.  This was caused by executives getting chapped lips from kissing the mirror too much, which is a perfect example of how arrogance set in.

You discuss the importance of listening, what is the best way for a salesperson to use the obtained information to create a successful sales?

Harvey Mackay: First of all you can’t learn anything if you are doing all the talking.  Sales people should always be developing their earQ, not their IQ.  The only way to create a successful sale is to understand that knowledge (from listening) does not become power until it is used.  And ideas without action are worthless.

You talked about enthusiasm, what is the best way to maintain it in the face of adversity?

Harvey Mackay: First of all, I have never yet met a successful person who hasn’t had to overcome either a little or a lot of adversity in his or her life.  If life there is a lot of lumps and bumps … a lot of throttling up and a lot of throttling down.  Failure is not falling down, but staying down.  Therefore, you have to ignite your own enthusiasm.  The ten most powerful two-letter words in the English language are:  If it is to be, it is up to me.  Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and you will accomplish your object.  I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

In chapter 67 you cut the world-famous Mackay 66 to the Mackay 25, Please share more about why you changed it…

Harvey Mackay: The Mackay 25 does not replace the Mackay 66.  Rather it is a streamlined version, which gets you to an instant snapshot of the prospect or buyer’s attitude and expectations.  It gets to the heart of what is commonly known today as relationship selling.

In a recent blog post you stated that you are always surprised when you ask who their customers are and they say everyone. Rob La Gesse (@kr8tr) asks who is your customer?  Have you decided who is not?  If so, you have already self-limited your ability to affect change?

Harvey Mackay: You can’t be all things to all people.  In most businesses the company will have what I refer to as nitch-picking.  In short, virtually everyone has their own niche within an industry.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending the day with you during your Chicago media tour in 2010. I was amazed by the way you prepared for each interview. You were seeking to learn about each interviewer and worked to bring that into the on air conversation. What can aspiring radio and TV guests learn from your techniques?

Harvey Mackay: I call this humanize your selling strategy.  I attempt to do a Mackay 66 Question Customer Profile on everyone I meet throughout my life.  That means customers, employees, suppliers, competitors, audiences, radio and TV talk-show hosts and journalists.  This is what I teach our sales force and the people I mentor, and that is that every single person I encounter I have a deep-down burning desire to learn what turns that person on and what he or she is most interested in.  In any relationship, you must find a common denominator.


Thank you Harvey! Every CEO, board of directors member and business leader should read this interview and distribute it (and his book) to their teams and then talk about these meaty issues! I welcome the world changing conversation.

Learn more about Harvey at

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Twitter Gate – Buy More Twitter Followers Free Instantly – Business Marketing Strategy Implications?

This week there are stories raging in political circles with allegations the Newt Gingrich (or more likely his Internet strategists) bought or acquired Twitter followers. Seeing a concept I’ve seen whispered in the back of the room at Internet conferences being discussed in a broad and general way in Time magazine makes one wonder if we are witnessing an important inflection point moment.

The article brings something in the bright, bright light that had been hidden in the darkness, the TIME article states, “…Newt’s numbers are way out of the ordinary – even for a politician. While about 8% of his followers are real, other politicians were deemed to have anywhere 20% to 30% of “real” followers. In comparison, the average Twitter user, like you and me, have anywhere from 35% to 60% real people following them.”

It makes one wonder where all these non-real followers are coming from and more than a few CEOs are likely reading this article and asking the question, “Is all this investment in social media justified and an activity that will grow my business and improve the bottom line or are there wiser marketing investments to be made?” The answer is not one that will immediately be answerable completely. Before we get into that, a little history is required. Twitter has API’s that allow people to interact with their data to build other tools. For reasons that are completely unclear, the API allowed people to automate certain actions like posting, retweeting, even creation of new accounts via automated programmatic methods.  This appears to have helped Twitter grow users to create user adoption rates that were shown to venture capitalists. Some have suggested that certain due diligence steps were missed, I don’t know whether it is true or not. Time will tell.

What this incident has a potential to do is bring this conversation into the boardroom and have serious questions asked like are these 80,000+ Twitter follower social media experts really experts at anything at all? Are all of these investments in social media justified? Shouldn’t I be focused on a well diversified portfolio of relevant marketing activities? What does Klout’s influencer score of 72 for @NewtGingrich say about fake retweets being counted as real and will Klout eventually become the solution with verified users and replace Twitter altogether (if Twitter doesn’t buy it someday soon)? How many reports of social media ROI are sitting in executive boardrooms right now that are not true representations of actual real world reality? How many marketers departments will have new and different leadership 90 days from now due to questions raised due to this incident? Will people across the globe stop looking at the number of Twitter followers as the Holy Grail of social media efforts?

The answers to these questions aren’t fully clear yet, but I wanted to raise some of the most important ones. I can confidently say that the goal should always be one of diversified marketing strategies that reach relevant demographics and real, actual target customers.

It’s time for CEOs to rewrite the job spec of the CMO to the creation of relevant business results instead of hype, buzz and hocus pocus. This needed migration is just an idea in most boardrooms today, it needs to one day become reality. It’s time for businesses to adapt their organizations to perform in this environment which is something that must be customized for each company in solutions provided based on the markets that they serve.

How big is this marketplace? According to Google’s Keyword External tool over 3,361,550 queries on Google occurred on the term Twitter Followers. This quantifies 1) the amount of people researching how to improve their Twitter followers is large and 2) it means that social media people seeking Twitter followers are not talking to their friends via Social Media about this, they are using a search engine called Google, which is the primary tool that most people use for this research as well as what the majority of the population uses at the moment they are seeking highly relevant information.

Keyword    Global Monthly Searches
how to get twitter followers    90500
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Total monthly Google queries for the term Twitter Followers on Google Keyword External Tool    3361550