Archives: January 2009

Super Bowl Show Down

We're going to be conducting an experiment at on Super Bowl Sunday. We've asked our Cool Friends Sally Hogshead and Steve Yastrow to wage a back and forth discussion about the Super Bowl advertisements. It seems that Sally and Steve have different ideas about the relative merits of companies spending $3 million per thirty-second ad. Steve thinks it's a total waste of money; Sally thinks not. But their comments on the ads will take place at Sally's Twitter address is and Steve's is While it may be difficult to follow their replies to each other at Twitter itself, since all the other discussions (and there will be plenty) will be showing up as well. So to make their 'debate' more clear we'll be pulling their 'tweets' off Twitter and posting them as an ongoing blog post at We'll be starting somewhere around 6 p.m. Eastern U.S. time tomorrow, Sunday, February 1. Hope you can drop by.

What Are You Reading?

Recently on, I saw the article about how self-published books are on the rise. In further reading the article, I was intrigued by this comment, "A recently released study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that while more people are reading literary fiction, fewer of them are reading books." So, I am quite curious to find out what our bloggers are reading these days. Share with us your favorite books that you have recently read. Are you reading more literary fiction these days? In print or otherwise? What is capturing your attention in the world of books?

How to Fire Right

Fortune Small Business recently interviewed Tom about layoffs, the current economic crisis, and the German Mittlestand. You can find the article here and the accompanying video here.

Tom Peters' Superstar/Top41 Entrepreneurs

I was asked by a magazine to come up with a list of the five entrepreneurs I most admired. Consistent with my whatever, I offered a list of 41, though I did single out my top 13 (**) and my Top 1 (*****). You'll find the list below. (And a PDF version as well.) I was determined to steer away from the obvious with a couple of exceptions—and also emphasized social entrepreneurs and a couple of entrepreneurs (classification justified, I believe) within firms. All yours ...

Susan Frampton, President, Planetree Alliance, Derby CT, top "patient-centric" hospital care model, broadly diffused

Larry Janesky, Basement Systems Inc., author of very popular Dry Basement Science, transformer of moldy basements, this "ordinary" business a huge winner

Jim Penman, Jim's Group, with HQ in Australia, nearly 3,000 franchisees doing "routine" stuff that busy clients don't get around to doing, like dog-walking and driveway paving; also author of What Will They Franchise Next?

Dennis Littky, founder Big Picture, project-based learning model for secondary schools, widespread diffusion courtesy Gates foundation

*****Wendy Kopp, founder, Teach For America, potent beyond measure in insanely tough environment (My #1)

**Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank, Nobel Peace Prize winner, father of micro-lending, started in Bangladesh

**Women recipients (94%) of Grameen micro-loans, incredible payback record

John Bogle, sane & successful funds manager, founder Vanguard Funds, author of Enough

**Steve Jobs, himself, no ID needed!

**Lorenzo Zambrano, CEMEX, Mexico, world's #3 cement maker, low-price, high volume housing developer for the poor

David Kelley, IDEO, top product design company, innovation consultancy, founder of Stanford "D-school" (Design School)

Don Berwick, creator of campaign-organization to save hundreds of thousands of lives by focus on patient safety in hospitals

Bob Stone, reinventing government (Bob called "Mr. Rego") for VP Al Gore, big-scale under-the-radar change in resistant environment

Robin Chase and Antje Danielson, founded Zipcar

**Horst Brandstatter, Brandstatter Enterprises (including Playmobil); exemplar of Germany's Mittelstand (Germany #1 world exporter, driven almost entirely by Mittelstand companies)

Oprah, entrepreneur, billionaire, social change agent

**Carly Fiorina, dramatically changed/wrestled to ground a very strong culture at HP; Welch (GE) and Gerstner (IBM) did good work, but did not do culture change, resurrected old cultures that had frayed

John Doerr, VC extraordinaire; no $$$, no high-growth start-ups

**Taddy Blecher, CIDA, university, founder, South Africa, services tens of thousands of kids from the townships

Almost all of Bo Burlingham's Small Giants (e.g., New Hope Contracting, Righteous Babe Records, and LFS Touring)

Billy Ford, serious about green for years and years at Ford, internal entrepreneur, lonely voice

**Michelle Rhee, superintendent, D.C. schools, young, taking on powerful teacher's union, succeeding

Rick Warren, love him or hate him, Saddleback monster church, bestselling book ever

Bono, putting aid to Africa on the map

**Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler & visionary, Dubai; amazing act of human imagination

Narayana Murthy, founder, Infosys, #1 exemplar of Indian IS prowess

**David Petraeus, changed U.S. Army doctrine, internal entrepreneur

Lee Kuan Yew, senior minister and former prime minister, Singapore, created little giant of a Sovereign State

Ronald Reagan, champion-enabler of the entrepreneurs in a "big company" environment

Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Fund, fund social entrepreneur efforts for projects-programs serving those with <$4/day in income

Bill Drayton, Ashoka, supports the development (selection, training) of entrepreneurs worldwide

Sultan Bahabri, HITS telecom plus, Kuwait, ignites widespread efforts to support the less well off

Zhang Xin, SOHO China, unusual large-scale property developer, very design driven, female with hyper-humble roots in a male's game

Arianna Huffington, Web social change agent

Helen Greiner, iRobot, MIT grad created powerful-imaginative techy firm amidst "all boys" industry

Ted Turner, ridiculed for imagining CNN; potent social entrepreneur

**John Coleman, Weather Channel, thought a joke at the start, valued in the billions of $$$$

Dame Anita Roddick ("the late," alas), mother of large-scale corporate social responsibility (wish she'd been running a big bank)

Vernon Hill, made Commerce Bank the poster child for consumer-friendly banking before troublesome departure

**Howard Dean, de facto creator of "high end" Web-based politics

Idiots on the Loose

Former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl criticizes current Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis for stupid acquisitions. Pfizer, unable to develop new drugs, will pay $68 billion for Wyeth. When will these idiots learn?

[Tom called to say that he wrote the above lines very early in the morning at Logan Airport.—CM]

Mr. Buffett

"I don't invest in anything I don't understand."—Warren Buffett

Is there more to the current crisis than this?
I (more or less) don't think so.

100 Ways to Succeed #152:

Ask & Ask & Ask Until You Understand!

Make it one of your 2009 and beyond resolutions:

"I shall lead the league in Asking Dumb Questions."
"I shall become Questioner-in-Chief."
"I shall persist until I 'get it.'"
"I shall evaluate others in part on their skill at Asking Dumb Questions."
"We shall hire in part on perceived or measured Instinctive Curiosity." (For every slot.)

Swallow your damn pride, especially "top" bosses.
Ask until you understand!
The "dumber" the question the better!
If the askee is pissed off at you for your "stupidity"-or pigheadedness, consider that Victory.

(And require whomever to boil the damn thing down to one paragraph in VPE, Very Plain English—or whatever your native tongue is.)
(On the other hand, sweat the details—the weird, incomprehensible thing about whatever may well appear in Footnote #7 to Appendix C in the full version of the report.)

Creativity Award in Tough Times

Tough times require a special emphasis on creativity. My top award to date (I'm late on this) goes to Hyundai, for its program of allowing a purchase to be returned within a year if the purchaser becomes unemployed.

Bravo, for the decency, for the marketing value, and for unadulterated creativity!

Be Suspicious of Across the Board Cuts

Yes, I said that. Be suspicious of across the board cuts.

If your company declares, "We are cutting all salespeople's travel by 25 percent," or "Every department will cut staff by ten percent," lift your eyebrows superciliously, and say, "That's pretty stupid."

Making across the board cuts is like going to the bank and asking for five inches of money. A ten dollar bill and a one dollar bill take up the same amount of space, but their value is not equal. Your company does many things, and making across the board cuts ignores that each of these things has its own value.

Maybe some salespeople in your company should double their travel because they are great in person with customers, while others should stay in the office and talk to customers by phone. Maybe certain departments should cut 50 percent of their staff and others should add people.

Now is the time to think! Avoid the temptation to "be bold" and use the budget bulldozer to plow through tough times. Discernment will result in profitable action. Slash and burn will feel good for a few minutes, but in the end, it will cost you.

Don't confuse movement with progress! Do things, and do them quickly, but do the right things. Otherwise, you're really not doing anything.

A Leader's Values

In working with leaders, we help them to be clear about who they are and what they stand for. The values of leaders should be easily recognized in what they do and in what they say. Yesterday, President Barack Obama was clear about what he values. I gathered that courage, hope, honesty, faith, collaboration, and unity were a few of those qualities. President Obama's actions in the past seem to reflect the values that he articulated yesterday and the expectation is that he will continue to live them out. The questions to think about today are, as a leader, what are your values? Are you living them out so that others can see them in you? As an individual, are you clear about your values and, more importantly, are you standing behind them and making decisions based on them? If you haven't thought about what you value, now would be good time to reflect on it.