Leadership Lessons To Help Guide You To Excellence

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Marketing Podcast with Tom Peters

Tom Peters, a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing podcastIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Tom Peters. Tom is coauthor of In Search of Excellence—the book that changed the way the world does business and is often tagged as the best business book ever. Twenty books and forty years later, Tom is still at the forefront of the “management guru industry” he single-handedly invented. He’s out with yet another co-authored book with Nancye Green called — Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence.

Key Takeaway:

Over the decades, Tom Peters has gathered gems of wisdom from those who have been down in the trenches creating extraordinary places to work. In this episode, shares the lessons he’s learned and how to absorb that wisdom.

Questions I ask Tom Peters:

  • [2:53] Do you spot trends or destroy them?
  • [5:51] This book that you’ve recently written is very compact — is that part of the message?
  • [7:33] Why was design such a crucial element of this book?
  • [10:16] Do you think great design helps you deliver a great message in a lot fewer words?
  • [12:41] What was your process for creating this book?
  • [15:04] Could you talk about your thoughts on the idea that amateurs talk about strategy?
  • [18:02] Where are people getting culture wrong these days?
  • [26:03] Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
  • [27:53] Where can people connect with you and learn more about your work?

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Outbound Squad, formerly Blissful Prospecting, hosted by Jason Bay. It's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. Jason Bay is a leading sales expert, and he talks with other leading sales experts to get you the information you need. I have recent episode. He talked about how much time you need to spend prospecting. Really, really eye-opening. Check it out. Uh, listen to the outbound squad, wherever you get your podcasts. Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Tom Peters. He is the co-author of In Search of Excellence, the book that changed the way the world does business and is often tagged as the best business book ever, 20 books. And 40 years later, Tom is still at the forefront of the management guru industry. He's single-handedly invented, and he's out with yet another co-authored book, uh, co-authored with Nancy Green, entitled Tom Peters Compact Guide to Excellence. So Tom, welcome back to the show.

Tom Peters (01:15): Thank you. Hey, pleasure to be back.

John Jantsch (01:17): So I don't wanna gloss, gloss

Tom Peters (01:19): Over. My pleasure to be talking to you in Colorado where all my kids are. So there,

John Jantsch (01:22): It's . I don't wanna gloss over. I mentioned your co-author a lot of times, co-authors, you know, don't get enough credit. Uh, Nancy Green is no slouch on her own, right? Is she

Tom Peters (01:32): understatement ? Uh, you, you did, you did not unfortunately get a copy of the book, but it's an undersized book, and the book is it's design. Uh, you know, it's meant to be succinct. It's meant to be, not really a closing statement, but something that can, it's meant to be compact. Yes. And, you know, Nancy just did an incre, you know, she's on everybody's list of best designers on the planet, and, uh, an ama an amazing person. And I have no idea how the hell I got So lucky is to have her as a partner on this

John Jantsch (02:05): . Well, and I, I would, I do wanna get into that a little bit, um, at, at a another point. Uh, I wanna start with, um, your intro. You know, as I introduced you, your place in the management guru, uh, industry, you know, I've always looked at a lot of the work, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this, , I've always looked at a lot of the work that you do. Uh, I mean, as introducing sort of subsets of the management, uh, guru industry, if we're gonna keep calling it that, you know, excellence is something that, you know, you brought to the conversation, um, execution , um, you know, as, as certainly something you brought to conversation brand, you wow, extreme humanism. Um, it almost feels, uh, like when I see you come out with something, you're zigging when other people are still zagging. So is that a fair ? Uh, I mean, do you spot trends or destroy them? , I guess.

Tom Peters (02:56): Uh, boy, I like to almost think the opposite, and I like to almost think it in search of excellence came outta McKinsey and Company. McKinsey believed that the world was strategy, strategy, strategy, strategy. Right. And we said, Hey, what about execution? What about people? And as far as I'm concerned, that's what I started saying in 1979, and have not changed my tune in the least. I, I certainly agree with you that there've been, you know, many subsets along the way. Aah. The new book. I started focusing on design years ago. I started focusing on more women in leadership position years ago. Uh, those are, those are, but those are subset. It's still people first. And why don't you dummies Get it

John Jantsch (03:51): , uh,

Tom Peters (03:53): And you know, the the brand, the brand you thing, uh, which just had its 25th anniversary, by the way. Yep. That makes me sound like a genius today, . But the point was 25 years ago that when you went to work for Hewlett, what's 25 years ago is 97, when you went to work for Hewlett Packard in 1997, you expected to be there for the next 40 years. And you didn't have a name anymore. You were badged twenty seven hundred and thirty two, and you worked your butt off and you got promoted and you made more money and so on. But it was a lifetime thing. And when I started that writing, the lifetime employment thing was coming to an absolute end at a very high speed. And of course, today, that's the oldest news in the world, right. . Uh, my big problem with Brand U, which is partially the fault of Fast Company who published it and used a, a box of Cheers magazine as the, uh, cheers, uh, soap as the background is people have translated Brand U into self-marketing. Yeah. And that's 180 degrees off my point of brand U has become incredibly good at something that is useful to other people. Me as many relationships as you possibly can. Uh, it's not about tuning your horn, it's not about doing this or that or what have you. So that's, that's kind of made me sad though. You know, as I said, I'm probably somewhat responsible for it myself.

John Jantsch (05:31): So, so you weren't really, uh, uh, giving a nod to, uh, the Instagram influencer, uh, culture that erupted, you know, with that

Tom Peters (05:39): Is precisely on the money. Exactly. Right. Yes. So I guess if I had foreseen it, I could be a multi-billionaire. We wouldn't have to be bothering to have this conversation right now.

John Jantsch (05:50): . So you have written a book that I think is in excess of 900 pages, um, in your, uh, library. Uh, this book is not 900 pages . This is a very compact book. Is that part of the message?

Tom Peters (06:07): Yes, it is. Stripping stuff down to the essentials. The book should you be so inclined, which I'm not particularly keen on having you be, so you could read the thing in an hour. Uh, because fundamentally it is, uh, a series of quotes. It is the, you know, the the boiling down of the boiling down of the boiling down. And what my great hope is that you would, you'd be working with your colleagues, you'd look through the book, you'd pull two or three things out that kind of made sense for you, and then dig into them yourselves without me offering 3000 words of commentary. It's, uh, it's, it's meant to be thought starters. It's meant to be a bit provocative. Uh, you know, Richard Branson said, we used it as a, as an epigraph years ago. Uh, you shouldn't do business unless you give the people who work for you enriching and rewarding lives. Uh, you know, that's, that's worthy of a, all of us sitting down and talking about it for the next day.

John Jantsch (07:24): Talk a little bit about, I mean, obviously you, you referenced this already. You have a book or a series of books on design specifically, um, is why was design such a crucial element of this book? Obviously the size is off, you know, a typical book. Uh, there are a lot of the graphics in this book. You had a great designer, one of the world's best designers, you know, collaborate with you. Um, so why was design such a crucial element of the book itself? Well,

Tom Peters (07:51): Design, I'm gonna have to backtrack. Design became a big deal to me, I don't know, 25 years ago or so. One of the biggest design companies is called I d O, right? And the guy who started I D O, David Kelly had a little organization called David Kelly Design, and his office in Palo Alto was two blocks from my office in Palo Alto. And so David was my teacher in a way, you know, I'm an engineer, engineers can't even spell design if you spotted us the first five letters. And, and it was just a, it was just a realization, but particularly in an age where the finance guys run the companies and cost minimization is the holy grail. Mm-hmm. . And what I'm simply arguing, and you've argued this as loudly and longly almost as I have, is sort of what's the point? Unless you're delivering a product or a service that's really a, that's special, that's a turn on that you can brag to your spouse and your kids about.

(09:03): That's something that makes you smile. And that's really my design point. It's as simple as that, and complicated as that. And it is meant to be the enemy of, you know, these, these guys wrote a book that's quoted in there called, oh my God, the, whatever, the three, the three, the three laws. It's Deloitte and two guys. They took 25,000 companies. They boiled it down to 27 companies. And the three rules were revenue before cost, uh, I don't know, quality before, whatever. But the, and then rule number three was there are no other rules. Hmm. And you know, what they found was that the best companies created great stuff. And yeah, again, as you know, and that's a turn on for customers. It's a turn on for our own employees. And, you know, excuse my language, I don't know who our viewers are, but you know, what's the point of busting your ass to make shit products or products like everybody else's

John Jantsch (09:59): Products? Yeah. So in

Tom Peters (10:02): This book, this is a combination of that. Obviously this work, this work with Nancy is meant to be kinda the period at the end of the sentence or the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.

John Jantsch (10:12): Well, one of the things that, that I know, you know, I know you've talked about it, it design great design, uh, helps you deliver a great message in a lot fewer words, doesn't it?

Tom Peters (10:21): ab, absolutely. Yeah. You know, that's, that, that's, you know, aah, this book being the classic, the, the, the, it, it was funny, I worked with Nancy on my prior book and I was writing relative to this book, a special acknowledgement. And I thought, , that's lunacy. She's not a person to be specially acknowledged. She's the co-author. Yeah. She's the principal author. Because the message is the look, the feel, the taste, the touch, uh, and then a series of boiled down pieces of commentary on the inside. And that's the ballgame. And you know, I think that's obviously true. If you and I are running a restaurant, I think it's true. If we're writing a piece of software, I think that everything has the ability to be beautiful, thoughtful, excellent. Choose your set of words. And as I said, again, you know, why the hell bother to get up in the morning if that's not your aspiration. I, I, I can't imagine, I guess I can, maybe if I'd gotten listened more in my accounting course at Stanford a thousand years ago, , but I can't imagine going home and bragging, oh my God, we got another eight of a cent outta that thing, you know, have gone up from, you know, 0.273 to 0.2 7, 3 2, oh my God, what a day. , that wouldn't work for

John Jantsch (11:39): Me. Are you an agency owner, consultant or coach that works with business owners? Then I want to talk to you about adding a new revenue stream to your business that will completely change how you work with clients. For the first time ever, you can license and use the Duct Tape Marketing system and methodology in your business through an upcoming three day virtual workshop. Give us three days and you'll walk away with a complete system that changes how you think about your agency's growth. The Duct Tape Marketing System is a turnkey set of processes for installing a marketing system that starts with strategy and moves to long-term retainer implementation engagements. We've developed a system by successfully working with thousands of businesses. Now you can bring it to your agency and benefit from all the tools, templates, systems, and processes we've developed to find out when our next workshop is being held, visit DTM world slash workshop. That's DTM world slash Workshop. I'm curious, as a, as, as a fellow author, uh, you, this book is essentially, um, a collection of curated, uh, quotes, um, broken up into 13 topics. I'm curious what your process was. Um, did you just have your notebook of favorite quotes and said, oh, I can apply this here, I can apply this here. Did you come up with the topics first and go looking for the quotes? I'm just curious what your process was.

Tom Peters (13:05): I read my prior book,

John Jantsch (13:07): .

Tom Peters (13:08): I, my prior book, which Nancy worked on was called Excellence Now Extreme Humanism. And she did a brilliant job of laying that one out too. But I really was to kick myself in the face a little bit. I really was going through it, and I think it's quite a good book. And I thought, Tom, did we really need those 500 words of commentary from you? You know, you know, the, you've got a, you've got a terrific quote, like the Branson quote. Uh, it stands by itself, it makes a bold statement that stands out. Do we really need 400 words by Tom Peters to restate the obvious? And, you know, so I went through the book. I, and I ended up with, you know, about 125 things that stood out. And Nancy and I talked, and, you know, we ca we had, you know, we were, we were calling it in our initial, we called it, uh, uh, tl, R b at first, the Little Red Book , but you know, which, which it is, except you really don't want Mao being your reference in life as one of the all time, you know, murderers. So, you know, we ch we changed it to this. But, uh, you know, as I say, it was, no, it was quotes I've used before. I've used 'em several times before. I used them in the prior book, and Nancy and I looked at it and say, this would be cool. Let's see what we can do. And the translation of, let's see what we could do was, you know, 99.99% Nancy Green and 1% me standing on the sidelines applauding .

(14:42): And I love the book. I mean, I would never say that about any of my other books, but I just love this thing. I love holding onto it. The, you know, Kous reviews, which is the big mother of all reviewers, called it an O Dart. Uh, and it, it is, it's in part, and that's kinda the message, it's the internal message, uh, and it's the external message.

John Jantsch (15:04): So you've talked about a little bit about some of the thoughts being provocative and making people stop. Um, frankly, I'll just go with the, the first one, amateurs talk about strategy. Um, you know, that's gonna have a lot of people scratching their heads. It's like, wait a minute. I thought strategy before everything thing. Um, and you're, you're basically turning that idea on its head, aren't you?

Tom Peters (15:28): Well, don't give me the credit, right. , the quote is, amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics. , uh, there's some question as to who the quote came from. When I first heard it, it was a quote that came from General Omar Bradley, who was the commander of all US troops, uh, at D-Day. And, you know, fundamentally it was, it was his point, you know, you can have the greatest strategy in the world, but if you're landing on a messy beach with people shooting at you, it would be nice to know the ammunition was coming in directly behind you, . And it also was the point of in search of excellence, as I think I alluded to briefly, everything at McKinsey was strategy, strategy, strategy, strategy. And, you know, my colleague, co-author, the late, unfortunately, passed away this year, pop Waterman. And I said, there's a lot more to life than this.

(16:25): And we knew these companies like Hewlett Packard, which of course is a bureaucratic monster now, but which was a fast growing large SME at the time. And they've got turned on employees. You know, we were only a few blocks away from Apple Computer turned on employees. They're doing products that make you proud. Uh, and it's not just a piece of paper called a plan. It's not a strategy. It's, it's a way of life. I mean, the, the, the most kind of amusing part is my number one enemy at McKinsey and Company, in many respects was very senior guy by the name of Lou Gerstner. Lou left McKenzie Lou eventually became the c e o of b m when it was hurting and turned it around. Uh, and in a book that he wrote who says, elephants Can't dance, I remember him saying, I always thought strategy first, planning first, and so on.

(17:20): And then I came to this God awful messed up place, and I came to realize it was culture first. It's changing people's views, their minds, their attitudes and and so on. So, you know, that's, that's really where, that's where that comes from. Um, and, and I don't know, I I just get off on the people who do the work and their full scale engagement, and I want to know where I'm going in a general fashion, but mainly I don't want everybody to be turned on about doing the best damn job and the most innovative job and the most enjoyable job they can today. That's execution.

John Jantsch (18:02): So words like culture, which you already mentioned, humanism. I mean, I think the, those ideas are getting a lot of play these days, especially when people are finding it hard to find staff , uh, for, for a lot of positions. Uh, where are people getting that wrong?

Tom Peters (18:21): Boy? No, there's a good question. . Uh, you've focused on SMEs more than these giant monsters that, I mean, that's another discussion, uh,

John Jantsch (18:34): That, that was my next question, actually, but go ahead.

Tom Peters (18:36): Yeah. What, what I was gonna say is, when you or I, with or without one too many beers or glasses of wine, talk about why every restaurant in town really annoys and, you know, and we start talking about the things that we could do if it was, if it was our restaurant and we could do these cool things that might have to do with look, feel, taste, touch, menu, think of the people we could, we're, we're, we're I think where people get it, it's a, it's a, it's a whole way of life. You don't decide suddenly in the midst of the pandemic that you wanna be more at tra it's Right. . That's what I love about SMEs. You know, the, the one I wrote about, I guess my last two books is a company in Connecticut, Seymour, Connecticut, and it's called Basement Systems Inc. And Larry Janesky is the founder, and can you imagine anything more boring in the world than a basement?

(19:34): Right? Well, what Larry's company does is transform your moldy, damp, old basement into a, you know, into a family room, into a second bedroom, or whatever else it is. And he is built a hundred million dollar company, but it's, it's excitement around basements, it's excitement around these sorts of, of things, which to me is the whole point. And I really believe, if you and I were incredibly excited about this restaurant, I think our enthusiasm would attract people to us. I really think people would be maybe not quite waiting in line, but you know, when, when we ca we can't find, you know, maybe I'm naive though, at my age, I would hope that's not the case. , when I hear we can't find people, what I'm really hearing is you can't create a magnet that people are desperate to come and work for. And and isn't that your shtick? I mean, isn't that the whole point of the SM e Yeah.

John Jantsch (20:30): Yeah.

Tom Peters (20:30): And SMEs create well over a hundred percent of all new jobs, by the way,

John Jantsch (20:36): . Yeah. I, I, I think I have read probably from you statistics, you know, because, because a lot of people think of management consulting as Fortune 500, you know, McKinsey territory, um, and really your books, quite frankly, um, I don't think you always get credit for this, but I think your books are more applicable, applicable to companies who can do something about it. , um, and, and Mo we're largely talking about SMEs, uh, there Yeah. Who can actually take what you've written and apply it.

Tom Peters (21:04): Well, and the statistics, alas, in some respects are, are on my side. Yes. , uh, the giant companies are all going downhill. It's just a matter of what the speed is. There's a quote from an economist that I think I used in this book, Paul Paul erd, and he said, I am often asked by people wanting to start a new company, what do I do next? And he said, buy a big one, a small company, buy a big one and just wait.

John Jantsch (21:32): , you

Tom Peters (21:33): Know, the, and the, and you know it, it's a fact they're all going downhill. I mean, the o the only, the only asterisk, which goes back to the beginning is I think if you and I are stuck in one of those monsters, and we have a group of 25 people working on something, I think you and I can in a way create our own small business within this giant bureaucratic monster. Right. You know, that's what I, one of the people who was in search of excellence, uh, was a guy by the name of Ren McPherson, who, you know, worked for a big Midwestern tool company, and he became c e o of the company. He said, my secret was every little piece they gave me, I turned into a stellar organization and people wanted to work there, and it was making money. And finally they said, well, you know, we can't stop him.

(22:19): I guess we might not give him the whole damn thing , but so it is possible to have a magical piece. You know, I, I wrote this book that I think is the most important one I ever wrote. Nobody bought it, really? But you can't have everything . And it was when that brand new book came out, and it was called The Professional Service Firm 50. And the point was that all the staff jobs are being offshore, whether it's training, whether it's this, or whether it's that. If you and I are running, uh, 15 person purchasing department, why can't we make that into an incredibly sexy professional service firm providing incredible services to our mates in our company, doing outside business for profit? And I really believe that if people had read the book and taken it seriously, you would've had a hell of a lot less offshoring than we have subsequently had.

John Jantsch (23:14): Yeah. Cause again, rather than somebody looking at that as an asset of the company, it's just a cost.

Tom Peters (23:19): Yeah. Just a cost. Just a cost. Yeah. I mean, for God's sakes, it's a, it's a cost. And what's your first name again? Oh, I'm

John Jantsch (23:26): Overhead . All right. Let me ask you, like,

Tom Peters (23:30): Is it a one, is it a wonder that if your overhead, it doesn't necessarily enthu you to get outta bed an extra half hour early?

John Jantsch (23:37): All right, I wanna end our conversation today with like a, just an impossible question. Um, but you know, a lot of, you've been doing this for 40 years, you've seen change over 40 years. A lot of people are very fixated in like, the moment this recession or this global pandemic, you know, the change that's going on right before our eyes. Right. But as you look at a 40 year kind of

Tom Peters (23:56): Arc, well, given the God awful political mess, the concerns we have about violence and so on, it's a little bit difficult for me, uh, to be terribly optimistic at this point. Yeah. Uh, and particularly, you know, as, as we have this conversation, recession is being predicted as, as right around the corner, uh, I don't necessarily see a generally upward trend. I really wish I did. Uh, you know, I the best you and you're gonna, you res I'm gonna ask the question this time. You don't get to do all this . Uh, I hope that you and I can be useful to people who look at what you've done or what I've done, and they transform their little tiny corner of the world, and I hope it infects more of the world. But I don't have an ego that says that I've come up with a solution that, you know, solves all the planet's problems. I just, just, you know, I said to somebody, if, if Tony Robbins comes into a room with a thousand people, he expects to change a thousand lives. If I come into a room with a thousand people and two people walk out an hour later and say, holy shit, we really ought to do this. I have had one good big fantastic day. I mean, don't, don't you feel the same

John Jantsch (25:27): Way? A absolutely one life changed . Absolutely.

Tom Peters (25:30): Yeah. One, one life changed as a, you know, what, what, what's the, what's the, I never really understood this. It's a, there's a, uh, someplace, I think it's in Jerusalem, some places where a sing a tree is planted for you if you have saved a single life or helped a single life. And I'm getting that all wrong, and I'll be shot out by people who know the real answer, . But the idea is, if, if you can help, you know, Mary or Sam say, holy smokes, I can really do this in a different way than I think both of us had a hell of a good day.

John Jantsch (26:02): All right. Uh, do you have a favorite quote from the book? Everybody asks you that I'm sure.

Tom Peters (26:09): Well, my favorite quote in the book comes from a movie director, Robert Altman. Mm-hmm. , uh, and this was from his acceptance speech, when he won a lifetime achievement award. He said the role of the director is to create a space where actors can become more than they have ever been before, more than they have ever dreamed of being. And I love that. And I think it is the essence of leadership in a restaurant in a four-person training department, or in Mr. Altman's case when he's, you know, creating some sort of a movie, create a place where people never, you know, the, uh, New York Times comments, David Brooks wrote, uh, an article some years ago, a couple years ago, what have you, and in it he contrasted what he called resume virtues and eulogy virtues, and the resume virtues, of course, the degrees you got the promotions, you got your net worth, whatever it was. The eulogy virtues obviously are what they say about you at your funeral. And, you know, and that's all about your thoughtfulness, your caring, and so on. And so, my one liner for the average supervisor or the individual for that matter, how's your eulogy virtue score score today? Mm-hmm. Who did you help? Who did you give a little bit of a hand to parentheses. And my stats say, by the way, over the long term, it's the best way to grow, market share, make money.

John Jantsch (27:43): Right. Right, right, right. awesome. Tom, it was so great to visit with you again. Um, I've, I'd invite people to visit tom peters.com. Is there anywhere else? Obviously the books are available everywhere, but, uh, anywhere else you wanna send people to connect with you or learn more

Tom Peters (27:58): About? Well, I'm happy to have, you know, I, I hate to say it, I use Twitter, though. I'm not sure I will very, very much longer with Mr. Musk's behavior. Uh, tom peters.com has pretty much everything I've done for the last 25 years, available for free for anybody. And, uh, love, love to have you come by sample. Uh, our interview will [email protected] after you, you've put it up live for a while, so, uh, stop by, say hello, comment, whatever. It's been a great oppor, I love great conversation. Well,

John Jantsch (28:31): Thank so

Tom Peters (28:32): Much and you doing your good work.

John Jantsch (28:33): I, I'll keep

Tom Peters (28:34): Be on the crap. I'm saying I'm the old guy in this chair, , so you keep it up, my friend.

John Jantsch (28:38): Oh, I, I thank you so much for stopping by the Duct Tape, my marketing podcast, and hopefully we'll run into you, uh, one of these days out there on the road.

Tom Peters (28:46): Okay, thanks.

John Jantsch (28:47): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it @ marketingassessment.co. Co check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketingassessment.co. I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.

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