Archive for June, 2009

The year was 1981 and I was working for Data Terminal Systems (DTS). One of the best things about DTS was the annual dealer conference.

DTS sold cash registers through a network of dealers and every year we’d hold a huge meeting, more of a convention, almost a party, and invite about 800 dealer employees. We’d pitch new products, take big orders, and do a lot of heavy drinking.

The Opryland Hotel

The Opryland Hotel

The 1981 conference was held in the Opryland Hotel in Nashville Tennessee. My big thing that year was to run an internal meeting to roll out our new software licensing policy – I know, it sounds boring – but it was important to me.

Not so much because of the topic, but more because of the audience.

I was meeting with DTS’s top sales managers and I knew they had no interest in learning squat about software licensing procedures. I was also pretty sure that most of them thought of me as a “Home Office Puke.”  And there were several of them lying in the bushes waiting for me to ask them to do something stupid so they could jump down my throat and show off for the audience by goring easy prey from  the home office.

Anyway, I worked my butt off for 2 hours and escape with no major wounds. It was day one of the dealer conference and my job was pretty much done for the week.

This meant that all I had to do was to seek out the best parties and ENJOY NASHVILLE.

One of the features of the Opryland hotel is this huge atrium that really looks like an indoor town park and buried deep down inside the atrium is a little bar called the Jack Daniels Tasting Room.

The Jack Daniels Tasting Room

The Jack Daniels Tasting Room

Since it was the first night of the conference, there weren’t a lot of private parties going on, so I ended up down in the Jack Daniels Tasting Room  for the evening with a couple of buddies. Needless to say, the taste of that southern elixir and the relief I was feeling after having pretty much nailed my big meeting – led to a bit of Jack Daniels over indulgence.

Anyway, I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say that I arrived at the Sunday morning breakfast buffet about 5 minutes before they shut it down and started setting up for lunch. I’m sucking down 3 or 4 buttermilk biscuits with red eye gravy when I feel a little tug on my suit tail… I turn and see a sheepish looking John Shea.

John reported to me and he was the second keynote speaker of the morning in front of all 800 dealers and their employees – John had a huge speech to give.

So John says to me: “I can’t talk – I have laryngitis.”

My first reaction was to laugh – I’d never heard of someone coming down with Laryngitis outside of sit coms like The Lucy Ball show.

Then my hangover subsided long enough for it to hit me like a ton of bricks


And guess what? I was right.

But wait – it gets worse!

It was a one hour speech, and it was all about the nitty gritty details of the competition in the cash register business – a topic I knew nothing about.

Fortunately, John had done a pretty good job of writing out his speech, but I only had about 70 minutes before show time. So I ran back to my room and just started reading the speech out loud. It wasn’t enough time to any more than just highlight the sentences that made no sense to me or had names I couldn’t pronounce.

I dashed to the stage just in time for my introduction.

If you’ve ever spoken to a large crowd – you know 500 to a 1,000, for the first time, you know how unsettling it can be. You have super bright lights in your face. You can’t hear anything but your own voice. And you can’t see anyone in the audience – not even the people sitting in the first row.

It is a complete sensory deprivation experience — except for one thing – you can feel every one of the 1600 eyeballs starting at you through the dark.

Anyway, I took the podium and told a joke about John Shea, Lucy Ball and last minute laryngitis. I dragged myself through the one hour speech and escaped without having a nervous breakdown on stage.

Given the venue and my raging hangover – I’d have to say it was a stellar success – but if you were in the audience, maybe you thought otherwise.

The bottom line for me was that I learned that I could give a speech under the worst possible conditions that day.

I learned about the sensory deprivation that comes with speaking in large venues.

And I most importantly,  I learned that Jack Daniels and business events do not go together.

This Week on The Career Mechanic – Stamping Out Dysfunctional Behavior
Click HERE to Listen

Is the world really in flames? Unemployment mounts, state cutbacks are “off the charts,” and now we have riots in Iran. Yes, there is plenty of dysfunctional behavior to go around, but here’s the thing about dysfunctional behavior is that it may show up at the national level, but it begins with the behavior of individuals like me and you. This week join Dave and his guests: Emmy award winner and member of the broadcast hall of fame – Connie Dieken and Pat Lencioni author of numerous books including “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” as they discuss this never-ending curse of corporate life.


Read Full Post »

Remembering My Father

My father – Clyde Horne — died just over 4 years ago. It was painful enough losing him without having it happen a few weeks before Father’s Day. You know, you already have plans to visit him and a gift and then suddenly you just have a big hole in your heart!

Anyway, this week I thought that I’d pay him a little tribute by sharing three great career lessons I learned from him.

Clyde Horne

Clyde Horne

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my father grew up as a poor immigrant during the great depression.  He never thought about his career – his teenage priority was earning small change to help feed the family. But he did end up creating an incredible rags to riches career – rising to the ranks of Vice President in a number of companies My father had a very unusual leadership style.

I think it was best summed up by the words of one of his friends at his retirement roast — they said:

“The best thing in the world was to be Clyde’s friend – and the worst thing on earth was to be his enemy.”

The first time I saw this was when I was in second grade. An older kid down the street – “Bobby,” had gotten a couple of friends to beat me up on the school bus – probably because of my stupid haircut.

Anyway, my father came home from work and I told him. He called “Bob” – Bobby’s father, and told him he needed to talk to him. So Bob and Bobby came over to my house and the next thing I know, we’re all standing behind the garage. I remember it all so clearly. My dad was doing everything he could to stay calm, but I could see his blood vessels starting to bulge.

Then old Bob says “come on Clyde – take it easy, it’s just boys being boys.”

And with that, my father grabbed him by the throat and lifted him up off his feet and said:

“If your boy ever touches my son again, I’m going to kick the crap out of him and then I’m going to come after you.”

Then he turned told me to come with him and we left them both standing in the back yard.

Now, that was a little extreme – very cool, but a little extreme.

But over the years, I met dozens of people who told me stories about my dad going to bat for them – and that was the first lesson of leadership I learned from my father:

Fight for your people like they were family.

The second lesson I learned was to love the underdog. I don’t know if it was his own humble upbringing, or something else, but my father had a huge heart for the underdog.

In the early 70’s I was a pretty wild kid and I hung around with a bunch of other wild kids. Not bad, but just wild – the kind of kids no one wants to hire.

My father was vice president at a good sized local company called General Radio and he knew a few of my friends. He liked them and he felt bad that they couldn’t find work.

So, he started hiring all of my underdog friends at General Radio. He didn’t just hire a few, he hired all of them – probably 15 or 20 kids. It was a great thing to do and it really made me proud to be the son of such a good hearted man – and all of my loser friends learned a lesson and became better men because of it.

Love The Underdog – They’ll Never Forget It

The final lesson I learned from my father was “to get off the stage while the audience is still applauding”

What he meant was that you should wait until you’ve completed a major accomplishment in your career before you look for a new job – which is counterintuitive, but great advice.

But 4 years ago I saw him demonstrate this principle in a manner I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.

My father was suffering from lung cancer. He fought the good fight for almost 18 months, but on the night of June 5th 2005, he fell down and my mother couldn’t help him up. She called the ambulance they took him to Emerson Hospital in Concord Massachusetts.

The next day my mother started calling everyone in the family to tell us that the end was near, so we all headed to Emerson and huddled around his bed for most of the day, just praying with him and telling him how much we loved and admired him.’

It was like a fairy tale farewell – I remember at one point, it was just me and my 2 brothers in the room with him and he said “well boys, this is it, I’m ready to go.”

About then I remembered that his will and trust were all messed up and I had been working with his estate lawyer to get them cleaned up, but it wasn’t done and if the end was near – we needed to act fast.

I ran out to my car and called the attorney – and I have to say, she flew into action. She asked me a few questions and then told me that they’d work through the night to draw up all of the new documents. She said she expected to have them ready in the afternoon and that she’d need to bring in 2 witnesses to attest to my father’s sound mind, and so we scheduled it for 3:00 the next afternoon.

The next morning, my mother called me at 8:00 and said that my father had been talking to his doctor and they were about to stop the life sustaining support  he was on – my father wanted it to end as soon as possible.

To which I said:

“Mom, he can’t die — we haven’t fixed his will yet!”

She said, okay I’ll tell him, but you better hurry, he may be gone by 3:00.So I called the lawyer and fortunately, they were just about done preparing the new docs. They said they could come over for the signing at 10:30 and so I called my mom and set it up. Anyway, they showed up at 10:30 – the attorney and the 2 witnesses.

My father executed a stack of documents and made a joke or two. They left the hospital room and my father turned to my mother and smiled. Then he took a final breath and died – 5 minutes after signing his new will.

He left the stage while we were all still applauding

This Week’s Career Mechanic Show – “Take Me To Your Leader”
Click HERE to Listen

Are great leaders really the same as the rest of us, or do they have unique traits that make them do what they do? This week, we’ll look at the “Inside Secrets of Great Leadership.” Dave will be joined by author Jennifer Kahnweiler, who wrote the book “The Introverted Leader” and business strategist Doug Smith.

Read Full Post »

Last week I met a really special person. His name is Max Levchin and he was one of the founders of Paypal. At the age of 27, he sold the business to eBay for over a billion dollars. But Max didn’t buy a huge yacht and sail around the world; he rented some space in San Francisco and started an incubator for other new business.

Max Levchin

Max Levchin

Since then, his incubator has turned out the fabulously popular review service yelp and also slide.com. After I first met Max, I found a couple of stories about Max and the “Paypal Mafia” that literally blew me away:

“The eBay deal, remarkable only because it happened in the bleakness of 2002, wasn’t so much an exit as an explosion. Most of PayPal’s key employees left eBay, but they stayed in touch. They even have a name for themselves: the PayPal mafia. And the mafiosi have been busy.

During the past five years they’ve been furiously building things – investment firms, philanthropies, solar-power companies, an electric-car maker, a firm that aims to colonize Mars, and of course a slew of Internet companies. It’s amazing how many hot web properties can trace their ancestries to PayPal.

Besides Facebook and Slide, there’s Yelp, Digg, and YouTube. Thiel and Levchin, the don and consigliere of the mafia, figure that all told, there are dozens of enterprises worth a total of roughly $30 billion – and that value is growing rapidly, as evidenced by Thiel’s good fortune with Facebook.”

These guys turn out billion dollar businesses like cotton candy.

Guys like Max are the life blood of the US Economy. Their big ideas and grand execution plays create huge new employers that drive great careers and send trainloads of tax money to Washington DC.

I really think this week’s episode of The Career Mechanic nails this critical component to the US economy.

It is my tribute, of sorts, to the soul of the serial entrepreneur.

This Week’s Career Mechanic — The Soul of the Serial Entrepreneur
Click HERE to Listen

The Wall Street Journal has finally cried foul to Obama’s claim that “saving” jobs is the same as creating them. And people everywhere are starting to point out that “The Stimulus” is not creating any new jobs at all. Unemployment has hit 9.4% and doesn’t look like it will be slowing down soon. But there is still hope as long as we have Entrepreneurs in America. This week, Dave and his guests will look inside the soul of the entrepreneur. Dave will be joined by venture capitalist Bob Fleming, entrepreneur and author Jon Yates, and Max Levchin — the brilliant young entrepreneur who cofounded Paypal and sold it to eBay for billions.

Read Full Post »

Graduates this year face a faltering economy and an extremely tough job market. Less than 20 percent of those who applied for a job have one at the time of graduation. By comparison, 51 percent were employed by the time they graduated two years ago.

Commencement speakers across the country alluded to the uncertain times, but encouraged the graduates to prevail.

Is this you?

Is this you?

“The times that you are graduating in are, yes, perhaps more difficult and somewhat more daunting,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at New York University. “But that’s when we really rise together.”


Author David McCullough said to graduates at the University of Utah:

“You who are part of this over-ripe, shadowed, uncertain time which has understandably given rise to so many grave forebodings about the future.”

So reported ABC  news in a recent story about the bleak job prospects for the class of 2009 and the words commencement speakers were using to motivate all of the young minds that were about to enter a maelstrom that they never would have anticipated four years earlier.

Click HERE for full story.

Thinking about all of young souls who now find themselves staring into this abyss, we brought a couple of Gen Y career experts into The Career Mechanic show this week and picked their brains about job search strategies for the class of 2009.

Here are my takeaways:

  1. Get Real: Create an ABC game plan for your job search that includes a “Plan A” for the job you always hoped to land after graduation; but now realize may be temporarily out of reach. Then have a “Plan B” for jobs that while less than ideal, at least will enable you to exercise your education and stay in the game until your Plan A opportunity opens up. And then have a Plan C in case you can’t find any Plan A or B jobs. Plan C should be a job you can live with – that has nothing to do with your career plan. Think Starbucks or Jamba Juice for 6 months to a year just to earn money.
  2. Stay in the Game: Just because you end up with a Plan B or worse, Plan C job, “don’t stop believing” that you will one day land your Plan A job. If you can afford it, take a postgraduate internship that might line up a Plan A job offer in 3-4 months. You can also continue to study your field and write about findings in a professional blog. Imagine looking for a Plan A job in 6 months and being able to promote your blog that is rich with 20 or 30 posts your wrote on the subject matter at hand.
  3. Link Up (as in Linkedin): You never would have gone to college without a strong Facebook page and the same is now true for Linkedin. This is where real companies and recruiters look to find and qualify job applicants. Set up a page and make it as rich and professional as possible.
  4. Clean Your Face(book): Now is the time to go into your Facebook account and clean it up. Every recruiter I’ve talked to in the last year has told me that part of their hiring process involves a thorough review a candidates Facebook presence; primarily looking for dirt. What kind of dirt? I have heard about job offers being withdrawn due to the mere appearance of heavy partying, drug or alcohol abuse, partial nudity, and extreme political positions.
  5. Scramble, Scramble, Scramble: I know you’ve been told that the right degree from a good school with a strong internship resume will get you a job after graduation – DO NOT BELIEVE IT! There are not enough jobs out there for everyone. It will be like a game of musical chairs and if you want win the game, you need to do everything in your power to increase the number of potential chairs your can go for when the music stops. I’m talking about networking like a mad man (or woman). Your parents, their friends, aunts, uncles, neighbors, teachers, alumni, sport coaches, the freaking mail man – everyone. You must make sure that you know about every single job opportunity that might be out there.

Our guests also introduced two great web sites with tons of free information for graduating seniors looking for a job.

cbcampus.com   is careerbuilder.com’s mega site dedicated to helping college students with their careers. There is an immense amount of free stuff here that will literally take a week to digest.

nomoreramenonline.com  is author Nicholas Aretakis’ web site. It looks like Nicholas is a pretty methodical guy and he’s created quite a few FREE planning tools on the site. Give them and try and if you like them, buy a copy of his book “No More Ramen.”

Back to that ABC story again, here are a copy of quotes that might lighten up your day:

“The Great Depression spurred some incredible innovations … Rice Krispies, Twinkies and the beer can,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at

Follow The Path!

Follow The Path!

 Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “You would never have gotten through college without these three things.” 

In New Orleans, comedian-actress Ellen Degeneres told graduates at Tulane University, “To conclude my conclusion, follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path — and then, by all means, you should follow that.”

This Week’s Career Mechanic Show — Career Ground Zero; Starting Out Right
Click HERE to listen 

All over America, graduates are tossing their mortar boards in the air and getting ready to embark on their careers. But what a nightmare; imagine looking for your first job in this economy. This week we’ll be looking at the things young people can do to launch their career on a winning trajectory. Dave will be joined by Nicholas Aretakis, author of the new book “No More Ramen,” and Michael Erwin of careerbuilder.com.

Read Full Post »

In February, Obama’s recently appointed Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech to honor Black History Month; he said: 

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”  

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

“Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial.”

Addressing reporters after the speech, Holder, 57, said his comments were “a question of being honest,” adding that “we have to have the guts” to talk about race issues instead of avoiding them.

My Own “Race Relations in America”

So here goes, I am going to discuss race relations in the country and the future of people’s careers. First, I think everyone needs to know a few things about my own racial experience.

I grew up in Acton Massachusetts and we were a very white town. In fact, we had 2 black kids in my class of 275. In 1971, I lived at home in my parents’ house during summer vacation while they were away. I was good friends with Lonnie Jones, who was one of those 2 black kids. Lonnie’s family had moved away and he was hanging around town for the summer. I invited Lonnie to stay with me that summer in my parents’ house (no, I didn’t tell my parents, so let’s keep it a secret).

In 1976, I received a verbal job offer at Data Terminal Systems for my first job after college. The day after that  I got a call and was informed that they would be giving the job to woman without a college degree or my depth of experience because she was a woman and the company needed more female employees (fortunately for me, she was pregnant and resigned after 3 weeks and they then gave me the job). That was my first exposure to discrimination and it was against me on my very first real job because I was the wrong sex.

In 1977, I applied for a transfer at DTS into the Materials Management department working for great guy named Marcellus Stamps, who happened to be black. Marcellus and I became great friends and he had me over to his house for dinner on multiple occasions.

In 1986, I was honored by the Black MBA Association of Boston for doing so much to advance the careers of blacks in the greater Boston area.  I had hired and promoted a couple very talent young people who happened to be black and members of the Black MBA Association.

I’m sure I’ve had a few other encounters with race and discrimination over the years, but those are the most notable.

So why am I bringing this up today? Last week President Obama nominated a Latino woman – Sonia Sotomayor — to replace David Souter on the US Supreme Court.

Apparently, she has a great track record as a judge and a heartwarming “rags to riches” story after growing up in severe poverty in Puerto Rico — all good. Like many Americans, I thought her nomination was a good idea on the surface, just like I thought it was a good idea when George Bush nominated Alberto Gonzales to be his Attorney General.

But then I did a little research on this woman and now I’m not so sure.

Is Sotomayor Really a Racist?

In the last few days, charges have emerged that Judge Sotomayor may have a racist track record. The most damaging claim comes from a speech she made in Berkeley California in 2001.

Sotomayor said:

“…a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male”

This certainly didn’t sound right.

Then there was the opinion she wrote in 2006 upholding a lower court decision that threw out the results of a firefighter promotion exam because the only ones who passed were white.

Click HERE for story. 

There is also this — according the American Bar Association, Sotomayor is a member of the National Council of La Raza. I don’t know much about La Raza, but yesterday former Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo called La Raza “The Latino KKK.”

I suppose Tancredo is a bit of a nutjob, but when you add all of this up, it does give one reason for pause. After all, the US Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment and more importantly, it is the final protector of our constitution.  

Is Sonia Sotomayor really a racist? I don’t know, but we certainly should find out before she’s sworn in!

Thoughts on Affirmative Action and Reverse Discrimination

I love the word “Affirmative Action”– it sounds so positive.  Even the details of the program sound pretty good. But here’s my problem. I believe that babies are born without a racist bone in their body; it’s what they hear and see that changes them. And what actually happens to them in their lives has the most impact. At its core, Affirmative Action involves taking something away (an opportunity) from one person (usually a young white male) and giving it to someone else (a minority of some kind).

On the surface, this sounds fair, but what happens inside the head of that young person who had their opportunity taken due to the color of their skin? I doubt it reduces their chances of developing racist views, in fact, I suspect it does just the opposite.

But it looks Judge Sonia Sotomayor may not see things this way, and if that’s true, it would be bad for the country and bad for careers in America.

I think we need to have a thorough nonpartisan hearing on Judge Sotomayor’s nomination – for the good of the youth of America.

So Eric – What do you think about that?

This Week on The Career Mechanic – The Power of Unconventional Leadership
Click HERE To Listen

The truth is the greatest leaders are seldom conventional. They think out of the box, take calculated risks, and mostly inspire others to do their best work. This week, Dave will be joined by John Hanes author of “Change Focused Leadership” and Ralph Heath – author of “Celebrating Failure.” Together, they will examine the DNA of great leaders and in particular talk about how they thrive in troubled times.

Read Full Post »