Guy Kawasaki has been there, done that, several times over. He shot into the limelight in the mid eighties as the evangelist for Apple’s Macintosh. After a brilliant track record there, he moved on to become a successful serial entrepreneur launching technology businesses ranging from databases (4th Dimension) to content aggregating websites such as Alltop.com. Guy has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.
When he’s not thinking of innovative business models to launch, in his venture capitalist avatar at Garage Technology Ventures, he funds other businesses that catch his fancy. His Midas-touch mantra is unconventional – “Whatever is gold, Guy touches.“
Guy has written 10 books and his latest – Enchantment – is a New York Times bestseller. In this freewheeling chat with Sameer Kamat from MBA Crystal Ball, he talks about his career, his motivations and his new book.
MBA Crystal Ball: Guy, it’s a pleasure to have you share your thoughts with our readers. From working in the best companies to launching the most innovative ventures to funding them, you’ve done it all. Many in your position might have decided to hang their boots and enjoy the rewards. What keeps you motivated to keep pushing the envelope each day?
Guy: I have four kids in a private school who have not yet entered college. Their tuition is what keeps me motivated. Life is simple sometimes.
MBA Crystal Ball:It’s tough to keep churning out successful ventures when the expectation levels of those around you (and your own self-imposed standards) are sky high. How do you know when to slow down and take a break?
Guy: Someone once said that death is God’s way of telling you to slow down. I do enjoy what I do, and the secret of my success is the willingness to grind work out. Having said this, there will come a day when I walk away from it all. I don’t “need” the rush to be happy. I’d be perfectly happy without the attention and action. It is a role thrust upon me that I have accepted for the time being.
MBA Crystal Ball: As a start-up grows, the number of stakeholders to please increases & the focus on innovation starts getting diluted. The laughlines (& the crows-feet that you mention about in your book) slowly get replaced by project deadlines, financial bottomlines and forehead stresslines! How can the entrepreneur ensure that the original vision that launched the startup is preserved?
Guy: First of all, original visions are often wrong. Companies have to morph as they learn what customers don’t want. But the overall answer that you’re seeking is that companies should always want to delight their customers.
Sometimes this means sticking with the original vision. Sometimes it means radically changing the vision. Just do what’s right for the customer, and you’ll be okay.
MBA Crystal Ball: You got your MBA from UCLA, Anderson with hardly any pre-MBA experience. How much do you think the classroom-based management education helped you grow and evolve as a businessman?
Guy: An MBA is a great degree for career paths like investment banking, finance, consulting, and large companies. An MBA is not necessarily the right path for starting a tech company. You should be building a prototype, not getting an MBA in that case.
MBA Crystal Ball: Let’s talk about your latest book – Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. Thanks for allowing us to get a sneak preview. It’s got a whole lot of practical advice packed into it.
From being completely focused on building technology companies, you’ve moved into blogging, speaking and writing books. Some have called you a modern day Dale Carnegie. Has it been a conscious decision to transition into a role that empowers others to do the same?
Guy: There was no “decision” per se to re-position myself. I simply decided that I wanted to write a book that would help people influence others. It’s a very valuable skill to succeed in life whether you work for a startup or a Fortune 500 company. My real mantra for my life is “empower others,” and this book fits in perfectly with this desire.
MBA Crystal Ball: In the book, you highlight the importance of being knowledgeable (knowing what to do) and capable (successful doing it). However, given the numerous hurdles (competition, failures, lack of motivation, pure bad luck) that seem to magically appear at the wrong time, the road to enchantment seems tough. How can one deal with such situations and still keep going?
Guy: If achieving success, or enchantment, were easy, more people would be successful or enchanting. You simply have to suck it up and keep going. If you were to understand the true path that many companies and people took to success, even “instant success,” you’d see that perseverance is a necessary skill.
MBA Crystal Ball: Do you think some of the sections (like the tips on how to swear) might need to be tweaked to make it relevant for a certain demography or culture or geography?
Guy: Yes, I would assume so. My advice is not universally appropriate or optimal for every situation, but I’ll bet my advice is as good as it gets for most situations.
MBA Crystal Ball: Did you take special efforts specifically for the book to gain insights into areas that you weren’t familiar with? Or did you just tap into your experience?
Guy: I did a great deal of research — I read several dozen books and many studies. Not everything came from my brain or experiences, that’s for sure.
On the other hand, one has to know what to steal and not steal crap. The works of Bob Cialdini, Chip and Dan Heath, and Daniel Pink were particularly helpful.
MBA Crystal Ball: You describe enchantment as a process as opposed to an event. However for some of our impatient readers who want to see some quick results (and get converted into believers of the concept), what according to you are the low hanging fruits that they could implement in a very short span of time and still see quick results?
Guy: Your impatient readers should try two things.
First, smile more and use their eyes and mouth to smile.
Second, answer every email within forty-eight hours. Practicing these two things will demonstrate prove the power of enchantment.
MBA Crystal Ball: You left a company like Apple to pursue your dreams. For those who are already part of an enchanted organisation, how can they know when it’s time to draw the curtains and embark on something new and more exciting?
Guy: The most powerful sign is that your work no longer enchants you–it’s not deep, delightful, and mutually satisfying. When this happens, it may be time to look for new challenges.
MBA Crystal Ball: Many Indian professionals have made a mark in the high-technology domain, but breaking into the management cadre is still a challenge for many. MBA Crystal Ball is a venture that aims to make it a level playing field for Indian candidates who have the potential to do well as global business managers. [Shameless plug coming up] Do you think it’s an enchanting vision?
Guy: Sure, it’s an enchanting vision. Money is not the sole or most powerful motivation for many people. A higher and tougher test is to look back and see how you’ve made the world a better place.
MBA Crystal Ball: Thanks, Guy, for sharing your thoughts with our readers.
Guy: Thanks for the opportunity, Sameer.