An interview with Harvey Mackay

An interview with Harvey Mackay

Harvey Mackay has written six New York Times bestselling books, two of which were named among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time – Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt. His latest book, Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You , was released in February 2010, and immediately made the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists.  Harvey is a nationally syndicated columnist and has been named one of the top five speakers in the world by Toastmasters International.  He is chairman of the $100 million MackayMitchell Envelope Company, a company he started in 1960.

Recently, Mr. Mackay was kind enough to answer  a few questions about what has, and hasn’t changed about business with the advent of social media.   Be sure to subscribe to his column on a regular basis, visit

Q: So many things have changed since you wrote Swim with the Sharks… What do you think are the 2-3 main things for  business owners that have not changed and are still important today?

The things that have not changed include finding, hiring, motivating and retaining talent.  You cannot build your business with a revolving door.  Employing talented people is still the name of the game.  This will not change the next 100 years.

Humanizing your selling strategy  means you must continue to build long-term relationships with every customer and supplier that you do business with.  Studies show you only talk about business 30-40 percent of the time.  The remaining time must be devoted to finding out everything you can about the buyer/client from a personal standpoint and use this information to build a relationship.  You have to take your business relationships to a personal level. The most important five-letter word in business is still TRUST.  Without it, you have no chance to build a business long term.

Q: How has customer engagement via social media changed the role of a leader/manager in an organization?

The person-to-person connection of social media is generally a very small part of what is at stake.  Leadership and management effectiveness in social media boil down to this: Social media are a deceptively cheap means of influencing behavior . . . but big companies are learning to harness these access paths in very sophisticated ways.

Insist your people respect and use the resources responsibly.  Even when your personal contacts may range into the hundreds, social media like Twitter can link you to thousands upon thousands.  Never lose sight of the difference between those landing on your site out of curiosity and those who are dedicated contacts and customers.  The leader’s first job is to have people appreciate the difference between social media as entertaining diversions . . . and as legitimate, high-impact, opinion-shaping forums.

As marketing guru Set Godin puts it, we live in a “century of idea diffusion” and “ideas that spread win.”  The most forceful thing a leader/manager can do is to set the style for others in the organization to emulate: innovative, clever, brief, positive, and – above all – catchy.

Q: Many of our readers are business owners who would also like to speak and write books, but can’t find the time. What’s the main thing that has allowed you to balance running a successful company, writing bestsellers, and being a sought-after speaker on top of your family and personal life?

My father headed the Associated Press in St. Paul and taught me about time management.  I pride myself on one talent and that is surrounding myself with successful people, which makes it much easier for me to get things done and to free me up to do the things I want.

Mackay’s Moral: Be sure not to let making a living interfere with having a life.

Q: You’ve mentored so many people over the years.  Is there one characteristic you can spot that you know will be a strong factor in a person’s success, whether it’s finding a job in a tough economy, keeping their business afloat or setting their sights on the boardroom?

There are three things that I look for when I am hiring or when I am mentoring.  1)Hungry fighter. 2) Hungry fighter and 3) Hungry fighter.

Having said that, this must be coupled with the following ten most important two letter words in the English language – If it is to be it is up to me. Initiative is the #1 characteristic that all employer’s look for.  The best education money can buy won’t necessarily include a class on initiative.  You need a go-getter attitude to propel you to the top.

Mackay’s Moral: When you take initiative, there’s no telling where it will take you.

Q: What inspired you to write your new book, Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You

I have been mentoring and consulting many hundreds of people over the last 40 years.  Two years ago, I had a strong feeling we were in for a stiff recession.  Little did I know it would turn out to be a 9-11 economic tsunami.  Bottom line, it was pretty much unadulterated luck.  The timing was incredible.