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Published: Saturday, 4/30/2005

3 'absolutes' foster business success

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Business consultant Frank Maguire enlivens his presentation at BGSU with an anecdote and some animated gestures. Business consultant Frank Maguire enlivens his presentation at BGSU with an anecdote and some animated gestures.
MORRISON / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

BOWLING GREEN - After a working life spent at ABC, Federal Express, KFC, and American Airlines, Francis "Frank" Maguire knows a thing or two about what makes a company successful.

But don't expect him to talk about anything as boring as the balance sheet.

Business success can only be achieved "by connecting the head to the heart," the California business consultant told a crowd of nearly 400 yesterday at the annual entrepreneur-focused Sebo Lecture Series luncheon at Bowling Green State University.

That's done, Mr. Maguire said, by following three universal concepts he calls the Maguire Absolutes: passion, attitude, and relationships.

He learned the first from the late Col. Harland Sanders, who turned Kentucky Fried Chicken into the No. 1 growth company on the New York Stock Exchange despite having only a sixth grade education.

The company was sold to Wall Street investors, who wanted to add 2 cents to the bottom line and make the famous gravy with water, but they didn't have the passion for the business or its people like Colonel Sanders had, Mr. Maguire said.

"Leadership is an issue of character," he said. "Your people will treat your customers exactly the way you treat them."

Fired by the new owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mr. Maguire received a call in the early 1970s from Fred Smith, a 28-year-old Vietnam veteran who had an idea about bringing small packages into Memphis at night and rerouting them for delivery the next day.

Mr. Smith estimated that his new venture would cost $52 million to launch, an estimate that made him and Mr. Maguire "quarterly comic relief" for the venture capital firms where they sought funds.

Although they were rebuffed countless times, Mr. Smith said failure was not an option, Mr. Maguire remembered, and they persevered until landing an initial contract with the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, which led in part to the company's name: Federal Express.

Mr. Maguire told the audience yesterday: "Say to yourself: The only thing that has changed is my attitude. Therefore, everything has changed."

The third component for building a successful business is to concentrate on developing relationships with employees, customers, and others, Mr. Maguire said.

"We need to validate more," he said, challenging the audience members to: "Get in touch with someone in the next week who changed the course of your life and tell them 'thanks.'‚óŹ"

People will remember it, he promised. He told the story of how, when he was director of programming at the ABC Radio Network, he would each night while leaving give a thumbs-up and a "Ted, you're the greatest" to an unsure 23-year-old he had hired.

Years later, Mr. Maguire was asked by that employee, now famed TV journalist Ted Koppel, to deliver the encouraging salute one more time.

"People will never forget how you made them feel," Mr. Maguire said.

"That's the key: how people feel about themselves."

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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