The principal difference between a salesman and a consultant is that a salesman believes “the customer is always right.” But a consultant is paid to tell you the truth even when you don't want to hear it. People either love or hate a consultant. Ray Christensen is the preeminent producer of corporate training films in the world today. Traveling to exotic locations to capture just a few moments of magic on film, Ray's company, ChartHouse International, earned millions of dollars a decade ago with the groundbreaking Paradigm series featuring Joel Barker. A single copy of just one of those videos costs seven hundred dollars and is worth every penny of it.
Needless to say, when Ray and his son, John, materialized in my office four years ago I was honored and delighted. We looked at dozens of gorgeous films together, each one visually arresting and masterfully crafted, but not one had a really sharp hook. It was at the end of the day that John rather shyly showed us an 18-minute video that he had shot, without his Dad's permission, during a weekend in Seattle. Showcasing a scruffy bunch of colorful characters in an outdoor fish market, the tape showed what wonderful things can happen when employees take responsibility for their own happiness on the job.
“Forget this other stuff and bet the farm on Fish,” I told them. “Promote it, publicize it, push it with everything you've got.” Ray, the father, seemed open to the idea.
“But we want you to come up with a marketing plan to sell all these other videos”, said John obviously alarmed. “We've got a big investment here.”
I told him that it would be a waste of time and money. This was definitely not the answer he was looking for. A few weeks later I was fired.
But the Christensens are honorable men. John recently called to say, “We tried and tried to make a market for the other videos, but it was Fish that everyone wanted. And now the book that was spawned by the video has over a million copies in print. It's more than Dad and I ever dared dream.” I told John that I was delighted to hear it. “Roy, I've enjoyed reading all your books and I'm always proud to see your name on the bestsellers list. Your Monday Morning Memos are one of the highlights of my week.” The phone went silent for a moment. “I just wanted to call and tell you that I really should have listened to you that day.”
It takes a big man to say a thing like that. But John Christensen is that kind of guy. Two weeks ago he sent his staff writer, Mike Wilson, to Wizard Academy and Mike did extremely well, taking home the J. Peterman award.During a recent conversation, I suggested to John that he begin searching for other successful companies with distinct and unusual corporate cultures. “John, every company in America is trying to achieve extraordinary things through ordinary people. And they're hungry for someone to show them how it's done.”
This time, John agreed.
Do you know of a thriving company with an exceptional corporate culture? If so, email the details to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your story gets made into a movie, your name will loom LARGE in the closing credits.
Are we havin' some fun now, or what?
Roy H. Williams
PS. Have you ordered your copy of Free the Beagle and visited her website at www.FreetheBeagle.com? Give it a look. It only takes a minute and you're guaranteed a smile. Arooo! Aroo-arooo! J.G. Tornoe