You and Bill Kelley would seem to have little in common. Kelley runs $1-billion Consolidated Stores, based in Columbus, Ohio. But when he first became its chief executive, Kelley shared plenty with you. He had to appease uneasy bankers and fire up the employees of his then-troubled chain of close-out stores.

A year into a difficult turnaround, Kelley took a few moments to pen his thoughts on where Consolidated had been and was going -- the kind of stuff too many CEOs leave unsaid. He called the nine-page booklet Success Our Way and gave it to his managers and eventually to all employees of the then 300 stores. "I was trying to get everyone to sing from the same hymnal," he says.

In the first, one-page "chapter," Kelley writes, "Most customers have a right to be skeptical . . . they are besieged with advertising and hype." The following mission statement appears in chapter 3: "A happy shopping experience is our immediate and long-term goal."

Says Kelley: "I wrote the book in a day. It's a reminder that business is simple." The booklet has taken on a life of its own, he says. Although Consolidated is wildly profitable now, with more than 600 stores, Success Our Way is still a touchstone. Recalls Kelly, "I was visiting a store last week, and an assistant manager pulled the book out of his back pocket."

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