The Idea Guru
Doug Hall has been helping companies like Chrysler and Coca-Cola develop hot new products for years. Now he's reinventing himself -- with a new venture that will bring the secrets of new-product creation to small companies everywhere
By many measures, Doug Hall was the spitting image of the triumphant entrepreneur. There he was, in May 1997, if not bigger than life then at least eerily omnipresent on every airport newsstand he ran past. The cover of this very magazine trumpeted him as America's top new-product idea man. His "idea factory" near Cincinnati, then known as the Eureka Mansion, was booked practically every week with Fortune 500 clients paying as much as $150,000 for innovative, fun-filled three-day creativity sessions. Hall was also in demand on the conference and trade-show circuit, pulling down $10,000 to $20,000 for each hourlong speech. Money was piling up for this Yankee from Maine. One day Hall called Fidelity from the road and asked for the balance on his account. He jotted down the number, and like the T-bird aficionado who finally slips the key -- his key -- into the ignition of that long-coveted '57 two-door, he became stuck in the moment. Struck by the presence of not one but two commas in the figure he'd been given.
Had he reached entrepreneurial nirvana? Not exactly, as Hall soon would force himself to admit. In fact, Hall would even realize that he needed to dramatically make over his profitable business. Not because of changing market conditions. Or looming competition. Nor even to boost revenues. No, Hall would decide "to blow up the business," as he puts it, because he wasn't happy.
Of course, it took him a while to figure that out. He faced the music of his growing dissatisfaction like those who realize that their marriage is crumbling, which is to say bit by bit. Events tell them. Their hearts tell them. But they do nothing, at least nothing major. Not for a while. Megaton change is hard; the future too uncertain.
Hall had first heard a few bars of his wake-up tune earlier that year. One evening he'd stepped out of his limo at a swank Arizona resort, where the following morning he was to be the featured speaker at a trade-show gathering. On the golf-cart drive to Hall's private bungalow, the hotel bellhop casually asked, "How long you with us?"
Hall looked at his watch and did the math. "About 11 hours."
The hotel was a five-star place. The bellhop bit his lip and shook his head ever so slightly. "Too bad," he said.
Hall's room was gorgeous; the bathroom big enough to party in; the resort's facilities world-class. And he was going to go to bed, get up, entertain an audience for an hour, grab his check, and rush back to the airport. "Fool," the bellhop had probably been thinking when he shook his head.
"What the hell am I doing? This ain't a life," thought Hall, who sat alone in his room, chastened, considering the ironic turn his entrepreneurial arc had taken. Like many ostensibly successful company founders, Hall realized he wasn't running the business so much as it was running him. He'd grabbed the brass ring, but he couldn't get off the carousel.
And around the merry-go-round spun, cover story and all, until one day late in the spring of 1997, when Hall retreated to the 1,500-bottle wine cellar of the Eureka Mansion with venture capitalist Arthur Lipper III. Corks were pulled, glasses were filled and refilled, and at one point Lipper announced, "You know, Doug, I wouldn't give you any money for your business."
"What do you mean?" Hall responded.
"You don't have a business here," said Lipper.
"I've got a brand, I've got ... "
"You don't have a business," Lipper insisted. "You've got a practice."
Lightbulb in his mouth on the cover of his first book, Jump Start Your Brain, and Nerf guns blazing in Eureka sessions, Hall had indeed branded himself as a much-in-demand creativity guru, but Lipper was right. Hall had previously sensed that he was his company, of course, but Lipper's bluntness forced him to admit it. At the end of the day, Hall was no different from a doctor with a stethoscope around his neck or a wrench-twisting plumber. It all flowed through him.
"It worked because I ran around like the guy spinning plates on The Ed Sullivan Show," Hall says today. He had help, of course, scheduling and planning and executing his creativity sessions. But he knew, and his employees knew, that the real Eureka chamber was not the living room of the Mansion, brimming though it was with new product ideas, his on-call Trained Brains (freelance creative types schooled in Hall's idea-generation methods), and his dedicated core staff. Most of the winning creative leaps, most of the marketplace-driven reshaping of raw ideas, took place in the caffeine-stoked furnace of his own uniquely nimble mind, often at 2 or 3 a.m. during 72-hour sessions with clients. That's when the real rubber hit the road.
Looking back, he guesses he was carrying 80% to 90% of the Eureka sessions and 80% to 90% of the client stress. His employees agree. Hall had yet to turn 40 and had plenty of energy. He still survived the occasional all-nighter as well as his young apprentices did. But for how much longer? He'd drifted 30 or 40 pounds overweight. And there were other nagging issues. He could still get up for the "game," still loved the challenge and the adrenaline rush of helping clients pull new products and services out of thin air. But after many sessions he was drained -- physically and mentally -- for the next day or so. Between sessions he started feeling an unsettling, totally alien sensation that he finally put a name to: boredom. And then there was the result of his work -- often, one more cleverly packaged, expertly positioned sugar water or salty snack food.
Like those excess pounds around his middle, the reasons for change had reached critical mass. He wrote in his electronic diary:
I need to redesign myself, my outlook and goals. I have gone over the mountain. I have achieved the summit. What next? Where do I put my energy?
Here was the master inventor, the creative guru that America's biggest corporations turned to in a pinch to remake a product, in need of his own professional makeover. What did he want?
Hall's first thoughts on the subject weren't terribly original. Countless others in his place have sought salvation in adventure travel, charitable work, or retirement to family and hearth. In 1997, Hall pondered them all -- and turned to two.
In January of that year, Hall had gone on a dogsledding vacation in Minnesota, mushing from lodge to lodge. One night, while watching videos of explorer Paul Schurke's expeditions to the North Pole, Hall decided that he, too, might want to travel by dogsled and on cross-country skis some 200 miles and then stand on top of the Earth.
That idea was rattling around in his brain, when, a few months later, he read in the alumni magazine of his alma mater, the University of Maine, about the work of Russ Quaglia. Hall, a father of three, noted a considerable overlap between his own beliefs and those of Quaglia, director of the National Center for Student Aspirations, who'd identified and championed eight classroom conditions that motivated and educated students. (Among them: curiosity and creativity and fun and excitement.)
Like many successful entrepreneurs, Hall had previously tried giving back some of his newfound affluence. He'd donated Eureka sessions -- his company's idea-generation sessions -- to nonprofits, only to find that the organizations rarely acted on the ideas the workshops yielded. But this could be different, Hall thought. What if he worked with Quaglia and threw his marketing savvy behind the national education program?
Soon, Hall and Quaglia announced a campaign called Great Aspirations to promote Quaglia's center. The duo coauthored a syndicated newspaper column and got a designer to create a new Great Aspirations logo featuring a figure, telescope to his eye, following the path of a shooting star, standing atop the Earth. Never one to shy away from a big idea, Hall decided to link his two current passions. He'd sign on corporate sponsors and make his North Pole quest a fund-raiser for Great Aspirations. That way, he'd really have to go.
At about the same time, Hall also considered simply retiring -- shutting down the business and spending more time with his wife and kids. But not for long. "I'm not ready for the press box," he told himself. "I still want to play down on the field." He knew the field intimately. His cleat marks were all over its turf, and in his brand-everything-under-the-sun mentality, Hall would soon trademark the title on his next playbook: Capitalist Creativity. That was what he planned to call his new business niche, which involved turning everything he'd learned about generating and testing ideas into a systematic process that companies of any size could use. But he still faced his biggest, hairiest challenge to date: reinventing his own company from the inside out -- without squandering its solid reputation.
I am going to redesign this company. It will never be the same, Hall wrote in his diary.
Hall needed to significantly remove himself from his Eureka enterprise, stop operating it as a practice, and transform his take on Capitalist Creativity into a business. He didn't know it then, but shedding 40 pounds, increasing his stamina, and cross-country skiing with a 50-pound pack on his back across frigid ice fields would seem easy compared with his upcoming business odyssey: recasting an entire corporate enterprise. Especially his enterprise, which ran through him like blood through a heart.
Hall guesses he carried 80% to 90% of the Eureka new-product sessions and client stress. His employees agree.
Hall caught a couple of breaks, but as with much of what passes for good luck in life, he effectively set the wheel of fortune spinning himself. As it happened, at the time he decided to overhaul his life, he was getting ready to relocate his operation. The initial plan: move his family into the 29-room, circa 1840 Mansion, and -- just a Frisbee toss away -- create a Eureka Ranch. The new facility would have better lighting, better office space, an enormous great room for inspiring great ideas, and unifying southwestern decor to help set the maverick mood necessary for breaking new conceptual ground for clients.
I intend to make dramatic changes. The new building will be the starting line, Hall wrote.
The move, in late June 1997, was all of 82 steps, but it offered a helping hand: it set the company in motion and created a clean break to delineate the old days and the new ways. The Mansion, what was being left behind, was The Doug Show, where Hall called the shots and, he admits, "we sort of just did stuff." At the Ranch, he promised, everything would be different.
We will discover methods for working smarter, Hall promised himself. We will find a way or make a way.
The wizard of winging it, the iconoclastic barefoot guru, announced that henceforth creative sessions would go under the microscope. There'd be analysis, a scientific search for patterns, and systems installed -- yes, systems -- to govern future sessions.
"A lot of entrepreneurs essentially just run away and put somebody else in the center," says Hall, who believes that delegating works only "if you have systems and processes. Otherwise, your people have to be mind readers."
"When I came here [four years ago], we didn't have principles," says senior account executive Sean McCosh, whose very title indicates the new ways at the Ranch. "I'd run around and hear what Doug was talking about, and by osmosis I would pick up some stuff."
As chief rainmaker, Hall had brought in the business, taken stock of a client's mind-set and makeup, figured which of his many mind-liberating exercises might work best, and then turned things over to his staff and the freelance Trained Brains. Except that in reality there wasn't much he could turn over.
Sure, he'd articulated in his book and to his minions some principles of creativity: the importance of fun, the necessity of stimuli, the value of breaking into small groups. And sure, in the idea-winnowing stages, hurdles like "unique selling proposition" got raised. But just as surely, when the ideas morphed into concepts and potential products on days two and three, it was generally Hall's tweaking that nudged them into shape, and it was his stamp of approval that everyone awaited. It was, after all, his face that appeared no fewer than seven times in the foldout brochure; it was his experience, his judgment, and his mind that clients were paying for.
I just reviewed the past 12 months' calendars. No wonder I'm so tired. There must be a better way to provide the work than doing it all myself. I need to return to my core values, Hall noted in his diary.
To move from a practice to a business, Hall needed to replicate himself. To do that, he needed to pinpoint, instead of intuitively "knowing," the roots of creativity and the essential elements of successful new products. He began by activating his long underused left brain, the logical, scientific side he'd trained in college by studying to be a chemical engineer. "At the end of the day we tend to go back to our roots," he says. "Even though I've been the barefoot guru, I love science, I love engineering -- and engineers love principles. I'm also a big fan of Einstein, who said God does not play dice with the universe. The wonder of the world is that there are patterns, and if you look long enough and think hard enough and discover, it can make a dramatic difference in how you do business."
But Hall's business was in the quicksilver world of ideas. Could he really wrestle something as evanescent as creativity to the mat? To succeed, he'd have to do a Deming-like quality assessment in the white-collar world of intellectual capital. Hall had previously played with the notion and even devised a formula, E = (S + BOS) F, in which he proposed that a fun environment had an exponential impact on using various stimuli and brain operating systems in creating ideas. But he'd never rigorously analyzed what went on under his roof. He had simply been too busy, too much like Lucille Ball on the candy line. Besides, in the Mansion days, too much of the process disappeared from sight, like a train into a tunnel, into his own mind.
Beginning in mid-1997, Hall and his Ranch hands began illuminating that tunnel. They started by taking better stock of their clients. They used the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) to assess the impact of individual thinking styles on group dynamics and creativity. Soon clients filled out HBDI questionnaires before they arrived at the Ranch. The surveys were used to create a type of scouting report that helped determine the mix of creative exercises for each client. Clients inked still more questionnaires after each creativity exercise. Was the group filled with energy? How effective was the group in generating quality ideas? Did you like the creativity technique? Initially, Hall worried about burying clients in paperwork but convinced himself and them that the Ranch couldn't be a creativity laboratory without hard data tracked against output.
Hall assessed everything, including clients' reactions to the creativity exercises and the performance of the group-leading Trained Brains. Low-scoring Trained Brains weren't asked back. After the clients left, Hall and his employees assessed what had worked and what hadn't and where to go next. The change from the freewheeling Mansion ways wasn't easy.
"I'm almost allergic to anything that reeks of bureaucracy," says Hall. "But I knew unless I could figure out which exercises really worked and which were the true reproducible principles, I was destined to be a slave of the business."
And while all that was going on, Hall was ramping up his training for the Pole expedition, which, he knows now, helped greatly with the business transformation. Hall had wrapped the Great Aspirations fund-raiser around the quest for the Pole, but it remained at the core a very personal goal. As a boy he'd suffered a serious hip injury playing football and spent the better part of two years in various body casts at Boston's Children's Hospital, recuperating from an operation that had shortened one of his legs to offset the damage. He'd compensated for the injury by excelling in the realm of the mind. Now, decades later, he'd created an opportunity to prove himself physically -- and in his typical superlative-only style, on a grand stage.
It turns out that fun doesn't play as big a role in creativity as Hall originally thought. The exercises clients liked best didn't correlate with the best results.
Hall cross-trained like an Olympian, employing a handful of trainers to help him build his stamina and tone his out-of-shape body. He worked with a weight-lifting trainer, a kayak instructor, a swimming coach, and a Boxercise trainer. He regularly roller-skied 10 miles out and 10 miles back on a nearby bike path. He pedaled like a madman on a stationary bike with a torturous resistance wheel. He titled his 1998 Christmas letter to clients and friends "A Transformational Holiday Wish." With only four months until he set off for the Pole, he wrote:
Nineteen ninety-eight was for me a year of great transformation; a year when my eyes opened to wonderful new possibilities, insights and wisdom; a year for growth in my personal life, professional life, and, for the first time, dramatic transformation in my physical condition and health....I've gone from having borderline high blood pressure and 31% body fat to healthy blood pressure, 19% body fat,...and the maximum heart rate of the average 29-year-old.
"My advice to anyone going through a business transformation," he says now, "is to go through a physical transformation concurrently. Many of the different dimensions we've added to the business were created as I was roller-skiing or swimming around the lake." For instance Hall typically swam twice around the shoreline of the lake behind the Mansion and Ranch, and one day, just as he'd begun the second loop, the term capitalist creativity popped into his mind. "That's what we're all about," he realized. Hall filed for the trademark on it before the sun set.
Equally important, his vigorous training for the trip to the Pole, which in the weeks just prior to the expedition reached three hours a morning before client sessions, drove home the lesson that significant transformation doesn't come without pain. Working out on roller skis, he gradually upped the weight in his pack until it reached the 50 pounds he'd be carrying across the frozen Arctic. One morning, with the wind whipping across the lake and the wind chill creating conditions of about 25 degrees below zero, Hall lugged his stationary bike outside to train in arctic conditions. He pedaled furiously, on and on, his fleece jacket taking on a white crust -- not from windblown snow but from his sweat wicking to the surface of the garment and instantly freezing. The ancillary message to his young employees watching wide-eyed through the windows: here was a man committed to change, to staying the course.
In April 1999, Hall set out on the polar expedition. The parka he donned for it carried as many sponsors' emblems as a NASCAR driver's racing suit: American Express, Johnson & Johnson, Mars -- nearly two dozen in all that had donated a total of $1 million in cash and services. He'd survive a potentially fatal fall through the ice into the Arctic Ocean and, soon after an exhilarating two-mile ski sprint, reach his goal with his heart pumping. "You really look at your life when you're standing at the top of the Earth, 90 north, where there's no such thing as time. You're in all time zones," he says. For Hall, whose mother was being treated for cancer at the time, it was hard not to consider his own mortality and what kind of legacy he wanted to leave. Though distinctive, epitaphs such as creativity guru and corporate miracle worker came up short.
On dogsled and skis, hall was guided by global positioning satellites. He also had veteran explorer Paul Schurke at his side, and his destination was fixed. At the Ranch, the business odyssey had pushed on much more arduously. Moving from a practice to a business, Hall had to chart his own course. There was no tangible finish line. So whom did he pick as his guide? An inventor, businessman, and civic leader more than 200 years in his grave -- Benjamin Franklin. Franklin's wisdom has long guided Hall's personal and business decisions. Franklin's abhorrence of debt led Hall to pay off the mortgage on the Mansion and fund the Ranch and current expansion entirely from cash on hand and revenues. Franklin's admonition "Up sluggard and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough" has rung in Hall's ears throughout the transformation. "What would Franklin do in this situation?" Hall often asks himself.
Anticipating corporate growing pains, Hall installed in the Ranch's great room a life-size sculpture by Andrew DeVries called The Other Side of Eden. The bronze depicts a dancer pushing through a wall, one eye closed on the side he is leaving, the other eye open as he emerges on the other side. The wall is distended by the dancer's effort. "People want to change but have to accept that transition causes pain," says Hall. "If you wait until it won't be painful, it will never happen."
Clearly, Hall and his company endured pain. For one thing, the ongoing scientific analysis of the creativity sessions highlighted the need for Hall to question his own thinking. For instance, some of his employees wanted to try meditation in day one of the Eureka sessions, an idea Hall initially rejected. "The last thing I wanted was to have everybody close their eyes and commune with the spirits," says Hall. "But I set up a culture here that said, Experiment. I was hoping it [the meditation exercise] would fail, but it scored so well we had to find a place for it." In fact, he says, out of one meditation session emerged the concept for an award-winning new car. The real flash of insight: Doug isn't always right.
He admits, too, he got the idea-generation equation wrong in his first book and will be modifying it in a new book coming out this fall called Jump Start Your Business Brain. It turns out that fun isn't as big a deal as he originally thought. The exercises that clients liked best didn't correlate with the best results. Consequently, the Nerf guns rarely come out anymore. Fun plays a role in creativity, Hall believes now, but only to the extent it reduces one's fear to think new and wildly different thoughts. (Worry not: the Ranch still has an arcade's worth of pinball machines and video games.)
Predictably, Hall turned his North Pole dream into a sponsored fund-raiser. That way, he'd really have to go.
Most painful of all was the early experience of branching into the training business, offering off-site Trailblazer training sessions -- two-day, one-day, half-day, even one-hour lectures -- to teach clients the laws of the Capitalist Creativity system and the success-determining new-product characteristics Hall's crew dubbed Marketing Physics. Hall threw himself into the creation and testing of the training sessions in between hosting his traditional Eureka sessions for his corporate clients. So instead of decreasing his workload, he actually increased it for a time. "It was crazy," he says. "During much of 1998 I'd do a training presentation on Friday, another on Monday, and a Eureka session on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday." The burden was manageable only because he was beginning to step back a bit from the creativity-session work -- and because there was an end in sight. Once the format was perfected, others would run the training sessions.
Hall underestimated the challenge. By the fall of 1998, he figured he had a sound template. In fact, he'd already sold a Trailblazer training session, scheduled for December. Expecting rave reviews and backslapping verification, he invited two dozen training experts to stop by in November to become test subjects. Many gave Hall an F. Dissatisfaction peaked when he donned a judge's robe and wig and gave his verdict on the ideas created by the teams. One participant was blunt: "My best advice to you: license your name to somebody who really wants to do training, because you're not a teacher."
Hall hurriedly recast the training sessions, axed the judge persona, and happily watched as other training leaders scored better on client evaluations than he had. In the end Human Resource Executive magazine named the Trailblazer sessions among the 10 best training products of 2000. Hall had successfully handed over the reins. And he had the equivalent of a satellite reading on his progress in creating a business: he could start tracking "non-Doug revenues."
Just last fall, another such revenue source emerged. For one-third the price of the three-day inventing sessions, clients can now either come to the Ranch or have up to four Ranch staffers and Trained Brains travel to them for a two-day session called Eureka Coaching. "We're little Dougs in a way, ambassadors of the system," says longtime Trained Brain David Wecker. "Now we've got to convince people we can do this $50,000 thing with the same efficacy and efficiency that the $150,000 inventing sessions produce."
Hall is now much less involved in the three-day inventing sessions. He puts his share of that workload at 30% to 40%. Others estimate it's more like 40% to 50%. Either way, the percentage is down considerably from the old days. By operating more scientifically and efficiently, Hall is burning far less of the midnight oil. He's rarely up past 10 p.m. anymore. As the corporate makeover gathers steam, the number of big-ticket inventing sessions at the Ranch is also dropping. Last year the figure was 36, down from 45 at the company's peak.
Nowhere is the transformation from a practice to a business more evident than in the new brochure. Hall has gone from omnipresent in the old sales brochure to MIA in the new one. In fact, last year, when he was 42, he officially retired from the day-to-day operations of his company.
On New Year's Day 2001, Hall split his company in two: 10 full-timers in the client-services group and 4 (including Hall) in the research-and-development group. Hall now has the triple title of founder, CEO, and vice-president of research and development. His newest title has him most excited, for it points him in a direction that he hopes could address those nagging legacy questions. He's bowed out of Great Aspirations and is looking for a more direct way to leverage what he does best.
For the past few years, in concert with zeroing in on Capitalist Creativity and Marketing Physics, Hall has had a statistician and a programmer holed up creating what he jokingly calls "Doug in a box," the ultimate in self-replication. Now in its last stages of beta testing, the $20-million computer-based idea-assessment tool, called Merwyn Success Forecasting, is due to go online in the fall to coincide with the publication of Hall's latest book.
In one sense, Merwyn advances Hall's beat-the-clock run at new-product creativity. Hall initially made his mark -- and headlines -- by promising 30 ideas in 30 days. Then he slashed the time to 3 days. Although Merwyn doesn't create ideas, Hall says, it can assess the overall probability of success of ideas, weighing scores for such components as overt benefit, real reason to believe, dramatic difference, value/cost ratio, and clarity. Capitalizing on Hall's mania for time compression, Merwyn promises to spit out an online report on a particular idea in as little as an hour. With Merwyn, Hall hopes to open up his services to those who need it the most -- the millions of small-business owners who rarely, if ever, do market research. With an entry-level price of $500 for a basic report, Merwyn will be affordable even to mom-and-pop businesses. In his inimitable, hell-bent-for-headlines style, Hall is already casting himself in the role of a legendary hero. "I'm going to be like Robin Hood," Hall says. "Take the wisdom of the big guys and transfer it to everyday people -- help true small businesses realize their dreams."
'My advice to anyone going through a business transformation,' Hall says, 'is to go through a physical transformation' as well. Change doesn't come without pain.
In this case, the wisdom of the big guys has been compressed into Merwyn's benchmark database of more than 4,000 Fortune 500 concept introductions. Some of those were pioneered in Eureka sessions, and others were shared by Mansion and Ranch clients. Additional data were purchased from Information Resources Inc., one of the nation's premier verifiers of new-product marketing through in-store sales data.
Hall has already slipped into the Robin Hood role, if not yet the green tights, by applying Merwyn technology to help struggling small businesses on Prince Edward Island, where he has a vacation farmhouse. He's talking of possibly opening satellite Eureka Ranches targeted at small companies in places like his vacation island and other needy locales around the world.
"Success," Hall believes, "is one of the biggest preventers of growth. People think, Don't screw it up. So they don't change, and somebody else leaps ahead of them." The big entrepreneurial challenge, he insists, is not dramatically changing your company when the precipice looms but rather seizing the moment when you're successfully basking in the sweet meadow of good fortune. That takes courage.
Now well into his business-transformation journey, Hall can see the rough outlines of his destination, but he's not there yet. And he knows he never will be. "I knew it was going to be hard, but it's been 10 times harder than I thought. I'd guess we're about 65% of the way," he says. "And we can never get over 90%. The minute I think we know everything, I'm out of here. It doesn't end. It never ends." Continual, revolutionary change is now one of Hall's core business -- and personal -- principles.
A fall through the entrepreneurial ice is possible as he evolves from an exclusively high-priced, high-margin operation to one that's oriented to high volume and much lower margins. Since his marketing days at Procter & Gamble, two decades ago, Hall has breathed the rarefied air of big-company missions, manpower, and resources. Will he be able to shift gears and successfully serve the vast majority of businesses, ventures as small as Island Winds, a Prince Edward Island wind-chime maker whose chances of success he helped boost from 34% to 69% (according to Merwyn's calculations)? Can Hall win acceptance for his high-tech alter ego? Convince the world the implied magic of Merwyn is technologically and statistically solid, a valuable, easily accessible business tool -- not simply numbers pulled out of his sleeve?
A good bit of Hall's good reputation and momentum toward remaking his business ride on Merwyn's logo. Hall, better than most, knows about magic wands and transformations. During his long childhood recuperation, he turned to magic for solace and self-confidence. He performed onstage as Merwyn the Magician. Three decades later he's tapped a piece of his past, knowing full well his business can't be changed by sleight of hand. Today, instead of Presto or Abracadabra, Hall shouts Principles, Systems, and Marketing Physics.
But he hasn't stopped believing in magic.
John Grossmann is a freelance writer in New Jersey.
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