Much of what we do in Inc. is based on the proposition that one business can profit by learning about the operations of another, but never have we seen anyone take that concept as far as Jack Kahl, president and CEO of Manco Inc., who has built a $60-million business by modeling every aspect of his organization on the practices of other companies. (See "Steal This Strategy," February 1991, [Article link].) Kahl is hardly alone in thinking that the best-managed companies have lots to teach the rest of us. Just ask the best-managed companies. These days, whenever one of them is featured in Inc. or profiled in a Tom Peters television special, it is overwhelmed by people looking for additional information. The companies respond in different ways. Ralph Stayer of Johnsonville Foods has gone into the consulting business. Tom Melohn of North American Tool & Die has produced a video and a workbook. Jack Stack of Springfield Remanufacturing is offering seminars on the Great Game of Business, his company's approach to open-book management. Stew Leonard's daughter Jill is developing a program to teach people her father's retailing techniques.
So if you have any questions for Jack Kahl after reading this month's article, you'd better call him soon. By this time next year, Manco Inc. is likely to be selling a lot more than adhesive tape, weather stripping, and mailing supplies.
"When should a founder bring professional management into a new business? Immediately. When should the founder turn over control of that business to a professional manager? Never."
* -- Phil Romano, founder of Fuddruckers Inc., now running Romano Enterprises, addressing an audience of business owners at Inc.'s Third Conference on Growing the Company, in Orlando
File this one under Entrepreneurial Mischief. Our friend Max Carey ("The Superman Complex," October 1988, [Article link]) was telling us recently about the problem he had getting big-company executives to take him seriously when he launched Corporate Resource Development Inc. Seems they just weren't interested in doing business with a small, independent consulting firm in Atlanta. So he put up a sign outside his offices reading, " . . . a subsidiary of Continental Capital Corp." Which just happens to be wholly owned by Max Carey.
In March 1990 [ [Article link]] we published an article showing how Harvey Mackay achieved fame and fortune by marketing his book Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive like any other product, selling some 2.3 million copies in the process. Next to Harvey himself, the star of the story was his Rolodex, which he used to network with everyone from bookstore managers to writers who ordinarily speak only to God or their agents. Well, Harvey's at it again, and this time he's selling more than advice: now he wants to sell you his Rolodex. That's right, for only $8.95 you can buy The Harvey Mackay Rolodex Network Builder, featuring a 64-page booklet on the art of networking, along with 30 Mackay-designed Rolodex cards bound into the back. You might even start building your network with Harvey himself, which is fine by him. But don't try to call him at home. The number isn't listed.