TV host and former Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett admits that the most challenging part of writing his latest book, Think Big, Act Bigger, was "toning it down." In delivering advice, "You have to be forceful enough to shake people up, but not so much that it turns people off," he says. "Because then you're just shouting."
Many people have observed Hayzlett's straightforward approach. As the host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives on C-Suite TV, as well as All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on C-Suite Radio, Hayzlett has shaped a career out of being a candid speaker and business leader. 1to1 Media caught up with Hayzlett to discuss the lessons he learned in his career and why it pays off to be relentless.
1to1 Media: Where did the inspiration for your latest book, Think Big, Act Bigger, come from?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: I've been watching people for far too long and listening to people say what others can and can't do. I finally said "no." And that's what the book is about. It's about coming to the understanding that we need to think big and act bigger. We need to be relentless. It's not the lucky people who win in the end, it's the relentless ones. It's time to remove the self-imposed obstacles that prevent us from being the successes we want to be.
Give me an example of how you've thought big and acted bigger.
JH: I come from a place that's just a spot on the map. It's a small town in South Dakota-a state where there are only 850,000 people. There are more cows than people in that state. And yet, I've gone on to host a prime time TV show, written best-selling books, and became an officer of a Fortune 100 company. I'm not the brightest or best looking guy and I didn't come from a well-connected family. But I've done all those things because I can. I started by being part of the local chamber board in South Dakota and was active in civic groups and it dawned on me that I can do this outside of South Dakota. The point is, why limit yourself?
In Chapter 2 you discuss how failures happen. What are the key elements for surviving failure?
JH: Moving past it. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on. I just look at failures as stepping stones to the things we want to do. Thomas Edison famously said he didn't fail, he just found 10,000 ways that didn't work. That's how you need to look at it.
You also mention that you wished you had been more pigheaded at Kodak. Can you elaborate on that and the lessons you learned from Kodak's mistakes?
JH: The hardest thing at that company was to change the mood of the company. The writing was on the wall. In 1975 a gentleman by the name of Steve Sasson created the first digital camera. He showed it to Kodak executives and said, "I'm going to recreate the Kodak moment."
They said, "Put it away. We don't do that. We make film." But that's not what they make. They make Kodak moments and this was a new way to capture Kodak moments. The hubris of their own success led them to forget what they were good at and that's to capture the emotional bond through imagery.
At times it pays to be pigheaded. A good example is when I was at an event with [Life Technologies former chairman and CEO] Greg Lucier who was speaking to a group of Harvard MBAs. He said leaders have to be irrational sometimes. I wrote that down because it didn't make sense to me. And then he said sometimes you have to push people past their comfort levels to reach higher profit margins, new markets, or growth rates. That's when I understood what he meant. Sometimes it's up to the CEO or leader to say, "We're going to stand for this level of design or customer satisfaction, even if what you're asking seems irrational." The rewards go to the relentless.
What did you think about the New York Times story that highlighted Amazon's cutthroat culture? Is it possible to be successful without making your employees miserable?
JH: Is there some truth to that story? Without question. But there are always extremes. For example, when I get [book] reviews, I ignore the top and bottom 10 percent of the most positive and negative reviews and what's left in the middle is the most truthful. I'm pretty sure with Amazon's culture, some of what was reported goes on and there's also the opposite where people are loving and caring. That never makes the headlines.
What is the newest platform that you're using?
JH: Pinterest. It's not typically something I would use but I'm finding it useful for looking at things in a new way. I also like Periscope and the new live video feature that Facebook has turned on.
Is it difficult or easy to be a CMO today?
JH: It's hard to be a great CMO. The role of the CMO has only been around for about 25 years and it's still changing. You have to be more tech savvy than ever before. CMOs used to be brand officers. Now they're also growth officers and have to look at the inception of an idea all the way to customer satisfaction. That's a big job for one person.