Guy Kawasaki: An interview by Bob Morris

Guy Kawasaki

After having earned an undergraduate degree at Stanford, Guy Kawasaki embarked on a career in business (counting diamonds for a fine-jewelry manufacturer called Nova Stylings) while at work on an MBA degree at UCLA. (He had already earned an undergraduate degree at Stanford.) Kawasaki later went to work for an educational software company called EduWare Services. However, Peachtree Software acquired the company and wanted him to move to Atlanta. “I don’t think so. I can’t live in a city where people call sushi ‘bait.’ Luckily, my Stanford roommate, Mike Boich, got me a job at Apple. When I saw what a Macintosh could do, the clouds parted and the angels started singing. For four years I evangelized Macintosh to software and hardware developers and led the charge against world-wide domination by IBM.” By now, he was accumulating a wealth of real-world experience in leadership and management and well as knowledge about marketing, sales, finance, strategic planning, problem-solving, resource allocation, and customer relations. The scope and depth of his interests are indicated in the books he has published thus far. They include his first, The Mackintosh Way, followed by Selling the DreamThe Computer Curmudgeon,HindsightsHow to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Rules for RevolutionariesThe Art of the Start,Reality Check, and most recently,Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.

Morris: Other than family members, who have had the greatest impact on your personal development?

Kawasaki: I cannot remove my family from this answer. The people who have had the most impact on my personal development are my wife and my first real boss, Marty Gruber. My wife holds me to the highest ethical, moral, and social standards. Marty Gruber was my boss when I worked in the jewelry business, and he taught me how to trust, be trusted, and how to sell.

Morris: Of all the books that you have published thus far, which was the most difficult to write? Why?

Kawasaki: The most difficult book to write should have been the easiest: Hindsights. It was a collection of interviews of people’s hindsights in life. I thought it would be a matter of turning on a tape recorder and then getting the tapes transcribed. It was a monumental effort to find the right people, get to them, interview them, transcribe the interview, and then edit it.

Morris: As you reflect upon your association with Apple, what has proven to be the most valuable business lessons you learned from it?

Kawasaki: I learned two valuable lessons at Apple. First, lo and behold, the best product doesn’t always win — Windows, to this day, vastly outsells Macintosh. I naively thought that the best product should and would win.

Second, I learned that if you enchant people with what you do, they will believe in you and provide an unbelievable amount of help. Apple would not have survived without its user groups, voluntary evangelists, and believers. They moved heaven and earth for Apple.

Morris: What seem to be the most serious mistakes made when planning and then launching a start-up?

Kawasaki: The most serious mistake is running out of cash. The cause is that entrepreneurs must be optimistic–almost to a delusional level–to be entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, this means that their sales forecasts are always too optimistic. When I see a sales forecast, I add one year to the ship date and divide the amount by 100.

Morris: How can this mistake be avoided or corrected?

Kawasaki: The best way to avoid wildly optimistic “conservative” forecasts is to do a bottom-up analysis. Usually entrepreneurs do a top-down analysis: there are 300 million Americans, one in four owns a dog so there are 75 million dogs, they eat two cans of dog food per day so that the market size is 150 million cans of dog food per day. How hard can it be to get 1% of this market or 1.5 million cans per day? We’ll make $1/can, so conservatively speaking we’ll make $1.5 million per day.

A bottom-up analysis is along this kind of thinking: the most visits we’ll attract to our website is 500,000 unique visitors per month. 1% of these people might buy a case of dog food. That’s 5,000 cases per month. Each case contains 20 cans, so that’s 100,000 cans. We can make $1 per can, so our gross profit is $100,000 a month.

Morris: All change initiatives encounter resistance, often cultural in nature, the result of what Jim O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” How best to prevent or overcome that resistance?

Kawasaki: I have a three-step recommendation. First, plant many seeds. That is, push your change out as far and wide as possible because you really don’t know who’s going to eat the dog food–to continue with my dog food example! Second, nurture the seeds that are taking root. Ignore the ones that don’t–no matter how attractive that market looks. Then provide social proof–that is, make sure that people notice the success of the seeds that are taking root.

In retroactive, more or less accurate terms, this is what happened with Apple and desktop publishing. We pushed out Macintoshes as hard as we could. The market that embraced it was desktop publishers. Then we made sure people knew that folks who wanted to created beautiful documents used Macintoshes.

Morris: Having read and reviewed all of your books, including Enchantment, I view you as an evangelist who passionately advocates what I characterize as “pragmatic idealism.” Is that a fair assessment?

Kawasaki: I prefer “idealistic pragmatism” but I can live with your interpretation. I start with what’s possible and try to make it as good as possible more than I start with what’s ideal and try to make it possible.

Morris: With regard to Enchantment, I am not a Manichaeist but, for present purposes, I will invoke two terms: Good Enchantment and Bad Enchantment. What are the most striking differences between them?

Kawasaki: Holy kaw, what is a Manichaeist? Enchantment isn’t good or bad. It’s effective or ineffective. Effective enchantment requires likability, trustworthiness, and high quality. It creates a delightful relationship that lasts long and provides mutual benefits. Ineffective enchantment is a “transaction.”

Morris: What are “push” and “pull” technologies? Insofar as enchantment is concerned, why is each significant?

Kawasaki: Push technology is email and Twitter. This means that you are in control of sending out your message. Email arrives in people’s inboxes. Tweets appear in people’s timelines. Pull technology is blogs, Facebook, and websites. These require compelling content that pulls people back to your properties. Push is easier to execute but the amount of information that you can push is limited. Pull is harder to execute because you have to get people to do something such as visit your site, but once you have them there, you can do more.

You can enchant people with both types of technologies. Usually, you will need to use both to truly be an effective enchanter.

Morris: What are the biggest mistakes that most people make when attempting to become more likeable? What in fact do you suggest?

Kawasaki: The biggest mistake is that they try to put lipstick on a pig. Likability is deeper than shucking and jiving. Yes, likability starts with a good smile, solid handshake, and appropriate dress, but the process goes deeper. You must accept others and create win-win situations to truly be likable.

Morris: Which question had you hoped to be asked during this interview – but weren’t — and what is your response to it?

Kawasaki: Q. Where can people buy Enchantment? A. That’s easy. All you have to do is click here. Enchanting people aren’t afraid to ask for the order. 🙂


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