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Author: Melinda Sherwood. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January
5, 2000. All rights reserved.
The Business Oracle: Don Blohowiak
If there were such a thing as a business oracle, Don
Blohowiak would be it. While the rest of the world is convinced
that the only way to maintain a position in the new economy is to
join the E-commerce revolution, invest in new technology, and work
harder, Blohowiak offers a refreshingly simple piece of wisdom: Focus,
he says. "It’s really that simple and that hard," says
a management consultant and author of six renowned management books.
"Remember the guy on the Ed Sullivan show who used to spin plates
on a stick? The thing with businesses is they try to keep more and
more plates spinning, and to torture the metaphor, some of those
are worth 10 cents, and some are worth $10 million, and you have to
figure out which is which."
Sifting through the endless amounts of information and deciding what’s
relevant — that will be the essential challenge for businesses
in the Information Age, says Blohowiak, who speaks at the Princeton
Chapter of the Institute of Management Consultants on Monday, January
17, at 6 p.m. at the Doral Forrestal. Call 609-896-4457. Cost: $50.
"Mental energy and focus, compounded by this awesome ability to
get information," he says. "I give seminars to every corner
of the economy and in every audience I find a universal: I ask if
they have information piled up in a corner, trade journals or
and they smile and titter because we all have that. We have an
of information — newspapers, magazines, flyers — and then
add the Internet to that mix."
To sift through, distill, and make sense of that information requires
time — more time than many managers feel comfortable with at
says Blohowiak. "We’re moving at Internet speed," he says.
"At first that was funny, but now it’s not. Things change really
fast and consumer expectations have ratcheted it up. That spins out
into how you hire, train, and compensate people. It’s hard for our
organizations to gratify instantly. I joke that we’ve become the
The founder of the Princeton Junction-based Lead Well Consulting,
and author of six management books, Blohowiak is in his fifth year
running his own management firm, with clients including AT&T, United
Airlines, Motorola, and the U.S. Customs Service.
He also travels to give speeches. His first engagement was in the
sixth grade, back in his hometown, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "I
very clearly how affirming it was to have people hanging on my every
word," he says.
Blohowiak received a degree from the University of Wisconsin, Class
of 1978, but his exposure to business is experiential — it
in his parent’s flower and decorating shop. His dad, an auto worker,
put many extra hours in at the family business. "I saw the product
of bad management growing up," says Blohowiak. "There were
a lot of days he was a pretty angry guy, and I think I really want
people to have a good experience at work. I see my job as creating
better working environments for people."
After college, Blohowiak became a line manager in a Fortune 500
and moved into marketing at the Times Mirror Company in New York.
He was eventually promoted to management, and the bookwriting followed
soon after. "I came to this line of work because I had the
and not the answer," he says. "When I got promoted into
I had no special training and the expectations kept going up. I was
looking at a lot of management books and they struck me as being too
idealistic or too far removed, written by former CEOs, or retired
CEOs. Too wistful and too much pontification — not relevant to
Blohowiak has since written "Your People are Your Product: Hire
the Best to Stay the Best," (Chandler House Press, 1998, $22.95)
and the "Complete Idiot’s Guide to Great Customer Service,"
(Alpha Books). Blohowiak recharges his own batteries through
visits to deserted parts of the New Jersey shore. "I do a lot
of thinking and working on the beach," he says. "I make a
lot of notes. There’s a great therapeutic thing that happens when
the wind’s in your hair and the sun on your face. I regret not having
gone to the beach more earlier. I got into the productivity trap and
couldn’t justify going away."
If time management was the catch phrase of the ’90s, then the mantra
of this decade would be "energy" management, says Blohowiak.
"The challenge is going to think about work priorities in a
way," he says, "not just managing time, but managing your
mental energy — choosing to take a walk around the block, guilt
free, or half a day down at the shore. Those are valuable
Other things executives can do to get their businesses in shape:
going away, no matter what other management experts brings to the
table, is focus," says Blohowiak, "sifting through the many
channels and the sheer volume of information to decipher what’s
truly new, and what’s relevant. There are so many things that a
person needs to keep track of today that it’s hard to maintain focus.
The rate of the change and the volume of information are the one-two
of this now, but I think it will be more broadly adopted, because
technical skill is so quickly outdated anyway, and the capacity to
learn and predisposition to serving others is so important to an
he says. "It’s the whole human being that comes to work everyday.
We’re going to push people — long hours are a given now —
but they are also intense hours. I hear people say that there’s no
down time. The real you will come bubbling out in those
consider possibilities and do the synthesis of ideas," he says.
"The key, and this is really important for small businesses, is
to enable your colleagues to take on some responsibilities that you
hold on for yourself. If you don’t let go of some responsibilities,
you can’t have the time to set the priorities and change direction
and all those things that are required to stay competitive in a
to tend to those who are doing good things and pull weeds, so that
we can grow the business in the right way," says Blohowiak.
have real frustrations that they have the wrong people doing the job
and they’re afraid to make the decisions they need to. We can’t carry
people who are unproductive or underproductive. Too much time is taken
retrofitting people; too many managers end up on the treadmill to
mediocrity by spending too much time with people who aren’t going
to be able to do what needs to be done."
eventually, the business as a whole. "The good performers get
more and more heaped on them," says Blohowiak. "A manager
must make sure they have the best people around them with the support
and tools to do great work." Simple advice for a complicated
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