Make it Easy to Say "Yes!"

Never accept “no” — and make it easy to say “yes.” I make it a point to try to turn “no” into “yes” by being persistent, finding creative ways to get people’s attention and asking myself what they would say “yes” to.

Early in my career, I sold advertising space for the phone company. When I believed a company would benefit from a boldface listing in the phone book, I didn’t just tell them so. I would bring a mock-up of the proposed ad to the sales call so that the customer could see how it would make his/her business stand out from the others. I sold more listings than all the other salesmen in the office put together.

Many years after founding Boardroom, I wrote to an executive at a major publisher to propose a new marketing venture that I believed would help us both. When I received no response to any of my letters, I got a 24-by-36-inch piece of poster board from my art department, handwrote a giant-sized letter and had it delivered to the executive by messenger. He replied to that letter, and we began a very successful business relationship.

Keep it simple. There is a tendency to make things way too complicated, adding bells and whistles without adding efficiency. I don’t believe in using a complex system when a simple one will do.

Example: I keep track of my busy schedule using a simple paper calendar that I designed. It consists of one sheet of paper that fits in my shirt pocket. My assistant prints it out for me — one month appears on one side of the paper, the next month on the flip side. I can see my schedule for each month at a glance.

Seek constant, incremental improvement. For the past 20 years, we have used an employee suggestion system that we call I-Power. All employees, at all levels, are asked to contribute at least two suggestions per week on how to improve their own effectiveness, their departments’ effectiveness or the effectiveness of the company as a whole. Every idea — good, bad or indifferent — gets a response and a reward of at least $1. Good ideas are implemented as quickly as possible.

This system of continuous improvement has dramatic benefits. Productivity and job satisfaction are high. Employees feel valued. The ideas generated have saved us substantial amounts of money.

Example: Soon after we started the I-Power system, an employee suggested that we make our books slightly smaller so that they would weigh less than four pounds, thus qualifying for a lower postage rate. That one idea saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Show appreciation. I am always on the lookout for opportunities to show people how much they matter. This applies to employees, vendors, freelance writers, friends and family.

When I see an article that makes me think of someone I know, I clip it and send it to the person with a note. When we pay writers or vendors, I write personal notes on the payment slips. Sometimes I enclose little gifts. At Boardroom, we celebrate the anniversary of each employee’s start date. On my children’s birthdays, I not only give them gifts — I also send flowers to my wife.

People contribute so much to our lives. It’s important to say thank you.

Never compromise integrity. We stake our reputation on accuracy and integrity. I have excellent editors — and after all these years, I still personally read every page of every issue of our newsletters.

I have an attitude of healthy skepticism. No matter how well-known a source is, if he/she has nothing substantial to say, we won’t run the article. Our readers trust us, and I do everything I can to continue to earn that trust.