AUGUST 2011 ENTREPRENEUR OF THE MONTH: GUY KAWASAKI
Apple’s innovation guru has written his 10th book, which teaches the tactics needed to prepare and launch a campaign to enchant customers, employees—and bosses, too.
By Hope Katz Gibbs
Be Inkandescent Magazine
In addition to being one of the people who helped make Apple Computer into the mega success that it is today, entrepreneur and author Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an online magazine rack of popular topics on the Web.
He is also the founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures, a seed-stage and early-stage venture capital fund that seeks to invest in extraordinary entrepreneurs who have the ability to build great teams and great companies.
His nine previous books include the bestselling title, The Art of the Start, as well as “Reality Check” and “The Macintosh Way.” A native of Hawaii, Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of California.
We met Kawasaki last April at the “Empowered Women’s Success Summit” in Miami, where the author enchanted an audience of more than 300 female entrepreneurs.
Yes, he’s charming, intelligent, and well-spoken. In the last several years, he has become a go-to guy for business advice—especially in the social media sphere, where he has more than 300,000 followers on Twitter.
But it’s clear that Kawasaki’s real claim to fame is that he embodies his enchantment philosophy. When we interviewed him later, however, he surprised us by admitting that it’s not so easy to be enchanting 24 hours a day.
“I knew before I published the book that I was drawing a bull’s-eye on my back, and that if I was going to teach others to be enchanting, I’d better be a good role model.”
It seems Kawasaki is doing just that. One week after it hit book stores, “Enchantment” made three bestseller lists: New York Times (Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous), The Wall Street Journal, (Hardcover Business) and Publishers Weekly (Hardcover Nonfiction).
When he agreed to be our August Entrepreneur of the Month, he confided that ours would be his 468th interview in the 90 days he had been on his book tour. Humbling, right? So we tried to ask Kawasaki some questions that the other 467 reporters didn’t.
Following is our Q&A with the Emperor of Enchantment from his home in California.
Be Inkandesent: What is so important about being enchanting?
Guy Kawasaki: For the past 25 years, I have been evangelizing about the power and importance of innovation, starting with my days as a diamond rep, followed by several years working to promote Macintosh computers. In the years since, I have started or helped fund more than a dozen companies, and one of the things I know for sure is that the more innovative the product, the more interesting it is, the more resistance there will be. Enchantment is the only solution. My goal is to teach people how to do it well.
Be Inkandesent: What enchants you?
Guy Kawasaki: The things that provide real solutions to my problems. I especially like things that do that with a degree of elegant design. I think that comes from my years working at Apple, as that belief was bred into me. At the moment I am enchanted by my Dymo LabelWriter 450 Turbo. It has a place for two rolls of labels, so you can print address labels on the left roll, and postage labels on right. Every time I use it, the thing brings a smile to my face.
Be Inkandesent: You explain in your book that Richard Branson of Virgin, and Tony Hsieh of Zappos are two entrepreneurs who run enchanting companies. To what do you attribute their savvy?
Guy Kawasaki: I don’t know why Branson and Hsieh get this concept so clearly, but they are great examples of innovators who have overcome the status quo. When I met Branson, for instance, he bent down to polish my shoes to illustrate his point that Virgin offers personal service. I was blown away, and ever since have been a loyal customer. I think it’s important to follow their lead—especially now, in a time of recession. No company can afford to throw money at a problem to solve it, and arguably, this is actually a better opportunity and time to grow a company. Leaders have to be clever and find creative ways to do new things. Personally, I think that makes for a more interesting world.
Be Inkandesent: You are no stranger to having to be resourceful. In fact, when Apple was just getting started, it was your job to get companies to build software for the fledgling computer company.
Guy Kawasaki: It was, and I certainly had to be enchanting, because no one knew what would happen with Apple. So it was very hard to get developers to spend their time and money to create a product for a new computer that may not be around in three years. It really was all about smoke and mirrors, but ignorance is bliss. It’s also empowering. Don’t know that I’d even try it now, but it sure was fun at the time.
Be Inkandesent: Do you think most small business owners understand how to be enchanting?
Guy Kawasaki: I do. One of the biggest jobs for a successful entrepreneur is to get people to believe in their big idea. Of course, we entrepreneurs are also slightly delusional, and it does take a little training to get it right. The real struggle, I think, is that so many professionals focus only on building a better widget. But perfecting the product or service is only the beginning. Getting people to go along for the ride, to want to invest financially and emotionally, well, that’s the hard part.
Be Inkandesent: The book does a beautiful job of teaching readers how to be more enchanting. Do you find that taking your advice is easy or challenging?
Guy Kawasaki: First and foremost, my goal is to be consistent. I knew that if I was going to write a book like this, I was drawing a target on my back. But don’t cry for me. I knew what I was getting myself into. For others, the payoff may not be as clear, because it’s hard to be totally consistent all the time. But I will make the case that it’s easier to be enchanting than it is to be a jerk.
Be Inkandesent: You grew up in Hawaii, and you’ve said publicly that your parents had a big influence on shaping your ability to enchant others.
Guy Kawasaki: I grew up Japanese-American in Hawaii, and my parents did a great job teaching me about the beauty of living in a melting pot. We were a minority, but we were far from oppressed. My father was a politician most of his life—a state senator—and although I never want to be a politician, as the pay is lousy and the work is hard, watching him work provided lessons in how to be enchanting. My mom was a huge influence, too. She taught me not to take any crap off of anyone.
Be Inkandesent: After getting your MBA at UCLA, and before working at Apple, you worked in the diamond business. What did you learn there?
Guy Kawasaki: That is actually where I learned some of my first lessons in the art of enchantment. The diamond industry is very competitive, so you have to prove why your designs are better than the next company’s. Finding success also comes from building trust. After all, you can’t take apart a ring to see if it’s really 18K, and once trust is lost, you are done. It’s one of the pillars of enchantment.
Be Inkandesent: You have written nine other books on entrepreneurship and innovation. What were some of your favorites?
Guy Kawasaki: I really liked “Hindsights,” which was a book of interviews with others on their insights into their business successes and failures. That was fascinating to research.
Be Inkandesent: What will your next book be about?
Guy Kawasaki: Ha. I actually don’t know if I have an 11th book in me. The only reason to write a book is to have something to say, so I’m going to have to find that or there will be no point. I’ll keep you posted.
Be Inkandesent: What is your favorite part of your job?
Guy Kawasaki: I really like being a public speaker and official enchanter. But what I like even more is being at home. I travel so much, so my idea of a vacation is not getting on a plane.
Be Inkandesent: We interviewed the origami artist who created the Kawasaki Butterfly for the cover of your book. Tell us about the crowd-sourcing experiment that led to that idea. Would you take the same approach again?
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, yes. From my perspective, exploitative as it may seem, I got 250 smart people to give me a design for the cover. My team and I loved this great butterfly that was based on a stock photo and was designed by a young foreign student. But the editors didn’t think it would work well, so we substituted the origami art for the stock image. I would do it again the same way, because it democratized the design process. I consider that to be a moral victory for crowd-sourcing. After all, I make lots of free speeches, which I consider to be my moral obligation to society. It’s also an investment, because you never know who may be in the audience who will hire me for my speaking fee at a later date. Crowd-sourcing is the best sign of our new, flat economy.
Be Inkandescent: Can you give us a little perspective on the future of the economy. Are you worried?
Guy Kawasaki: I have seen many cycles of highs and lows, and I decided long ago not to depend on some Commerce Department statistic to determine what I will and won’t do as an entrepreneur. I focus on the big picture, and am more concerned about making a sale. If I can, I’m still in business.