Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talk is Cheap - The Art of Conversation Leadership

Jim McCann, CEO/founder of 1-800 Flowers.com is a friend.  I suspect he has lots of friends - he is so humble an approachable for such a successful person.

He spoke at Canrock Ventures (He is great and entertaining).

He wrote a book - Talk is Cheap - The Art of Conversation Leadership.

McCann was a social worker working in a boys home and needed some extra money so got a job tending bar part time.  He took the job partly because he was shy and knew he needed to learn to talk to people.

There he met the owner of a flower shop.  The flower shop owner mentioned he wanted to retire so McCann suggested he work there part time for a few weekends to see if he liked the business.  He did so he bought a tiny, one location, flower shop.

He went to a conference and met Ted Turner who was just starting CNN.  He scraped together a small ad budget and places some ads.  Then a war happened and all other advertisers pulled their ads and Turner convinced 800-flowers to stay (and I think ran extra ads at no extra cost).  CNN's marketshare soared from 4 to 40% during the war and 800-flowers was the sole sponsor.  Business boomed.

So 1-800 Flowers toll free charges went through the roof and ATT called to see if McCann would do a customer testimonial ad that ATT paid for.  The ad was a success and resonated so ATT asked if they could do another series featuring McCann and then ATT sponsored the olympics.  So 1-800 Flowers was featured on the olympic ads at ATT's expense.  Business soared.

In the book, McCann talks about conversation.  About really listening to people and the power of that.  I know he is sincere in his practice of this art.

McCann talks about conversing.  Across hierarchies, for intimacy (not efficiency), across multiple mediums etc.

I loves that he promotes - "Never Stop Learning".

McCann recognizes that technology (like social media) amplifies a message and in part it amplifies the negative because of the anonymity and ease of it.  It is easy to blast someone who is faceless on Twitter - much harder than doing it face to face.

The book is filled with interesting stories that make it easy to read and really drives points home.

McCann is a natural marketer (in a good way) and it works well since he sells a product that everybody can buy..  Writing a book like this is a natural extension of that marketing.

Great book which I enjoyed even more because of my personal connection with the man.


I am intrigued by the challenge of feeding the world.  Like energy, the lowest hanging fruit (no pun intended) is conservation.  Apparently 40% of the food produced in the US is wasted (I suspect it is actually higher).

I know I personally have always been appalled by food waste.  I think that is why I always make soup.  It is a great way to use close to 100% of the food.

Trader's Joe has an interesting food concept (under a different label)- selling expired food.


At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Justin said...

Love this post. Great story.

Kind like starting in the trunk of one's car.


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