Sunday, November 7, 2004

Fired? Could be best thing ever for you

The Daily Grind

John Eckberg

These days Harvey Mackay figures every employed adult in America should be prepared for one excruciating moment of inevitable, irrevocable and absolute workplace dread.

It's probably going to go something like this:

The call comes that the boss needs to see you and is ready for a meeting, one of those ominous closed-door-type sessions.

And within minutes, if not seconds, the boss gets right to the point and announces it's time to talk about where you're going to be working in, oh, about two weeks or maybe even immediately.


Because you've been fired.

"The stats are important," says Mackay, author of We Got Fired...And It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us (Ballantine Books; $23.95) and the 1996 No. 1 New York Times bestseller Swim With the Sharks (Ballantine Books; $14.95).

Who: Harvey Mackay, 72, chairman of Mackay Envelope Co., a company with $100 million in revenue.
CDs in the changer: Lead the Field, a six-pack of CDs by Earl Nightingale, a motivational speaker who is considered the founder of motivational audio recordings.
Books on the nightstand: The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gittomer (Bard Press; $19.95) and Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Ballentine Books; $15.95) by Laura Hillenbrand.
Up close & personal: "I married an angler and in 44 years of marriage, I have yet to catch my first keeper fish. That includes four trips with guides."
"We have a national funeral going on - 4 million jobs lost from 1999-2001 and these are people who held their jobs for at least three years," Mackay said. And it's not a phenomenon reserved for older, seasoned workers. "The average college graduate this year will have 12 to 14 job changes in their career and three to four years from now the average college graduate will have three to four career changes," Mackay said.

Mackay said 90 percent of the people under the age of 30 will lose their job in the next two decades.

But Mackay is not discouraged by those sobering stats because he sees loss of a job as an opportunity for a career and life change. He brings his sunny outlook on this unhappy topic to a discussion sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce at the Schiff Family Conference Center at Xavier University on Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 8 a.m. For more information contact the chamber at 513-579-3111.

Mackay said he was staring at the office ceiling one day about two years ago when he realized that he needed to create a book based on the experiences of famous people he knew who had been fired.

He has time to stare at the office ceiling, too. Mackay's been financially set - as in seven figures annual income - for about two decades and travels extensively to spread the word that getting fired can be a good thing.

His book has interviews with famous people who've been fired, including such names as actor Robert Redford, football coach Lou Holtz, baseball manager Joe Torre and Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples Inc.

Donald Trump, who has never been fired, told Mackay he has never had remorse about firing somebody. "It's not the people you fire who make your life miserable," Trump told Mackay. "It's the people you don't fire who make your life miserable."

Some of the most interesting stories are about Redford, who recalled how he was a roustabout in the mid-1950s at a Standard Oil refinery when he got caught sleeping in an oil tank instead of cleaning it.

Then later, when he drove a forklift for the same company, he drove it in circles or figure eights or loops until he dumped a load of 12 cases of empty bottles. After that stunt, Redford was fired. He soon blew a baseball scholarship - too much draft beer - and three jobs later was a graveyard-shift janitor at the New York City arm of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

That didn't work out so he went to Europe to study art. Redford realized he missed the theater but not the end of the broom and returned to New York to audition for parts like every other struggling actor. Since then, Redford has acted in more than 40 movies, directed six and produced 23.

The lesson of Redford's life?

"You have to be a risk-taker," Mackay said.

And not be afraid to drive a forklift in figure eights.

Queen City Rewind
Job numbers good for accountants
Formica returns to its roots
Look Who's Talking: Tara Krapes
Shop 'til you drop, masculine version
Business notes
Fired? Could be best thing ever for you
Disgraced CEOs go away wealthy
Companies go green, even in 'deconstruction'
Business agenda
Lawsuits threaten Merck's finances, reputation