How to Sustain Success: An Interview with Harvey Mackay

June 12, 2015

sustain success harvey mackay

What does it take to sustain success in business over many years? Recently, AMA sat down with Harvey Mackay, an AMA 2014 Top 30 Leader in Business and a profoundly successful businessman. Harvey Mackay is the author of number one New York Times bestsellers Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, and is the creator of the new Harvey Mackay University. We asked Harvey to discuss how he was able to sustain success for more than 50 years and what lessons business professionals can take from his advice.

AMA: In 1959, you purchased a small, insolvent company and turned it into a successful industry leader in the envelope industry. How have you been able to steer the company to success for over 50 years in an industry that has changed so much since you started?

HM: There is no question that the envelope industry has been tipped upside down in the past 50 years. When I started my envelope manufacturing company 55 years ago, there were approximately 250 competitors. Today there are about 100 companies left. Luckily, I chose to concentrate on the direct mail industry from the beginning, rather than commodity envelopes. Most people don’t know that envelopes still drive a trillion dollars’ worth of commerce. In this frenetic digital age, the envelope still remains and is welcome in 180 million homes.

What separates us from our competitors is the longevity and quality of our people. Our single greatest asset is our ability to hire outstanding people, whether it be the receptionist, shop floor mechanic, or truck driver, all the way up to the president.

Because I came up through the sales rank, I’m particularly attuned to getting the right sales people. Remember, there are no jobs unless someone brings the business through the front door.

AMA: You write a weekly column that is featured in over 100 newspapers and various other outlets to discuss business issues and offer your advice to others. What was some of the best advice you ever received?

HM: My father taught me about the power of networking. I was fortunate. My father headed the Associated Press in St. Paul and was a master networker. He got me started at age 18. He sat me down and gave me the simple yet effective suggestion of putting every person I meet for the rest of my life onto a Rolodex card, now called a contact management system. He told me to put a little information about each person on the back of the card and to update it.

And, now, here is the real key. You must find a creative way to keep in touch. Little did I know how much my father’s advice would dramatically help me in the future and actually change my life.

I just wrote a column about all the valuable lessons my parents taught me. Regarding reputation, my dad said, “You spend your whole lifetime building a good name and reputation, and one foolish act can destroy it.” I took his words to heart, and aside from building long-term relationships, there is nothing more important than a good reputation in building a successful business. All the money in the world can’t buy a good name. Without a positive reputation, success is elusive.

My mother was a school teacher and taught me the power of education. I didn’t always listen eagerly, but it instilled in me a desire of continuous education throughout my life. Education is an investment, not an expense. And if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

AMA: To be an author of seven New York Times bestsellers spanning 27 years, as you are, you have to be in tune with changes in the business world. How can leaders and managers prepare for and thrive throughout changes in their own industries?

HM: You don’t go to school once for a lifetime. You are in school all of your life. You must have your antennae up for all the trends surrounding you and your industry.

Finally, there are three things you must be to survive in this dog-eat-dog, rat-eat-rat, shark-eat-shark world.

  1. Hungry fighter.
  2. Hungry fighter.
  3. Hungry fighter.

If someone has that competitive drive, they are going to survive and flourish.

AMA: The Harvey Mackay University is a new vision that you came up with to provide a real world education to business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs. What inspired you to begin such a unique mission?

HM: It was a natural outpouring from my seven New York Times bestselling books and mentoring. I’m constantly asked for advice. Starting in 2011, I took a couple years out and formed the Harvey Mackay Roundtable. The first year, we had 25 CEOs and entrepreneurs in the group, and we expanded it to 30 people the following year. Each paid $75,000 per year. We met five to six times during the year in different locations and had world-class speakers. I also did monthly teleseminars. Much of this material is now on the Harvey Mackay University website ( The theme for HMU is “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.”

AMA: What will students at the Harvey Mackay University learn, and who will they be learning from?

HM: Harvey Mackay University consists of about 20 speeches from America’s top thought leaders, including Lou Holtz; Ken Blanchard; Larry King; John Maxwell on leadership; Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine on strategic priorities; Ken Dychtwald on generational marketing and selling; John Gray on the differences in marketing to men and women; David Horsager on trust; and on and on. The 100 hours of learning curriculum also includes my speech to corporate America.

In addition, there are 10 90-minute teleseminars on such topics as networking, negotiations, creativity, hiring and firing, leadership, customer service, teamwork, time management, motivation, and more. These 90-minute sessions include interviews with experts in their fields. HMU also contains all seven of my books in a PDF downloadable format. Also, all video and audio presentations have been transcribed to mark up, personalize, and use in meetings and business presentations.

New material is constantly being added. I was just in a studio and shot some additional videos, which will be going up on the HMU site. There is a 100% money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied.

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