Friday interview with award-winning author Rod McQueen
As you may have noticed, there is a bit of unspoken subtext to much of the blogosphere. This corner included.
With today’s post, the secret is out: some of us are actually the offspring of real, live, professional writers. A claim to fame that is inconsistent with quick blogging. There’s always a better word to use, and certainly a reason to triple check a post before publishing. Doesn’t make this chore any easier. Such is the burden, but a delightful and luxurious one to carry. Even Canadian Business Magazine has put one and one together, although no one in the professional media corps can blame this week’s interview subject for any of the failings of this space.
Last week, my father, nine time (or is it 10) consecutive best-selling author Rod McQueen, received an honourary degree from our alma mater, The University of Western Ontario. Not many Western grads have had several books at or near the top of the best seller list; then there’s the National Business Book of the Year award and another one was chosen for the Canadian Authors Award in History. UWO didn’t have a touch choice to make.
So, who better to be the subject of this week’s interview than Dr. Rod McQueen? His career and contributions are highlighted by UWO here (along with an MP3 of his convocation address), and you’ll allow me to be a bit chuffed by his recognition.
So, here goes, the dangerous idea of interviewing someone who has, himself, interviewed almost every single King, Queen, Prince and Princess of Corporate Canada over the past three decades.
Question #1. Before we talk about your new books, tell us about the event last week at The University of Western Ontario. What was it like to be anointed with an honourary degree the same week as a former Prime Minister and business leaders such as philanthropist D.K. Johnson?
The event was like an out-of-body experience. As I listened to the citation, I thought, yes, I wrote that book, won that award, remember that comment, but is it really me they’re talking about? Apparently it was.
Question #2. In your convocation address you gave the new grads some insights into the 10 Secrets of Life. Share a few with our readers that would be relevant to entrepreneurs, for example.
Learn from your failures; success teaches nothing. Trust your instincts. Do what you enjoy and enjoy what you do. If you can dream it, you can do it. Courage is the thing; all goes if courage goes.
Question #3. Your most recent book, Fantasy in Florence, is a departure from your 25 years of business writing. How important do you think it is for business leaders to, in essence, do what you did and take a break from the daily grind of their lives for an extended period of time?
The book about the nine months my wife Sandy and I spent in Florence is part travel, part personal journal, and part stories about the many artisans we met. But it’s mostly about taking a risk and stepping outside your ordinary life. It’s essential for business leaders to give themselves a similar jolt every few years: sail around the world, bike across North America, start a new company. Pretend you’re on the “now or never” plan. Because you are.
Question #4. Your next book is on Research In Motion. Hard to believe that no one has done a Blackberry book yet. Can you give us any hints? Have you had access to Jim and Mike?
This a wonderful story of vision, persistence, execution and a little serendipity along the way. When RIM went public ten years ago they had 200 employees. Now, they have more than 6,000, with two-thirds of them in Canada. Yes, I have full access to all of the senior executives and, with any luck, the book will be published next year.
Question #5. In your RIM research, have you come across any stories about institutional barriers to starting and growing tech firms, for example?
RIM is a textbook case of successful financing and solid growth. Frugal beginnings were followed by targeted use of government research funding as well as equity from companies that bought RIM’s products. Next came special warrants marketed to key institutional investors, followed by an IPO on the TSE and finally a NASDAQ listing. My general experience with entrepreneurs is that they are their own worst enemies when it comes to financing. They can’t tell their stories very well, they don’t pay attention to investors’ needs, they get greedy about retaining too much of the company and they refuse to share duties by bringing in other executives who have complementary skills.
Question #6. The Dead Tree Media have crossed over to the dark side and started to blog. Does that dilute their authority, or are they co-opting the blogosphere by doing so?
Sadly, dilution is the result. Do you save a good story for tomorrow’s paper and conduct additional research to make it better? Or do you toss a half-baked one-sourced thumbsucker onto your blog? They choose the latter even though the editor knows exactly how few readers click on The Old Trout’s trifles. This purported competitive pressure has caused no improvement in content. My biggest problem is that I can’t find anything to read in the Canadian papers other than mediocre mangles of themes lifted holus-bolus from the Sunday New York Times. The best English-language paper by far is the Weekend Financial Times. The best magazine is the Economist. I can find more to read in the Weekly Guardian than I can read here in a week. The English invented the language and they’re still the best at using it.
Question #7. What’s on your iPod?
The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, ABBA, Guess Who, Queen, Sheryl Crow, Dwight Yoakam, Dixie Chicks.
Thanks, Dad. And thanks to our readers for putting up with a little inside baseball.