A seasoned corporate executive shares his story to showcase key principles of business success.
Raised in a steel-mill community near Pittsburgh, Gillis (Backgammon for Life’s Challenges, 2011, etc.) got the business bug early. By the age of 9, he was working at the family’s furniture and appliance store, learning much from his dad but also suggesting that he revamp his incentive structure. Starting in grade school and continuing through college, Gillis ran a variety of enterprises, including selling flowers in school colors for sporting events. “Sixteen ventures and gambits; and every single one made money,” Gillis proudly notes before going on to recount his impressive professional career. After earning an MBA from Stanford in 1970, Gillis landed financial and planning positions at a series of banks and technology companies in Seattle, Silicon Valley and other areas. He took early retirement in 1998, at age 52, to run his own venture capital firm. He also moved around quite a bit, tackling a rather dizzying array of challenges and turnaround successes. He tells some fascinating tales here, including his near-miss opportunity to help launch Starbucks, his savvy offloading of aging inventory at a video game company and his dealings with bureaucrats at Bank of America. Gillis effectively uses his stories to underscore what he believes works in business (active listening and planning) and what doesn’t (office politics and micromanaging). Although he occasionally deploys rather lofty language, as in the book’s subtitle, he ultimately provides a road-tested roundup of helpful business and career advice.
A compelling, if at times digressive, business autobiography and strategy guide.