My Weekend at Bernie’s

February 13, 2019 by

Frank Blake

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BERNIE MARCUS is one of the founders of The Home Depot. He’s also one of the most generous philanthropists in the country. We featured him on Crazy Good Turns during Season 2 — one of my favorite episodes. I think it captures some of the spark that makes him unique as an entrepreneur and person.

This past weekend, my wife and I had the privilege of staying at Bernie and Billi Marcus’s house in Florida. I could make many comments about their gracious hospitality and the wide-ranging conversations we had.

But I am going to keep this note to one important story.

 

Twelve years ago, when I became CEO of Home Depot, no one in the company knew who I was. To the extent that anyone knew anything about me, they knew:

  • I had little retail experience
  • I had worked at General Electric for over a decade, and…
  • I was a lawyer

This was not a set of qualifications to inspire confidence. My predecessor was also from GE and had little retail experience. That had not gone well.

It is fair to say that my selection as CEO did not generate a lot of enthusiasm.

 

The first call I made as CEO was to Bernie, who at that point had no formal connection with the company. Over the next eight years, he gave me invaluable advice across a range of issues.

The first thing Bernie did for me was singularly important.

I asked him to come to our annual store managers’ meeting. It’s a gathering of thousands, which is part inspirational meeting, part business event.

He could very easily have declined. But he didn’t.

Bernie came, and his appearance at the meeting was viewed as a vote of confidence. Comments from store managers after the meeting all expressed the same theme: We don’t know this guy, but if Bernie is out on the stage with him, he must be OK.

That stamp of approval made an enormous difference to me.

 

Crazy Good Turns take many forms. We can give our time, our resources, or our passion and commitment. Sometimes what we give is our approval.

Our individual reputations are our biggest assets. We leverage them when we grant our approval and trust in others. Bernie did that for me.

This weekend was a reminder of how important and meaningful that can be.

Has someone ever done a Crazy Good Turn for you at work? If so, tell me about it at hello@crazygoodturns.org.

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