“You get what you celebrate.”
– Frank Blake
Frank Blake (@frankblake) served as chairman and CEO of The Home Depot from January 2007 to May 2014, and then as chairman through January of 2015. He previously served as deputy secretary for the US Department of Energy. Prior to that, he served in a wide variety of executive roles at General Electric.
Frank’s public sector experience includes having served as general counsel for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), deputy counsel to Vice President George H.W. Bush, and law clerk to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Frank serves on the board of directors for the Georgia Aquarium, Proctor & Gamble, Macy’s, and is currently serving as board chairman of Delta and Grady Memorial Hospital. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a jurisprudence degree from Columbia University School of Law.
Frank also produces a short-form podcast called Crazy Good Turns, which tells inspiring stories about amazing people who do things for others. In this wide-ranging conversation, we discuss a book that inspired both of us, advice from Jack Welch, the art of customer service, “productive conflict,” and much, much more. Enjoy!
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Want to hear another episode with a fascinating leader? Listen to my conversation with Ray Dalio. We discuss how Ray thinks about investment decisions, the three books he would give to every graduating high school or college senior, how he might assess cryptocurrency, and much, much more (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Connect with Frank Blake:
- Crazy Good Turns
- The Home Depot
- Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank
- General Electric
- How Home Depot CEO Frank Blake Kept His Legacy from Being Hacked by Jennifer Reingold, Fortune
- The Home Depot’s Inverted Pyramid
- Meaningful Growth vs. Metric Manipulation by Des Traynor, Intercom
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A)
- Habitat for Humanity
- Call Home Depot CEO Frank Blake by Ben Popken, Consumerist
- Home Depot CEO Blake Says Breach Investigation Continuing by Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
- Crazy Good Turns Podcast by Former Home Depot Execs Highlight Stories of Worthy Non-profits by Kyle O’Brien
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
- Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts by Clive James
- A la Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust
- 300 Arguments: Essays by Sarah Manguso
- My Reading Year, 2017 by Austin Kleon
- Samuel Hubbard Shoes
- Oxford History of the United States
- Inside the Tunnels Las Vegas’s Homeless Population Calls Home by Harmon Leon, Vice
- Crazy Good Turns S.1 Ep.1: Team Rubicon
- Crazy Good Turns S.1 Ep.4: Tunnel to Towers
- Frank and I discuss a book that’s near and dear to both of us. [05:11]
- Frank talks about growing up in New England and recently celebrating his sharp-as-a-tack mother’s 100th birthday. [10:20]
- While growing up, what did Frank aspire to become? [11:55]
- What led to Frank’s early fascination with politics? [12:33]
- How does Frank explain his eclectic career’s rare blend of politics, law, and entrepreneurship? [13:18]
- Frank walks us through the decision process to leave his DC law practice and join General Electric. [16:19]
- Frank talks about getting CEO advice from GE’s Jack Welch, and why he would “never take a phone call from him sitting down.” [18:49]
- Advice Frank got from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus about the perils of corporate echo chambers. [25:06]
- How did Frank disrupt The Home Depot’s echo chamber and encourage productive conflict? [25:57]
- What did Frank learn about the importance of celebration as a CEO that he missed as a lawyer? [28:05]
- A relationship-building technique Frank picked up from working for George H.W. Bush. [31:27]
- How does someone in charge of 350,000 associates pick who gets rewarded for their good deeds? [33:27]
- What makes a customer service story noteworthy? [35:20]
- When he took the reins at The Home Depot, what metrics did Frank focus on? [37:37]
- How — and why — was Frank asked to be CEO at The Home Depot when it wasn’t really a job he felt cut out for at the time? [39:23]
- Why did Frank recommend selling the business? [40:41]
- How did Frank’s legal training help with (or hurt) what came later? [44:02]
- How was The Home Depot’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) measured? [47:29]
- What has Frank found to be the best way to deal with business worries? [48:54]
- Now that he’s about as retired as he’ll ever be, how does Frank cope with anxiety these days? [54:03]
- How and why might someone unsure of a higher power decide to pray? [58:10]
- What happened when Frank posted his phone number online and invited Home Depot customers to contact him. [1:02:08]
- Lessons learned from Bernie Marcus. [1:04:01]
- What changes did Frank make to The Home Depot that made hourly employees more invested in the company’s success? [1:05:30]
- Frank talks about dealing with The Home Depot’s 2014 data breach. [1:07:51]
- An embarrassing but important failure. [1:13:27]
- Are there different species of worrying? How can it be constructive? [1:17:21]
- Does Frank find value in practicing anxiety transfer? [1:19:13]
- What advice did Frank give his successor at The Home Depot? What advice might he offer to someone in similar circumstances? [1:21:25]
- How did Frank develop the skill of simple and portable messaging? [1:22:49]
- Frank’s “favorite story.” [1:23:32]
- What projects keep Frank occupied these days? [1:26:12]
- How is Frank working to become more genuinely helpful and generous? [1:28:32]
- Books Frank would recommend to a budding entrepreneur. [1:31:27]
- Books gifted most often. [1:33:27]
- Books Frank has recently read. [1:37:18]
- How does Frank choose the books he reads? [1:38:32]
- A recent, relatively inexpensive purchase that has had the most positive impact on Frank’s life. [1:39:33]
- What class would Frank teach, and what would the course description look like? [1:42:22]
- What figures from American history would Frank most like to meet? [1:43:44]
- What would Frank’s billboard say? [1:44:57]
- What episodes of Crazy Good Turns would Frank recommend as an ideal starting point? [1:45:58]
- What prompted the creation of Crazy Good Turns? [1:47:29]
- An ask of the audience and parting thoughts. [1:48:53]
- Jack Welch
- Bernie Marcus
- Arthur Blank
- Ken Langone
- Frank Blake, Jr.
- George H.W. Bush
- Andrew Grove
- Darwin Smith
- Colin Powell
- Craig Menear
- Elizabeth Blake
- Matt Carey
- A.J. Jacobs
- Brad Shaw
- Jim Collins
- Clive James
- Marcel Proust
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Robert Rodriguez
- Sarah Manguso
- Austin Kleon
- Harry S. Truman
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Peter Drucker
Posted on: March 15, 2018.
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