Jeff Prouty

Harnessing the Wisdom of Harnish

by Jeff Prouty

*Article also appears in The 2021 Q4 Prouty Pulse.
We had the chance to spend four hours with Verne Harnish, Author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0) and Scaling Up Compensation, while asking him 15 wide-ranging questions.
Enjoy the excerpts from our very lively conversation!

The most memorable quote from your mom or dad:

“I don’t want to be king; I just want to live like one.” My mom gave me a plaque with this quote when I was 12–13 years old.

The most memorable thought from a fraternity brother (Sigma Phi Epsilon) at Wichita State University:

“You need to get life insurance early.” I took his advice and bought a Northwestern Mutual policy while still in college.

Three messages for the young person just starting college this fall:


  • Find the best professors and take their classes.
  • Much learning is in the campus activities, not the classroom.
  • Form a deep connection with your teachers and get to know them personally.


One business icon you’d like to interview:

Elon Musk, though I’d have to think about “how” to handle the interview; so much has been written already. I’d also love to interview Reed Hastings, CEO and Founder of Netflix.
The most memorable quote/idea from all the business folks you’ve interviewed: Steve Jobs, 1986, at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles:
“Always follow your heart, using your head.”

Your next book is about:

What Business Leaders Can Learn from Nature in Scaling. We’ll share the five principles of scaling and learn from beehives, ant colonies, etc.

A big goal you’d like to achieve in the next ten years:

Be supporting and working with the top 150 scale-ups in the top 150 cities in the world. 20,000+ scale-ups.
I’m also working on a musical called “Jules.” I really believe I’m going into the most creative period of my life.

Do you see yourself as Peter-Drucker-like, working and speaking well into your 90’s:

Peter wrote 39 books total, 2/3 of them were written after age 64. I’d like to do the same thing and become an even more prolific writer.

Jim Cramer (CNBC) once said, “Invest in the horse (the industry) or the jockey (the CEO). The winning “jockeys” you’ve met exhibit what three characteristics:


  1. Pick the right race. They have a keen sense of the market, where the wind is at their back.
  2. The Steve Jobs stare. They have an extreme, laser focus.
  3. Leaders are readers. They are voracious learners. Mark Cuban reads 3 hours a day, Warren Buffett reads 500 pages a day.


The biggest mistake you’ve made in business, and most importantly, the learning:

I pushed too hard, rather than going with the flow. As a wise entrepreneur said to me, “Be guided by the universe.” You’re winning, or you’re learning.

The biggest surprise in your first 40 years of business:

Some would say it’s easier to do “100X” than it is to do “1X,” though I can’t say I’ve fully embraced that. I do, however, recommend T. Boone Picken’s book, The First Billion is the Hardest. All of us should add a few zeros to our thinking!!!

Do you have any role models or folks you’d like to emulate:

I’ve always said, Thomas Edison, “having a lab to create stuff.” I also like Napoleon Hill, who “hung out with successful people and codified that learning.” But my greatest role model was my now-deceased uncle, Wally Hickel. Wally was a Governor of Alaska who thought in new and unique ways. He and his wife are buried vertically in Alaska!!!

The three words on your tombstone would be:

Eight billion served.

Any other wisdom you want to share with our 15,000 readers:

We have all the answers, it’s the question we do not know. Make sure you’re pursuing the right question.
We closed by talking about Verne’s desire to get even deeper sleep each night, to help generate even more creative output. He currently sleeps for six hours a night, with 1–2 hours of “deep sleep.” The keys to a deep sleep:

  • No technology
  • Eat earlier
  • Cut out alcohol

Verne shared that he had a scotch last night in a big client celebration (breaking one of his rules, he knows, but life is about balance and moderation!). Congrats on the big client win, Verne. Catch up on the sleep tonight and keep pushing the edges with your creativity. It was an absolute joy catching up and spending four hours with you. – Jeff 😊


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