'Keep in touch with reality'

The Ticker

October 15, 1990|By Julius Westheimer

When I asked Joseph W. Cowan, CEO, Key Way Transport Co., South Oldham Street, to share his business success principles, he replied: "The most important thing is to remember where you started. Too many people grow from $2 million to $25 million businesses and forget little details and day-to-day nuances of their companies. The CEO cannot lose touch with reality, ever.

"The trucking business is the most competitive in the U.S., and therefore we must have daily -- remember, I said daily -- reporting systems. Weekly and bi-monthly reporting systems of volume, expenses, profit, etc., are no good these days; you must know your figures every day. Also, in another area, a CEO must have people loyal to him or her, not to themselves. They're hard to find but you look until you find them."

Cowan told me that his father, William T. Cowan, who started the trucking business in 1924, wore coveralls while he drove his truck to deliver ice cream from Baltimore to Washington. "When he got there," Cowan recalls, "my father pulled off his coveralls and met restaurant owners, ice cream distributors, etc., in his business suit which he wore underneath. He was a great marketer."


In Detroit, near a huge automobile plant, I saw a Cadillac dealership closing up, being quickly replaced by a Mercedes showroom . . . In Pikesville, weekend conversation at the Back Fin bar rotated between local layoffs, tax hike possibilities ("The little guy always gets hurt.") and the shooting at Fox Chevrolet; not once in 2 1/2 months have I heard a word there about the Iraq crisis . . . A prosperous suburban tax lawyer deposits coins in parking meters when he attends downtown meetings, leaving the gatherings every 45 minutes to feed his meter . . . A Towson accounting firm owner stopped his secretary from ordering a new ball-point pen, repairing her worn-out pen himself. (He's an engineer) . . . After misdialing a local number, a Catonsville ad salesman was reprimanded by the agency owner for not having the operator cancel the charge before the ad man re-dialed. . . . A free-lance radio "voice-over" announcer told me that this fall more and more retailers are using last year's recordings to save talent fee charges. . . . Hint: Make three copies of a list of your credit-card numbers and toll-free numbers to use if they're lost; carry one when you travel, leave one at home, one in your office.


Are you flying for business or pleasure as cheaply as you can? The Airline Passenger's Guerrilla Handbook ($14.95) by George Albert Brown advises, in brief: "Choose a discount airline (America West, Continental, Midway, etc.); fly a competitive route (fares on routes traveled by several airlines are cheaper than on routes controlled by only one); fly during off-hours (weekends are the cheapest times); get bumped (the ultimate discount; you're usually given a free flight); use package deals (flat-cost passes where you get unlimited flights for a set time period, discount coupons, etc.); use tickets from last-minute travel clubs; for details, phone (800) 638-8976 or (305) 534-2082.)


"Improve your meetings," says Sales & Marketing Management, adding, "Avoid them in early mornings or late afternoons; maximum time: 90 minutes." . . . "A fair price for oil is whatever you can get, plus 10 percent." (Ali Ahmed Attiga, OPEC, 1974) . . . "November is the last month to get a flu shot." (Healthy Decisions, Bel Air)

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