Almost twenty years ago now we were consulting with organizations on employee engagement and recognition. Chester had the idea to take what we were learning with these great companies and turn it into a book. After all, no one had written the bible of recognition and engagement. With no idea what we were doing, we cold-called a local publisher who mostly specialized in cookbooks and do-it-yourself titles. Their claim to fame was publishing a furniture book co-authored by the actor Brad Pitt. Apparently he likes furniture. It’s a thing. You can Google it.
The publisher agreed to meet and together we wrote out a contract on a picnic table outside the converted barn they used as an office. We didn’t have a title, and it took 14 rewrites to finally get Managing with Carrots written, but when it came out in 1999 it actually did quite well—selling 40,000 copies its first year. Apparently that’s a lot for a business book, as the vast majority never recoup their printing costs. Some 60,000 books are published in the U.S. every year, only about 10% of those make it to a bookstore, and most of those are gone in six weeks. So we felt pretty good about our little accomplishment and the staying power of the Carrot. We thought we were done. After all, we’d made it. We were authors.
The publisher had other ideas. He convinced us to put pen to paper again (actually fingers to a keyboard). This time we wrote a parable, The 24 Carrot Manager. You can probably imagine how excited some members of the company brass were at our 80-year-old company when we announced we were penning a sci-fi business parable set in an army barracks on a distant planet. Golly, how many copies can we pre-order? But despite the odd premise, the book sold well and, after they read it, our company leaders definitely supported it. In the U.S. more than 150,000 copies were sold, but what was most interesting was to see what happened around the world. The 24 Carrot Manager was published in more than a dozen other languages, and pretty soon we found ourselves on speaking tours around the world. We actually became quite popular in China, where cheering fans greeted each appearance. People actually rushed the stage after our speeches. We felt like rock stars. And so it was that in Harbin, China, a reporter from the New York Times was in the audience for one of these speeches. He was as dumbfounded at the reaction as we were, and he wrote a story about these no-name authors from America who had become popular on the far side of the world.
Here’s a link to the article.
The story appeared on the front page of the Times business section, and the next day we got a call out of the blue from Fred Hills, a legendary editor at Simon & Schuster, who had just help launch another young upstart named Marcus Buckingham. In short, Fred said, he could help us get us the kind of distribution and interest in our books in the U.S. that we were seeing in China. He had us at hello.
Our first book with Simon & Schuster was The Carrot Principle, which has now sold more than half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 20 languages. Fred was brilliant editor, and when he retired half-way through our project we were horrified, but we didn’t miss a beat. He was replaced by an equally talented editor, Emily Loose, who we have now worked with for a decade. She pushes us like no one else.
At the end of 2010 the urge to create was too great so we formed our own consulting and training company, The Culture Works. We have since published two more books All In and What Motivates Me, have presented on every continent except Antarctica, and have worked on employee engagement, culture and leadership strategies with some of the world’s most respected companies.
We love what we do: We get to make a difference in the organizations we work with by developing winning cultures, engaging employees, and developing great leaders.