Shaw left comedy for a “regular” job when he and his wife became parents. He joined Pilot in 1975, when sales totaled $2 million. Under his , sales have increased steadily to $200 million this year.
WS: You write that you never disregard physical appearance in hiring. Is that a reliable way to hire top people?
Shaw: I’m not talking about whether someone’s handsome or svelte. I want to hire and promote people who take pride in how they look. Listen, I’m not exceptionally thin. I’ve got a paunch. But I do what I can to look neat and pressed and clean. You have to have a look of success about you to get ahead.
WS: A look of success?
Shaw: Take men. Send a guy to Marshall’s, have him buy the least expensive suit and take it to a tailor so that it fits. That’s all I ask. I see candidates walk in with suit jackets coming down to their knuckles, slacks with lots of material bunched up around their ankles, shirt collars that are too tight. They don’t even know how to tie a tie!
WS: But don’t you worry you’ll overlook someone brilliant who happens to be poorly groomed?
Shaw: No. A guy who reported to me once said, “When Ron Shaw walks into my department, everyone’s posture improves.” I want a company filled with people like that.
WS: Given your …
Shaw: One more thing. Why is it that men think it’s effeminate to have manicured nails? Salespeople walk into my office who look like they were just in their garden. Guys say, “I’m macho. My wife gets manicures. Not me.” That’s crazy!
WS: Given your background as a performer, would you promote a shy person into the executive ranks?
Shaw: I wouldn’t wrap my arms around someone like that. I want to surround myself with people who don’t have stage fright when they talk with the head buyer from Staples.
WS: What else do you look for?
Shaw: I look for aggressiveness. I had a woman who worked here 15 years. She’d come to me with an idea. I’d give her a reason or two why it wouldn’t fly. She’d say OK and walk out. Because of that, I couldn’t promote her any higher. Her replacement fights me. She has the guts and moxie to convince me she’s right.
WS: Can you give an example?
Shaw: She might tell me her idea for a pen promotion, which I don’t like. She’ll say, “Yes, but if we do it this way, we can take over that whole market sector.” She’ll use good logic and common sense, always with grace and style. She’s not afraid to disagree with me. You must stand up for what’s right or you’ll be rank-and-file your whole life.
WS: What advice would you give someone who wants to climb out of middle ?
Shaw: No risk, no gain. Speak up. A CEO like me isn’t going to fire you for proposing an idea, even if it’s wrong. And learn how to speak in front of people. Don’t be boring.
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