December 11, 2017
News & Opinion: Tom Peters, The 2017 Jack Covert Award for Contribution to the Business Book Industry Winner
We are thrilled to announce that The 2017 Jack Covert Award for Contribution to the Business Book Industry will be awarded to Tom Peters.
It was inevitable that an award for one’s contribution to the business book industry would eventually come back to Peters. His seminal book, In Search of Excellence—written with Bob Waterman—is not only seen by many as the best business book of all time, it is considered the genesis of the genre. The business book industry as we know it would not exist without it, and neither would our company. Our founder, Jack Covert, says of Peters:
When you look at authors who established ‘business books’ as a significant genre within publishing, Tom Peters is the stand out. Tom’s first book took business books from the dusty part of the bookstore to the window. It showed the industry that a well written, intelligent business book can sell, and it’s never stopped selling. Tom’s contribution to the genre has lasted well over three decades.
Jack was hired by our current owner and CEO Rebecca Schwartz’s father in 1984 to run the business and computer book section of the family bookshop, just two years after the release of In Search of Excellence. His first eureka moment in bookselling came when he saw a businessperson come in during their lunch hour and buy all six copies of Tom's book off the shelf. It was then that he realized business books could be sold in bulk, a spark that would eventually move the company out of the bookshop and turn it into what it is today. So, our company owes a lot to Tom Peters. Our entire industry does.
But it goes deeper than that for Jack himself. Working in the burgeoning business book industry, which Peters helped shape even after the release of Search by barnstorming around the country spreading the good news, Jack eventually got to know Peters well.
The book signing table at a Tom Peters event hosted by Schwartz Bookshops in the '90s. (Peters seated. Our current owner and CEO's father David Schwartz is over his left shoulder. Jack Covert is the tall, white-haired gentleman. And Roy Normington, still with the company in customer service, moving books about the world, is on the far left.)
The two first met at the book industry’s biggest trade show, BEA, in the late ’80s. Jack described the scene to us recently:
We sat down on the floor, with our backs to the wall, and talked about business books … and how to market business books, and we spent an hour-and-a-half talking. And it was just this real, immediate connection—and it lasted.
They had both served in the military, and Peters had been in government before entering McKinsey, where he would write In Search of Excellence, and Jack appreciated that background and breadth of experience, telling me how, “He did not come, just like I did not come, from this industry.”
Perhaps that is why Tom once described In Search of Excellence as “an afterthought, the runt of the McKinsey consulting litter, a hip-pocket project that was never supposed to amount to much.” That afterthought ended up fundamentally altering the way the world approached business management.
Before Search, business literature was the domain of scholars and academics, and it was heavy on bureaucracy and bean counting. Management was meant to be scientific, everything reduced to numbers and finance. Peters and Bob Waterman insisted that business management was more about people, customers, and relationships. It focused on the humanity of the organization, a shift that would prove to be revolutionary. With the rise of the digital age and Big Data, this message is as important as ever.
Peters’ influence goes beyond that first book, or the many that would follow. He is the most recognized and renowned management consultant of all time, and has shaped management thinking more than any other person before or since. Yes, neither Jack nor Tom came from the industry, in part because it didn’t exist until they helped build it.
And Tom isn’t finished. His new book, The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last, is coming in April, and continues his gospel that excellence is rooted in a focus on and concern for people, and that we must put people first. That message may be his most lasting contribution.
We're so pleased to be able to put Tom himself first, and look forward to seeing Jack hand him his award in person at our annual awards party and industry celebration in January.
For more from Tom Peters, you can get started on these ChangeThis manifestos he has written over the years:
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.