Category Archives: Detroit

When working hard and being ‘liked’ isn’t enough

I was laid off four times in my career. It was the threat of a fifth firing that made me take ownership of my career once and for all. Which, in turn, led me to start a business.

Many of you can relate to the pain and promise that comes with leaving a job. In my book “The Power of Ownership,” I recount how each time I was let go from a job, I went on to work for someone bigger and better. Someone new to pay me and take care of me.  I thought that if I had a job, did okay, and was liked, that “they” would keep giving me more responsibility and money, enough to retire.

So, that’s how it was for years. With every new job, I worked harder to exceed expectations of my clients and those around me. I kept challenging myself to be better, to be the best, at what I did. My responsibilities grew and I busted my butt to always do better than was expected.

Still, I worked for someone else. They made the decisions about my future, not me. In 1996, I was  the executive vice president at Shandwick-Detroit, formerly Casey Communications. You’d think as some high-ranking VP, my seniority would protect me, like tenure does for a professor. It didn’t. It never does. Like every place before, I was this hard working dude, very successful at my job and I knew I was invaluable to the company. Sure enough, I was not in my employer’s future plans. I decided not to be let go. Not this time, and certainly not a fifth time.

Careful, considerate planning and some well-placed phone calls came into play, as I recount in chapter eleven of the book. I resigned from Shandwick-Detroit, hung out my own shingle, and called it John Bailey & Associates Public Relations. Now my ownership was complete. I owned my career and a business.  Within two years, my new company was larger than the one that was not going to promote me. (Shandwick-Detroit was shut down in 2000. It wasn’t so much vindication as it was validation that I absolutely made the right decision.)

You can see the details of this career-path in my book, The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business (paperback or Kindle). You can learn the things I learned that will help you avoid other people making decisions about your future. Even if people like you and you work hard, you may face being let go or other job circumstances out of your control. Don’t let that happen. Take control of the situation, and ownership of your career and yourself.

The Stroh Detroit Plant Closing

The following is a portion of Chapter 6, “My Stroh Years,” from my book. Stroh remains an iconic name in Detroit, and I had the good fortune to counsel the brand during its growth years. I highlight this particular selection as I feel it is important that, as a public relations professional, you must stand by your client and the community it serves through thick and thin. For many of you, this will be a revealing look into a lively tale of Detroit’s economic legacy, as well as the “why” and “how” of communicating news on behalf of a company in a responsible manner.

In 1985 the company closed its iconic Stroh brewing facility located in downtown Detroit near Interstate I-75 and Gratiot Avenue. This was a huge blow to the local economy and image of the Detroit community. The old brewing facility built in 1912 with some of the earliest buildings on the site dating to the 1860s was the most expensive brewing facility to operate in the country and was land-locked and could not expand. Our challenges at AMF, Inc. were:

  • To deliver the message that Stroh was not leaving Detroit or Michigan and would remain a major player and employer in Detroit for years to come, even though the plant was closing. The plant had been there since 1912 but the first cellars were located on the site in the early 1850s though the first Stroh brewery, then named Lion, was not completed until 1867 on the site. The brewery had been expanded many times over the years. But the facility had become the least efficient brewing plant of all brewing companies in the country. And the Stroh acquisitions had given them several newer and more efficient brewing facilities and lower production costs.
  • To minimize negative responses from business and government leaders and if possible, have these leaders say something positive about Stroh.
  • To communicate that The Stroh Brewery Company would do everything in its power to help workers find new career paths, if not another job.

In one planning meeting regarding the details of the plant closing, about twenty of us were sitting in the huge boardroom at Stroh with company officers, lawyers, investment counselors, and other senior consultants. I was the least important person in the room—I know I made the least money. They were talking about closing the plant on February 14, 1985. I got up my nerve to say… you can’t close it that day. They all looked at me like I was from outer space. What could this lowly public relations idiot be thinking… we are in charge… I could read this on their faces.

Why? They demanded.

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Light summer reading: “The Power of Ownership” by John J. Bailey available on Amazon; reviews, press and more

A reader poolside with 'The Power of Ownership' available on Amazon, now shipping

A reader poolside with a new copy of ‘The Power of Ownership’ available on Amazon, now shipping

Warm weather is here, and so is my book! At last, “The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business” is available* on Amazon for $14.95 $13.09. See, this saves you the trip to the bookstore! Buy online from poolside or anywhere on the planet. While honest and good business is hard work, purchasing my book is very easy!

And yes, I will be signing books in the coming weeks, first with the Troy (Michigan) Chamber of Commerce on June 25, then after my Corp! Magazine “Economic Bright Spots” symposium keynote in Metro Detroit on June 27, and later at the Detroit chapter of the Public Relations Society of America on July 16. I will be sure to keep you posted of appearances in other cities and markets. It would be an honor to autograph your personal copy!

Things are busy here, as I humbly continue to honor interview requests and work hard to keep people informed. I will appear on “The BIG Show” in Grand Rapids, Mich. with Michael Patrick Shiels on June 19. I’ll soon recap my interview with Tom O’Connell of Business Wire, and will link to other press coverage as it becomes available.

Also, the reviews for “The Power of Ownership” are coming in! I am thrilled that Joseph Serwach, a respected public relations expert, has offered his opinion of my book in the popular book recommendation network Goodreads. And reporter Rick Haglund, freelance journalist and former business writer at Booth Newspapers (now the MLive Media Group) offers his own kind words:

“I thought the section on how you started, grew and sold your business was great. You explained the challenges well and gave a lot of inside detail on the operation of your business. Your views on ethics and on trading off some profitability for employee well being were fascinating. I think this will be valuable reading for anyone who is thinking of starting a business or who is currently running one.”

Lastly, I can’t thank enough all of you that have purchased or intend to buy my book, as well as my 600-plus (and growing!) Facebook fans, blog subscribers and Twitter followers. You truly inspire and amaze me, and I am glad to see that so many of you are ready to take your career and business to the next level.

Happy reading!

* Currently available in paperback. Hardcover and Kindle availability arriving this summer.

Who should read ‘The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business’?

Book publishers offer the same fundamental advice given by the entire public relations industry, which is to know your target audience.

The publishers smartly say, “This way you can market the product much more efficiently.”  As The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business spans my 56-year career, it targets multiple audiences:

  1. people stuck in a career or job and contemplating a move;
  2. anyone who aspires to start a business;
  3. those who want to see how someone else did these things to measure their own progress.

These are the primary “targets,” but there are others who will find the book equally interesting from a historical point of view.

The book follows my career from inception through to my “retirement” in 2012, including:

  • working with three iconic and pioneering public relations agency founders—Beverly Beltaire, Tony Franco and Jack Casey;
  • helping to grow Stroh’s from a small regional brand in 1975 to third largest beer company in the United States in 1985;
  • educating the American public through a nationwide PR campaign to increase safety belt usage from about 10 percent in 1984 to more than 70 percent in 1992;
  • establishing my own company, John Bailey & Associates (JB&A), in 1996;
  • among many client/agency successes, developing and executing a PR campaign to eliminate smoking in most public places throughout Michigan.

I was told at age 57 that I was too old to start a company, but did so anyhow. With the help of many great clients and associates, I grew my company into one of the most respected and largest PR firms in Michigan. This entrepreneurial success lead to me and JB&A being recognized by then-President George W. Bush in a televised 2005 speech.

There are many teachable moments and even humorous anecdotes that happened along the way. But those target audiences mentioned above can judge all that for themselves, and I trust they—readers like you!—will.

The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business’ will be available on Amazon in early June 2013. A growing community of book supporters can be found on Facebook.

“TGIF!” Book notes from John J. Bailey

Friday is here, the weekend is near, and spring has sprung. What a great day! As you push yourselves to make this Friday the best yet of the work week, I wanted to take this opportunity to “THANK YOU!” for all of your kind words and support.

The book launch is a few shorts weeks away, and already I have received numerous comments and compliments from former clients and colleagues, friends and new followers. It feels wonderful to know that many of you want to know more about the book. With that in mind, here are answers to some of your recent questions:

  1. When will the book be out, and where can I buy it?
    “The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business” is scheduled to go on sale on Amazon.com on (or shortly after) June 1. I will post, blog and tweet the Amazon link, believe you me!
  2. Will the book be available for Kindle or in some other digital format?
    According to the publisher, a Kindle edition should be available on or around June 1, the same date the hardcopy launches. I will keep you posted as I learn more about this.
  3. So, Mr. PR Guy, how else are you promoting your book?
    I already was fortunate enough to speak with Leadership Oakland last month. In the coming days, I will appear in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press, and also can be heard this Monday morning at 7:20 a.m. on Paul W. Smith‘s show on WJR/760-AM in Detroit. The continued media interest in the book is quite humbling! And, I will post links to audio and video whenever I can.
  4. Are you on social media?
    In addition to this blog, “The Power of Ownership” has its own Facebook page. You can find me on Twitter as @JohnJBailey. More to come, and thanks for sharing, liking, retweeting, etc.!
  5. How much is the book?
    The book will go on sale for $14.95 on Amazon. On or after June 1, as previously mentioned.

That’s all for now. Thank Goodness It’s Friday, and enjoy your weekends!