Almost 20 years after the publication of In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters is probably still the world's top management guru. He talks to Godfrey Golzen about his latest ideas
Waiting for star speaker Tom Peters to arrive at a recent US seminar for senior airline executives, the chairman talked about Peters' achievements. His impressive academic qualifications - doctorates from two of America's top universities, first in engineering, then in business administration - his service record as a young naval officer in Vietnam, his subsequent attachments to the Pentagon and his later career as a McKinsey consultant.
It was the latter that eventually led to the book In Search Of Excellence, co-authored with Bob Waterman, which made them both famous. The rest, as they say, is history, but the chairman went on and on, with accounts of Peters' subsequent life and work. As the minutes ticked by the delegates became restive because the man they had come to hear was not there - until he emerged from the shadows, 15 minutes late. "Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "in your industry this would count as being on time."
His flair for making his point dramatically and with a certain amount of humour explains why, almost 20 years after the publication of In Search of Excellence, Peters remains arguably the most famous and probably the most highly paid management guru. And in a business world that technology has changed almost beyond recognition. But isn't he getting a bit tired after clocking up 1,700 seminars and 4.5 million air miles since 1982, not to mention the books, the syndicated newspaper columns, the small businesses he runs out of his base in Palo Alto, his farm in Vermont and his insatiable reading? True, he's aged a bit and is going through one of his overweight phases, the inevitable consequence of too many lunches with business leaders and too many hotel meals eaten too late at night. It's not that he's a big food man, although he does admit to an interest in cooking. It's just that he's so wrapped up in his work as a lecturer, so generous in the way he is prepared to talk and listen to members of his audience even when his day is officially over, that he stays late and eats at times which are bad for the digestion. His