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#322 Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines)
September 26th, 2023 | E322

What I learned from reading Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg and  Herb’s Heroes by David Sanders. 


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(2:30) Reality is chaotic; planning is ordered and logical. The two don’t square with one another.

(5:30) You undergo a lot of stress all the time. How do you handle it? I don’t handle it. I like it.

(7:30) He smoked 5 packs of cigarettes a day. He drank Wild Turkey Bourbon daily. He said “Wild Turkey and Phillip Morris cigarettes are essential to the maintenance of human life.”

(8:00) He built the most successful airline in history. Southwest was profitable for 47 straight years.

(9:30) All that matters is to survive. The rest is just words. — Charles de Gaulle

(18:00) Kelleher didn’t mince any words: “I told Lamar, you roll right over the son of a bitch and leave our tire tracks on his uniform if you have to.”

(27:30) No carrier knows its niche as well as Southwest.

(28:30) While other carriers have been lured by the temptation to step outside their niche, Southwest has maintained the discipline to stay focused on its fundamental reason for being.

(29:00) Herb on why he was conservative with debt: When there are bad times you aren't threatened by debt payments and debt payments are what put other airlines in and out of bankruptcy forever.

(30:00) Southwest is obsessed with keeping costs low to maximize profitability instead of being concerned with increasing market share.

(30:15) Southwest is willing to forgo revenue generating opportunities in markets that would disproportionately increase its costs.

(35:00) Keller has said on many occasions that a company is never more vulnerable to complacency than when it's at the height of its success. The number one threat is us he would say.

(38:30) When we look back at the last 20 years it is obvious that a number of large companies were so set in their ways that they did not adapt properly and lost out as a result. 20 years from now, we'll look back and we'll see the same pattern. — Bill Gates

(39:00) Herb Kelleher illustrates the speed with which Southwest moves by telling a story about Don Valentine, former VP of marketing.

Valentine had just joined from Dr. Pepper when the marketing group met in January to discuss a new television campaign.

Valentine was ready with his timeline for producing the spots:

-script in March

-script approval in April

-casting in June

-shoot in September

When Valentine finished, Kelleher said, “Don, I hate to tell you, but we’re talking about next Wednesday.”


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