Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next


From a Mom

Karyn Schoenbart is CEO of The NPD Group, a global provider of information and advisory services to the world’s leading brands. A working mom, she often gave career advice to her daughter Danielle as she was growing up. By the time Danielle entered the workforce, she joked that she had received a “Mom. B.A” giving her a tremendous competitive advantage. Now years later, Karyn has written MOM.B.A: Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next, based on her “lessons” to Danielle as well as on her thirty years of experience building a successful career. The book, filled with wise advice and numerous personal anecdotes, is noteworthy for Karyn’s candor and her delightful sense of humor. I recently spoke with Karyn about her favorite tips for those just starting out or climbing the corporate ladder.


“Your integrity is your biggest asset.” –Simon Chadwick


Make a Good First Impression

What’s the best way to make a good first impression?

It starts with how you show up.  It’s important to dress appropriately for the occasion.  But that doesn’t mean it is a “one size fits all” rule.  Dress the way that matters to the people who matter. And when in doubt, find out! A few years ago, we were looking for someone to fill an executive position that would report to me. One of the candidates came to the interview in a very low cut dress. She was clearly qualified, but we didn’t know what to make of her choosing that particular dress for the interview. In the end, we all agreed: The candidate’s attire demonstrated a lack of judgment, and we didn’t want someone with poor judgment helping to run our company. We didn’t hire her.

How you speak is also a reflection on you.  Avoid bad vocal habits like the dreaded up-speak (where every sentence ends as though it is a question).

In my experience, people like it when you call them by name – it shows you care.  Make it a practice to remember and use people’s names.  My tip for remembering names is to use it three times when meeting them; when introduced, during the conversation and finally when saying goodbye.  It really works!


How do you build a good relationship with the boss?

Be the person your boss can count on. Step up and go above and beyond.  Every positive interaction that you have is like putting money in the bank. Then if there is a problem, you have something to withdraw. Think of criticism as an investment in you.  Your boss is taking the time to help you be better.

It’s also a good idea to get to know your boss as a whole person.  Find out what matters to him or her and show an interest.  One way to break through is to check in on a Monday or Friday, which creates an opportunity to interact on a more personal level (i.e. do you have any interesting plans for the weekend?).


“Focus on being a good listener, which includes being patient and attentive.” –Diane Bowers


Survive the Bad Boss

What advice do you have for surviving the occasional bad boss?

9 Leadership Lessons from Dad

This post is in honor of Father’s Day. Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 19th.

Wisdom from Dad

How old I was, I don’t know. Probably around four or five years old, give or take, though my father will likely correct the number with his own memory of the same event. It was a typical hot summer day, and my family was enjoying a day at the beach. We were in Ocean City, New Jersey, to be specific. At that time, the beach seemed to stretch on forever, which I now realize was a function of my age more than the actual distance of the sand. We brought food to the beach, which was typical because there was no way my father would pay Boardwalk prices for anything.

As usual, I was in the water. Somehow I lost track of my brother, Jack, who was with me. When I pulled myself out, exhausted, I scanned the crowd, looking for someone I recognized. I started walking, dodging people, umbrellas, walking around towels, sunbathers, and family tents. After what seemed like a few hours, which likely meant twenty minutes, I realized I was completely, utterly lost.

No matter where I looked, I didn’t see a single person I recognized. I was just short of panic. It’s a feeling I can recall to this day. I had never been lost before, uncertain about what to do or where to go.

Then, I spotted my dad. Where I was stressed, he was as calm as could be. My heart rate may have been spiking, but not his. He was scanning the area, his eyes making a mechanical sweep of everything. As soon as I saw him, I felt a flood of relief as if one of the waves washed all of the worry away in an instant.

This is one of the first memories I have of my father, and one that’s fitting to remember on Father’s Day. A few years ago, I wrote about 9 Leadership Lessons from Mom. It was so popular that I was interviewed numerous times about my childhood. Today I want to turn that spotlight onto my dad and share some of that fatherly wisdom. Because that day on the beach, I had a realization: when I was lost, I wasn’t really on my own. Dad was looking for me. And he wouldn’t give up until he found me. Still to this day, when I hear a sermon about God leaving the flock of sheep to look for a single lost lamb (Matthew 18:12), I think of my own dad doing that very thing.


1. Leaders never stop learning.

My dad loves to learn. His degrees range from electrical engineering to operations research (and many others). He went to seminary and then got an MBA. Even now, he is finishing a doctorate in business. My siblings know that our family was able to “Google” something long before the search engine was even formed. We simply found Dad, inputted the question, and out would come the answer. When the internet first started, I would often find he was faster. And, when we took a family trip, we would have to stop and read every plaque and see more historical sites than anyone else I knew.

Leaders have an insatiable curiosity. The more you learn to ask questions, the more you will learn information that may change the future.


“Leaders have insatiable curiosity.” -Skip Prichard


2. Leaders serve others first.

When my wife and I were first married, we moved quite a bit. Guess who helped us move? Painted? Took down or put up wallpaper? How about fixing the leaky sinks? Inspecting the house? You’d think he was a contractor until I add that he did our taxes, analyzed the best mortgages, and told us about the history of the area.

Leaders serve others first. Leaders give freely of their time and talents.


“Leaders give freely of their time and talents.” -Skip Prichard


3. Leaders are thrifty.

That’s another way of saying my dad is uh…cheap. And you’d have to be with only a government salary to raise six kids and numerous others we would take into the family home. The lesson, though, is to look for the value in everything. Don’t overpay. Realize that we need to be good stewards of what we have. Don’t waste anything.

Leaders don’t wish for the impossible; they create results with what they have.


“Leaders create results with what they have, not what they wish they had.” -Skip Prichard


4. Leaders are not defined by a position.

Yes, he had an important job. He dutifully gave his time and talent to his employer. However, my father didn’t lead at work and then fail at home. He spent time with us. He was loyal to his family, and in particular, to my mom. None of us ever questioned his devotion. And that taught me a powerful lesson about leadership: it isn’t defined by a job.

Leadership is defined by character, not position.

Mom and Dad

“Leadership is defined by character, not position.” -Skip Prichard


5. Leaders appreciate the uniqueness of each individual.

My childhood home was a bit unusual. Somehow people found their way to our home when they were in trouble. If you were abused, our home was a place of refuge. We had our share of rather strange people stopping over. I never recall my father judging any of them. They were in need, and so they were welcome. And that was it.

Leaders don’t judge. Leaders appreciate each individual for who they are.


“Leaders appreciate each individual for who they are.” -Skip Prichard


6. Leaders continually raise the bar.

If I came home with a 93% on a paper, I don’t recall a celebration. Instead, I was asked what I got wrong, why, and did I understand what I did wrong. The focus wasn’t on the criticism, but on learning and on striving to be better. My parents required each of us to learn a musical instrument, too, simply because of the benefits we would accrue by doing that.

Leaders raise the bar. Leaders push those around them to reach for more.


“Leaders push those around them to reach for more.” -Skip Prichard


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7. Leaders don’t give up.

Whatever Your Past, You Can Write A New Ending To Your Story

Rewrite Your Story

I remember her sitting on the couch, telling her story. My mom was listening, nodding her head and taking it in. This woman had a tough life and she recounted stories of abuse, of hurt, of neglect. My presence barely registered as she poured out her pain. Only a few, carefully chosen questions, that was all it took from mom. Like a skilled surgeon piercing infected skin, she used a question like a scalpel, surgically timed and designed to alleviate pain.


“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” -Shakespeare


It’s funny how I can recall the room so clearly now: the curtains and wallpaper in the room, the sofas, the layout, the piano nestled in the corner. It’s all etched in my memory. Also etched in my memory is the story. It was different from others, sure, but in so many ways it was the same.

My family took people in; mostly people in trouble; people in need; people with histories, pain, and shame. Though we were not the wealthiest in the world, there was always room for one more at the table. Some came for a single meal while others would stay for years.

As I listened to the particulars of this woman’s story, I felt for her. You couldn’t help but be affected as you heard the details.

I learned some lessons:

  • Pain can be used as a powerful force for good.
  • We don’t have to keep re-reading that chapter.
  • We can turn the page.
  • We can welcome new characters, new narratives, and new opportunities.
  • We can write the ending.
  • We can create a story worth living, one that can inspire others.


“Your life’s best chapters are ahead of you. Turn the page with great expectation.” -Skip Prichard


You say, “Skip, I didn’t have that kind of life. I didn’t have abuse or pain. Life was normal.”

9 Leadership Lessons from Mom


In my very first blog post, I shared the unique way I grew up.  Instead of filling our home with things, my parents filled it with people.

Our childhood home was always open.  There was always room for one more person at the table.  We had countless people live with us of all nationalities, backgrounds, and religions.  Some would stay a night, but most would stay months.  A few stayed for years.  Most of our adopted family members arrived with serious needs and issues from drug addiction to abuse to serious psychiatric needs.

As I reflect on Mother’s Day, celebrated on Sunday May 11, I think about the lessons I learned from my parents.  And, just as my mom prefers to give to others more than receiving gifts, I thought I would share that spirit and pass these lessons on.  Today I honor her with more than flowers by sharing her wisdom.


1. Personal power is more important than positional power.


As I reflect on my childhood, I cannot think of a single time that my mom used her “positional” power as parent.  But she always used her personal power, her persuasion, and her personality to influence.  Anything I learned about how to relate to people started by watching her in action.

Even today, my mom is never interested in titles or your position.  She is interested in you.  What is your story?  What are your talents?  What are you doing for others?


Leadership is not a position. It radiates from within. -Skip Prichard


2. Giving to others will always make you happier than receiving.


Yes, we’ve all heard that it is better to give than to receive.  But why?  Mom taught me that happiness is always rooted in service to others.  I’ve seen people with depression improve dramatically when they serve others.

Mom was always happy, always singing, always sharing.  And that may be because she was always giving—to us, to friends, and to all of the people she met each day.  Our house was always full of people in need, and so the opportunity to give was always present.  She is still the same way today as she was then.


Leaders give of themselves more than they take from others. -Skip Prichard


3.  The spiritual is more important than the temporal.


Some things are temporary, fleeting, lasting but a moment.  Other things are forever.  Make sure you are spending time on what matters in the long run.  One of the very few rules I can remember was this:  If you needed a place to stay, you were welcome to stay as long as you needed.  But, you were required to attend church with the family.  There is something powerful about connecting to forces greater than you.

One of the verses she would share with me was Colossians 3:2: “Set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth.”Mrs. Prichard

Here is one story my wife recalls about my mom:  Someone was staying in the house and she was learning a new skill for a job:  How to cut hair.  As I recall, she was somewhat troubled and my mom was counseling her.  Mom volunteered to let her practice her newly learned skills.  The girl transformed her hair, butchering it on one side.  Instead of anger, my mom graciously turned to her in love.  As she poured love on this girl, she taught us all what really matters.


Leaders realize what is forever and what is fleeting. -Skip Prichard


4.  The heart is greater than things.


If you broke something—even something precious to her—she didn’t care much.  Sweep it up, throw it out, and it was long forgotten.  But, if your heart was broken, she spent as many hours with you as you needed.  She would agonize with you.  If you were broken in spirit, she would encourage and lift you out of a dark place.  She still does.