Monday, January 30, 2006


Did you note that a couple of weeks ago Time Magazine did its cover story on ambition and how levels of ambition vary from individual to individual? It is a great topic as we begin a new year and new goals loom that will need to be accomplished in 2006.

For me ambition is the key that turns the lock. Without it nothing happens. Let me offer a few observations on what ambition has meant to me in the context of my career as an entrepreneur and otherwise. Perhaps these can serve as an inspiration to you as well.

  • Ambition has been part of my genetic makeup as far back as I can remember. It is what I am all about. From the time that my mother put me in acting school at age 4, I was never satisfied with just a part in the play. I wanted the lead part!
  • Whether 6 or 60, my level of ambition has been constant – and thus I am convinced that age has nothing to do with how much ambition one has. Frank Lloyd Wright did his greatest work between 60 and 90, as did Peter Drucker, who wrote 32 books during his last 30 years.
  • Fundamental to my ambition is knowledge. Thus in every important endeavor I sought mentors or advisors who provided the knowledge and guidance that enabled me to flourish. To do it right I followed other people who did it right.
  • I have been as ambitious for others' success as I am for myself. That has made me charitable and helpful – and enabled me to build a successful company.
  • Ambition can be carried with distinction or disdain. Strong ethics and humility bring honor to your achievements. Amoral ambitions undoubtedly contributed to the disasters at Enron, Worldcom and Tyco, for example. I faced a moral dilemma when I launched Makovsky + Company, today a leading public relations firm. I chose not to take one of my employer's largest clients. I felt the Golden Rule applied here. The best way to do well is by doing the right thing!

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Elephant or the Tiger

Nearly every business magazine I read these days is reporting on the world's two economic wunderkind: China and India, where growth of 10% and 7% respectively occurred last year and the growing goes on.

Public relations campaigns that are as effective and continuous as these two -- generally are achievement-based and fact-filled. But when you read this stuff once over, you wonder if it really looks as good as it sounds.

Well I just got a birdseye view of India during a three-week trip there, and my key finding is that the contrasts are overwhelming. From laneless, congested traffic to cows and an occasional elephant in the streets, Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is a third-world city where our guide admitted that many of the buildings haven't been cleaned or remodeled since they were built over a hundred years ago. But business is bustling within them, and many see Mumbai as the growth center of the country.

I visited the headquarters of a significant outsourcing company which recently retained Makovsky + Company, and saw the headquarters where over 900 people worked. While their data and phone communications no doubt traveled to the other side of the earth at lightening speed, it took our driver 2 and half hours to return us to our hotel –- a trip that in another city that had 4-lane highways rather than 2-lane highways and an underground transportation system might have taken less than half that time.

As we drove we observed miles of streets lined with the longest stretch of shanties I have ever seen, people living in "homes" of cardboard and cloth construction. 18 million people live in Mumbai. Contrast that with the total New York City population of 8 million –- which we regard as crowded.

Roads, electricity (many in the villages do not have it), education (1/3 of the population and 50% of the women are illiterate), and other infrastructure challenges plague India. As we drove through village after village, we observed men sitting in groups chatting and smoking, while women were at work in the fields as well as in construction jobs.

New Delhi, a planned city, in contrast to Mumbai, has many spectacular boulevards, a beautifully landscaped park, an inspiring memorial dedicated to Gandhi, impressive government buildings, and a growing business community. But as you drive through the heart of downtown, young girls holding babies push against your car windows begging for money.

The India we saw had among the most spectacular ancient palaces, forts and temples. The crown jewel is the Taj Mahal, in my opinion the greatest man-made sight in the world. Pictures do not do it justice. It took 23 years during the early 1600s to build this brilliant piece of art, memorializing a Maharajah's wife who died at age 39. It alone is worth the trip to India.

India's democratic process, felt by some to be a bureaucratic roadblock, does encourage economic investment and hopefully encourages collaboration between American and Indian universities, businesses and regional governments. The elephant, while you occasionally still see them plodding on some streets and roads, is India's symbol of prosperity. As other Asian nations have done, should India also tap the tiger?

Monday, January 09, 2006

First Blog

Thanks for stopping by to read my first blog.

As I am writing it, I am reaching resolution about my theme. My blogging will always be about what is uppermost in my mind, whether a news event, a business observation or a life experience. While my first love (other than my wife and children) is communications -- what is more sacred than people or groups really communicating? -- and communications is my business (public relations, to be exact) -- communications will not always be my topic.

Regardless of my topic, I am driven to blogging to have my own column, if you will, again, something blogging has made acceptable for even public relations professionals who traditionally stay in the background. The last time I had my own column was when I was a senior at Washington University. It was called "Point of View," (not terribly original...but truthful) and it won first prize in a national competition in column writing for university newspapers sponsored by the University of Missouri School of Journalism. That proves that I can do it!

Now it is about 35 years later, and I am at it again...largely because I can self-publish rather than deal with the red tape of getting a distinguished magazine to publish it (we do that for our clients!). Now, it is also "one to one" with you...enabled by this incredible medium. I'll be sounding off weekly!

About me

Kenneth D. MakovskyKenneth D. Makovsky is President of Makovsky + Company, one of the largest global independent public relations firms in the U.S. The company, founded in 1979, is headquartered in New York, with divisions in financial & professional services, health, technology, investor relations and interactive services.

Mr. Makovsky has led award winning public and investor relations programs for many of the world's major organizations. A leading industry magazine has named him a "Public Relations All-Star" and the top business-to-business counselor in the public relations industry.

His firm has been engaged by such companies as IBM, Ernst & Young, Subaru, Citibank, Booz Allen Hamilton, General Motors Asset Management, Dun & Bradstreet, Schering-Plough, Beech Nut, JP Morgan Chase, EDS, Abbott Laboratories, MetLife, Pfizer, Alcatel, Cigna, Searle, Schwab and many other leading organizations.

Mr. Makovsky is a founder and past president of IPREX, the third largest global corporations of public relations firms in 68 cities and 23 countries. His articles on public relations have been published in professional journals, and he has lectured before universities, associations and international corporations.

Mr. Makovsky is a member of College of Fellows, the honorary organization of the Public Relations Society of America; the Arthur Page Society; and an Advisory Committee of the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. He is former president of the Washington University Alumni Club in New York and currently is a member of the University’s Board for the School of Arts and Sciences. Mr. Makovsky is listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who In Industry & Finance, and Inc. Magazine named him a finalist in its "Entrepreneur of the Year" awards program.

Mr. Makovsky holds a Juris Doctor degree from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University.