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'Always listen to yourself'


Jeffrey Legum, chief executive officer, Park Circle Motor Co. and Westminster Motor Co., outlines his business success principles:

"First, you've got to have a plan for the future. It needn't be elaborate with a glossy cover and engraved letters, but you must have one. Mine? It's often scribbled on the back of an Amtrak ticket envelope, but I always have one and I change it periodically. To be successful in business, you can't play it by ear.

"Second, be flexible. If you don't adapt to rapidly changing conditions you'll be overwhelmed and you'll perish. The big Baltimore downtown department stores were riding high for many years but they died because they weren't flexible enough to change with changing times. They're mostly all gone.

"Third, follow your own instincts. I always listen to myself. Your own plan of action may be distasteful to others, especially compared to what you've been doing, but sometimes you must do unpopular things. Three years ago when I felt we had too much exposure to the automotive area and considered selling one dealership, everybody warned, 'Don't do that; it's been in the family for years,' but I listened to myself and did it anyhow; it worked out fine. You can't listen to everybody.

"Finally, you must have fun. When I went to the Wharton School many years ago, Dad gave me $2,000 and I began investing in stocks. Guess what? I loved it so much that I've done better in Wall Street than in autos. One more thing: have a sense of humor. If you're wrong 30 percent of the time, as many successful people are, laugh at it, put it behind you and move on to something else."

MARYLAND MEMO: "Postcards or mailers with photos of your firm's employees let long distance clients have a look at who's serving them. At Port City Press, a Baltimore book publisher, each customer service representative includes a photo in correspondence with customers." (Nation's Business, June). . . The following local-area companies are listed in Barron's, dated today, as components of the new Standard & Poor's Midcap 400 Index ("400 mainly Big Board stocks, too small to make the S&P; 500"): Chesapeake Corp., Delmarva Power & Light, McCormick, Mercantile Bankshares, MNC Financial, Merry-Go-Round, PHH Corp., Potomac Electric Power. . . "U.S.F.& G. chief executive Norman Blake's office reflects his obsession with winning. Two quotations hang near his desk: 'It doesn't matter whether you win or lose until you lose, and then it matters, usually a lot.' And from Vince Lombardi, 'There's no room for second place. There's only one place; that's first place.'" (Warfield's, June 5.)

WORKPLACE WISDOM: "Cold call sales suggestions: Best time to reach a decision-maker is early in the morning or late in the day. . . Best opening line: 'I wonder if you can help me out.' (Everybody likes to help). . . Most firms could successfully use cold calls. . . Never assume the person you're talking to isn't the decision maker. . . You're never an infringement on their time if you're a breath of fresh air; they'll make room for you." (INC magazine, June, which has more suggestions). . . A local personnel manager told me that when employees voice complaints, bosses should listen attentively. She added, "Pay attention not only to what they're saying but to what they're not saying. Probe for more and avoid making quick judgments.". . . Motel 6 folksy singer Tom Bodett told me that the chain began in 1962 with one California motel charging $6 a room.

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