by Mindy Kolof
According to Jeff Blackman, “If you love what you do, then it’s easy to convey that enthusiasm and belief to the people you manage and the clients you serve.”
No one can say Jeff Blackman doesn’t practice what he preaches. After earning degrees with honors in advertising from the University of Illinois and law from IIT’s Kent College of Law and passing the bar exam, he became increasingly certain his destiny lay in communications. “Academically, I did very well, making the dean’s list, winning moot court competition, but I wasn’t having any fun,” he remembers. What continued to intrigue him was more creative pursuits – developing print advertising, producing/narrating radio commercials and public speaking.
His 1982 marriage to Sheryl, an occupational therapist, cemented his decision not to practice law at all.
He took the plunge and accepted his first speaking engagement at a suburban Chicago synagogue. “Then I spoke to another synagogue, several churches and more temples. If there was a church or synagogue on the North Shore…they heard me,” Blackman exclaims.
Although the momentum was now building, his bank account wasn’t. Every speech was free! Finally, in March of 1983, he received $35 for a local talk. “My first year, I grossed $3,000,” he laughs.
“Long-term growth and prosperity will not be based on predatory pricing, guerrilla business tactics or the belief that the customer/client is the enemy.”
However, pursuing his passion, soon proved profitable. His client list today includes Fortune 500 clients, lots of closely held businesses and trade or professional associations. He speaks to everyone from front-line employees, sales people, middle to upper level management and CEOs. Every message is customized through extensive research and exhaustive preparation. “I interview people via the phone, in person, e-mail and use detailed written questionnaires. For my work with Federal Express, I even visited operation stations…to watch their teams in action.”
Blackman’s legal training and broadcast background are put to good use in this area. “I know how to research, ask questions and ferret out information,” he says. In fact, he becomes so well acquainted with clients’ organizations, that he frequently receives comments from program participants like,
“How long did you sell insurance?” or “Which FedEx station did you work at?”
“People invest in your ability to deliver to them, a more favorable future.”
Blackman offers a wide range of programs, ranging from 30-minute keynotes to on-going learning systems. All are highly customized to the unique needs of every client. His unwavering optimism is grounded in his self-named and created VINe philosophy – value driven, integrity based and non-manipulative. “If you embrace this philosophy, or basic business tenets, everything else comes easily. Long-term growth and prosperity will not be based on predatory pricing, guerrilla business tactics or the belief that the customer or client is the enemy.”
His business doctrine is equally simple and compelling: “All people invest in, is your ability…to deliver to them, a more favorable future. You should always focus on how you can help others maximize gain or minimize loss.” Blackman not only provides all of his clients with an unequivocal no-risk assurance (akin to a money-back guarantee), but he also offers them something he devised called “value investing.”
Imagine, he says, “ordering a prime rib meal priced at $24.95. If the meat, presentation and service are poor, you might only pay $15.95. However, if the taste, accompanying dishes and wait staff are outstanding, you might pay more than $24.95.” Blackman says, “Not only have we never lost the no-risk bet, yet whenever a client “value invests” at for example “X dollars” or (“X dollars plus 20%+”), they always invest at the higher investment. It’s their choice. Their decision. They are in a much better position to determine value and results than I am.”
Blackman cites his Dad, Irv (a lawyer and CPA) as his inspiration/mentor. “Dad is one of the founding partners of the 35th largest accounting firm in the country and he’s the most published CPA in the world. Ironically, today, we write for some of the same publications and even share common clients.”
In addition to speaking, training and consulting, his books, audio and video business-growth tools include: the Amazon best seller Stop Whining! Start Selling!, Peak Your Profits, RESULT$, Carpe A.M. • Carpe P.M. – Seize Your Destiny, How to Set and Really Achieve Your Goals, Profitable Customer Service and Opportunity $elling. (And Jeff adds, “There’s more stuff on the way!”) He also writes a free monthly e-letter, The Results Report .
Aside from managing a growing business, Jeff’s family is also growing! He and Sheryl have three kids; Chad, Brittany and Amanda—who was born on December 31st. A welcome addition and tax deduction!
A long-time native of Chicago’s north shore, Blackman is focused on results. He says, “The greatest compliment I get, is when a client or program participant calls or drops me a note to share how a strategy or suggestion I gave them is now working. It has helped them improve performance, productivity or profitability. After all, the name of the game…is results!”