Why did I choose English? I was an honors student in high school and English was the most difficult subject for me as an honors student. When I got to college, I chose to enhance my education by diving into something that was a challenge, English. In the end, my ability to read and communicate has given me an enormous competitive edge and provided the platform to work in many different areas.
My clients are CEOs of major corporations. In the business world, five critical variables (with the acronym PLOCC) determine management success—these are skills I gained through majoring in English. Significant planning requires the critical thinking skills central to English studies, and leadership demands clarity in both writing and speaking. Organizing my thoughts is fundamental for my company and my team. It is paramount and a discipline derived from writing well. But the biggest challenge in business is the ability to communicate. Crucial to my communication is understanding that I have so many audiences: I write an annual report to the Board and craft memos to workers. I write a persuasive argument to the president of another company and respond to complaints from customers. I speak to large audiences about the economic forecast and have written and published well over 100 articles in Hebert Research. All this depends, finally, on the ability to control the attention of an audience. These abilities, central also to English, gave me my career. In 1976, I was working as a research analyst at Wells Fargo Bank. I wrote a short five-page document creating the rationale for getting into the credit card business. It traveled from senior management of the bank to the Board of Directors. As a result, Wells became the founding bank in MasterCard.
My greatest passion also comes from English: Discovery. The discovery of what I learned in a Shakespeare course and learned to put into daily journals, the sense of enlightenment and understanding, is what I still do today as a researcher. I would add that the source of the value of English is the teachers. They had a significant impact on my life. English is a valuable investment for the students, parents, and donors in the state of Washington.
Jim Hebert is Founder and CEO of Hebert Research; he has been Executive in Residence at the UW School of Business and has taught at UW and Seattle University.