Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lessons on Failure: A Chapter from “Chuck” vs. the Business World

by Ray Keating
Business Tips on TV #5

The following is a chapter from “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips in TV by Ray Keating.

Failure sucks. Nonetheless, failure is part of life, and it’s certainly part of business. It also can be a valuable experience for learning important lessons.

Many entrepreneurs, for example, experience business failure – sometimes multiple failures – before they hit on the idea, the right enterprise, that succeeds. But even successful firms will undertake ventures that ultimately come up short.

It’s not all that different on the career front. For most of us, the career path is not a smooth ride relentlessly higher. Instead, there tend to be some potholes, detours or roadblocks along the way.
The question is: What do business owners, managers and individuals do with failure?

Consider two Chuck examples.

• In 1983, after dedicating three years of his life to a video game, Jeff was the Missile Command world champion. He was on top of his world, with the media and beautiful women seeking him out. (Season 1, Episode 5: “Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer”)

But success was fleeting. Later, after decades of drinking, drugs and who knows what else, Jeff has the opportunity to return to greatness – to reach the kill screen of Missile Command. But he faints in front of cheering fans before even beginning his return.

Later, after Chuck beats the game, Jeff goes back to playing Missile Command, but with no one else around.

• After choosing to not run away with Sarah, Chuck fails the training to become a real spy. He has lost everything he wanted – Sarah, the “girl of his dreams,” and the life of a spy. (Season 3, Episode 1: “Chuck Versus the Pink Slip”)

What does Chuck do?

Initially, he sleeps, sits on the couch in a bathrobe, watches television, lets his facial hair grow, and eats cheese balls. The only thing that motivates him to get off the couch is to get more cheese balls at the Buy More.

After Chuck is recognized despite his disguise of dark sunglasses, hat, beard and robe, Emmett says Chuck carries the “putrid stench of failure,” telling others “that’s why you don’t leave the Buy More.” He adds to Chuck: “My God, you’re pathetic.”

Later, Morgan attempts some encouragement by telling Chuck: “You’re slightly unmotivated, a bit of an underachiever, but a loser? That’s not your turf.”

Chuck responds, “I blew it buddy, opportunity of a lifetime. Without getting into specifics, I had a job offer that would have included a lot of travel and excitement, and I’ve already been fired from it twice.”

But Chuck eventually decides to get back in the game, to prove that he indeed can be a good spy.

Chuck Business Tips

Failure crushes Jeff, with the life squeezed out of him. In contrast, after suffering setbacks and briefly wallowing in some self-pity, Chuck rises above his failure.

The fundamental difference is that Chuck learns and ultimately grows due to his failure.
In one’s career and in business in general, failure must be treated as a learning opportunity. If not, it has the ability to make one bitter, pessimistic, and stagnant. It’s not unusual to try to shift the blame to others for one’s own mistakes or shortcomings.

As noted earlier, most successful entrepreneurs have experienced failure, learned from such setbacks, and ultimately treated failure as temporary stops while climbing the ladder of success.
Examples include Milton Hershey, who failed several times in the candy business, before founding and building the Hershey Company. And even after establishing this market-leading chocolate candy manufacturer, there were some failures along the way, including chewing gum and a bad bet borrowing in the sugar market.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc, who was either ousted from or chose to leave the firm in 1985, failed at his new venture Next. But in 1997, Jobs returned to lead an Apple that was on the brink of bankruptcy, subsequently taking the company to a global technology leader.

In an October 2, 2010, New York Times article titled “What Steve Jobs Learned in the Wilderness,” Randall Stross, a professor at San Jose State University, pointed out:

The Steve Jobs who returned to Apple was a much more capable leader — precisely because he had been badly banged up. He had spent 12 tumultuous, painful years failing to find a way to make the new company profitable… And he had always been able to attract great talent. What he hadn’t learned before returning to Apple, however, was the necessity of retaining it. He has now done so. One of the unremarked aspects of Apple’s recent story is the stability of the executive team — no curb filled with dumped managers. Kevin Compton, who was a senior executive at Businessland during the Next years, described Mr. Jobs after returning to Apple: “He’s the same Steve in his passion for excellence, but a new Steve in his understanding of how to empower a large company to realize his vision.” Mr. Jobs had learned from Next not to try to do everything himself, Mr. Compton said.

An amusing Chuck moment highlights the lofty position Apple has risen to in recent years.

Lester tells Chuck that the Nerd Herd has a Linux install.

Chuck asks, “I’m sorry, why can’t you and Jeff go?”

Lester laughs in a mocking tone, and says, “Linux, PCs, we’re Mac guys, Chuck. We’re IT artists.” (Season 1, Episode 2: “Chuck Versus the Helicopter”)

The lofty success achieved by Jobs at Apple was unlikely without Steve Jobs having experienced and learned from his failures.

Managers need to keep in mind the idea of failure as a teaching moment when dealing with their employees. Failure is going to occur to some degree in any organization. Managers need to not only communicate clearly the consequences or costs of failure, but also provide feedback so that workers can learn from failure and over the longer haul, become better employees and more successful individuals.


Ray Keating is the author of “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV (available at He also is an economist, weekly newspaper columnist, and adjunct college business professor.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chuck vs. the Business World Recommended Holiday Gift

Terri Schlichenmeyer, the Bookworm Sez columnist and reviewer, has included “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV by Ray Keating in her holiday gift guide for 2011. Schlichenmeyer wrote:

“Mama always said that TV was a waste of time, but your giftee knows better – especially after you’ve given"‘Chuck’ vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV" by Ray Keating. Yes, you can harvest business lessons while being a couch potato. No, it doesn’t have to be a stuffed-suit kind of show.”

Get the book here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What's the Deal with "Chuck" vs. the Business World?

"With some wonderful, insightful comedy, the team creating, writing and producing Chuck has provided a wealth of examples on how not to manage a business, and how not to behave in the workplace. We all learn not only from our own mistakes and failures, but also from the mistakes and failures of others. Business case literature is as rich with examples of bad decisions and failure as with successes in the marketplace. By climbing into Chuck, however, I found a few valuable positives as well. Overall, Chuck offers tips covering a wide range of areas, including day-to-day business management and operations, career choices, and the balance and priorities that must be established between work and personal life."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chuck vs. Entrepreneurship

by Ray Keating
Business Tips on TV #4

At the end of last season, things were changing substantially for the characters on NBC’s “Chuck.” But as entrepreneurs grasp better than most, change can come often and fast.

And in fact, more change came in this season’s premiere episode that aired on Friday, October 28 -- change, again, that business owners and managers understand.

As a quick review, “Chuck” features Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), and John Casey (Adam Baldwin), who were fired from the CIA/NSA at the close of last season. For good measure, Chuck lost the Intersect (a computer with government secrets and fantastic skills implanted in his head), while his friend Morgan (Joshua Grimes) mistakenly downloaded the Intersect into his own brain. But using an $800 million dollar wedding gift from former bad guy Alexi Volkoff, Chuck and Sarah now own the Buy More (the electronics store where Chuck and Morgan have long worked and used as a cover), and set up their own private spy firm called Carmichael Industries.

So, now Chuck and Sarah are entrepreneurs. And some of the challenges of entrepreneurship were noted in the first episode of this fifth and final season of “Chuck.”

Most notably was the issue of funding. With their nearly a billion-dollar wedding present, one might think that funds would not be an issue. But to start up their global spy firm, cash burned quickly.

Sarah tells Chuck, Casey and Morgan: “We mowed through the Volkoff fortune on start-up costs.” Among the expenses she noted is a private jet, and “the fresh shrimp that Morgan likes to eat on the private jet.”

Ramping up a business, of course, can be quite costly. It’s not all that difficult to run through large wads of cash if expense are not thoroughly thought through and watched. And of course, the business has to start bringing in the necessary revenue.

Sarah declares, “If we’re going to stay solvent, then we have to collect soon.” That is, they need more paying clients for Carmichael Industries. But with various forces aligned against them, and their own troubles - as Chuck says, “We’re still working out the kinks” - that’s not going to be easy.

Later, Chuck talks to Morgan about the dreams he has for Sarah and himself, saying, “In order for those dreams to become a reality, I need this business to succeed.” Ah, the familiar cry of so many entrepreneurs.

Naturally, though, more woes hit the business in this first episode, with a nefarious person at the CIA - the one who fired Chuck, Sarah and Casey from the agency - gaining access to and freezing Chuck’s remaining $40-plus million.

Chuck and his team suddenly find themselves cash starved, and worried about where the spy firm is headed.

But it dawns on Chuck and Sarah that since they still (secretly) own the Buy More, then the opportunity exists to operate the spy firm. Chuck explains, “We use the store to support the spy team. We take Buy More’s profits put them into Carmichael Industries until both companies can make money. But in order for that to work, the store actually has to turn a profit.”

It’s not unusual, of course, for entrepreneurs to juggle and use profits from one endeavor to get another off the ground.

So, it seems like we’ll see more of the operations in the Buy More, which is now so critical to funding the team’s spy firm. That should be fun, as the dysfunctional Buy More is the source of so many laughs in “Chuck.” And it should provide still more business tips on TV due to that same dysfunction.


Ray Keating is the author of “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV (available at He also is an economist, weekly newspaper columnist, and adjunct college business professor.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

For Chuck: MBA or Keating's New Book?

In her review of NBC Chuck's season five, Maureen Ryan writes:

"Maybe Chuck should have gone for his MBA at some point: He, Casey and Sarah not only have to try to score business for Carmichael Industries, he's also the owner of the Buy More, which, as we know, hasn't historically been the most well run retail store in Burbank (or anywhere on Earth)." 

Of course, Chuck does not need an MBA. He only need read "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV by Ray Keating. It's a fun book that you'd enjoy as well.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Long Island Business News Publisher Recommends Chuck vs. the Business World

What does John Kominicki, publisher of Long Island Business News, have to say about "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV? Kominicki declares:

“Where most of us see a comic spy drama, Keating sees the opportunity for a Wharton-quality tutorial on business. He’s not just outside the box, he’s outside the cardboard.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Build Your Business Radio: Recommendation for "Chuck" vs. the Business World

Barbara Weltman talking about “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV on her Build Your Business radio show:

“There are so many good lessons here... It’s a really easy read. It’s not a typical academic book where you have to force yourself to go through it. This is a quick and enjoyable read.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chuck Season 5: Working Out the Kinks

by Ray Keating
Business Tips on TV #3

NBC’s Chuck returns for its fifth and final season on Friday night, October 28. And it looks like all the stops will be pulled out in terms of guests, characters, story - and yes, potential lessons for career and business that build on those offered during seasons one to four as I laid out in “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV.

As for the guest stars, the line-up includes Mark Hamill, Cheryl Ladd, Bo Derek, Stan Lee, Carrie Ann Morris, Rebecca Romijn, and Tim DeKay.

Meanwhile, relationships between the main characters are going to be shaken up, as Morgan (Joshua Gomez) now has the Intersect (a computer with all of the government’s secrets) in his head, Chuck (Zachary Levi) has lost the Intersect, and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Chuck are now married.

As for the story, at the end of last season, Chuck, Sarah and Casey (Adam Baldwin) were fired from the CIA/NSA. But with a nearly billion-dollar wedding gift, Chuck and Sarah now own the Buy More, as well as their own private spy firm called Carmichael Industries, with Morgan and Casey on board.

This all sounds like a heck of a lot of fun. Get’s one wondering why this is the last season?

But running the Buy More and starting up Carmichael Industries opens the door to some potential lessons in terms of entrepreneurship.

Suddenly, Chuck and Sarah will have to deal with the less-than-inspiring Big Mike as the manager of the Buy More, and the always troublesome (and always funny) Nerd Herd employees Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay).

At the same time, in terms of Carmichael Industries, they will face many of the challenges of establishing and building a firm. That apparently will include training Morgan in his new job as the Intersect, and based on a season sneak peek, trying to make Casey more client friendly. Given Casey’s military/assassin training and take-no-prisoners attitude, that could be a mighty task.

As Chuck says in one of the early clips from season five, “We’re still working out the kinks.”

Of course, one quick and easy tool to get Chuck, Sarah and you thinking the right way about working out the kinks in business and career is “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV ... if I may say so myself.


Ray Keating is the author of “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV (available at He also is an economist, weekly newspaper columnist, and adjunct college business professor.

Friday, October 21, 2011

TV Jobs: In and Outside of LA

The second in's look at jobs and Hollywood focuses on television. Read "The Jobs Crisis: TV is Booming - Unless You Work in L.A." at

Jobs and Hollywood offers an interesting look at recent trends on jobs in the Hollywood biz. Read the first installment in a series looking at the effect of the bad economy on the entertainment industry at,0

Monday, October 17, 2011

Psych: How Far on Honesty with Co-Workers?

by Ray Keating
Business Tips on TV #2

Just how far do you have to go in terms of being honest with co-workers?

That question crossed my mind while watching the return of USA Network’s Psych for a sixth season on October 12. Psych ranks as my personal favorite among USA’s winning line-up of television series. It’s provides reliable laughs, and is wonderfully offbeat and uplifting.

So, what about this honesty thing?

Keep in mind that the basis of this television show is that Shawn Spencer (played by James Roday) is a fake psychic, who runs a psychic detective agency with his best friend Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill). They work for the Sacramento Police Department, with Detectives Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson) and Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson), Police Chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson), and Shawn’s father, Henry Spencer (Corbin Bernsen).

Shawn uses his acute skills of observation to keep the police thinking that he is a valuable asset as a psychic. So, Shawn and Gus’s detective agency business is built on a lie. Amusing for television, but not a good idea in real world business, of course.

The particular question regarding honesty in this recent episode, however, deals with Juliet and Shawn keeping their dating relationship secret from Lassiter. Lassiter suspects, and is upset with Juliet, his partner. He tells O’Hara that “partners don’t lie or keep secrets from each other because we put our lives in each other’s hands.”

When Juliet finally fesses up, Lassiter declares, “We need to see the chief about getting me a new partner - one I can trust.”

But when they sit down with Chief Vick, and Juliet admits that she needs to come clean on something, the chief interrupts and asks, “Does it affect your ability to do your job right now?” After Juliet says no, Chief Vick says, “Then why do you think that I would want to know?”

Carlton believes that, as his partner, Juliet should have told him about her relationship with Shawn. In contrast, though, the chief differentiates between work and personal life. Specifically, from a work standpoint, she is only concerned about issues that might impact an individual’s ability to get the job done.

In the end, partners and managers have to draw clear lines as to what information truly matters in the workplace and what does not. That is, what’s relevant professionally, and what’s better left personal.


Ray Keating is the author of “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV (available at He also is an economist, weekly newspaper columnist, and adjunct college business professor.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keating Talks Chuck vs. the Business World on the Radio - Listen Live!

Ray Keating taped an interview about his new book - "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV - for the radio show Conversations with Ray Bertilino. It will air on Sunday night (October 16) at 10:00 PM, Monday (October 17) at Noon, and Tuesday (October 18) at 4:00 PM on WHPC, 90.3 FM. The link to listen live is

Please note corrected times.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Castle: Being Entrepreneurial with Rejection

by Ray Keating
Business Tips on TV #1

How do you deal with rejection or failure?

That’s an ongoing question in business - whether it be a business that goes under; being fired; a product, service or project that failed to meet expectations; or not getting the job even after a great interview.

In the October 3, 2010, episode (“Head Case”) of Castle, while Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic) are working to solve a murder case, Castle’s teenage daughter, Alexis (Molly Quinn), gets word that she is rejected by Stanford. After having her heart set on attending the university, she is understandably upset and depressed.

Struggling with her feelings, Alexis asks her father about how he deals with rejection. She is bewildered that Castle keeps his first manuscript rejection letter framed and hanging on the wall of his office.

Alexis asks, “How can you stand having it there?”

Castle replies, “Because it drives me. Man, I got twenty more of those before Black Pawn ever agreed to publish In a Hail of Bullets. That letter, that letter reminds me of what I’ve overcome. Rejection isn’t failure... Failure is giving up. Everybody gets rejected. It’s how you handle it that determines where you’ll end up.”

Rejection, and yes, failure, are nearly inevitable at some point, or points, in a career. Most entrepreneurs will tell you that’s the case. Indeed, some of the most successful entrepreneurs in history previously had been serial failures.

The critical issue is to treat rejection or failure as a learning opportunity. Entrepreneurs excel at capitalizing on opportunity. In the end, to succeed in whatever career choices are made, we all have to be entrepreneurial in how we treat rejection or failure.


Ray Keating is the author of “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV (available at He also is an economist, weekly newspaper columnist, and adjunct college business professor.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fran Tarkenton: Great QB and Right on Motivating - or Not Motivating - People

As a Vikings fan growing up, I watched QB Fran Tarkenton work his magic on TV. Now check out his commentary piece in The Wall Street Journal on how NOT to motivate and compensate employees courtesy of public schools.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

From "Chuck" vs. the Business World by Ray Keating: On Customers

From "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV by Ray Keating:

While people can complain about the choices made in the marketplace, if you want to succeed in business and in your career, you better make sure that your customers are happy. Indeed, the point of free enterprise is that entrepreneurs offer new and improved goods and services, businesses compete, and the consumer – the customer – serves as final judge and jury as to what works and what does not.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why the "Chuck" vs. the Business World?

So, why write a book titled "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV?

Here's my comment that I posted on

As a writer, economist, and adjunct college professor in an MBA program, I'm always trying to think of new, improved and fun ways to communicate and educate about business. I found some interesting opportunities in an unexpected place - the "Chuck" television show. The fact that so much of this amusing TV series takes place in a fictional electronics store meant that there's a great deal to talk regarding issues like management/worker relations, trust in business, the use and misuse of technology, partnerships, entrepreneurship, motivating people, courage, failure, striking the right balance between the professional and the personal - particularly, between work and family - and much, much more. To a great extent, the lessons from "Chuck" are about what not to do in your career and business. But there are some valuable positive lessons as well. I hope this book offers some quick tips for career and business, as well as serving as a starting point for discussion in the classroom. By the way, the book is laid out so that if you've never watched "Chuck," you can still benefit. It also provides episode references so people can leap off from a certain scene into a discussion of the topic at hand. In the end, business tips can be found on TV, and "Chuck" vs. the Business World will be the first in the "Business Tips on TV" series. 

"Chuck" Premiere on Oct 28: More Tips to Come

NBC "Chuck" premiere pushed back to October 28. Looking forward to providing some fun weekly thoughts based on the show that might fit for career and business. Building, of course, on "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV available at

Friday, September 30, 2011

Warren Buffett: Favorite Rich Guy for Obama and CNBC

I generally enjoy watching CNBC for business news. But it's rather silly how deeply the network bows before Warren Buffett. Of course, given his declarations over hiking taxes on upper-income earners, President Obama loves Mr. Buffett as well.

Check out my take on the so-called "Buffett Rule" regarding taxes at

For good measure, Amity Shlaes compared the "Buffett Rule" to the "Mellon Rule" at

Bankers and TV

Are there any good bankers? Not according to television.

See some quick observations at

The Simpsons and Immigration

The Simpsons on immigration policy and our economy?

Yes, see an excellent Forbes piece at

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Book Finds Business and Career Tips in “Chuck” TV Show

Can the television show “Chuck” offer insights for work and business?

“Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV by Ray Keating finds career advice, and lessons on business management in the hit television show “Chuck.”

In this fun, valuable and unexpected book, Keating shows that TV spies and nerds can provide insights and guidelines on managing workers, customer relations, leadership, trust and work, interviews, technology, hiring and firing people, and balancing work and personal life.

Larry Kudlow, host of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” says, “Ray Keating has taken the very funny television series ‘Chuck,’ and derived some valuable lessons and insights for your career and business.”

John Kominicki, publisher of Long Island Business News, adds, “Where most of us see a comic spy drama, Keating sees the opportunity for a Wharton-quality tutorial on business. He’s not just outside the box, he’s outside the cardboard.”

Keating said, “If you love ‘Chuck’ on TV, you’ll love reading ‘Chuck’ vs. the Business World. And even if you don’t watch ‘Chuck,’ the book lays out clear examples and lessons from which businesses, managers and employees can reap rewards.”

“Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV can be purchased from

Review copies, interviews for the media, and author appearances are available upon request. This is the first book in the “Business Tips on TV” series.

Ray Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council; a weekly columnist with Dolan Media Company (including Long Island Business News and Colorado Springs Business Journal); a former Newsday weekly columnist; and an adjunct professor in the MBA program at the Townsend School of Business at Dowling College. His work has appeared in a wide range of additional periodicals, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Post, and The Washington Times. Keating also is a novelist, penning Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel (2010).

Contact: Ray Keating
Phone: 631-909-1122