Herb Kelleher – Southwest Airlines Speech

Yesterday I went to a speech given by the famous founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher. As always, watching Herb speak was a great time!

I have great admiration for this man and his unconventional ways of running things. His willingness to be different and exciting eventually earned the envy of all other airlines.

“Professor” Kelleher speaking:

The speech started off with the actual professor of the class (Who is a Southwest Airlines board member) showing “Malice in Dallas” which was a spoof video about a Southwest Airline lawsuit where an aviation company threatened to sue Southwest for using the motto “Just Plane Smart.” Herb Kelleher challenged the CEO of the company to an arm wrestling match to settle the issue (seriously). The video ended up being shown world-wide and is sometimes billed as the greatest publicity stunt ever. The video was absolutely hilarious!! It really showed Mr. Kelleher’s funny side:
http://youtu.be/51a5xuxxxZQ

The entire time Mr. Kelleher spoke mainly about company culture….constantly instilling into everyone in the room just how important people are, and how if you take care of your people, they will take care of you. I’ve heard the same thing from other CEO’s, but he literally talked about it the WHOLE time…..and he’s obviously quite serious that his #1 priority is the people within Southwest. Some quotes from his mouth were:

“If you ain’t got culture, you ain’t got shit.”

“Competitors can buy tangible assets, but they can’t buy culture.”

He also just like last time lit up a cigarette soon after he started speaking. The man is notorious for loving cigarettes, Wild Turkey Whiskey and candy bars. So the day before I bought some props from the liquor store to use in the picture I would inevitably take with him!

It was actually the first pack of cigarettes I ever bought. In the Q&A session he answered questions pertaining to his many law battles all the way up to the Supreme Court (half the room was law students) and questions about how Southwest became the envy of the entire airline industry….and has become the only one to be profitable for so many years in a row.

One thing I really admire about him is his personality. The second he entered he room, he turned it from dull and quite to loud and FUN. He obviously loves having a good time, and you can see that reflected in the Southwest staff. A great example of leadership by example.

At the end of the speech I got out my Wild Turkey whiskey and cigarettes and took a great picture of me and Herb. I still get a kick out of this picture!

Then after the speech we both went to Cancun and ripped it up!!

Ok, that last part was obviously fake….but the speech was fun anyway! The guy is absolutely hilarious, smokes like a chimney and drinks like a sailor….but is one of the most famous CEO’s of all time because of his willingness to put people first and do things different.

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    Blog posted on: October 20, 2006

    19 comments on “Herb Kelleher – Southwest Airlines Speech

    1. J

      I feel you two have a lot in common. You both do things differently and love to have fun.

      Just my impression, congrats Nev! :)

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      this is the suff we like to see and kudos on the recent frequentcy of your posts. please post more biz,finance typ stuff and more often. thanks Nev you are very entertaining.

      Reply
    3. G.

      Nev, seems like you are always bumping elbows with the big boys. Great work. How do you find out about when and where these CEO’s are giving speeches?

      Reply
    4. Anonymous

      SOUTHWEST AIRLINES (NYSE:LUV) Delayed quote data

      After Hours: 15.27 0.00 (0.00%)

      Last Trade: 15.27
      Trade Time: Oct 27
      Change: 0.26 (1.67%)
      Prev Close: 15.53
      Open: 15.45
      Bid: N/A
      Ask: N/A
      1y Target Est: 19.60

      Day’s Range: 15.25 – 15.50
      52wk Range: 15.10 – 18.20
      Volume: 5,592,100
      Avg Vol (3m): 5,215,570
      Market Cap: 12.09B
      P/E (ttm): 22.07
      EPS (ttm): 0.69
      Div & Yield: 0.02 (0.10%)

      Reply
    5. rick

      My sister ask me when I’m going to grow up. Like Herb, never…
      I’m 59 and have a group interview with SW next week

      Reply
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    8. John Steven Lasher

      My autobiography, “Among my Souveniers”, includes two chapters on the airline industry. I was employed by TW between 1965 and 1980. I worked at MDW. I corresponded with Herb in the early 1980s. After moving to Australia I lost all contact.
      Can you put me in touch with Herb, as I would like to interview him before one of the chapters of my book is completed.

      John Steven Lasher
      Menindee NSW 2879 Australia

      Reply
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