Harvey Mackay

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Named by Fortune magazine as “Mr. Make-Things-Happen,”[1][2] Mackay, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, New York Times #1 best selling author and syndicated columnist, has spent his lifetime helping others succeed.


Harvey Mackay was born October 24, 1932[3] in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Jack and Myrtle Mackay.[4] He is the grandson of Russian Jewish immigrants.[5] His father, an Associated Press correspondent, headed the AP’s Saint Paul office for 35 years.[5] His mother, a substitute schoolteacher, died at age 49 while he was in college.[5]

To help his family financially while growing up, Mackay held jobs from an early age, including selling magazines door-to-door, delivering papers, shoveling snow, and cutting grass. While in high school, Mackay clerked in a men’s clothing store during the week and worked as a golf caddy on the weekends.[4]

Mackay resides in the Twin Cities and Paradise Valley, Arizona with his wife Carol Ann.[6][7] They have three children, David Mackay, Miriam (“Mimi”) Mackay Bartimer, and Joanne (JoJo) Mackay Herzig,[8] and 11 grandchildren.[9]


Mackay graduated from Central High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1950.[8][10] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 1954.[11][12] Mackay lettered in golf while in college, a sport that later aided him in his career.[6] He played in the 1952 NCAA golf championship.

In 1968 he graduated from the Stanford University Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.[8][11]

Community Service[edit]

At age 21, Mackay’s father sat him down and advised him to spend 25 percent of his life in volunteerism.[5][13] Mackay’s mother had just died of cancer, so Mackay volunteered with the American Cancer Society in Minnesota. Over time, he became the state chairman.[5]

In his lifetime, Mackay has been active on 20 boards of directors,[13] including the Minnesota Orchestra, the Guthrie Theater, Allina Health Systems, Junior Achievement and the Minnesota chapter of the American Heart Association.[14]

Mackay was elected by his peers to lead the Envelope Manufacturers Association; he held the position of President from 1979 – 1981.[15] He was President of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce and the University of Minnesota National Alumni Association.[12] He served for twelve years on the Board of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute.[14]

From 1977 – 1981, Mackay chaired Minnesota’s Stadium Task Force, whose work resulted in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome being built.[8][16] Mackay was also the leader in organizing Twin Cities business leaders in a $6 million ticket buyout in order to block Calvin Griffith’s efforts to sell the Minnesota Twins to outside investors who would move the team from the area to Tampa, Florida.[17][18]

In addition, Mackay was the catalyst in bringing the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Twin Cities. He was a key player in getting the Super Bowl at the Metrodome in Minneapolis in 1992. And he was responsible for bringing in Lou Holtz to coach the University of Minnesota football team in 1984-1985.[19]


After graduating from college, Mackay became an envelope salesperson for Quality Park Envelope Company.[6]

At the same time, he convinced the Oak Ridge Country Club in Minneapolis to admit him as a member without having to pay the initiation fee. It was while playing golf at the University of Minnesota that Mackay began building his extensive network, which he would later attribute as being the single act that helped him launch his career.[6]

Mackay Envelope Company[edit]

Mackay purchased an insolvent envelope manufacturer with 12 employees in 1959.[5] In 2000 Mackay sold Mackay Envelope Company to a private equity group.[20] In 2007 the company changed its name to MackayMitchell Envelope Company LLC.[21] He remains an equal partner with Scott Mitchell and is chairman of the company.

MackayMitchell Envelope Company employs 500 employees, produces 25 million envelopes a day, and enjoys sales of $100 million.[13][22]

The company, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota has manufacturing plants in Minneapolis, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and Portland, Oregon as well as sales offices across the country.[21]

In 1985 the company developed the first Photopak, an envelope that holds processed photo prints, and became an industry leader for this product.[20] The company created the MackayMitchell Photopak Division, privately owned by Harvey Mackay and Scott Mitchell, and today is the largest North American supplier of photo envelopes. In 2002, MackayMitchell Photopak purchased the photopackaging division of Mailwell Envelope.[23]

Motivational Speaker[edit]

Mackay joined the King Boreas Toastmasters Club (St. Paul, Minnesota) at age 21.[24] He is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA)[11] and holds the organization’s CPAE (Council of Peers Award for Excellence) designation; he’s also a member of NSA’s Speaker Hall of Fame.[25]

In 1993, Toastmasters International named Mackay one of its top five speakers in the world (in addition to Mario Cuomo, Jesse Jackson, Tony Robbins, and Nina Totenberg). In an interview for the magazine, Mackay credited his success as a speaker to extensive preparation and using the “Mackay 66” to learn everything he can about a group before presenting to it.[26]

Mackay’s audiences often measure in the thousands. He has addressed many groups in excess of 10,000, including Century 21 real estate agents, all of whom were wearing the company’s gold jacket.[27]


Mackay is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers, including three that hit #1 on the list. His books have sold more than 10 million copies in 80 countries and have been translated into 46 different languages. Two of his books, Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, were recently listed by the New York Times among the top 15 inspirational books of all time.[6][28][29]

He is also a national syndicated columnist with Universal Uclick, the company that purchased United Media. He offers career and inspirational advice in his weekly column, which is featured in over 100 newspapers across the country.[30]

Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive[edit]

His first book, Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: How to Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate and Outnegotiate Your Competition, was published in 1988 by William Morrow and Company.[31] The book was on the New York Times Best Seller list[32] for 54 weeks and has sold over 5 million copies.[33][34]

In a March 1990 Inc. magazine article, Mackay shared his strategies for how he made the book a success while still a relatively unknown author, including studying the industry and approaching the book as a “product to be sold.”[34] In an unprecedented move, he asked the publisher to print 100,000 books, reasoning that his 6,500 name database included friends and customers – many of whom would recommend the book to their colleagues.[6] Publishers typically only print 10,000 copies for unknown authors.[33]

Based on everything Mackay had learned about salesmanship, management, motivation, and negotiation, the book launched his speaking career and was updated and reprinted in 2005.[14] Swim With the Sharks is featured in the book, The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You, by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten.[35]

Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt[edit]

Mackay followed up this book with his second, Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt: Do What You Love, Love What You Do, and Deliver More than You Promise, published in 1990 (Ballantine Books) and reprinted August 1996. The book, a collection of “how-tos, insights and self-tests” that people can use in their careers,[36] was number one on the New York Times Best Seller list February 25, 1990.[37]

Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty[edit]

Mackay’s next book, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need, was published in April 1997 and hit the New York Times Best Seller list[38] 12 days after its release and stayed there for five months.[39] The book features all of Mackay’s strategies on developing a powerful network.

Mackay said in a 2013 column, “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts.”[40]

Pushing the Envelope[edit]

Published December 1998 by Ballantine Books, Pushing the Envelope: All the Way to the Top, offers practical advice on business topics such as hiring, motivating, training, producing, and negotiating.[41] It became Mackay’s fourth New York Times Best Seller.[42]

We Got Fired! . . . And It’s the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Us[edit]

In his fifth New York Times Best Seller and third to reach #1 (Ballatine Books, 2007),[43] Mackay reveals anecdotes and lessons from business leaders and celebrities, including Michael Bloomberg, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, and Lou Holtz, on how being fired led to bigger and better opportunities.[44]

Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door[edit]

It took two years for Mackay to write Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You, which became his sixth New York Times Best Seller.[45] Released in February 2010 by Penguin Portfolio, the book gives advice to people looking for a job and focuses on networking, organizational skills, preparation and strategy. Mackay covers practical strategies such as understanding what a job interviewer wants to know, researching companies, and debriefing after an interview.[5][46]

The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World[edit]

Published in November 2011 (Portfolio Penguin) and featuring an introduction by retired Hall of Fame football coach, Lou Holtz, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World is the sum total of Mackay’s knowledge about sales and meeting sales numbers.[47] The book was his seventh New York Times Best Seller.[48]


Mackay received the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Award in 1982 from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Minnesota Chapter.[49] In 1989, he was awarded the Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year Award.[50] He was inducted into the Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI) Academy of Achievement in 1990.[51] He received the Muhammad Ali Achievement Award in 1998.[52]

In 2002, Mackay was elected to the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame,[20] an award given by Twin Cities Business to recognize the accomplishments of Minnesota executives who have made lifetime contributions to the state’s business.[53]

In 2004, Mackay received the prestigious Horatio Alger award in the U.S. Supreme Court chambers.[4] This award is presented to “community leaders who demonstrate individual initiative and a commitment to excellence as exemplified by remarkable achievements accomplished through honesty, hard work, self-reliance and perseverance over adversity.”[54] Previous recipients include U.S. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and entertainers Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey.

Mackay was also awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2007[55] and the University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award in 2008.[56] He was named Director Emeritus of the Minnesota Orchestral Association in December 2013.[57]

Success Philosophy[edit]

In his 2004 interview with the Horatio Alger Association, Mackay credited his paper route as teaching him the most about success. According to Mackay, he had to get up each day at 4:00 AM to deliver papers by 6:00 AM. He also learned “persistence, customer service, financial management and accountability.” Mackay learned his number one skill of selling and knew from age 10 it would be his life’s work.[4]

Mackay attributes his ongoing success to his emphasis on personal relationships.[58] In a 1997 Wall Street Journal article, Mackay discusses the importance of networking and the idea that people buy from other people due to “chemistry and likeability.”[59]

In his first book, Swim With the Sharks Without Getting Eaten Alive, Mackay outlined his 66-Question Customer Profile (referred to in future work and interviews as the “Mackay 66”) as a method for collecting information about customers.[60] According to Mackay, it’s critical that business people know their customers because having good “relationships with people is what essentially makes business go.”[58]

Mackay’s message on how to achieve success is based on four key principles: One, prepare to win; two, never stop learning; three, believe in yourself, even when no one else does; and four, find a way to make a difference.[26]


  1. ^ Schrage, Michael. "Shark Alert". Fortune. Retrieved May 23, 1988. 
  2. ^ Mackay, Harvey (1988). Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Foreword, Ken Blanchard: MJF Books. p. xvii. 
  3. ^ Mackay, Harvey (1997). Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty. "Happy Birthday, Ziggy!": Doubleday. p. 1. 
  4. ^ a b c d "2004 Horatio Alger Award Winner". Horatio Alger Association. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Caputo, Salvatore (February 19, 2010). ""Sharks" guru writes book to aid today’s job hunters". Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Davis, Liz. "The People You Know: Harvey Mackay". Success. 
  7. ^ Beard, Betty. "New book offers tips on getting hired". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d Sommer, Barbara W. "Harvey B. Mackay Oral History". Iron Range Research Center. Retrieved August 20, 1997. 
  9. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "The ABCs of Success". Harvey Mackay. 
  10. ^ "Show #126: Harvey Mackay; K-9 Cops; iCAN Hoopsters". Life Max. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c Mackay, Harvey. "Profile". Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Catching Up with Harvey Mackay". University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Retrieved May–June 2003. 
  13. ^ a b c Harrison, Craig. "Mackay’s Life Lessons Help People Worldwide Sell Their Ideas!". Speak and Lead With Confidence. Toastmasters. 
  14. ^ a b c Mackay, Harvey (November 2011). The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World. Introduction, Lou Holtz: Penguin. 
  15. ^ Ghosh, Gautam. "Know Your Employees Well". Talent and Social Business Blog. Retrieved July 13, 2008. 
  16. ^ "Stadium Report". Retrieved March 1975. 
  17. ^ Novak, Jay (March 2010). "Harvey at Bat". Twin Cities Business Magazine. 
  18. ^ Roe, Jon. "Minneapolis Investor Wants to Buy the North Stars". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 25, 1990. 
  19. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "Freedom: 2nd Annual Seminar". 
  20. ^ a b c Rebeck, Gene (July 1, 2002). "Harvey Mackay". Twin Cities Business. 
  21. ^ a b "MackayMitchell Envelope Company Overview". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  22. ^ "About". MackayMitchell Envelope Company. 
  23. ^ "About". MackayMitchel Photopak. 
  24. ^ Harrison, Craig. "Selling in the Real World". Toastmasters. Retrieved March 2012. 
  25. ^ "CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame". National Speakers Association. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  26. ^ a b "Meet the Five Outstanding Speakers of 1993". The Toastmaster. December 1993. 
  27. ^ Wayne, Leslie (September 8, 1995). "The Race to the Lectern". The New York Times. 
  28. ^ "Book Overview". Amazon. 
  29. ^ "Harvey's Books". Harvey Mackay. 
  30. ^ "Harvey Mackay". Universal Uclick. 
  31. ^ Mackay, Harvey (1988). Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. William Morrow and Company. 
  32. ^ "Archives - Best Sellers: May 22, 1988". The New York Times. 
  33. ^ a b Mackay, Harvey. "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive". TownHall Finance.com. Retrieved November 18, 2003. 
  34. ^ a b Hyatt, Joshua. "How to Write a Business Best-Seller". Inc. Retrieved March 1, 1990. 
  35. ^ Jack Covert, Todd Sattersten (November 2011). The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You. Penguin. 
  36. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt". Amazon Book Overview. Ballantine Books. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Archives: Best Sellers, February 25, 1990". The New York Times. 
  38. ^ "Archives: Business Best Sellers". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 1997. 
  39. ^ "Harvey Mackay". Leading Authorities. 
  40. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "Wise People Surround Themselves With Those Who Are Smarter". Tulsa World. Retrieved January 27, 2013. 
  41. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "Pushing the Envelope: All the Way to the Top". Ballantine Books. Retrieved 1998. 
  42. ^ "Archives: Business Best Sellers". The New York Times. Retrieved February 14, 1999. 
  43. ^ "Another New York Times Best Seller for Harvey Mackay". Bloomberg. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  44. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "We Got Fired!". Ballantine Books. Retrieved 2007. 
  45. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  46. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door". Penguin Portfolio. Retrieved February 2010. 
  47. ^ Mackay, Harvey. "The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World". Penguin Portfolio. Retrieved November 2011. 
  48. ^ "Best Sellers:Hardcover Advice, How-To And Miscellaneous". The New York Times. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  49. ^ "2013 National Philanthropy Day Award Recipients". Association of Fundraising Professionals. Retrieved 2013. 
  50. ^ "Governor Jesse Ventura Named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Minnesota Entrepreneurs". SolarAttic. Retrieved April 6, 1999. 
  51. ^ "Academy of Achievement: Harvey Mackay". SMEI. Retrieved 1990. 
  52. ^ "The History of Celebrity Fight Night". Celebrity Fight Night. 
  53. ^ "Minnesota Business Hall of Fame". Twin Cities Business. 
  54. ^ "About the Horatio Alger Association". Horatio Alger Association. 
  55. ^ "Congressional Record 110th Congress,". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2007 - 2008. 
  56. ^ "Harvey B. Mackay". U Awards and Honors. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2008. 
  57. ^ "MOA announces year end results and elects Board of Directors". Minnesota Orchestra. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 
  58. ^ a b Fischer, John. "Mackay Makes It Happen". Multichannel Merchant. Retrieved June 30, 2005. 
  59. ^ Lancaster, Hal (June 1997). "When Harvey Mackay Networks, He Thinks Quality, Not Quantity". The Wall Street Journal. 
  60. ^ Mackay, Harvey (1988, 2005). Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. William Morrow. pp. 23–31. 

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