The Fred Factor

Famous starlets may have been discovered at Schwab’s Pharmacy in Hollywood, but postal carrier Fred Shea was discovered when he knocked on the door of a new resident.

“Unlike every other postal carrier, he introduced himself. He talked about how he could be of service, and that was kind of the beginning point of the story,” says author and speaker Mark Sanborn.

The story has resulted in two best-sellers, “The Fred Factor” and “Fred 2.0,” which talk about how a can-do attitude can transform daily routine into the sublime.

“The beauty of Fred is he is not Bill Gates or Larry Ellison, two of the richest guys on the planet,” Sanborn says. “Fred had a very ordinary – or even boring – job, but he made it artistry. He focused not on the job he had, but how he did the job, proving it’s not the job but how you do the job that matters most.”

Sanborn will give insights during the Get Down to Business Lunch on Jan. 21 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. SFBW, which is a media sponsor, talked with Sanborn via phone from his office in suburban Denver. Here are highlights of the conversation.

Tell us about Fred and how it led to the books.

He inspired me, so I often told the story in my work as a speaker. One of the nice things about being a speaker is you get to test your material. So many people remembered and appreciated Fred. One woman who heard me speak about him sent him home-baked cookies via my address. I first met Fred in 1988 and the book came out in 2004. It’s approaching 1 million in U.S. sales and another 1 million internationally.

What can the audience expect to hear during your talk?

The big message is that no one can prevent you from being extraordinary. That’s the underlying theme of my last five books. Everyone makes a difference. Neutrality is a myth. Neutrality is always interpreted as indifferent; that’s never considered a positive thing.

What would be the biggest takeaway you would want to leave?

There are four principles based on the Fred Factor:

” Everyone makes a difference.

” It’s all built on relationships, which differentiate everything.

” You can add value to anything you do and it doesn’t have to cost a nickel. A lot of value creating is done with replacing money with imagination or capital with creativity.

” You can reinvent yourself everyday. Everyday we get to do and try something different, but a lot of people don’t. Reinvention is what keeps you excited, engaged and innovative.

How did you update Fred in the 2.0 version?

It’s a whole new book. It builds on the principles, but goes deeper and wider. People who read “The Fred Factor” wanted to know what happened to Fred, so I went deeper into who he is and how he became that way.

Is part of the resonance of Fred that he’s in a historical field that is facing challenges these days?

With the bad press the U.S. Postal Service gets, people are amazed when they hear a story of fantastic success. They wouldn’t have that reaction to someone who works at Zappos. You may work for an organization that doesn’t choose to be extraordinary, but you can choose to be extraordinary and that’s what Fred did. You often become extraordinary not because of, but in spite of, who you work for. 

What are some of the biggest trends people in business should focus on these days?

I think customer expectations are increasing rapidly because there are those organizations that have accustomed us to what really good service is like. We don’t look at service delivery as a static but a dynamic. 

I think we live in a world where it’s easy to copy successful organizations, but the question is how to differentiate yourself. The biggest change in leadership isn’t leadership, it’s followers. I increasingly believe people don’t want to be viewed as followers, they want to be viewed as contributors and collaborators. “Followers” suggests the same corollary that service and servants connote. ?

Mark Sanborn

The president of Sanborn & Associates is an internationally known leadership development speaker and best-selling author. 

” Local Talk: Get Down To Business Lunch presented by The Breakers Palm Beach on behalf of Easter Seals Florida, Jan. 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kravis Center, West Palm Beach. Event and registration: For more information on tickets, the event or sponsorships, contact Heather Weisbrod at, 561.471.1688.

” Books: “TeamBuilt: Making Teamwork Work,” “Upgrade: Proven Strategies for Dramatically Increasing Personal and Professional Success,” “The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary,” “Fred 2.0,” “You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader,” and “The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do.”

” Clients: More than 2,200, including John Deere, ESPN, Capital One, Costco, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, FedEx, Harley-Davidson, Hewlett-Packard, Key Bank, KPMG, Morton’s of Chicago and Motorola 

” Website:

The Story behind Get Down to Business

SFBW asked Sue Ventura, president and CEO of Easter Seals Florida, to talk about how Get Down to Business started and its impact.

Who helped come up with the idea for the event?

About nine years ago, an Easter Seals Florida staff member along with community leader Neil Merin [of NAI/Merin Hunter Codman] created the event as a way to connect Palm Beach County professionals with leadership inspiration. Neil recruited community icons Paul Leone [of The Breakers Palm Beach] and Bill Perry [of Gunster] to support the event, and they have been doing so since its conception. Jack Scarola of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley P.A. will be our chairman for the event this year.

Tell us about the importance of the event as a fundraiser?

Get Down to Business connects those in our community with a quality, engaging business program while financially supporting the many children and families who depend on Easter Seals for services. This event is critical for us to support the needs of Palm Beach County as we offer services for children with disabilities and special needs. The Igoe-Amar Child Development Center serves children 5 weeks to 5 years old, offering specialized education and early intervention services to ensure every child has an opportunity to be successful. Get Down to Business is a primary resource to engage our community while supporting a great cause.

How does the fundraiser help Easter Seals interact with the business community? 

While many businesses invest in leadership training and development for employees, this event inspires action in leadership. This year’s speaker, Mark Sanborn, is sure to impress.

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