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Common Courtesy Goes a Long Way in the Business World: Clint Greenleaf

Nicole Goodkind
Nicole Goodkind
Daily Ticker

Clint Greenleaf was going to be a marine.

He studied accounting in college but planned on fighting for our country upon graduation. Those plans were put on hold when Greenleaf tore his shoulder and was no longer able to train or fight.

"I did not have a very good GPA and wasn't doing a good job in the day-to-day accounting part of my life, but I was applying to jobs at accounting firms," Greenleaf tells The Daily Ticker. "My friends all said you're probably not going to get a job. I went to the interviews, and I tied my tie and shined my shoes and said yes sir, no sir, made sure I was polite and acted like I would belong well in an accounting firm."

The lessons Greenleaf learned from his marine training -- the importance of manners and appearance -- translated into job interviews. He applied to six major accounting firms and was offered a job at each one.

"So there was this idea that, 'wow maybe politeness does work,'" says Greenleaf.

Friends who were interviewing for jobs started coming to Greenleaf for tips. He jokingly wrote a 28-page booklet titled "Attention to Detail." The book took off through word of mouth and Greenleaf began receiving orders via mail.

"On weekends after church my grandparents, parents and I would staple them all together, fold them all up, and mail them out," Greenleaf explains. "And this is while I was working at Deloitte, so I spent 7 full months as a CPA."

Bolstered by the success of his book (which is now in its 4th edition), Greenleaf left Deloitte to start his own publishing company. Today Greenleaf Book Group has nearly 40 employees and 24 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. The group earned $10 million in sales for 2011.

While the publishing industry struggles against the increasing prevalence of eBooks, Greenleaf Book Group continues to thrive. Greenleaf attributes this to manners.

"I hire really smart, polite, kind, intelligent people," Greenleaf tells The Daily Ticker. "They've done a great job of helping me navigate through the waters [of a changing industry]."

According to Greenleaf, a little bit of politeness goes a long way.

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