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A Field Guide to the Gurus

Sometimes a book is more than just a book. In the guru business, a block-buster title is the ticket to hefty lecture fees and consulting gigs till you're dead. Here's how some of the biz-book heavyweights stack up against one another.

Kenneth Blanchard

  • Book that put him on the map: The One Minute Manager, 1982
  • Sales: Worldwide sales of more than 7 million copies and over two years on the New York Times best-seller list
  • Best blurb: "One of the more unusual books on the best-seller list." — The New York Times
  • Speaker fees: $62,000
  • Consulting company: Yes, the Ken Blanchard Companies. As an added bonus, each morning Mr. Blanchard himself reportedly sends an inspirational voice mail to all 250 employees, which includes employee prayer requests, but "no actual praying."

Jim Collins

  • Book that put him on the map: Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, 1994
  • Sales: Published by HarperBusiness, Built to Last has sold 1 million copies in the United States in all formats, including paperback and audio. Worldwide sales are at 3.5 million.
  • Best blurb: "One of the most eye-opening business studies since In Search of Excellence." — USA Today
  • Speaker fees: $55,000
  • Consulting company: No. Collins says Peter Drucker once told him he's got to commit either to putting out new ideas or to running a consulting business. Ideas won, Collins says. Hmm, where's "the genius of the 'and' " when you need it?

Michael Hammer

  • Book that put him on the map: Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, 1993
  • Sales: 2 million worldwide
  • Best blurb: "May well be the best-written, most well-reasoned business book for the managerial masses since In Search of Excellence." — John A. Byrne, Business Week
  • Speaker fees: $82,000
  • Consulting company: Yes. Hammer and Co. consults for a star-studded roster of clients that include such BTL "visionaries" as American Express, Hewlett-Packard, and Johnson & Johnson.

Tom Peters

  • Book that put him on the map: In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America's Best-Run Companies, 1982
  • Sales: The original hard-cover publisher, Harper & Row (now HarperBusiness), says it has sold 1.5 million copies in the United States. And Warner Books, which publishes the paperback edition, says more than 3 million copies are in print.
  • Best blurb: "One of those rare books on management that are both consistently thought provoking and fun to read." — The Wall Street Journal
  • Speaker fees: $65,000 in the United States, $85,000 outside
  • Consulting company: Yes. The Tom Peters Co. has been offering coaching sessions since the late 1980s.

A version of this article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.