Drucker & Me: What a Texas Entrepenuer Learned From the Father of Modern Management

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In the tradition of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture, this is the inspiring true story of two men who decided to make a significant difference—and did. As Bob Buford and Peter Drucker discovered, when people share a common and compelling vision, anything can happen.

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Drucker & Me: What a Texas Entrepenuer Learned From the Father of Modern Management

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In the tradition of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture, this is the inspiring true story of two men who decided to make a significant difference—and did. As Bob Buford and Peter Drucker discovered, when people share a common and compelling vision, anything can happen.

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What People Are Saying

Rick Warren

“I personally witnessed this fascinating backstory between two of my best friends, Peter Drucker and Bob Buford. Now everyone can benefit from the amazing conversations Bob had with one of the brightest minds of all time.”
Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life

Ken Blanchard

“I loved Drucker & Me. I can't think of two more influential people, not only in my life but in the lives of many others, than Peter Drucker and Bob Buford. Learning from their friendship and stimulating interactions is a gift you won't want to miss!”
Coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher Level

Bill Hybels

"Being mentored by Peter Drucker was one of God's great gifts to my ministry. I remain indebted to Bob Buford for making that happen."
—BILL HYBELS, Founding Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church

Frances Hesselbein

“Only Bob Buford could capture the essence of Peter Drucker in such a moving and authentic way, for who was as close to Peter as Bob Buford? Bob's book is pure Peter.”
President and CEO of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute (Originally the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management)

Rick Wartzman

“In addition to being a terrific read, Drucker & Me provides an intimate portrait of Peter Drucker as we've never seen him before: as a close friend and mentor. In this way, it reveals not only important organizational lessons but also wonderful life lessons. There are lots of Drucker books out there at this point, but this one is a true standout.”
Executive Director of the Drucker Institute and Columnist for Time.com

Steve Reinemund

“A remarkable friendship is revealed in a compelling, inspirational, and challenging way, and the reader becomes part of this special relationship.”
Dean of Wake Forest School of Business and Retired Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

Richard Stearns

“A mentor is a person who multiplies his or her impact by investing in the lives and work of others. Peter Drucker was such a mentor to Bob Buford and then Bob became a mentor to countless others. This is the heartwarming story of how two men changed each others' lives and then leveraged that transformation to meet 'human needs and alleviate suffering' through a chain reaction that is still changing our world.”
President of World Vision US and Author of The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished

Tom Tierney

Drucker & Meis absolutely outstanding. I read it once, took notes, and have returned twice again. I am delighted to be able to publicly recognize Bob and this fine work. This little book punches well above its weight! Imbued with wisdom, it is a powerful story of profound collaboration and inspired leadership, teaching us all how to lead more useful lives in service of others.”
Chairman and Cofounder of the Bridgespan Group

Curt Pullen

“I did not know Peter Drucker personally yet have admired his work from a distance since as far as I can remember. Drucker & Meprovides a perspective on this important man that few would have of any man—one that even further enhances our collective view of his incredible contributions to our work here. I am grateful for Bob's effort in sharing this with all of us.”
Executive Vice President and President of Herman Miller North America and Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Drucker Institute

Wally Hawley

Drucker & Meis a wonderful example of what mentoring is supposed to be. The story is a warm relationship between mentor and his pupil. It is a model for anyone who is in a mentoring relationship and demonstrates how both people benefit from it. I felt I was part of the conversation. A bonus was the wisdom that Peter Drucker imparted that is valuable to all of us. It is worth rereading regularly. One of the best books I have read in recent years.”
Cofounder of InterWest Partners and Philanthropist

Mike Ullman

“This inspiring story of an entrepreneur's collaboration with the legendary management thinker Peter Drucker shows that great ideas combined with passionate execution really can change the world.”
Chief Executive Officer and Director of J. C. Penney

Philip Anschutz

“Bob Buford creates another great book—and as an extra benefit we get the perceptive wisdom of Peter Drucker added to the mix as well.”
CEO and Owner of The Anschutz Company and Philanthropist

Bruce Rosenstein

“Peter Drucker rarely wrote forewords to books by other authors. Yet he did it twice for Bob Buford. That gives you an idea of the mutual respect Drucker and Buford had for each other. Their relationship comes alive in Drucker & Me, and in the process we learn much about the lives of both men that can be a beacon for our self-development.”
Managing Editor of Leader to Leaderand author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way

Bill Drayton

“What an extraordinary story—the life partnership between Bob Buford, the world's most brilliant entrepreneur for faith, and Peter Drucker, the leading management thinker of the last century—and how it has changed the world!”
CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Jack Bergstrand

“I have been an admirer of Bob Buford's life-changing books for many years. Drucker & Meis my new favorite. The book is very engaging and skillfully personalizes the relationship between Bob and Peter Drucker, providing unique and wonderful insights on Drucker as a man and a friend.”
CEO, Brand Velocity, Inc.

Robert Lewis

Drucker & Meis about the power of partnership: Peter Drucker's genius joined to Bob Buford's receptive, entrepreneurial energy. Until now, few people have realized this synergistic relationship literally changed the face of today's church. A book filled with great insights any spiritual leader can benefit from, this is a story that needs to be told.”
Pastor, Founder of Men's Fraternity

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617952760
  • Publisher: Worthy Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 328,448
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Buford is a graduate of the University of Texas and the Owner Managed Program at the Harvard Business School. Until the sale of his company in July 1999, Bob Buford served as Chairman and CEO of Buford Television, Inc., which began with the single ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas, and grew into a network of cable systems across the country. In 1995 Buford wrote 500,000 copy bestseller Halftime, a book about how to deal with the second half of our lives. In 2004 he wrote Finishing Well, a compilation of inspiring interviews threaded with Buford’s own experiences. In 1984 he founded Leadership Network to serve leaders of innovative churches as they enter the twenty-first century.
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Read an Excerpt

Drucker & Me

What a Texas Entrepreneur Learned from the Father of Modern Management

By Bob Buford


Copyright © 2014 Bob Buford
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61795-344-6



"This time he's not coming back."


HOW MANY TIMES had I heard him say, "Begin with the end in sight"? A dozen? A hundred? It was one of those maxims I applied to just about every project I undertook, so it is fitting that I apply it here, which is to say this story begins in Aspen, Colorado, where I retreat from time to time to think, write, and recalibrate. On this particular occasion I had invited Brett Eastman, a very creative thinker, to join me. The two of us were deep into something that at the time seemed enormously important when my wife, Linda, interrupted us with news I had always known would come some day.

My dear friend and mentor, Peter F. Drucker, was dying.

The details punctuated this unwelcome message like an intruder in the middle of the night: He had not been feeling well and was taken to the hospital. Family members were flying in from all over the world to say farewell. There was talk about removing him from life support.

I knew what I had to do, but for many reasons didn't want to do it. Even as he crept past ninety, Peter remained as intellectually sharp as ever, and I could not imagine him any other way. I also knew him well enough to know he would not have been pleased to be the object of any sentimental hand-wringing, especially if he could not defend himself with a clever admonishment to those who had gathered to say good-bye.

Then there were the logistics of getting there, complicated by Peter's brutal objectivity and Old World practicality. It's never easy getting from Aspen to anywhere quickly, but finding Pomona County Hospital dampened my already limited enthusiasm for negotiating the Los Angeles freeway system. Peter, who seemed to know a lot about nearly everything, once told me that a good regional hospital will take care of you as well as the Mayo Clinic or UCLA Medical Center, and I had to smile when I learned where he had chosen to spend what may have been his final days.

I also am of the opinion that if there are things left unsaid between friends in a situation such as this, then it wasn't much of a relationship to begin with. Neither of us needed a deathbed to prompt kindness or appreciation out of us. What gain could possibly come from the awkwardness both of us would most certainly feel? Yet any thought of staying in Aspen quickly evaporated by a simple declaration from Linda.

"You have to go."

Of course she was right—she almost always is—and when Brett offered to travel with me, I somewhat reluctantly began to pack as he worked his cellphone to line up our flights. Even as Linda drove us to Aspen's tiny Pitkin County Airport, I retreated into a silent reverie of sadness seasoned with a fair amount of dread. Other than Linda and Jesus, through his words and example in the Bible, no one has had more of an influence on me than Peter, and this could easily be the last time I would see him alive.

Brett somehow stitched together flights that got us to Long Beach. I rented a car as he left to rejoin his family in Orange County, and since it had been an awfully long day of travel, I checked into a rather drab hotel along I-10, double-locked my door, and tried to get some sleep. Between the noise from the freeway outside my window, an unsettling pounding on my door in the middle of the night, and recurring flashbacks of the many good times I had spent with Peter—to say nothing of the lingering thought of having to see him under such terrible circumstances—sleep came in small doses.

When I got to his room, he was all alone, connected by wires and tubes to a variety of devices that either monitored his condition or kept him breathing. Over the years we may have met more than a hundred times, yet this was unlike any meeting I had had with Peter. Instead of the usual conversation characterized by his meandering answers to my questions that always looped back to an answer made profound by its obvious simplicity, we actually spoke very little. Fully alert and gracious as ever, he was clearly in a bad way, and I was glad I had come. Normally, before we met I would send him a long, rambling letter that served as our agenda, but today, my only purpose was to be there.

After about a half hour, he abruptly brought our conversation to an end.

"Well, you've done what you've come here to do, so you may go now."

It was so typically Peter. He fully understood why I was there and after giving me the gift of one final meeting to say whatever needed to be said, he released me from my assignment. I honestly cannot recall precisely what we said to each other, but it didn't seem to matter. It was an almost wordless summary of a twenty-plus year relationship between two friends who knew exactly what was going on and did not want to belabor the issue.

And so I left with a mixture of sadness and gratitude. Sadness at the almost certain belief that I would never see him again—at least not in this world—but gratitude for having been so deeply influenced by this great man. I left his room, walked to my car, drove to the airport, and flew back to Aspen and waited for the inevitable, only to enjoy one more surprise from Peter.

To everyone's amazement, he recovered. Though physically quite frail, he was able to return home.


Fast forward several months to September 29, 2005. Whenever I visited Peter, I always tried to take someone along with me. I felt it was almost selfish not to share with someone what I would undoubtedly gain from any meeting with him. On this particular occasion, I had asked Derek Bell, a very bright young consultant who had served in a temporary leadership role with the Drucker Institute, to join me at Peter's home on Wellesly Drive in Claremont, California. We had what we thought was a grand agenda, and that was to talk with Peter about his legacy—especially all of his writing—and how we might help him with that. Between Derek's past experience in publishing and my business acumen (honed by Peter), we had some ideas about how Peter's ideas, writing, and influence could best be kept alive for future generations.

When Derek and I walked into his modest living room, it was obvious that Peter was failing. His wife, Doris, had confided to us that he spent most of his days sleeping and that she had to practically douse him with water to get him ready to meet us. But she also assured me that especially in his later years when his health had begun to deteriorate, my visits had been something of a tonic for him.

As always, I made a mental note of the books on Peter's coffee table. Peter had taught me how to learn and the importance of continually aiming higher, a striving for perfection that he had picked up from the great Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi. Every three years Peter selected a subject and then immersed himself in it. When the time was up, he moved on to something else. There lying on Peter's coffee table on this day were books about microbiology.

He greeted us warmly from his favorite chair as I settled in beside him to his right, Derek to his left, and Doris on the couch across from him. As I began to explain why we were there, Peter listened politely until I had finished and then in his inimitable style crisply ended our "discussion" of his legacy with four sentences that I remember verbatim:

"I am a writer," he began. "My legacy is my writing. I did not create an institution. Now what would you like to talk about?"

The first three of those sentences pretty much summed up his career. Peter was a great observer of humanity. In November 2001, The Economist commissioned the then-ninety-one-year-old to write a special twenty-seven page piece about "the next society." "Tomorrow is closer than you think," the magazine averred. "Peter Drucker explains how it will differ from today, and what needs to be done to prepare for it." He was all substance and wrote with exquisite clarity, which is probably why he was shunned by the academy. As famed management writer Tom Peters once put it: "Drucker effectively bypassed the intellectual establishment. So it's not surprising that they hated his guts." But Peter didn't care. He was not concerned that a building or institute be named after him.

It was almost as if Peter was telling us that if you must have a special meeting to plan your legacy, you really don't have one at all. He had been working on his legacy all his life, writing books that contained few footnotes because his thinking was original; he did not borrow from others but left a treasure of wisdom for all. Peter had a streak of mischief in him that he was normally able to contain, but I thought I detected a sly smile cross his face as he so deftly closed the door on this legacy business. Had he the energy, he might have nudged me and said, "So what are you doing out here, big boy?"

It turned out that Peter, on his own, had negotiated a deal with Harvard Business Review, giving them the publishing rights to his books whenever their original publisher declared them out of print. The elegant simplicity of the deal was classic Drucker, leaving Derek and me a bit sheepish and marvelously impressed again with his crystal clear foresight.

But even this brief exchange had taken its toll on Peter's strength. Doris, always a fierce protector of her husband of seventy-one years, signaled the end of the meeting.

"Peter! It's time for your nap." (Once, over dinner, I asked Doris what her mission in life was. She responded crisply, "The preservation of Peter Drucker.")

With her help he struggled to his feet, and with one hand on his walker, he extended his other to us.

"Bob, so nice to see you again. Mr. Bell, a pleasure to meet you."

And then he shuffled off to his bedroom, Doris at his side.

We stood in the living room until Doris returned. I let my eyes take in his beloved Japanese prints on the wall across from me and tried to recall the very first time I had knocked on the door to this house. In many ways, nothing had changed inside that humble home. Yet so much had been accomplished as a result of that unlikely first encounter with a man I once had known only through his writing.

After making sure Peter was cared for, Doris walked us to the front door. Never one to be sentimental, she pulled me aside and gave it to me straight.

"This time he's not coming back."

I stepped out into the warm California sun and paused before getting into the rental car. Some of my fondest memories traced their way back to this small house. I smiled to myself as I recalled my youthful chutzpah in assuming that the man who advised the CEOs of Intel and Procter & Gamble would take me on as a client. I almost laughed at the incongruity of this Old World European gentleman hanging out with a disparate group of mavericks to which I had introduced him. It had all started here, and I knew this time that it was about to end. But that it wouldn't really. Because Peter had already settled the question of his legacy. That was Peter—a step ahead of all of us.

Two months later, Peter F. Drucker, my friend and mentor, died.

And this is the rest of the story.



"No century has seen more leaders with more charisma than the Twentieth Century, and never have political leaders done greater damage than the four giant leaders of the Twentieth Century: Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao."


AS WELL AS I thought I knew Peter, it wasn't until the obituaries started appearing that I learned about his earlier years. From these as well as other accounts, it seemed clear to me that in many ways, he was born at the right time in the right place.

Vienna in 1909 was widely recognized as the intellectual hub of Europe, if not the world. And Peter's parents, Caroline and Adolph, a top trade official for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, traveled easily among the elites of the day. Indeed, their home on Kaasgrabengasse, a quiet avenue in the Viennese neighborhood of Döbling, embodied the tradition of the European salon society. Two or three times a week his parents hosted gatherings of state officials, doctors, scientists, musicians, and writers to discuss a remarkably wide range of topics. Peter, who would become a true polymath, soaked in all of it.

Among his parents' contemporaries was Sigmund Freud, who became known as the "father of psychoanalysis." Peter was eight years old when he first met Freud and recalled what his father told him later that afternoon: "Remember, today you have just met the most important man in Austria and perhaps in Europe." Ironically, Peter would go on to be celebrated as the "father of modern management," a title that held little interest or fondness for him.

At age eighteen, Peter left Austria for Germany, where he enrolled at the University of Frankfurt to study law. If his privileged childhood nurtured his longstanding intellectual curiosity, his years in Germany fostered an ongoing suspicion of power, thanks to another Austrian-born citizen who was beginning to make his mark in Germany: Adolf Hitler.

The year was 1927, seven years after Hitler convinced the German Workers Party to change its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), later nicknamed the Nazi Party. Ever since Hitler had been sent to spy on the German Workers Party in 1919, his charisma and skill as an orator had fueled his—and his party's—rise. Such was his appeal that the NSDAP grew from a mere twenty-five members in 1919 to more than two thousand in 1920. By 1921, Hitler ousted Anton Drexler to become the head of the party, and over the next several years Hitler would foment dissent against the German government, spend a year in prison where he wrote Mein Kampf, and then begin a systematic and strong-armed campaign to become, at age forty-three, the Chancellor.

Peter arrived in Frankfurt around the same time Hitler held his first Nazi meeting in Berlin. To support himself, Peter worked as a trainee in a brokerage firm. As the Great Depression set in, he watched with increasing alarm as Hitler and his propaganda machine consolidated power. Peter recognized the threat brought by a charismatic "savior" seeking to build a strong, centralized government by appealing to the fears of a nation in economic and social chaos.

It was also during this time that Peter demonstrated his skill as a journalist, eventually becoming an editor at the half-million circulation daily newspaper, the Frankfurter General-Anzeiger. His primary responsibility at the newspaper was to cover foreign affairs and economics, but he often attended the mass political rallies in Frankfurt and covered Hitler when he visited the city. While many of his contemporaries dismissed Hitler as a radical on the fringes of politics, Peter took him seriously. And once the Nazis gained a foothold, they apparently began to take Peter seriously as well. In 1933 he published a pamphlet on Friedrich Julius Stahl, a leading German conservative philosopher, which so offended the Nazis they publicly burned it. Perhaps foreshadowing his tenacious conviction for doing what was right, four years later he published another pamphlet, Die Judenfrage in Deutchland (The Jewish Question in Germany), which was similarly received by the Nazis.

Shortly after his second pamphlet was banned, Peter moved to London, and by 1937 he had immigrated to the United States. But his brief time in Germany helped shape his thinking about management because, as he later reflected, unless all sectors of society work effectively, tyranny is sure to fill the void. "To make our institutions perform responsibly, autonomously, and on a high level of achievement is thus the only safeguard of freedom and dignity in the pluralistic society of institutions," he once wrote. "Performing, responsible management is the alternative to tyranny and our only protection against it."


To think of Peter only in the context of "management" would be to miss the point of his real contribution to society. Peter himself tended to reject the labels others used to describe him and thought of himself more as a writer than anything else. In his early academic career he taught politics and philosophy at Bennington College in Vermont. A few years later, in 1943, he began a systematic study of General Motors, which led to the publication of his landmark book, Concept of the Corporation. He then moved to New York University's Graduate School of Business and shortly thereafter heard a fellow Austrian, the economist Joseph Schumpeter, say something that would change the trajectory of his life: "I know it is not enough to be remembered for books and theories. One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in people's lives."

This is really what Peter was all about: making a difference. He always had the bigger picture in mind even though his particular milieu was the world of business. "None of our institutions exists by itself and is an end in itself," he wrote in his book Management. "Every one is an organ of society and exists for the sake of society. Business is no exception. Free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business; it can be justified only as being good for society."


Excerpted from Drucker & Me by Bob Buford. Copyright © 2014 Bob Buford. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Jim Collins,
1 You May Go Now,
2 Beware the Man on the White Horse,
3 First Encounter,
4 Strictly Business,
5 Extraordinarily Ordinary,
6 Lessons from Peter,
7 Success to Significance,
8 Second Half Conspiracy,
9 Peter and the Preachers,
10 Go Big or Go Home,
11 Purposeful Innovation,
12 Mentor and Friend,
13 The God Question,
14 Saving Society,
Epilogue by Ed Stetzer,
More Insights from Readers and Friends of Peter and Bob,

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  • Posted April 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Peter F. Drucker was no ordinary mortal. He was a writer, profes

    Peter F. Drucker was no ordinary mortal. He was a writer, professor, management consultant and self-described “social ecologist.” The BusinessWeek hailed him as “the man who invented management,” and Drucker directly swayed a large number of leaders from a wide spectrum of organizations across all sectors of society. Among the many: General Electric, IBM, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Girl Scouts of the USA, The Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Farm Workers and several presidential administrations.

    Drucker & Me: How Peter Drucker and a Texas Entrepreneur Conspired to Change the World
    by Bob Buford is the enthralling and persuasive story of two men who transformed and altered the world of non-profit organizations. It is a bond that lasted well for twenty-three-year between the Austrian-born 'father of modern management' with a penchant for Japanese-art, and a well-off Texas cable TV operator and passionate Dallas Cowboys supporter.

    On the other side, Bob Buford, is a cable-TV magnate turned philanthropist. Buford inherited his small family business in Tyler, Texas after his mother died in a fire. By his early 40s Buford felt overwhelmed. He reached out to Drucker for help, and Drucker & Me tells how the two men discover a mutual passion and strategy that will literally change the world. By his mid-50s, Buford was more financially successful than he’d ever dreamed he’d be.

    Thanks to Bob Buford’s wonderful book, Peter Drucker comes to life again. Drucker & Me is in the style of Tuesdays With Morrie and The Last Lecture. It also includes Buford’s fascinating reminiscences of his time with Drucker.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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