Peter Handal, 68, has had a wild career ride leaving semiretirement to head the global company Dale Carnegie Training, which is based in Hauppauge and celebrates its 99th anniversary Saturday.
A Brooklyn native who lives in East Hampton, Handal was elected chief executive in 2000 after advising the self-improvement training company and serving on its board.
He's been at the helm through a global expansion and a recession. The company now has 278 offices in 84 countries, where Handal says the basic ideas of Dale Carnegie's behavior principles are able to cross cultural and geographical divides.
You have an office in Libya. How did you deal with that during the recent uprising?
"We were able to get our expatriates out of Libya -- local people chartered a plane and flew them to Dubai. But no country would take the local employees. Last thing we heard -- we got an email from one of our people and he said, 'I was just at the square. I saw my friends bloodied. I saw blood on the streets. Why is the world silent?' We didn't hear anything for four months after that. We did find out the office we had there was bombed. About two weeks ago, all of a sudden one of our field executives emails, 'Would you please call us, we think we can get back to business.' "
How did Dale Carnegie Training get through the recession?
"We're really fortunate in being so diversified. In the U.S. our business did go down a few percent, and in Western Europe it did as well. But in the Middle East, at that time it was absolutely booming. China and India never paused, they kept growing. Brazil? Booming. The advantage we have by being in over 80 countries is that it's very very rare that the whole world is in bad shape at the same time."
What is your leadership style?
"I start off the morning by getting a cup of coffee, and I wander around the office. I drop into people's offices, ask, 'Gee, what's happening?' The other thing I think is being a good listener, listening to people, asking what their issues are and what's going on."
What are you opinions on job searching and interpersonal relationships in this digital age?
"The Internet is a huge tool for someone who's looking for work. It's so much easier to get your resume out to lots of people, it's so much easier to use LinkedIn and Facebook to do searches for different types of industries, so I think from a point of view of an individual looking for work or looking to change jobs, it's a huge asset."
What about social media's effect on interpersonal relationships?
"What the Internet age has done is it has gotten us all very used to dealing digitally with
each other and not actually dealing face-to-face. And that's not a good thing. I think one of the reasons we do so much business with software companies or with IT departments is because people are really good at what they're doing but they've forgotten how to deal with individuals face-to-face, and that's not good for team building -- every company needs to have teams that work together."
If you could give a piece of advice to someone who's looking for a job, what would it be?
"Be persistent, be positive, do networking, be honest with yourself. Think about what you like to do, what you don't like to do, what you think you're good at, and what you think you're not good at. Those are four really important things, because I think if you can find something you're good at and you like, that's a natural. If you're out of work, your job is to find a job. It's not like, 'Oh I'll get to it later.' You gotta keep at it and be persistent."
What are Dale Carnegie Training's plans for further expansion?
"There's a lot of expansion yet to be done in places like Russia. In Russia we're only in Moscow. In Japan we're only in Tokyo. So we're going to be opening up additional offices."