It’s an impersonal world, where so many products and services are seen as easily-replaced, indistinct commodities. Whether you stand out or get lost in the crowd is a choice. A mindset.
As the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company, he played an active role in one of the most celebrated turnarounds in corporate history – and got paid to ride motorcycles. He is widely known and respected as one of the business world’s most outspoken, provocative, and entertaining thought leaders on competition, brand management, positioning, reputation management, human behavior, and loyalty, and has delivered more than one thousand keynote speeches to business and education groups around the globe.
The longtime motorcycle enthusiast’s formal association with Harley-Davidson began in 1985. As a specialist in corporate positioning and media relations, he was asked to work with the then-struggling Harley-Davidson to help restore the company’s image, improve its competitiveness and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, as sales of its motorcycles rocketed upward, Harley-Davidson became one of the most respected, competitively dominant, profitable, and frequently reported-on companies in the world.
In 1990, Schmidt became director of Harley-Davidson’s corporate and financial communications, and served as its primary spokesperson to the media and the financial communities. He appeared numerous times on network news programs and was frequently called upon by business media to share his insights on nontraditional communications, customer attraction and brand-building. Speaking engagements around the world soon followed.
Ken is one of the most in-demand keynote speakers (1,000+ engagements) and communications consultants in America.
“Ken Schmidt was wonderful. We have heard so many positive comments from our attendees. I thoroughly enjoyed his insight
and common sense approach to business. It really resonated when he mentioned that consumers are loyal to the people
behind the business. His humanistic, common sense approach to business relates to all types of businesses.”
– Managing Director, CIBC Bank
“Your message was both right on and well delivered. Lots of great comments from our field leaders. Thanks for being so easy
to work with, for all the advance effort you put in to understanding our business and for hanging around to speak with our
people. Let’s do it again!”
– Head of Coaching, Leadership and Development, UBS
“Really nice job. Attendees thought your message was a perfect kick-off for our conference.”
Outstanding! An excellent speaker. Great energy on stage and very dynamic with superb message. He received the highest
rating possible from all of our attendees and ended our conference perfectly!”
– Protective Life Insurance Company
“I want to tell you how much people enjoyed your keynote. The LeadsCon/Access Intelligence staff and the other speakers I
connected with specifically mentioned your talk as the highlight of the program. People loved it, and it was clear to see why.
Your delivery was energetic and inspiring – the content was top-notch and thought-provoking.”
– President, Access Intelligence
“Really well done and appreciate you making your talk relevant to our company. I had people sending me chats and emails
afterward, commenting how much they enjoyed your session. And I could have climbed through the screen and hugged you
when you told our employees they did God’s work and that you wanted to invest in us in your closing.”
– SVP, Global Employee Communications, Pearson Education
A Partial List of Financial Services Clients
3 Questions Drove Harley-Davidson’s Turnaround
People are Loyal to Other People, Not Products
Winners Don’t Follow the Crowd
Ken Schmidt’s career in the motorcycle industry began in 1985 as a specialist in corporate positioning and media relations for the then–struggling Harley–Davidson. He was tasked with helping the company restore its image, improve its competitiveness, and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, sales of Harley–Davidson motorcycles skyrocketed, and the company returned to prominence as one of the most respected, profitable, and frequently reported–on companies in the world.
In 1990, Ken became director of Harley–Davidson’s corporate and financial communications, serving as its primary spokesperson to the media and the financial communities. He frequently appeared in mainstream and business media to offer insights on nontraditional communications, customer attraction, and brand–building. His expertise and success at Harley–Davidson ultimately led to consulting assignments and speaking invitations from all over the world.
In 1997, Ken left Harley–Davidson to take an ownership position with a highly successful Chicago–based marketing firm, VSA Partners. In addition to Harley–Davidson, VSA served a virtual who’s who of the world’s best–known brands. In 1999, he sold his portion of VSA to start his own business, Ken Schmidt Company, to combine two of his greatest passions, motorcycling
and speaking. He uses motorcycles as a metaphor to expose people to proven ideas and concepts they’ve likely never imagined.
In addition to speaking and consulting, Ken is co–founder of Torque Sessions Leadership Training. Through a combination of hands–on training and interactive workshops, these sessions help individuals and organizations re–position themselves to become dominant competitors, maximize leadership effectiveness, build a people–first culture of innovation and foster loyalty
among customers and employees.
Ken is also the host of the popular podcast Tailgating with Geniuses, wherein he talks with some of the most innovative and successful leaders in a variety of industries to discuss their unique perspectives on leadership, major challenges, and success.
Ken’s relatable and engaging hosting style has made the podcast a hit with listeners looking to learn from the best and achieve their own personal and professional goals.
Ken authored Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance, which gives business leaders an easy–to–follow roadmap for improving their competitiveness, using many of the techniques he championed at Harley–Davidson. He considers his work on 100 Years of Harley–Davidson, a global best seller, to be one of his greatest and most rewarding achievements.
After all he has accomplished, Ken remains committed to his philosophy of standing out, taking risks, and having fun in both his personal and professional life. He says, “Never do what’s expected, make yourself as noticeably different as possible, and have a lot more fun than you’re supposed to.”
A startling presentation designed specifically for banks, investment firms, credit unions and insurance companies that is now Ken Schmidt’s second-most requested topic. With little differentiation among competitors and media-fueled erosion of trust in financial services providers, it’s no wonder potential clients opt to work with “whoever’s closest to my house,” instead of “whoever can best serve my needs.” Or stay away altogether. Where others see futility, Schmidt sees unprecedented opportunities for growth. He’ll show you how to change the culture of your financial services business to stand out, create demand in your local markets, fuel client referrals and take advantage of the look-alike/act-alike competitive environment.
“No matter what we sell, make, or do, we’re a commodity to people who don’t know us,” says Ken Schmidt. Companies who understand that and change their mindset to engage customers differently will win big. Authenticity stands out in today’s impersonal world and Ken unpacks a roadmap for creating an unshakable emotional connection with customers. This talk is rooted in the ideas that drove Harley-Davidson’s incredible transformation and return to dominance as Ken and his team led the company’s shift away from focusing on product features and instead leaned into the key drivers of human behavior. As it did, H-D’s sales, profitability, and loyalty skyrocketed. Ken’s high energy and humor punctuate this talk as he shows businesses of every size and scope how to align everyone in the organization around a set of values that ignite customer passion, maximize sales growth, and stand out in their marketplace.
“How do you want to be talked about and what are you doing to make that happen?” Ken Schmidt reminds people that we are a story-telling species and getting noticed by customers or even in your own organization is about being memorable. Saying or doing what people expect doesn’t make you – or your business – stand out. In this talk Ken shows how to make a lasting impact. It starts with answering three key questions about how you want to be remembered. Ken reminds audiences that what people remember about you is dependent on how you make them feel about themselves. It’s more important to be interested – not interesting. Ken shares lessons learned from a celebrated career at Harley-Davidson and beyond to show how to build a personal brand that will fast track your career in today’s dynamic landscape.