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Summary And Review of Semper Fi: Business Leadership The Marine Corps Way by Dan Carrison & Rod Walsh

Summary And Review of Semper Fi: Business Leadership The Marine Corps Way by Dan Carrison & Rod Walsh

Executive Summary

Semper Fi, short for Semper Fidelis is Latin for “always faithful” which is the United States Marine Corp’s motto. The Marines are the smallest branch the United States Military with approximately 200,000 active troops and 40,000 reserves as of October of 2009. The Marines are “the first to fight” and are an elite group of infantry famous for their extremely difficult training process and unique culture. They coined the phrase “The Few the Proud, the Marines,” because they pride themselves for their intense training and for being the first responders in times of war.

            Semper Fi was written by Dan Carrison who is currently the Senior Account Executive for Diebold, and Rod Walsh who was President of Blue Chip Inventory Service for 28 years. Both authors are former Marines and decided to write a book illustrating how Marine’s execution of recruitment, training, and management skills in combat can be transferred to improve management for the business world. They understand that managing a military branch is very different than managing a company or corporation. But they firmly believe that a Marine can use what he or she learned during their service, can effectively manage and better a company because of the leadership, values, and training standards that all Marines are trained with.

            Semper Fi covers management strategies that start from recruitment and goes all the way to strategies for CEOs of top corporations. They illustrate to the reader how incredibly difficult of the training process is for new recruits as they go through boot camp, giving actual example of drills and tests that all recruits are required to accomplish as a team. The author’s also explain the significance of each obstacle a new recruit overcomes and can relate the lesson learned to the business.

            The book explains to readers different management strategies that Marine Drill Instructors and Generals use to manage their battalions and explains how a manager in business today can implement them into their own management strategy. Some of the ideas seem a little black and white, such as if

The Ten Things Managers Need to Know fromSemper Fi

Recruitment is Key: When recruiting for new employees, firms should use there best and brightest workers that believe in the company to search for new employees rather than use third parties to come in and screen applicants, because having successful recruitment of quality employees is vital to the advancement of the company.

Create a Detailed Training Program: The Marine Corp’s is widely known for their rigorous training program known as “boot camp,” which molds civilians into hardened and elite Marines. It would benefit companies to have a long and arduous training process to effectively prepare employees for all the responsibilities that their new position entails instead of giving up on them and moving on to the next applicant because this increases turnover and is more costly than just effectively training an employee once.

Standardize Advancement: Corporations could benefit from standardizing promotions, raises, and corporate hierarchy which would promote more powerful managers to earn their positions and not allowing anyone to skip ahead of any position. By doing this the company is ensuring that top level management is competent and allowing everyone a equal chance for advancement based on merit, thus motivating all employees to go the extra mile.

4.            Middle Managers Should Lead the Mission: Middle managers should not just give tasks to subordinates but rather lead the task at hand by empowering employees to complete tasks or quotas, be part of the team, and never distancing one’s self from the group’s failures. This more hands on approach to management motivates employees because it pushes them to perform because they feel as if they are working with their superior not for them.

5.            Senior Management Leads the Organization: CEOs have the duty of running the corporation as a whole, but should also set the tone, culture, and values of a company sincerely.  CEOs should believe in their product and back it up proudly while making customers, stockholders, and employees believe in the company as well.

6.            Women in the Workplace: Women are completely equal and just as capable as men in the workplace, and should be treated exactly the same as their male counterparts. There should also be strict rules regarding romantic relationships between employees regardless of rank due to conflict of interests and possible sexual harassment lawsuits.

7.            Instill Courage: The corporate world can be a stressful place, so managers should push employees to master their fears. Whether one’s fear is public speaking, making a sales pitch to a tough customer, or fear of termination, managers should train employees to be confident in themselves so that they can be more efficient and valuable assets to the company.

8.            Study the Past: Many people find it useless to compare older business cases to current ones because of the technological age that we have evolved to is not makes older cases irrelevant. This is not true because fundamentals of business haven’t changed and Capitalism is still a relatively new phenomenon.

9.            Create a Sense of Mission: All too often do corporate employees become disheartened by their position because they deem it to be unimportant, and they begin to start performing at the bare minimum. Managers can remedy this problem by actively engaging with the employee and remind them of the difference that they are making which will make them feel that their job has more purpose so that they will want to be more productive.

10.            Keep Goals Realistic: This is important because a corporation’s employees need to achieve their set goals in order to boost morale and confidence to go for the next objective. If goals are always set to high, then employees will begin to get disheartened and never believe that they can achieve any set goal.

Full Summary of Semper Fi

Attracting the Best.

Recruiters should be the cream of the crop.

The Marine Corps believes that recruitment is vital to ensuring that the Corps will continue thrive and improve, because of their stance of being elite requires them to be selective when getting new recruits

Companies should place exceptional employees with the job of recruiter because for the business to grow it needs to find the best employees for the job possible.

Don’t use third parties for recruitment purposes because it only looks bad on the company if the recruiter isn’t completely familiar with the company or product, especially if the recruiter isn’t sincerely passionate about the company.

Recruiters should guarantee a career path for prospective applicants.

This will make a company seem desirable to work for if the applicant knows where their career has a chance for advancement.

Use annual contracts or bonuses to “sweeten” the deal for interested applicants or existing ones.

Basic Training.

An extensive training program is essential for gaining competent employees.

Marine boot camp is well known to be one of the hardest training programs in the world, both mentally and physically, but after completion the once soft young recruit will have transformed into an elite soldier. Marines believe that if a company wants effective employees that they need to be trained from the start how to be an effective employee.

Instead of continually replacing employees until they are satisfied, Marines believe companies should take the time to train them because it takes more time to constantly search for someone else while enduring rising overhead costs.

Empower employees to make decisions on their own

This allows employees to learn from their mistakes instead of always asking for a manager’s help, so that if the manager isn’t there they are prepared.

Supervision: Leading the Rank and File.

Standardize promotional requirements so that advancement is equal for all employees.

This prevents anyone skipping rank higher than one deserves while quantifying an employees progress making it easier to decide who to promote.

Lead by Example.

Do not expect any employee to respect a manager’s authority if they are a hypocrite.

Be honest with all of your coworkers.

Employees respect knowing the truth.

It is important not to hide company mishaps or glory stories of making a new account. Employees that trust their managers are more likely to work harder for them 

Continue to train even after an employee has started work.

Especially within business it is important to stay ahead of the game. Companies are constantly trying to innovate to gain a competitive advantage over its competitors, so having employees continue their education while they are employed will only benefit the company.

When an employee is promoted to manager, have them undergo management training. Just because someone is a veteran doesn’t always mean they are ready to be an effective leader.

Create a competitive work environment.

This will motivate employees to compete for advancement, and if they are not performing their job.

Sometimes employees get comfortable with their position and plateau and don’t try to improve to try and get by. This behavior should be addressed if improvement isn’t apparent then the employee should be replaced.

Middle Management: Leading the Mission.

Middle managers should be part of the team.

When delegating to subordinates it is important to be active in the execution of the task. Be available to help at all times, but let them decide how to carry out the task.

That will motivate the group to improve, while building teamwork skills among the group.

If the group fails, take responsibility. If the group succeeds give them credit.

Inform your Troops.

Do not hide anything from your subordinates, good or bad. It is better that they hear the truth from the manager directly then from fabricated hear say.

If the manager is unable to be there a well informed “troop” understands the task at hand and can act accordingly.

Do not fraternize with the troops.

It is important to build relationships with all of the employees directly below you. But keep it professional, it is unfair for a manager to become close with a subordinate. They workload may be unevenly distributed and problems will occur.

You aren’t the exact same at work as you are in social situations, someone may undermine your authority based on something unrelated to the office.

Team Building.

Getting employees to work together can make the company work more efficiently, with more opinions, and less mistakes.

Marine’s are required to do almost every activity as a team in order to survive boot camp, it is essential to their survival.

Eventually employees will rely on each other for assistance.

Senior Management: Leading the Organization.

Believe in your company.

CEOs should always be sincerely confident in their product and company, and they should promote confidence to customers, shareholders, and employees to believe in the company as well.

Handle scandals or accusations immediately.

If your company or employee is responsible for unethical or illegal behavior, it is better to address the problem ASAP. If a scandal has occurred take responsibility for the situation immediately and take actions to correct the problem.

If the accusations are false also confront them and discover a way to debunk the false claim before the company image is tarnished.

A Few Good Women.

Women are completely equal to men and should be treated as equals.

When assigning tasks managers should be gender blind, meaning that when assigning someone to a task that gender should play no role in the decision making process. 

Managers should educate employees about sexual harassment.

Everything that is considered sexual harassment should be addressed therefore preventing any confusion about what is considered harassment or not to prevent any misconduct in the future.

 Leading to Victory: Ten Winning Strategies.

Instill Courage.

People in business today have many fears that managers need to help them overcome to be more effective employees.

Some common fears include public speaking, stressful deadlines, and job security.

Managers can help employees overcome fears by implementing exercises or tasks in their day to day work to prepare them for the real thing.

 Study the past.

             1.   Just as the Marine Corps teach lessons learned from past battles       throughout history, to companies can research past business cases or lawsuits to better prepare them for possible scenarios that occur.

Create a sense of mission.

It is important for Marine Drill Instructors to motivate new recruits and Marines to be enthusiastic about their positions, and they accomplish this by constantly reminding them that they have a purpose and it is drastically important.

Managers that notice some employees that feel like their job is meaningless may find that they are apathetic and do just the bare minimum.

It is important for managers to regularly remind them how their work is crucial for the operation of the company, this will in turn motivate the employee to make a harder effort to impress the manager resulting in higher efficiency overall.

Keep goals realistic.

Setting unattainable goals in the hope of trying to maximize the company’s potential is not an effective way to motivate employees. Especially if there is a bonus that the employee knows will never be rewarded.

Employees will become disheartened because they never are able to reach their goal and then creating a poor work ethic.

If managers instead set attainable goals with incentives that employees will at least give an honest effort to try and earn the reward.

The Video Lounge


This video shows some Marines discussing what it takes to be an officer in the USMC.

Personal Insights

Why I think:

The author is one of the most brilliant people around…or is full of $ %, because:

I think that the authors Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh together do a great job in making parallels between business management and the Marine core style of management, but they seem a little simplistic. I agree that a lot of the suggestions or ideals are solid and individually, would work out favorably in most businesses; they do have some proof with their resumes. I found it interesting that they talked about how while in boot camp that almost every scenario the recruits were depending on teamwork to achieve their goals. Both of the authors are former Marines and they decided to collaborate together to get that point across.

Then, all of the following bullet-items are mandatory to write about:

If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:

1.            I liked the older boot camp stories, I would have liked to hear some more of the obstacles in the Crucible.

2.            I would also have liked to hear personal example of how the authors used what they had learned in the Marine Corps during their perspective careers to back up what they saying.

3.            If I were the author I would have given some early history of the Marine Corps before jumping right into recruitment.

Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:

1.            I enjoyed this book because I am a general management major and I felt like some of the strategies they explained should be taught in class.

2.            I didn’t realize how much management skill it takes to become a D.I.

3.            I also never thought of recruiting that aggressively, which I think is a great strategy.

I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:

1.            I would like to apply the ideal that your recruiter should be one of the company’s best and brightest, because new employees are the future of the company.

2.            I like the idea of having extensive training directly after someone is hired as opposed to a more lazed approach to training new employees.

3.            I would like to see in my company managers letting the employee figure out how to complete the task on their own without always guiding them there, because then they wont learn for themselves.

Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:

            Lengnick gave a brief summary of the book, with some disagreements about the actual applications of the book in modern day companies. He gave specific examples of why he disagreed that some of the suggestions were “silly” but did credit the authors that it was an entertaining book due to the interesting Marine stories and some solid management ideas.

            Tapp gave a brief synopsis of the book as a whole and found the book interesting because she believes that it gives some insightful ways to incorporate The Corps ideals into modern day business.


Act, authority of the 1946 Foreign Service, and the Marine security guards. "United States Marine Corps - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2010. .

Carrison, Dan, and Rod Walsh. Semper Fi business leadership the Marine Corps way. New York: Amacom, 1999.

Lengnick-Hall, M. (1999). Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way. Personnel Psychology, 52(3), 813-816. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

Tapp, S. (1999). Semper Fi: Business Leadership The Marine Corps Way. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 19(4), 75. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.


Contact Info: To contact the author of this “Summary and Review of Semper Fi,” please email w0357191@selu.edu.


David C. Wyld (dwyld.kwu@gmail.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.blogspot.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of works he has helped his students to turn into editorially-reviewed publications at the following sites:

Management Concepts (<a href="http://toptenmanagement.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow" class="exlnk"target="_blank">http://toptenmanagement.blogspot.com/)

Book Reviews (http://wyld-about-books.blogspot.com/) and

Travel and International Foods (http://wyld-about-food.blogspot.com/).                


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