Scott Petersen: “Message to Garcia” Still Resonates as Vital Business Principle

At a Utah Tech Council (UTC) event at Rees Capital (Amy Rees), I sat at the feet of Scott Petersen and John Richards from the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship. They refined my understanding of the proven principles taught in Nail It Then Scale It (Paul Ahlstrom & Nathan Furr), Business Model Generation (Alex Osterwalder), among others*.

However, Scott Petersen hit on a principle that perhaps in part explains my company’s 10 year success — delivering results as promised.  Petersen says in all of his companies he makes sure all staff understand what he means when he asks, “Did you get the message to Garcia?”  If you’re not familiar, I’ll share some background.

In 1898, President William McKinley, worn and wearied with the prospect of war (Spanish American War), realized the necessity of information regarding the Spanish forces in Cuba and the condition of insurgent Cuban forces. One of their leaders, Calixto Garcia, was at that time somewhere unknown deep in the mountains of Cuba.

With no super-sonic jet,  no Internet, no email, no Google Earth map, no GPS, no iPhone, no way to know Garcia’s location, President McKinley asked a Col. Wagner, “Where can I find a man who will carry a message to Garcia?” Wagner volunteered a then Lt. Andrew Rowan, a man of “action and initiative.” With no more than these character traits, Rowan set off to Cuba, returning in a mere three weeks having accomplished his mission.

Later the War Department acknowledged its appreciation  by presenting Rowan with the Distinguished Service Cross and the following citation:

“At the outbreak of the Spanish-American campaign, Lieut. Rowan, under disguise, entered the enemy lines in Oriente, crossed the island of Cuba, and not only succeeded in delivering a message to Gen. Garcia, but secured secret information relative to existing military conditions in that region of such great value that it had an important bearing on the quick ending of the struggle and the complete success of the United States Army.”

Despite great adversity and without excuses for the roughness of the road, Rowan met and exceeded his objective, his goal, his mission. I like the story because the story’s  tough terrain reminds me of  “Guerilla PR & Marketing” tactics, my favorite.

As I’ve developed dozens of college interns (BYU, UVU, UofU) over our decade in business, I’ve always taught these aspiring professionals the value of making and keeping commitments. In large part, that is the biggest skill young entrepreneurs bring to the table.

Others have said it differently.  “Say what you will do and do what you say.” In Star Wars Episode 5, Yoda challenged young Jedi Luke Skywalker to “Do or do not. There is no Try!”

Perhaps this is a key to our longevity at PilmerPR. We are careful to set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound.  We tell prospects what we will deliver and then we deliver. We don’t make “pie in the sky” promises that cannot be accomplished. We do set bold objectives and strive for excellence. And, perhaps this is why 100’s endorse our efforts.

Thanks Scott Petersen for the reminder.

Contact PilmerPR for powerful Public Relations & Online Marketing results. 10 year press release.


*Other helpful Links:

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Online Business Model Canvas –

Wikipedia: A Message to Garcia

Colonel Rowan’s own words




About the Author:

As founder of PilmerPR, John Pilmer, APR serves as a PR and marketing communications advisor for both emerging and established companies. He offers customers more than 20 years of results-driven business PR and marketing experience. John and the firm have provided PR consultation and campaigns for clients such as Mozy, Novell, AdvancedMD, Certiport, NextPage, ElectraTherm, Altiris, Avamar, EmergeCore Networks, FSLogic, INVISUS, 10x Marketing, MWI, Project Insight, REIC, Seastone, US Synthetic and Funding Universe (now Lendio), among others.
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