Ken Langone: The Three Most Powerful Things In Business

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Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Invemed Associates Chairman and President Ken Langone on CNBC’s “Mad Money” (M-F, 6PM-7PM ET) today, Monday, July 18th for the debut of “Mad Money” broadcasting from the New York Stock Exchange.

Home Depot Co-Founder Ken Langone Shares What He Thinks Are The ‘3 Most Powerful Things In Business’

JIM CRAMER: Ken, I’m honored that you are my first guest. This is where we live.

KEN LANGONE: This is capitalism.

CRAMER: Yep, and I wanted you to talk about the constructive nature of capitalism and how what is produced in our country because, you know, it is the greatest force that we have.

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LANGONE: I agree. Not only us, but the world has. Capitalism brings about the opportunity for a better life for everybody. You will look at industry today, you look at the opportunities for people to go to work, to provide for their families. But the thing I like to brag most about Home Depot, we have 3,000 kids that started working for us in our parking lots, entry level, that are today multimillionaires. 18 years old they came to work for us, no college, no training, no nothing. Hard work, passion on their part, opportunity from us to them. My father was a plumber, my mother worked in the school cafeteria. Where else but in America under a capitalistic system could I be asked to be with one of the most noteworthy journalists in the country here in the in the harbor of capitalism.

CRAMER: Now, I'm going to pivot a little bit because you have created something that people don't realize. You've taken an institution, created NYU Langone, but you have taken an institution that was always good, it was always good—

LANGONE: It was wonderful.

CRAMER: But you made it the best. And what I need to know for people who are trying to figure out how to fix a company, trying to judge a company, I think what you did at that hospital is every bit of what we should be looking for in a private company. How did you do it?

LANGONE: Well, first of all, I applied the principles I apply to business to that. A great leader, a manager Bob Grossman, the best. Here Bob, here's the keys of the place, get the job done. And then you do what you really need to do to get people motivated right down to the newest employee with the most basic of jobs, you let them know they matter. You let them know they can make a difference. So the same principles we had at Home Depot, we have at NYU Langone Health so the building staff people, doctors, nurses, pediatricians, patient care, everybody matters. Everybody has a purpose. I'll give you one story. We had a patient who had a heart transplant. He couldn't sleep because he was worried about having a different heart. Building service fellow went into the room at three o'clock in the morning to clean out his pail. He saw the patient was awake and he said, “How you doing?” And the guy said, “I'm worried. I have a new heart,” blah, blah, blah. The patient care, that fellow sat with him for 30 minutes. The next day the patient was transferred from intensive care to a general room. The building service fellow went to see him every night. The man wrote me a letter telling me that the care he got from the building service associate was as important to him as the surgeon that did the transplant. Everybody matters. Everybody can make a difference.

CRAMER: Everybody matters. Now I think that there are a lot of people Ken who look at this street where I started, you know, and think that somehow we and I'm gonna say someone who's done successfully think that others don't matter.

LANGONE: Everybody matters.

CRAMER: Everybody matters but how have we failed in getting that across? What's, what's that?

LANGONE: Well, if you're my competitor, I hope you don't know it because if you really can get everybody engaged in the mission, if you can get everybody to believe they can make a difference, not only can they make a difference, but they are the difference. That if you can let them know the three most powerful things in business, a kind word, a thoughtful gesture, and passion and enthusiasm for everything you're doing, everything. Last week we were picked number one hospital in New York, number three in America.

CRAMER: It's incredible.

LANGONE: Better than all that, today we're the number one neurological service in America and number one neurosurgery program in America. Those are big things. How do we do it? Reach out to get the best people. Who are the best people? People with passion. People with commitment and with dedication, obviously, they gotta be talented as well. But when you get them with all those characteristics, turn them loose, let them go and stay on the sideline and cheer them on.

CRAMER: Are we able to get some of those people in government? I know that you've been critical, you know, but you're not a critical guy. You've been constructive about some of the things that are happening in the country, including you, you were early on flagging inflation, about the Federal Reserve and you know that Jay is doing, Jay Powell is doing his best. But we need to have the same attitude in government that you just talked about now both in charity, a hospital, and in business. The one end of our country that doesn't seem to exhibit these is government.

LANGONE: Jim, unfortunately, politics has infected everything we do.


LANGONE: Okay. To me, the Federal Reserve's position always should be prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Last year Jim, we lost a whole year on this inflation fight.

CRAMER: Yes, we did.

LANGONE: We lost a whole year, and you go get your tapes from when I was on.

CRAMER: Oh you said it was not transitory.

LANGONE: It’s not and I said more importantly, it's much more serious than we realize. Those people that sat on that board had more information than I did. They had to see what I saw and I'm afraid, Jim, that decision was driven by political considerations, not economic considerations. I'm sorry. The Fed last year, in my opinion, lost a good part of their credibility by not being more aggressive.

CRAMER: And you would tell people look, inflation erodes the working person, you and I are gonna do okay. It's about the person who is not able to make, you know what levels of income get destroyed by inflation.

LANGONE: Look Jim, inflation is the most severe of regressive taxes. A pound to me in the context of my net worth and my income is nothing. A pound to some poor fellow that just starting here as a clerk, it's a big percentage of his income. Okay? So Jim, the bottom line is let's do what's right, let's not do what's politically correct. And that's my problem with government today, across all parties. I'm passionately committed to Joe Manchin. Why? He has shown he thinks America deserves credit, deserves preference over politics. So he fought BB, can you imagine what inflation would be if BBB had gone through?

CRAMER: Oh, no, no, we would be, not saying it's—

LANGONE: Oh you’d be 15%.

CRAMER: But we’d be in there with some of the worst governments we know in the world. In the world.

LANGONE: We would be Venezuela. We would be Argentina. We would be Colombia.

CRAMER: And that's where the middle class is destroyed.

LANGONE: And Jim, who would get hurt the most by that are the little people.

CRAMER: Right. Well Ken, we gotta stop now.


CRAMER: I'm so glad you were here.

LANGONE: Thanks for having me.

CRAMER: This is a big deal for me.

LANGONE: Well, it’s a big deal for me and congratulations. As I said, you've got this well-deserved recognition and promotion. I like the fact you wear a necktie. I’m old fashioned. I put one on every day, by the way, today, American flag. And by the way, these cufflinks—

CRAMER: Beautiful.

LANGONE: Were given to me by Dick Grasso when I joined the board of the New York Stock Exchange 22 years ago, so they have great meaning—

CRAMER: And we are proud, we are proud, we are proud.

LANGONE: Don't ever bet against America ever.

CRAMER: Alright, let’s leave it at that. Ken Langone, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Invemed Associates and so many other things, Home Depot, NYU Langone, but what he really is, is he is an American.