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Business Bootcamp
by Keri Brenner

The setting for Amnon Landan's evolution as a manager was hot, dry and tense.

Prime Mover
Name: Amnon Landan
Title: President and CEO, Mercury Interactive (Nasdaq: MERQ)
Age: 42
Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.
Worldwide: 40 offices
Product: Performance management tools for e-businesses
Number of employees: 1,300
Revenues: $240 million
Founded: August 1989; IPO October 1993

Personal: Wife, Yael. Four children ranging from ages 3 to 16.

Check out the web's best career management sites.
No, it wasn't an Arizona career workshop where the air conditioner broke. It was the front lines of the Israeli army.

Landan, 42, a native Israeli who has lived in the United States for the past 10 years, spent four years in the army, leaving as a captain. Israelis are drafted for three years; four if officers.

"You don't pay them money; you can't just promote them because you feel like it," says Landan, now president and CEO of Mercury Interactive (Nasdaq: MERQ), a $240 million performance-management firm for e-businesses, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. "So you need to motivate people with intangibles."

"[For example], when you give people authority, they excel," says Landan. "They think harder, they perform better. You learn that people want to compete and win, probably more than anything else."

Landan also learned that people like to know what is going on. He says there's a big difference in just telling a group to do something, with no explanation, and in telling them: "We're going to do this because of A, B, C, and the outcome will be X, Y, Z."

These and other army-management lessons have helped Landan lead Mercury Interactive which he helped found in 1989 to a 1,300-employee operation serving more than 10,000 b2b and b2c e-businesses.

The secret to such success in sales, he says, is listening to the customers and not being afraid to ask the tough questions.

"Listening is key all around, but sales is a profession that people don't think about listening being so important," says Landan. "And, you know, the key challenge is listening to the bad stuff that people don't really want to listen to."

"... So, OK, what will prevent me from closing this deal?" he explains. "Trying to dig for dirt, which is unnatural for people, right?"

The army also taught him to stay not only physically sharp, but also mentally alert. Landan says he rejuvenates mind and body through regular relaxation, which includes skiing and flying airplanes.

"In the business world, you just don't know [where or when] it is coming or in the army, it could just happen tomorrow," he adds. "So you need to be 120 percent focused on making the right decisions."

Tune into PBS' Nightly Business Report Thursday night to see Donald Van de Mark's interview with Amnon Landon. Prime Movers airs every Thursday on the Nightly Business Report. Check your local listing for times.

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