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The best elevator pitch in history

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This is an encore episode that aired originally on April 5, 2014.

Back in 1983, John Sculley was the president of Pepsi.

He was a very highly paid executive sitting atop of one of PepsiCo’s most important divisions, and the youngest president in Pepsi’s history.

Sculley had dedicated his career to Pepsi, and was widely believed to be a serious contender to become PepsiCo’s chairman one day.

As a result of his high profile, Sculley constantly turned down offers from corporate headhunters, trying to lure him away to run other companies.

John Sculley had Pepsi in his veins.

One day, he received a call from the top headhunter in New York, telling him Apple Computers was looking for a CEO. Steve Jobs needed someone to run the company while he focused on product development.

A persistent Steve Jobs. (AFP/Getty Images)

Although Sculley was intrigued by Apple’s rise to become a Fortune 500 company in only six years, he said he wasn’t interested.

The headhunter urged him to just meet with Jobs.

Sculley had a trip planned to California to visit some family, so he agreed to meet Jobs while there, but insisted on paying his own way so there were no obligations.

When he met Jobs, he was taken aback by how young he was. Steve was only 27, but he and Sculley had a lot in common. Both were detail-oriented perfectionists, and both liked to build companies.

But Sculley was shocked by Apple’s headquarters. It looked like the branch office of an insurance company. Completely unimpressive. Sculley also noticed he was the only person wearing a suit, as all the Apple employees were dressed less formally than the maintenance staff at Pepsi.

Jobs told Sculley that Apple was going to be the most important computer company in the world because it was going to put the technological power of corporations into the hands of the individual.

Sculley was impressed with Jobs. Jobs was fascinated by Pepsi’s marketing. But at the end of the meeting, Sculley reiterated that he wasn’t interested in leaving Pepsi.

A few weeks later, Jobs flew to New York and dropped in on the Pepsi president. Sculley still resisted the offer. Then Jobs started calling him every three or four days.

While intrigued and flattered, Sculley kept declining the job offer. Apple countered by offering a huge salary and stock options that would vest at over 50 million dollars. Sculley still refused.

So Jobs flew up to New York again and asked Sculley to reconsider one last time.

Sculley said thank you, but no thank you. He had invested too many years in Pepsi, and he had a future there.

That’s when Jobs looked Sculley in the eyes and said, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

From left, Steve Jobs, chairman of Apple Computers, John Sculley, president and CEO, and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple. (Sal Veder/Associated Press) That challenge hit Sculley like a fist in the stomach. After all the meetings, the huge salary offer and the stock options, it was that one sentence that haunted him.

It gnawed at Sculley. It wouldn’t let him sleep. It was so powerful, it finally convinced him to leave Pepsi behind and join Apple.

That question from Steve Jobs is considered one of the best elevator pitches in history.


For this story and more from Under The Influence, click or tap on the “Listen” tab to hear the full episode.

You can also find us on the CBC Radio app or subscribe to our Podcast.


Under The Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio – a 1969 Airstream trailer that’s been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O’Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search for the hashtag: #Terstream.

(Image Credit: Sidney O’Reilly)

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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