Ken Schmidt

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It’s an impersonal world, where so many products and services are seen as easily-replaced, indistinct commodities. Whether you stand out or get lost in the crowd is a choice. A mindset. Ken Schmidt faced those same challenges himself and gained acclaim for his role in the extraordinary turnaround of the legendary Harley-Davidson Motor Company. That transformation was based on a change in mindset and a focus on answering three key strategic questions. While times have changed, what humans want and need from the businesses they buy from and work for hasn’t. In his high-energy speeches, Ken inspires companies and individuals to shift their thinking and ride a path to success by becoming memorable – not for what they do or what they make, but for how they connect with people. Ken is the author of Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance. He’s also the host of the Tailgating with Geniuses podcast and co-founder of Torque Sessions Leadership Training. In all of his endeavors, Ken brings an unconventional perspective that helps organizations and individuals reframe how they engage with their marketplace.


Ken Schmidt’s career in the motorcycle industry began in 1985 as a specialist in corporate positioning and media relations for the then-struggling Harley-Davidson. He was tasked with helping the company restore its image, improve its competitiveness, and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles skyrocketed, and the company returned to prominence as one of the most respected, profitable, and frequently reported-on companies in the world.


In 1990, Ken became director of Harley-Davidson’s corporate and financial communications, serving as its primary spokesperson to the media and the financial communities. He frequently appeared in mainstream and business media to offer insights on nontraditional communications, customer attraction, and brand-building. His expertise and success at Harley-Davidson ultimately led to consulting assignments and speaking invitations from all over the world.


In 1997, Ken left Harley-Davidson to take an ownership position with a highly successful Chicago-based marketing firm, VSA Partners. In addition to Harley-Davidson, VSA served a virtual who’s who of the world’s best-known brands. In 1999, he sold his portion of VSA to start his own business, Ken Schmidt Company, to combine two of his greatest passions, motorcycling and speaking. He uses motorcycles as a metaphor to expose people to proven ideas and concepts they’ve likely never imagined. 


In addition to speaking and consulting, Ken is co-founder of Torque Sessions Leadership Training. Through a combination of hands-on training and interactive workshops, these sessions help individuals and organizations re-position themselves to become dominant competitors, maximize leadership effectiveness, build a people-first culture of innovation, and foster loyalty among customers and employees. 


Ken is also the host of the popular podcast Tailgating with Geniuses, wherein he talks with some of the most innovative and successful leaders in a variety of industries to discuss their unique perspectives on leadership, major challenges, and success. Ken's relatable and engaging hosting style has made the podcast a hit with listeners looking to learn from the best and achieve their own personal and professional goals.


Ken authored Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance, which gives business leaders an easy-to-follow roadmap for improving their competitiveness, using many of the techniques he championed at Harley-Davidson. He considers his work on 100 Years of Harley-Davidson, a global best seller, to be one of his greatest and most rewarding achievements. 


After all, he has accomplished, Ken remains committed to his philosophy of standing out, taking risks, and having fun in both his personal and professional life. He says, “Never do what’s expected, make yourself as noticeably different as possible, and have a lot more fun than you’re supposed to.”


Speaking Topics - 




“No matter what we sell, make, or do, we’re a commodity to people who don’t know us,” says Ken Schmidt. Companies who understand that and change their mindset to engage customers differently will win big. Authenticity stands out in today’s impersonal world and Ken unpacks a roadmap for creating an unshakable emotional connection with customers. This talk is rooted in the ideas that drove Harley-Davidson’s incredible transformation and return to dominance as Ken and his team led the company’s shift away from focusing on product features and instead leaned into the key drivers of human behavior. As it did, H-D’s sales, profitability, and loyalty skyrocketed. Ken’s high energy and humor punctuate this talk as he shows businesses of every size and scope how to align everyone in the organization around a set of values that ignite customer passion, maximize sales growth, and stand out in their marketplace.



  • Discover the three questions that should drive every decision to protect and enhance your reputation
  • Transform the company mindset towards being known for who you are vs. what you do
  • Harness the three drivers of human behavior to create unshakable loyalty
  • Gain ways to be memorable so customers tell your story to others – in person and on social media
  • Elevate your business by humanizing it and delivering delight




“How do you want to be talked about and what are you doing to make that happen?” Ken Schmidt reminds people that we are a story-telling species and getting noticed by customers or even in your own organization is about being memorable. Saying or doing what people expect doesn’t make you – or your business – stand out. In this talk Ken shows how to make a lasting impact. It starts with answering three key questions about how you want to be remembered. Ken reminds audiences that what people remember about you is dependent on how you make them feel about themselves. It’s more important to be interested – not interesting. Ken shares lessons learned from a celebrated career at Harley-Davidson and beyond to show how to build a personal brand that will fast track your career in today’s dynamic landscape.


  • Identify your unique qualities and how you want to be remembered
  • Hear ways to make others feel good about themselves
  • Learn how to take an active role in meetings and actively participate
  • Understand that by encouraging others to share their stories, you can then share yours
  • Ways to continuously improve your personal brand by focusing on R&R (Remember & Repeat)

Ken Schmidt's Experiences

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An absolute pleasure! We continue to receive great feedback from our delegates which is a great sign!

Belinda Narby, Volkswagen Australia

I want to tell you how much people enjoyed your keynote. The LeadsCon/Access Intelligence staff and the other speakers I connected with specifically mentioned your talk as the highlight of the program. People loved it, and it was clear to see why. Your delivery was energetic and inspiring – the content was top-notch and thought-provoking.

Ian Macrae, AccessIntel

We have had great feedback so far and I heard references to your session take-aways which is exactly what we want! You were a great fit and the audience laughter and engagement made that apparent.

Jessica Eames, International Floriculture Expo

"Ken Schmidt was wonderful. We have heard so many positive comments from our attendees. I thoroughly enjoyed his insight and common sense approach to business. It really resonated when he mentioned that consumers are loyal to the people behind the business. His humanistic, common sense approach to business relates to all types of businesses.”

Managing Director, CIBC Bank

“I want to tell you how much people enjoyed your keynote. The LeadsCon/Access Intelligence staff and the other speakers I connected with specifically mentioned your talk as the highlight of the program. People loved it, and it was clear to see why. Your delivery was energetic and inspiring – the content was top-notch and thought-provoking.”

President, Access Intelligence
  • What is your favorite quote? What are people saying about you? What do you want them to say? And what are you doing to make them say it?
  • Are there any moments that stand out as having a significant impact on your career? Being part of the incredible team that drove Harley-Davidson's turnaround from the brink of ruin to global dominance -- using techniques nobody had ever used or heard of.
  • Outside of your profession do you have any hobbies/interests? Motorcycling (duh). Fishing. Hunting. Soccer. Snowboarding. Green Bay Packers. Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Who do you look up to as a mentor and why? Most memorable mentor was Richard Teerlink, CEO at Harley-D, who taught me that you can't be a leader if you're not doing what you're asking others to do.
  • Is there anything else we should know about you? I've done 1,200+ keynotes around the world -- all tailored to my audiences -- which means I do a lot of homework. I also lead workshops to help businesses improve competitiveness.