By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published May 12, 2007 at 5:02 AM

I've known Phil Gerbyshak for a few years now.  We met through Young Professionals of Milwaukee and paths cross on a regular basis.  Phil's a good guy and very a positive guy.  In fact, with a new book and regular blog, he's working hard to make himself into the "make it great" guy. 

And, before you get negative on stereotypical self-help books I'll let you know that I've always been a big fan.  My mind needs them and as corny as many of these "stay great/stay positive" books can be, I always find that I learn something from them.  Plus, they are usually quick reads and easy ways to feel that I'm doing something useful and mildly educational.   

Currently a vice president of information technology at a big financial services company in town, Phil's book "10 Ways to Make it Great" is, just what it says: ten easy tips for an even better life. 

I had lunch, at the Milwaukee Public Market, with Phil recently and here's my Milwaukee Talks with Phil Gerbyshak.

OMC: Please give us the “Make it Great Guy” three-minute overview.

Phil Gerbyshak: Three-minute overview of Phil Gerbyshak, huh? I grew up in a little town in Northeastern Wisconsin, a little town called Crivitz, 996 whopping people, went in the Navy, after that communications technician there, did that for four years then moved to Milwaukee in April 19th of ’96. So I’ve been here since then, worked at a bunch of the bigger companies here in Milwaukee and, you know, of late I’ve been involved with ... many Milwaukee organizations, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and recently I published my first book.

OMC: Please tell us a little bit about the book?

PG: The book is called “Ten Ways to Make it Great” so it’s little things you can do to improve your life.  The first chapter is called “Begin at the End and Work Toward Today.” So it’s things that you can think about and then it’s kind of a workbook in that you can write down how you’re going to take action. So each chapter has one or more action steps. It’s 10 steps and, actually now with the second version, it’s 11 ways that you can make it great in your personal life, in your business, in your family, and whatever.

OMC: What was your initial inspiration for the book?

PG: Well, it’s a process. That’s for sure. It’s not an overnight thing, flip the switch, write a book. I read a lot. I read 30, 40, 50 books a year and a lot of those books are great in theory. You know, almost like college textbooks, reading Jim Collins’, “Good to Great”, is an amazing book, but it’s 200, 300, 400 pages. So how do you put those principles into action? Through all the books that I read I kind of wanted more.  So I said, maybe I could write something better than that or at least more actionable. I originally came up with, I don’t know, 32, 33 different ways to make it great. (There is) no ring to 33 ways to make it great so I slimmed it down to 10 ways and then added an 11th way. I think it’s always important to give people a little more than they want, you know, or than they expect.

OMC: What’s the early reaction been?

PG: It’s been great. Very, very positive. I had a professor at Drake University endorse the book, a lot of entrepreneurs have endorsed the book. Yeah, just a lot of people that really enjoy it. People have really enjoyed it because it’s actionable, because they can actually do something with it instead of just read it passively.

OMC: How do you work to promote the book and make it stand out?

PG: I blog a lot. I write often on my Web site at Make it I’m writing there almost every day, giving away copies of my book to people who might enjoy copies who might share it with their readers, you know, doing interviews like this and doing interviews with others. And then really the most important way --  I feel-- is that giving it back, finding people that you can help that you can work with to see how they’ve used it. So once you’ve given it to someone, finding out how has it worked for you or, you know, what are you doing in your life to improve your life?

OMC: And is it self-financed?

PG: Yes.  I went through Book Surge Publishing. They’re an Amazon company. And I went through them because it gives you the Amazon exposure. You’re able to do the inside the book and it looks just like a traditional publisher were to do it. They do all the distribution and it’s pretty cool that way. They help you with templates and some design and such. I had a graphic designer that helped me lay out the book. And the second copy I used Instant because I find that a lot of times I’m happy to give away copies of my book to a lot of people. Not that I don’t want to sell them certainly, but, you know, the legacy that I want to leave is more impactful than just selling 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 books.

OMC: You have a blogging conference coming up, I hear.

PG: The Successful Outstanding Blogger Conference is coming up May 11 and 12 in Chicago ... and I’ll be the first keynote conversationalist, if you will because it’s a conversation more than it is just a conference. We’re expecting about 200, 250 attendees all of which also blog and we’re going to talk about how to improve our blog, as well as really improve our business, whatever that is.

OMC: I always ask everyone for their definition of success.

PG: Oh, waking up in the morning and being proud of what you do and knowing that you’ve done everything you can to help make the world a better place and my life a better place, you know, and my family. I think having that feeling of fulfillment is my definition of success.

OMC: If you have a beer or a cup of coffee with someone living or - alive or dead, for whatever reason, who would it be and why?

PG: Wow. Good question. Who would I have a cup of coffee with? Well, I’d have to say, you know, kind of two people in the same room. Get together Christ and Gandhi and talk about why are we here, what are we doing, and what can we learn from those that have come before us and what do we have yet to learn from those that are yet to come?

OMC: Anything else? 

PG: Yeah, next book should be out in 2008, the Relationship Geek Guidebook. Make it great!   

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.