• Deirdre McCrohan

Tiburon's Jason W. Jennings was bestselling business author and coveted speaker


Tiburon resident Jason W. Jennings, a New York Times bestselling author who wrote seven business advice books, died May 19 at Marin General Hospital, 11 days after suffering a ruptured abdominal aneurysm. He was 67.

Mr. Jennings’ books had been translated into 34 languages, and he was a highly sought-after speaker, booking engagements that took him all over the world.

His first book, co-written and co-researched with Laurence Haughton, was “It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small, It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business.”

Within days of its publication in 2001, it hit the bestseller lists of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the New York Times. USA Today named it one of the top 25 books of the year.

His next book, for which he gathered data with his research team, was “Less Is More” in 2002, about the 10 most productive companies.

His 2012 book, “The Reinventors: How Extra­ordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change,” also made the Times bestseller list.

In 2018, Times reporter Kerry Hannon interviewed him for the story “Visionaries with the Courage to Change the World.”

Other Jennings titles included the 2005 book “Think Big, Act Small,” the 2009 book “Hit the Ground Running: A Manual for Leaders” and the 2015 book “The High-Speed Company: Creating Urgency and Growth in a Nanosecond Culture.”

In a departure from his business-related books, he co-authored “The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day” in 2010 with cardiologist John M. Kennedy.

Since the release of his first book, he had given more than 1,200 motivational and keynote speeches and seminars in more than 100 countries, becoming proficient in seven languages.

Mr. Jennings was born May 31, 1952, in Negaunee, a small town in northern Michigan, to William Allen Jennings and Beverly Mae Johnson Jennings.

At age 13, he was hired as a radio disc jockey to do a “teen hour” at 6 a.m., which he did before heading out to school. He was required to generate the advertising revenue, so he went to merchants and businesses and he learned as he went along.

He worked as a television reporter while attending Negaunee High School and Northern Michigan University. At age 21, he became the youngest radio-station-group owner in the nation, co-owning stations in Flagstaff, Ariz.; Spokane, Wash.; and Hilo, Hawaii.

Later, he founded the consulting firm Jennings-McGlothlin and Co. That had him commuting back and forth to New Zealand and Australia for several years.

During his time at the firm, Jennings worked with and taught the leadership teams of companies in New Zealand, Australia, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Europe, the U.S. and Canada, flying more than 10 million miles.

In 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in business by Northern Michigan University, where he also delivered the commencement address.

Fritz Erickson, the president of the university, called Jennings “very special.”

“For having grown up in a small town, he led such an interesting and successful life and was able to do it with such tremendous compassion and concern for others,” Erickson said.

Erickson noted Mr. Jennings traveled often to visit family and friends in Michigan and kept in contact with Erickson and the university after he received the award.

“He was interested in our students and their passion for the environment,” Erickson said. “He was always interested in how they were doing.”

Mr. Jennings moved to Tiburon in 1979 with his partner, George Staubli, who later became his husband. They were together 44 years at the time of Mr. Jennings’ death.

A fitness fanatic, he and his husband worked out at the Bay Club at least four or five times a week. For years, they walked the entire loop of the Tiburon Peninsula at least once a week. He was a gourmet cook.

They were longtime members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

“He loved people more than anything,” Staubli said. “He hated injustice more than anything.”

Although his business travel kept him on the road, he still enjoyed traveling for pleasure and had stamps in his passport from more than 100 countries. In his free time, he enjoyed playing the viola, which he took up after he turned 50.

Staubli described his Mr. Jennings as “a warm-hearted, giving, creative and talented man.”

In addition to Staubli, Mr. Jennings is survived by his mother, Beverly Jennings; three siblings, Tanya Jennings of Marquette, Wisc.; Jon Jennings of Iron Mountain, Mich.; and Jeff Jennings of Green Bay, Wisc. Staubli said Mr. Jennings also had warm relationships with his in-laws, Yvonne Staubli and Ruedi and Erica Staubli of Andeer, Switzerland.

Contributions in his memory may be sent to Alliance for Justice, 11 Dupont Circle NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20036; or to the SF-Marin Food Bank, 900 Pennsylvania Ave., San Francisco, CA 94107. A memorial will be held at a later date.

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