When you think about great entrepreneurs who comes to mind?
Not Steve Jobs if you limit entrepreneurs to those who invent something brand new; he didn’t invent technology; he took what was there, infused it with brilliant design and then convinced us we couldn’t live without it.
Bill Gates? Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Larry Ellison? Mark Zukerberg?
But could you build a powerful company culture off just their quotes 100 years from now?
Actually, will entrepreneurs even remember them in the Twenty-second Century?
But a century later you can do it off of Henry Ford quotes and it would be not only sustainable, but socially responsible.
Consider this small sample
There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible. Ford practiced what he preached, too.
Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right. This may be true for all of us, but it is especially true for entrepreneurs.
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Overseeing each of these stages is a perfect description of a founder’s primary responsibility.
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. This isn’t to say that you should be blind to them, but keeping your focus on the goal allows you to overcome them by not losing track of what’s really important.
A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large. Tony Hsieh has proved this in spades, as has Jeff Bezos. The difference is that Hsieh also practices the first principle above; while Bezos has ignored it.
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. The first half of the sentence has been proven over and over, but it is the second half that determines whether the effort is successful.
Parts of Ford make a great role model, while other parts should be treated as poison, which, in the long-run, merely proves Ford mortal.
Verbally it had the typical male orientation, but there is plenty for women who are just as likely to be alpha males as guys, so ignore the gender stuff.
Supposedly, those who yell in the military and sports do so because they care, which is true only when the words yelled aren’t abusive (as they so recently have been).
Outside of those two areas, with the caveat mentioned, I don’t believe there is any reason to yell, since yelling rarely accomplishes anything positive.
This is especially true when bosses are yelling at staff (or parents at kids).
Often when I call startup bosses for yelling at their people they respond by saying something to the effect that if it was good enough for Steve Jobs it’s good enough for them—forgetting that from a management prospective Jobs is a lousy role model.
Generally, yelling is the fastest way to make sure that folks tune out and disengage.
So what do you do when something happens and you are justifiably angry?
Do you read Agnes? A few days ago she asked her friend if she was superstitious; when her friend said not often Agnes told her she was sortofstitious. Agnes then made an over-the-top superstitious comment and her friend said she was megastitious.
The wordplay got me thinking.
In reality, most entrepreneurs are superpreneurs or they won’t make any headway.
Then there are the megapreneurs who manage to innovate, create successful companies and then do it again (think Tony Hsieh) or stay in the same place and keep innovating (think Steve Jobs, the Google Guys or Intuit’s Scott Cook).
However, there are still plenty of sortofpreneurs, who create me-too businesses (think daily deals), that stand little chance of success (although they often get funding), instead of real innovation.
They have may have the passion of a superpreneur, but in their rush to riches they want to skate—not innovate, i.e.,
not solve a problem that needs solving or create something that nobody even knows they want;
not provide real value to stakeholders; and
not create an entity that provides jobs and futures to its people.
It’s not that sortofpreneurs can’t become superpreneurs, but to do so they need to give up (relatively) instant gratification and be willing to both slog and pivot as necessary.
A tall order for someone who is in it for the money.
I’ve watched it morph many times over the last 30 years, but what I find different this time is what I can only call entrepreneurial stupidity—a combination of arrogance, myopia and ignorance.
I don’t think it’s too widespread, but when you come head-to-head with it it tends to bring you up short.
“Jaime,” an entrepreneur with whom I, who has a B2B subscription startup, attended an event that had entrepreneurs presenting to investors.
He was highly offended because one of the presenters was looking for investment to start a winery.
Jaime said that a winery was a business, not a startup, nor was it scalable; when I disagreed he quoted Steve Blank to me, “a startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
It reminded me of a young woman I spoke with in 2000 when I was still a headhunter.
We were talking about startups and I said something to the effect that I’d been working with startups since the Seventies; she disgustedly informed me that startups were a function of the Internet.
I guess someone forgot to tell Hewlett and Packard, Steve Jobs and dozens of others, and, more recently, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, the two guys who started $100 million, 100 employee Method cleaning products, that their companies weren’t startups.
The lesson here is that while some startups may go where no person has gone before, most will leverage the existing adding tweaks and new twists to add value.
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here
Founders are known for the passion and drive that turns their vision into reality. While many are known for their technical brilliance or marketing expertise few are known for their management skill.
Many harbor a secret dream of being hailed as the next Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Anna Wintour, Barry Diller or Martha Stewart.
If those names impress you then consider that they all are in Forbes Bully Bosses Hall of Fame (personally, I’d have included Jack Welch).
“At some point, those we consider ‘visionaries’ become puffed-up creations of their own imagination. When business executives stop looking beyond quarterly reports and stockholder dividends, they start ignoring internal stakeholders. We’re seeing that unravel now.” –Gary Namie, management consultant
In four decades I never spoke with anyone who liked being bullied and have watched tolerance for it slowly seep away.
There has been a real sea change in what’s conceptualized as good leadership. Americans have become disenchanted with power. Almost daily, they watch as leaders–in government, in business–fail to exercise appropriate restraint.” –Roderick Kramer, Stanford Business School professor.
These days people vote with their feet; the question is not ‘should I leave’, but ‘how soon can I leave’.
The focus is how quickly someone can find a position that combines personal satisfaction with the ability to take care of their responsibilities.
Good management/leadership isn’t just about killer visions.
It’s about enabling growth by building up and never tearing down either the people or the enterprise for which you are responsible.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the list, the concepts are good, but there is a lot wrong with the accompanying commentary starting with the adjectives.
According to the article bosses who don’t embrace these eight in the way described are average bosses.
More accurately, the descriptions of the actions and attitudes attributed to the “average boss” belong, by and large, to the toxic boss category.
Based on the categories Jobs is average, by the descriptions he’s toxic.
Tony Hsieh comes to mind as fitting the description of ‘extraordinary’, although I doubt you would hear him describe himself that way.
Apple and Zappos are both highly successful.
The take-away is nothing is black and white; things that look great at first glance need to be thought through before you embrace them.
Option Sanity™ helps think things through.
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Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.
I’ve often cited Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers regarding right time/right place luck—often an accident of birth. For example Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Bill Joy and Scott McNealy were all born between 1953 and 1955
Another example of right time/right place is found in Harvard’s MBA class of 1974 as chronicled by Laurence Shames in The Big Time: The Harvard Business School’s Most Successful Class & How It Shaped America, originally published in 1986 and being republished now.
1974 was probably the most successful single group of MBAs ever graduated from any school; further, this class actually did stuff and built things, as opposed to shuffling money around.
But they also worked their tails off. They didn’t expect anything to be handed to them. They always asked for more work, not less. They were a very competitive, driven group. But, again, not only for their own monetary gains. They wanted to excel. They wanted to be leaders.
When the ’49ers graduated, I think there were 653 graduates. Only six guys went to Wall Street –less than one percent of the class. It just wasn’t considered where the action was or considered a place where you could make a meaningful difference.
Learning about that class makes you wonder what happened. Where did the drive for more than money go?
What happened between 1974 and 2008 that so changed the attitude of our best and brightest? Why did money gain primacy as the only thing that matters?
The funny thing is that if you ask the folks who actually are changing our world, such as Larry Page, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Kevin Systrom, they’ll all say the same thing—they didn’t do it for the money.
Shawn Parr, whose company works with large corporations, such as Starbucks and MTV, on innovation wrote a meaty post called Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch.
It reminded me of something I wrote back in 2008, because the title is from a quote by Dick Clark, CEO of Merk and after rereading it I decided it’s worth reposting, so here it is.
Culture Trumps All
A post on Dave Brock’s blog led me to an article at IMD’s site called “An Unpopular Corporate Culture” and, as Dave said, it’s a must read for anyone who still thinks that corporate culture is some ephemeral concept with no real impact that consultants use to sell their services.
And a double-must for those who talk about culture’s importance, but don’t walk very well when it comes to creating a great corporate culture.
For those who prefer to put their faith in plans and strategy, hear the words of Dick Clark when he took over as CEO of Merck in 2005 and was asked about his strategy for restoring the pharmaceutical company to its former glory. “His strategy, he said, was to put strategy second and focus on changing the company’s insular, academic culture.” The fact is, culture eats strategy for lunch,” Clark explained. “You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don’t have the culture and the enabling systems that allow you to successfully implement it… the culture of the organization will defeat the strategy.””
If you’re looking for a best practice corporate culture silver bullet forget it—one size doesn’t fit all.
Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, describes that company’s top-down command and control culture of consistency and discipline as “the source of our competitive advantage,” and has made it a priority to reinforce it.
Meanwhile, Robert Iger and Steve Jobs, in their discussions about the acquisition of Pixar by Disney, have been concerned with avoiding an Exxon style command and control culture. Jobs says that, “Most of the time that Bob and I have spent talking about this hasn’t been about economics, it’s been about preserving the Pixar culture because we all know that’s the thing that’s going to determine the success here in the long run.””
It took Lou Gerstner a decade to remake IBM.
The key lesson Gerstner learned in his time with IBM, as he later reflected, was the importance of culture.”Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success—along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like… I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”
The article is more than just additional proof for my favorite hobby horse.
The analysis of the role of employee complaints/negativity play in culture and the importance of what to keep when setting out to change a culture as opposed to what to jettison will give you new insight on your own company’s culture.
In case you still doubt the power and value of culture I hope that Dick Clark, Rex Tillerson, Robert Iger, Steve Jobs and Lou Gerstner combined with the articles in Fast Company and IMD have finally changed your mind.
Several people I’ve talked with recently have quoted from Eric Ries’s The Lean Start Up with almost the same religious fervor people espouse Guy Kawasaki or Steve Jobs.
I haven’t read it yet, but after reading a brief column in WSJ’s About Tech Europe and watching the video I realized that Ries probably doesn’t appreciate that kind of blind devotion any more than Kawasaki or Jobs and is quick to say so.
Much of what he says is common sense,
“If 10 people in a row hate my product is that statistically significant? It is not conclusive evidence, but it is certainly telling you something.”
If you have 100 customers you can already say what percentage are paying. If it is zero then I can already start to be a bit worried about the model.”
which is often the easiest to rationalize or ignore.
Of course, you ignore it at your peril.
If you have read The Lean Startup please share your thoughts below; I’ll share mine after I’ve read it.