I’ve learnt that success really does breed success, and that successful people tend to gravitate towards successful companies.
This book has been written for you, the delegates with whom I’ve discussed these issues. Sometimes exhaustively.
Successful people like you have perpetually enquiring minds. You’re always eager to learn. You understand that we will remain students to the end … that your cup of knowledge will never be full.
To succeed in the world of business
* a world buffeted by change with increasing ferocity * isn’t easy. You
have to be exceptionally tough to take the strain and achieve the goals
you’ve set for yourself.
I’m always amazed by the effort you will go to broaden you base of knowledge. But I’m never amazed when I read about your success in the press. I’m only proud. It has been my honour to have met and spoken to so many people like you who are guided by visions of success.
In essence, this book is about changing. More than that, it’s about winning. Let’s face it, we’re a tenacious bunch, we South Africans. We’ve proved we can change. And we’ve proved we can win.
So, between us, let’s make it happen.
I dedicate this book to you in the hope that the ideas we’ve set out will guide you along the path to even greater success and richer rewards.
This book would have taken a lot
longer to complete if my friend Esmond Frank hadn’t been around. We spend
a lot of time drinking tea and shooting the breeze. But we always seem to
pluck from the breeze the ideas with which to work.
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE NEW BUSINESS ORDER
HE old pyramidal corporate structure, with its paternalistic attitude, is being shuffled out of the picture. Passion Makes Perfect shows where we are headed.
And it isn’t all good news.
The seas of business are stormy. Companies with top-heavy superstructures will founder, taking those who remain on board with them. The good old days of multi-layered management have had their day. And they’ll be gone forever.
So what lies in the immediate future?
Streamlined, low-profile companies where work revolves around flexible, self-managed project teams that focus exclusively on meeting market and customer needs.
As a member of a project team, the company will expect you to provide creative input, even if it means that you have to acquire additional skills. You’ll also be expected to respond rapidly to customer demands, making on-the-spot decisions without reference to the top office.
You can expect other differences to confront you. For example, you won’t have security of job tenure. You’ll only be employed for as long as it takes to complete a project. Your next job will depend on the quality of your current performance. You may even find yourself working on a project for a rival company. In effect, you’ll be an independent contractor. As such, you’ll have to acquire the skills and knowledge you’ll need to survive on your own: not only technical skills, but also finance, marketing and people skills.
If you’re a manager now, you’re going to find the going tough. The new business order is going to wreck your comfort zone, which involves loyalty to your employer and your need to be part of a large, protective organisation.
Those managers who succeed will adapt quickly to the changes. They’ll swing their unquestioning allegiance from a company, to loyalty to the team and its project for the duration that they’re involved.
In essence, companies will provide money, opportunities and challenges in exchange for the limited period hire of managers’ intellect and expertise. The new order also means that you have to take responsibility for the development of your own career. You’ll have to acquire and develop a broad range of skills and update them continuously in line with fluctuating demands in the job market.
Since you won’t be spoon-fed in terms of job opportunities, you will have to spend time developing a network of reliable, well-placed contacts to keep you in mind when new projects are launched.
You’ll also have to hone your personal budgetary skills. Those rainy financial days, which never seemed to come around when you were securely employed by an old-style corporation, will become prevalent. Because you’ll be paid only for what you do, you could find yourself spending long penniless periods between pay days.
In Passion Makes Perfect I’ve detailed specific challenges that you’ll encounter as the business of management drastically transforms itself. In addition, I’ve suggested ways and means of coping with the challenges and beating them.
Chapter One sets the scene by charting the evolution of business management from the Industrial Revolution. It then propels us to the threshold of the coming Age of Imagination, when intellectual property will become the all-important business asset.
Chapter Two deals with the ‘new look’ corporate profile. In it I discuss the 10 characteristics essential to achieving the architecture necessary for business survival and growth into the next century. I exhort you to bust corporate bureaucracy and rebuild your company from the ground up, cutting through artificial barriers and streamlining operations.
The ensuing chapters, in effect, provide the blocks you need to build the ‘new look’, low-profile corporation. It takes the nerve to drastically revise entrenched corporate culture. It also takes major changes in established mindset.
By following my recommendations, you’ll be able to ease yourself into the new business order. It won’t be easy. But if you have the will, you can do it.
‘The wave of
the future is coming and there’s no fighting it.’
We’ve been through the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution. Next up: the Imagination Revolution.
‘You’re gonna be all shook up,’ as the late and lamented King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley, might have put it.
If we trace the history of business, specifically manufacturing, we find that it has evolved through four ages:
What we’re about to experience – the changes that will wreak havoc with our businesses and our lives – started with the Industrial Revolution.
So let’s step back to get some historical perspective.
As wise men have said through the ages: ‘When you want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow look back.’
History has a habit of repeating itself. And it’s about to do so again. So let’s start at the beginning with …
ThE Home cottage industry age
Until the Industrial Revolution rocked the agricultural economy of England during the 1700s, only about 10% of the population lived in towns or cities. And only a handful of these urban dwellers engaged in any form of manufacturing. Those who did usually congregated in guilds – the fore-runners of today’s trade unions – to practise their specialised crafts.
In effect, the peasants were self-employed. They paid lords of the manors a tithe for the use of their land. This usually took the form of a percentage of their crops. The farmers then bartered anything left over for other goods or livestock at local markets.
That’s the way it was until …
The steam age
Accompanied by a lot of huffing and puffing plus volumes of scalding steam, it roared in to revolutionise the way our ancestors lived and worked.
Not that steam power was a new concept. Boffins had known about it for hundreds of years. In fact, historians record that an Egyptian scientist in Alexandria produced a working model of a steam engine as far back as AD 60. But he and those around him regarded it only as an amusing toy.
Several hundred years later, in 1698, an Englishman, Thomas Savery, patented the first practical steam engine. He designed it to pump drain water out of coal mine pits.
Thomas Newcomen, another Englishman, improved its reliability in 1712 by modifying the design. Then James Watt, the man usually but erroneously credited with its discovery, adapted and refined the steam engine to drive heavy machinery.
The Industrial Revolution had arrived.
Birth of modern management
Its arrival laid the foundation for modern methods of business management. Steam power shunted cottage-based manufacturing out of peasant homes into factories. These were controlled by a new breed of people – entrepreneurial capitalists. These shrewd, early wheeler-dealers organised the finances necessary to buy the machines and rent the space that housed them. And they paid peasants a pittance to drive the new steam-belching monsters.
Factories – also called sweat shops – were the best and most profitable way to bring peasants and machines together, or so the early industrialists claimed.
In an in-depth study, Industrial Revolution: Interpretations and Perspectives, published by the State University of New York, historian Eric Lampard records that ‘the first machine age’ gave rise to a still firmly entrenched management concept:
The division of labour.
The concept gives management the right to allot a specific job to each worker. For example, if you assign an employee to tighten every third screw as your product moves along the production line, that’s what he does.
Nothing more; nothing less.
The one-person one-job syndrome, a major principle of mass-production on which industry has thrived for so long, reduced individuals to nameless cogs. Industrial plants, which each employed thousands of workers, were – and still are – cold and impersonal. The machines forced people to work faster, and with less rest.
At the same time, jobs became more specialised. And more monotonous.
Yet, despite the introduction of machines and long hours, growth in factory productivity in both the United States and Britain was nothing to write home about. It ambled along at a sedate 0,3% to 0,5% a year. Then a trail of sparks heralded …
THE ELECTRICAL AGE
Scientists and engineers, financed by industrialists, found that they could harness the power of steam to drive turbines, which generated electricity. And because electrical energy was cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than steam power, factory owners disconnected their machines from steam engines and plugged them into dynamos.
The electrification of industry in the 1880s sparked an explosion in the productivity growth rate. It galloped ahead at an average 5% a year until the Great Depression of 1929 brought it to an abrupt stop.
Stanford University economist Paul David says that while the introduction and exploitation of electricity accounted for up to 75% of pre-Depression growth, ‘it took the re-engineering and reconceptualisation of manufacturing to make it happen’.
Although mass-production techniques, inspired by the availability of electric power, led to significant drops in the per unit costs of manufactured products, the costs of setting up factories soared.
Machines cost a fortune. They needed expensive new skills to keep them running. Plants grew bigger and became even more impersonal. Industrialists looked to economies of scale to offset the costs of capital investment and turn worthwhile profits.
To keep per unit costs of products down, manufacturers needed to control inputs, outputs and inventory levels. So they imposed tighter controls. Organisational structures, planned by managers obsessed with efficiency, became more rigid. The little one-function, one-person boxes on work flow charts became more restrictive.
Production-led marketing strategies were integral to this form of carefully planned manufacturing. Huge factories, working around the clock churned out uniform products in rapidly increasing quantities. They had to be sold to realise a worthwhile return on investment. So manufacturers employed slick advertising and high-pressure salesmen to foist everything that came off production lines onto gullible consumers.
As Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, reputedly quipped: ‘You can have any colour car you like – providing it’s black.’
And this is how American humourist Stephen Leacock summed up early advertising: ‘The science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.’
In South Africa, little changed in either manufacturing or advertising, although it came under threat during …
THE INFORMATION AGE
The Second World War played havoc with the entrenched scenario. To boost national morale and imbue citizens with a loyal fighting spirit, governments launched massive communications programmes to disseminate huge quantities of information – most of it of doubtful veracity.
And so hostilities gave impetus to the development of means of transmitting information. By-products adapted for peaceful applications included television and computers.
And it didn’t stop there.
More electronics information wizardry has been thrust on us in the intervening years. Think of faxes and cellular phones.
These developments, boffins assured us, would lead to the paperless office.
It never materialised.
Instead, computers and fax machines spewed out even more paper-borne information, much of it useless. We began to drown under a deluge of data. There was simply too much to digest.
While we now have everything we want to know – and often much more than we need to know – at our fingertips, we are so overwhelmed by the sheer mass of facts and statistics that we don’t know what to do with them.
Which leads us to …
THE IMAGINATION AGE
Instant access to up-to-the-minute data is all very well. But unless you can exploit it to your advantage, it becomes nothing more than useless clutter. To exploit information for gain – your gain – takes imagination.
So how does this effect the way you run your company?
Why you manufacture what you manufacture becomes more important than churning out an endless stream of ‘me too’ products for some amorphous, ill-defined mass -market.
SO COUPLE IMAGINATION WITH ACHIEVING GALAXY
Which means what in terms of your company?
It also means …
JOINING THE IMAGINATION REVOLUTION
‘Wake up to the new economy.
Embrace it, for it will transform our lives
and the way we work
more profoundly than we can imagine.
And nothing is going to stop it.’
in Fortune (June 27, 1994).
If you’re comfortably ensconced in a box
f you’ve structured your company vertically or like a pyramid, with the chiefs at the top and the serfs at the bottom, you’re heading for trouble.
The sort of trouble that could drive you out of business.
Let’s examine the traditional pyramidal corporate structure. The broad base interfaces with your customers. It’s topped by several intermediate tiers. And at the pointed top, far from the madding crowd, sits the chairman or chief executive officer.
Decisions flow downwards to a layer of middle managers. They translate orders from above into instructions, directives, rules and policies. These then continue their downward plunge until they hit the base of the pyramid where workers meet customers face-to-face.
It’s a slow, cumbersome process. In an age of instant everything, its adherents will wither and die.
So what do you do to survive?
Rip your pyramidal corporate structure apart. And when you get down to the foundations, reconstruct it so that it’s flat and efficient. Then hone it to keep pace with the fluid, mobile business environment.
Take a hard, cold look at the way your company’s organisational architecture. If it’s like most South African businesses, it probably takes the shape of a pyramid.
And pyramids were never renowned for their aerodynamic properties.
This type of company architecture gives it such a high profile that it suffers from what aeronautical engineers call ‘drag’. The shape makes forward movement difficult because it offers resistance to the winds of change now howling through international businessland.
Aerodynamically ‘clean’ corporate structures, on the other hand, are low and streamlined, slicing through the atmosphere, causing little speed-inhibiting resistance.
SO STREAMLINE YOUR CORPORATE STRUCTURE
However, before we go into what you need to do to construct a ‘new look’ corporate structure from the ruins of the old one, let’s check out an old-time structure that slid into oblivion and a couple that structured themselves for survival and bigger profits.
During the Second World War, industrialists, faced by the need to produce military hardware quickly at the lowest possible cost, developed mass-production techniques into an art form. Organisational charts, littered with directional arrows and function boxes, flourished. Accountants and efficiency experts had a field day advising manufacturers to demarcate job functions down to the nth degree. Executives, suitably indoctrinated, assigned each man and woman on company payrolls to a specific, unvarying task on long production lines.
More top-down controls
The change to peace-time production and more competition as world markets normalised led to even more top-down controls. As the bean counters calculated their way into executive suites to usurp entrepreneurs and justify their existence, distances between boardrooms and factory floors increased.
A new army of middle managers moved
An early an prominent casualty of the boardroom take-over by accountants and efficiency experts was the J Arthur Rank Organisation.
The biggest film producer in Britain rose to exalted heights with entrepreneur movie-maker Rank in the driving seat navigating ‘by guess and by God’. Then accountants waving balance sheets, profit and loss accounts and trailed by hordes of neatly pigeon-holed corporate ‘yes men’, trooped into the boardroom. Displaying an abysmal ignorance of the entertainment industry and the way it worked, they quickly converted cinemas into bowling alleys and bingo clubs.
Down the tubes
Predictably, J Arthur Rank, as a film producer, became history. And the British film industry went down the tubes with it.
However, not all companies in post-war Britain followed the corporate lemming route to disaster. One of those that didn’t was a small London-based operation called Dualit. Max Gort-Borten launched it in 1946 to manufacture cocktail shakers, electric heaters and domestic toasters.
Bucking established management trends, he side-stepped the obsession for organisational charts as well as pyramidal corporate structures. He also ditched the then in-vogue mass-production concept.
Gort-Borten made each employee responsible for
They didn’t just work for Dualit. They owned their jobs and the way they did them. Any faulty products found their way back to the person who made them.
Despite intense competition from vertically structured multinationals, Dualit stuck to its policy of the less management the better.
Managing director Leslie Gort-Borten, son of the founder, firmly believes in workplace democracy. He describes his method of leadership as ‘management by wandering around’ … of getting his hands dirty on the factory floor.
Management gurus are impressed. But what impresses them more are the bottom line results.
In 1994, growing demand by Europe’s moneyed elite for Dualit toasters, which sell for up to R1 200,00 each, forced the company to double its floor space and increase its staff complement. At the same time, turnover climbed to around R30-million a year.
There’s another smallish British company that has made it big internationally by shunning conventional management wisdom.
If you appreciate the seductive lines of classic sports cars and follow the volatile fortunes of the automotive industry, you’ve surely heard of Morgan cars. They’re manufactured by a typically English operation, Morgan Motor Company. It’s located deep in the heart of Worcestershire.
Reputedly the world’s oldest car manufacturer still in business, it was established in 1909 to produce rakish, open-topped sports cars for motoring enthusiasts.
The car really came into its own during the 1930s and was the preferred mode of transport for Simon Templar, the roguish, Robin Hood hero of Leslie Charteris’ series of Saint books.
Plus Eight, the company’s current top-of-the-range model, retains the distinctive 1930s look – big headlights and a low-slung chassis. And master craftsmen still handcraft its frames from century-old ash wood. Yet sports car enthusiasts claim that the car can still accelerate as quickly as the more pricey, more aerodynamic, Italian-built Ferrari.
Production manager Charles Morgan, the founder’s grandson, says each worker assumes full responsibility for assembling and installing key components in each vehicle. For example, one man assembles the chassis. Another takes charge of body panelling and yet another is responsible for the upholstery.
And the corporate structure?
Like executives at Dualit, those at Morgan work side by side with their employees.
That bottom line again
In 1992, Morgan Motor Company made a gross profit of almost R6-million on a turnover of about R48-million. That’s a gross per-vehicle profit of about R12 000,00 – nothing to be sneezed at when compared to Toyota’s per-vehicle profit of R1 000,00 in the UK in the same year.
SO EMULATE DUALIT’S AND MORGAN’S PERFORMANCE
Tear down your existing company structure and …
CREATE A ‘NEW LOOK’ CORPORATE PROFILE
Go horizontal. Flatten your corporate structure. Use aerodynamic principles to streamline operations.
The multinational Du Pont Corporation has embraced the ‘new look’ concept. Says spokesperson Terry Ennis: ‘Our goal is to get everyone focused on the business as a system in which the functions are seamless’.
It sounds easy. But it isn’t.
Downsizing alone isn’t the answer.
Experience overseas and widespread head chopping in South Africa shows that it doesn’t enhance productivity. In many cases, it has the opposite effect. And restructuring and re-engineering simply because everyone else is doing it doesn’t work either – unless you adopt a new organisational model designed to improve performance.
So, if you’re going to re-engineer …
RE-ENGINEER WITH A PURPOSE
Here’s my 10-point plan to rebuild your company from scratch.
BECOME A CORPORATE BUREAUCRACY BUSTER
Does it work?
The film industry, led by Hollywood, has been doing it for years. Massive, vertically structured studios that characterised Tinseltown during the golden era of movie-making, which drew to a close during the 1960s, no longer produce films. The names you may remember and still see on the screen – MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal – now only distribute films produced by small, independent companies.
Each film is considered a separate project. When the project is completed, the team disbands. It maybe constituted later to work on another project.
Other corporate giants – IBM, Xerox and General Electric, to name a few – are following suit to meet the challenges of the new century head-on.
SO IMPLODE YOUR CORPORATE PYRAMID
And after the dust settles, re-engineer a flat, streamlined ‘new look’ from the rubble by:
Going horizontal and staying afloat can be tricky, particularly if you’ve cut your executive teeth in a traditional corporate environment. It means …
embracing an alien entrepreneurial spirit.
‘The typical successful entrepreneur
is a mature and careful person
who fearfully recognises
that there is much more
he doesn’t know about his business
than he likes.
He’s thirsty for help
from any credible source.
He’s in a hurry,
but only because time is precious.’
Whether you’re an employer
HOUSANDS of managers, particularly those trapped midway up corporate ladders in vertically structured companies, face uncertain futures. Businesses, desirous of survival beyond the year 2000, are ripping up organisational charts and calling in hatchet men to slice off midriff executive flab.
Like most business trends, this one started in the United States, where companies – large and small – peeled off layers of staff during the recent prolonged economic downturn. Corporations in Europe and the United Kingdom followed suit.
Now it’s happening here.
Out to pasture
Many, if not most, of these consummate corporate players are too young to be put out to pasture. And they’re too attached to the perks and perceived safety of job tenure to go-it-alone. So they’ll seek new little function boxes in other corporate organisational charts.
But they won’t find them.
If you answer ‘no’ … if all you want is a nice safe job that comes with a medical aid plan, a pension fun scheme and, possibly, a set of corporate wheels, you’d better start changing your attitude.
So to stay in business and thrive, follow this …
FIVE-POINT SURVIVAL PLAN
Become an entrepreneur.
Before you can become one, you have to know what an entrepreneur is. There are almost as many definitions as there are management gurus, who seem to replicate with the rapidity of mushrooms in the veld after a Highveld thunderstorm.
However, let’s start with a couple of dictionary definitions.
Collins Standard English Dictionary defines the word as ‘an organiser of business or trade who brings land, capital and labour together for some definite commercial undertaking.’ It’s a definition you could apply to anyone from the chairman of the Anglo American Corporation to a wheeler-dealer in the less savoury parts of Johannesburg’s Jules Street.
Reader’s Digest Reverse Dictionary is more in tune with the times. It describes an entrepreneur as: ‘Businessman undertaking ventures involving risk and initiative.’
The operative words in that definition are risk and initiative.
Bearing this in mind, what are your chances of survival as a refugee from old-fashioned pyramidal structures?
Pretty good, according to Peter Drucker, Austrian-born doyen of business consultants. He claims that people brought in the traditional management culture of big business make the best entrepreneurs.
He argues that entrepreneurship is a discipline. And like all disciplines, you can learn it. Entrepreneurship, he says, requires the ability to build and manage a growing operation, because if an operation doesn’t grow, it’s dead.
‘While the archetypal entrepreneur relies on instinct and reflex, the trained manager, versed in corporate culture, prefers deliberation and considered judgement,’ Drucker maintains.
Not all management gurus agree.
One who doesn’t is Tom Peters. He reckons that if you’ve been schooled as a manager in big business, your chances of succeeding in the new business world aren’t bright.
Performing one function
Too many of them [traditionally trained managers] lack overall management perspective. They’ve spent 80% of their careers performing one function.
In his formative business years, he toiled for the Greatermans Group – still a sizeable fish in the South African corporation pond. He parted company with the group in 1965 and, shunning conventional wisdom, took over Pick ‘n Pay, a small supermarket in Mowbray, Cape Town. Within a few years, he had built it into a nation-wide retailing legend.
Liberally translated from Yiddish, chutzpah means audacity, insolence, gall. It’s one of the staple qualities of the true entrepreneur. The former Prince of Wales, the late Prince Edward, reputedly had it in good measure – even before he became entangled with the American divorcee who cost him his throne.
Thrift and frugality
Historians report that Edward’s father, King George V, was well-known in royal circles for his thrift and frugality. And he tried to instil these qualities in his eldest son. However, the Prince, much to his father’s dismay, was something of a spendthrift.
While at school, Edward wrote to his father to plead for an increase in his allowance. The King responded by sending his son a stern note of reproval. He urged the Prince to change his ways and ‘learn to think like a businessman’.
Couriers subsequently delivered a note from Edward to the King at Buckingham Palace. It read: ‘I have taken your advice. I have just sold your letter to a collector for 25 pounds.’
That’s entrepreneurial chutzpah. Here’s another example.
When the parents of eight-year-old Samantha three a party, they allowed their little daughter to stay up late and watch the fun.
But there were strings attached.
Samantha had to receive and hang up the guests’ coats as they arrived. Unobserved, she quickly slipped into the kitchen for a saucer. She then place a lone 20-cent coin in it and left it on a ledge in the hallway. When the first guest arrived, he gave the little girl his coat and, noticing the coin, put a 50-cent piece in the saucer.
After the party, when the last guest had departed, Samantha’s astonished parents found her counting her profit for the evening: R22,70.
Little Samantha displayed all the qualities essential to successful entrepreneurship:
Businessman of the Year
These five elements form the only common link between the success of urbane, well-educated Ackerman and that of fellow South African go-getter Herman Mashaba, 1994 Businessman of the Year.
Ackerman challenges Peters’ entrepreneur theory. On the other hand, Mashaba, who guides the destiny of the Black Like Me range of beauty products, almost makes a mockery of Drucker’s contention that managers trained by big business make the best entrepreneurs.
After matriculating, Mashaba needed to find the cash to survive. So he took to the streets. Becoming a wheeler-dealer, he traded – sometimes illegally in terms of the country’s repressive racial laws – in anything on which he could lay his hands.
‘When I think how the government plotted to keep us [blacks] stupid, it makes me mad with rage,’ he told Linda Shaw in Sunday Times Magazine (January 27, 1995). ‘Now I find myself in a situation where I have to run an entire company with no idea of how to do it. I have to rely on my instincts, and hope the advice I’m given is good.
‘But, strictly speaking, I’m unqualified for the job I do. And that’s scary. Not to mention frustrating.’
Mashaba is the type of hands-on business person who American business journalist Tom Hickman calls ‘a seat-of-the-pants, shirt-sleeve opportunist’. But Mashaba also fits Drucker’s more formal definition of an entrepreneur – at least to some extent – in that he’s not afraid to ask for help.
As the internationally renowned management consultant puts it: ‘He knows enough to know what he doesn’t know.’
Characteristic of the entrepreneur breed described by MacManus in the quote at the head of this chapter is Sol Kerzner. He introduced entertainment-starved southern Africa to better-than-Las-Vegas-style night life by providing raunchy shows, casinos and five-star hotels in the now defunct TVB states.
Belying his pseudo-American accent, Kerzner stems from a typical middle-class white South African background. Mom and Dad ran a popular family hotel in downtown Durban.
After university, the young Kerzner saw the potential in the then grossly under-exploited and under-developed tourist industry. And, despite criticism, he took a number of breathtaking risks to launch a complex of luxurious hotel, casino and entertainment resorts that today extend far beyond the shores of Africa.
I said earlier that Ackerman and Mashaba share five common attributes. I was wrong. There are six. And they share it with Kerzner and all successful entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs make things happen. And they get personally involved in the action.
So activate yourself …
BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR
An American business writer, Mark Hendricks, describes employed people who initiate their own projects in-house as intrapreneurs.
‘Advocates of intrapreneurship,’ he reports in Entrepreneur (July 1994), ‘say it can keep restless would-be entrepreneurs satisfied as employees, tap reserves of creativity and talent that would otherwise lie fallow, and allow companies to do things they couldn’t otherwise consider.’
It isn’t a new idea. Harvard Business Review mentioned it back in the early 1970s. And bookseller-cum-business author Gifford Pinchot outlined the concept in his book Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (Harper & Row).
Pinchot, who runs a small training consultancy outfit in partnership with is wife in Branford, Connecticut, doesn’t just sprout theory. He put his money where his mouth is when he gave an employee the nod to freelance from within the company.
Linda Desrosiers takes home a monthly pay cheque signed by Pinchot from the training consultancy. But he encourages her to sell the books he has written on the side for a share of the profits. The arrangement calls on Desrosiers to rent a warehouse to store inventory for her own account and pay her own packing and postage costs. She also sends out her own invoices and collects the money when it falls due.
Closer to home
Let me give you another example – this time a lot closer to home.
Nicole Sinoff, who now runs her own successful advertising consultancy, wasn’t exactly an entrepreneur. And she wasn’t exactly an employee.
She was both.
Officially Nicole was an account executive with Adlab, an ad agency I established and ran in Johannesburg for several years. Although I was responsible for paying her salary, I encouraged her to think like an entrepreneur. So, like any self-employed business person, she identified her own markets, made her own pitches to potential clients, contracted creative talent to render the ads, dealt with reproduction houses and media representatives and made arrangements to collect moneys due.
And, of course, she reaped her share of the profits when things went well.
While Nicole is now a fully-fledged entrepreneur, when she worked for Adlab she fitted the Pinchot description of an ‘intrapreneur’ – a person who runs an entrepreneurial business inside a business.
So, if your employees have the aptitude …
LET THEM GO FOR ‘INTRAPRENEURSHIP’
ENCOURAGE EMPLOYEE INITIATIVE.
The arrangement I had with Nicole and the arrangement Pinchot had with Linda were both informal. In both cases the lines dividing employer and employee were far from clear.
A Xerox engineer, Denis Stemmie, invented a portable, battery-powered, plain paper copier. Xerox Technology Ventures thoroughly checked out his idea, liked what it found and financed product development.
The benefit to Xerox: it had an innovative product to penetrate a market segment that it hadn’t thought of.
So don’t give ideas from your employees the brush-off …
ESTABLISH AN IDEA BANK AND GIVE EVERY IDEA
YOUR FULL CONSIDERATION
ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPIN-OFF COMPANIES.
When Xerox Technology Ventures agreed to finance Stemmie’s plan
to produce a go-anywhere plain paper copier, it urged him to manufacture
and market it himself under another name. So,
QuadMark Copiers made its début in the market by unveiling its $349 portable copier at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in January 1994. As part-owner of the fledgling company, Xerox will share in the profits. In return, Stemmie can rely on practical help from Xerox.
Although the multinational supplied the start-up capital, QuadMark isn’t part of Xerox. Financially, it has to stand on its own two feet. If it doesn’t hit its sales and financial targets, ‘big brother’ is unlikely to bail it out. Stemmie will either have to find additional capital – probably by selling off some of his shares – or by folding the operation.
So, if it looks good …
LET IT FLY SOLO
LACERATE RED TAPE.
Nothing strangles initiative, innovation and creativity more than red tape.
But progressive companies overseas have discovered an untapped source of gold.
They’re siphoning off a rich crop of ideas that have long remained buried in boiler rooms.
One of those to strike pay dirt is Jack Stack, chief executive officer at Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation. He has introduced what Jay Finegan describes in Inc (March 1995) as a revolutionary management system based on the philosophy that companies can thrive if they tap into people’s universal desire to win.
Although the bank they approached thought that they were ‘brain dead’, it lent them the money. At the end of the first three months, according to Stack, the company had ‘a negative net worth’.
To stave off almost certain oblivion, Stack and his co-directors created a planning ritual that focused on controlled, predictable growth and operation, and the creation of wealth.
Nothing new or earth-shattering so far.
Almost every company in existence – and most that are no longer with us – have the same focus. What was different about Springfield was the new management’s insistence that every employee contribute to planning. And to encourage participation, the company introduced a bonus that rewarded those who helped in planning and hit the targets they set for themselves.
Stack calls his system of control ‘open-book management’.
Stack points out that the workers know what the figures mean because the company trains them to think, act and plan like owners. Springfield, in fact, spends more on the financial education of its workforce than it does on job or skills training.
Does it work?
LET YOUR PEOPLE HELP WITH PLANNING
If you want to run your own show in a company with a streamlined ‘new look’ profile, you’re going to have to…
learn to lead, not manage.
‘Anyone who stops learning is old,
whether 20 or 80.
Anyone who keeps learning
Complacency kills. So does inertia.
ARKING time in a warp of complacency has driven many executives into premature pasture. As business consultant Noel Tichy observes: ‘They stayed in the same place doing the same things they’d always done in the same way they’d always done them while the environment around them became more hostile …
‘And soon they were dead.’
Tichy, who’s also a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Business, has an antidote:
It’s a new turn-up for the business books.
If nothing else, it prevents complacency, the death knell of many a business, from gaining a foothold.
Now consider this scenario – one beloved by so many of the people at the helm of business in South Africa and so many of those who aspire to occupy the driving seats …
If you do whatever managers do in this type of environment, prepare yourself for a shock so rude it’s bound to send your stress level soaring to unprecedented heights. And if you’re edging up the corporate ladder to this sort of executive ambience, don’t hold your breath.
It isn’t going to happen.
It’s a whole new ball game.
The new-age manager knows he doesn’t hold a monopoly on either wisdom or
knowledge. He often seeks advice because he realises that people who know
best know how to do the jobs are the people who them. Yet the new-age manager
ensures that he knows enough to step into the breach in any capacity whenever
What more can anyone expect you to do?
KEEP ABREAST EVERYTHING
Follow my five-point plan to keep yourself fully primed for almost every new business age contingency.
BUILD UP YOUR INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL.
Microsoft, the international computer software giant, boasts that
its only factory asset is human imagination.
Think like a beginner
Opening your mind also means thinking like a beginner even if you’re
an acknowledged expert in your field. If you’re like most of the experts
I know, you thrive on complexity.
Experts have an obsession. They have to be ‘right’.
They have to do things the ‘right way’,
no matter how complicated.
‘Good,’ said MacArthur. ‘Get your draughtsmen to make the necessary drawings.
The driving force
INVEST IN INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL
KNOW ALL THE FUNCTIONS REQUIRED TO PRODUCE A RESULT.
Today, a marketing manager can’t just be a marketing manager. Neither
can a production manager confine himself to production. They need a broader
range of skills to increase their flexibility and value.
Consider a military example.
Since secretary birds are high on the list of species heading for extinction, you’re going to have to learn to:
And it doesn’t stop there.
You’ll also have to acquire industrial relations skills.
Increasingly militant behaviour by trade unions led to constant work disruptions that sapped profits, forcing a friend – the sales and marketing director of a large Johannesburg-based company – to go back to school to acquire skills in industrial relations.
Lord Brougham neatly encapsulated the concept when he said: ‘Try to know everything of something, and something of everything.’
SO EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
DO PERPETUAL HOMEWORK.
Everything becomes obsolete. Rapid advances in technology, for example, gives most machines a useful working life of between four and six years. After that, they’re fit only for the junk yard. That is unless you’re prepared to extend their useful life by heavy retooling.
You’re not much different.
Everything you learn comes with built-in obsolescence. What you
know now may keep you going for another four to six years. Then you’re going
to have to retool intellectually if you want to remain in business.
So, if you want to survive business wise and, perhaps, prosper, you will have commit yourself to a lifelong learning curve.
If you refuse to constantly acquire new skills, you’ll either slip
backwards or be left to mark time in a world in
We operate in a business environment that will become increasingly brain-based. Ongoing training is vital.
Treat it as an investment in endless research and development.
So to stay in the lead …
COMMIT YOURSELF TO SCHOOL FOR LIFE
UPGRADE YOUR KNOWLEDGE ACROSS THE BOARD.
Earlier I suggested that you go for a broad base of knowledge rather than over-specialise. A specialist knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
Consultants around the world note that we’re in the midst of a major repolarisation of work.
Which means you must be prepared to learn about things that you thought you’d never need to know about.
Business Week (December 20, 1993) sums up the situation in an editorial:
‘Companies have recognised for a while that they need to become nimbler competitors by eliminating layers. But what businesses are learning is that real horizontal go much further than that …
In South Africa, local organisations, like others in the industrialised world, are moving towards a more effective teamwork approach, which enhances workers’ level of delivery. A team structure, in which members support each other, allows members to work together to make decisions that streamline operations.
Now pause for a moment and ask yourself: ‘Do you and those who work for you have the required abilities to take your business where you want it to go?’
You can answer this question honestly only by constantly assessing your collective skills to identify gaps that exist between what you’re capable of doing and your corporate goals.
If you fail to conduct regular skills evaluation tests, you could be committing business hara-kiri. For example, you may be writing your own marketing strategy without the necessary expertise. This could be the reason why your competitors have moved into the fast lane to overtake you.
The answer …
CONSTANT BROAD-BASED TRAINING
WORK YOURSELF OUT OF YOUR POSITION.
You’re the boss. The managing director, perhaps. Or maybe you head a major department or division. You may even be a regional manager. And you’re about to leave. Soon. Without a heir apparent.
After your departure the business could find itself in trouble. Big trouble. It may even collapse.
So what can you do about it?
In effect, work yourself out of your position.
Let’s backtrack a bit.
You must acquire at least four skills before you can consider yourself a business leader in the entrepreneur mould. You must:
Read the last point again.
These are the people who you are going to train to take over your position in the driving seat. Business consultants call it ’empowerment’. And it isn’t just another business buzzword.
Empowerment allows you to harness and exploit the many talents that your employees bring to the job. It calls on you to hack through the chains that bind then job-wise. They’ll be eternally grateful, happier, more motivated and more productive.
That’s the theory, anyway.
On a practical level, if you’re a typical South African boss, you’ll pay lip service to the concept of empowerment through cross-training. But there’s no way you’re going to train anyone to fill your shoes, especially while you’re still wearing them.
However, it pays to loosen the reins, even if you don’t vacate the driving seat. The powers-that-be at Eltron International, a bar code manufacturer did, and turnover zoomed from $400 000,00 in to $6,5-million in three years.
To bring your subordinates up to the level where they can take over from you:
Repeat the procedure to replace yourself in the executive suite regularly – say every quarter. It’s frightening, but it will improve overall performance – including yours – no end.
So don’t just sit back and dish out orders …
TRAIN YOUR SUBORDINATES TO TAKE OVER
‘It is a socialist idea
that making profits is a vice;
I consider the real vice
is making losses.’
Sir Winston Churchill.
No business can survive
OU hear a lot of discussion about business and profitability in
popular executive watering holes. In fact, it’s the favourite topic of conversation
in all places where business people gather. The most common theory punted
by management types is that people establish businesses for the sole purpose
of making profits.
SO WATCH YOUR BOTTOM LINE
Because if you don’t, you’re dead.
Whether your run your own company or manage a project, you’re responsible for making your unit a self-contained profit centre – that is if you want to survive.
As I point out in I Was Your Customer, if you listen to what your customers want and add value to your product or service, they won’t quibble about paying a modest premium.
So Kimpton sells a good night’s sleep without frills. He reckons the expensive
and under-utilised trappings of entertainment – glitzy ballrooms and overpriced
restaurants – merely load the cost of sleeping, and they drive customers
THINK AND EARN PROFITS
To improve your bottom line performance, follow my five-point plan.
DRAW UP A BUDGET.
Herbert Clark Hoover, when President of the United States, described
a budget as: ‘Telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it
One that bears investigation is logistics.
Poor logistical organisation can add to costs, claims Pieter Nagel, manager in charge of group logistics at Sasol.
Managers only tend to look at parts of logistics, like transport, in isolation. They should regard it as a total function, like marketing and finance.
Smash the logistics jam
To achieve this, says transport and warehousing fundi Peter Franz, of Andersen Consulting, invest in an efficient electronics communications system that provides accurate, up-to-the-minute data.
And you need to act on it.
You may also be able to substantially trim costs by …
OUTSOURCING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
Under-utilised in-house facilities are costly to buy and expensive to maintain. They also occupy valuable space. In addition, swift technological advances make yesterday’s tools slow and inefficient.
In effect, you only pay for what you get or use. When you ‘farm
out’ tasks, you save on the cost of ownership and the substantial costs related
to the employment of the people required to do the work.
There’s another form of outsourcing that you should know about.
Cost-conscious companies often find that the outright purchase of equipment, which they use continuously, unproductively ties up capital that can be used more productively elsewhere.
While your budget sets out your financial parameters and objectives, you’ll get the best indication of your company’s financial health by …
STUDYING YOUR BALANCE SHEET.
If you want to know how well you’re doing, or the extent of your failure, don’t look at your income statement. This merely reveals changes in sales or net income. Instead, turn to your balance sheet.
If you’re doing well, it’ll indicate a positive relationship between assets and liabilities. It’ll also show you how effectively you’re using your assets.
So get a snapshot of exactly how your business is performing now …
LOOK AT YOUR BALANCE SHEET
Your balance sheet may often reflect a picture you don’t want to see. A sagging bottom line, for instance.
Resist the temptation to launch an immediate cost-cutting spree.
Trimming your spending may make your bottom line look marginally healthier. But only for the short-term. In the longer term, demotivated staff lead to dissatisfied customers and probably a loss of market share.
Slashing costs can detrimentally effect your ability to deliver superb quality and galaxy customer service. And that can make your bottom line look positively anorexic.
Before your start slashing, do some research. Find out what your customers really want. And give it to them.
This mean that you may have to increase expenditure rather than cut it.
TRIM THE FLAB
Not just once over lightly, but heavily. Get Real. Really slice off unnecessary flab. Dissect your company from the top down in a surgical operation designed to remove who and what doesn’t work.
You’ll find these people at every level of the corporate hierarchy.
Psyche them out. Shatter their so-called comfort zones. Give them their marching orders. Retrench them. Stab them in the back. But get them out.
Each department in your company must have a valid reason for its existence. And each person in each department must supply a valid reason for his or her existence.
There are only two valid reasons for in-company activity. Adding value that leads to customer delight. Or helping to add that value.
Any other activity is superfluous.
And what doesn’t add value or contribute to adding value erodes profits. Here are a few of the profit-eaters that we could all do without: defects in manufacturing, delivery errors and long lead times.
If it doesn’t make profits, it has no place in your operation. Neither have the losers who, despite their poor or non-performance, still expect automatic pay increases and annual pay rises.
So what’s the answer?
RETAIN OLD CUSTOMERS.
According to a rule of business thumb, it costs about five times more to find new customers as it does to retain your existing customers. It’s also a lot cheaper to reclaim old customers.
Going out to seduce new customers usually means you have to plough serious money into advertising and promotions, both of which grow more expensive by the day.
The cost of retaining existing customers and ex-customers, 68% of whom ditched you because you provided indifferent service, is negligible. Essentially, it means you must jack up your level of service until it is of world class.
I go into how you can attract new customers, retain your existing customers and reclaim former customers in my book, I Was Your Customer.
Remember, a sluggish, unhealthy bottom line reflects a sick company.
SO KEEPING PUSHING THE PROFIT BUTTONS
And while you keep your shoulder to the wheel…
keep your ears on the ground.
‘When knowing what’s going on
and what to do
is the source of power,
understanding how – and why –
to network is indispensable.’
What you know is important.
An irreplaceable source of on-tap expertise
Business people who make a habit of networking advise you to never forget
a name. So do politicians. As case in point was former United States President
‘Major Shurtz!’ the President interrupted, ‘I’d have known you anywhere.’
KEEP AN UP-TO-DATE CONTACT BOOK
According to Peters, your security is directly related to:
Writing about the importance of networking, the editor-in-chief of Success (February 1995), Scott DeGarmo observes: ‘Among humans and closely related species, those who become leaders are not necessarily the strongest or fiercest, but those with the most friends and connections’.
You can’t always go it alone
Most successful business people invest serious time in cultivating network relationships because they can help immeasurably in:
SO SET UP A NETWORK
Before you can establish a functional network that works for you, you have to determine why you need one.
NOW GET YOUR SYSTEM UP AND RUNNING
Follow these five guide lines to help you establish a customised network directory that works for you.
UPDATE YOUR CONTACT LIST.
We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Before you can update your list, you have compile a basic database. And you have to organise it so that you can find who want with the minimum of hassle.
Simply adding names and contact numbers in a book or computer database serves no useful purpose.
To add to the value of your list, classify your contacts under six main headings:
Even after you compile and classify your list, it rapidly loses value if you allow it to go out of date.
Nothing is more frustrating and useless that trying to reach someone who is no longer where you think he or she should be.
So maintain contact
Set time aside to purge your contact list at least once every month. Use
the phone, send faxes or the postal system to ensure that your list is as
current as humanly possible.
Networking aficionados suggest that you devote a large portion of your business and after-hours time to increasing the number of your contacts.
Internally as well as externally.
‘If you spend at least 10% of your time making contacts, you’ll never be short of business,’ asserts self-made millionaire John Kehoe.
As a matter of principle, I keep comprehensive notes about almost everybody
with whom I come in contact – names, fax and telephone numbers, addresses
and areas of interest plus any other information that I feel is pertinent.
Nothing breeds success like success. Many companies ask me to make
presentations based on the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations. Advertising
in selected publications also attracts a certain level of response. But letters
of customer delight are by far the most powerful draw card.
You don’t have to employ all the experts you need to run your business – not full-time, anyway.
It’s important that you periodically check that your circle of experts still exist. The experts you need most at any given time have a nasty habit of dying, emigrating or just fading from the picture. Occasional discreet and informal phone calls quickly establish if they’re still in a position to help you. These calls also allow you to determine if any of your on-tap experts have upgraded their qualifications.
Customers as experts
Suppliers as experts
If you haven’t developed a network of friends and associates, if you haven’t meticulously maintained your list of contacts, you won’t know who to turn for and the going gets tough and you need quick input.
SO GET NETWORKING AND KEEP NETWORKING
Robert Mueller, former chairman of the consulting firm Arthur D Little Inc.,
has developed networking into a science. He defines it as ‘an informal way
to reach knowledgeable people’. He calls it a strategy that relies on getting
around the neatly charted, pyramidal corporate structures to reach the people
who know and can do something to help.
The GWRK system which, incidentally, Mueller developed, even works
in massive multinationals that have a flair for innovation. As case in point
is the 3M company. At the core of the corporation’s communication system
is the motto: ‘If you need help, go find it everywhere.’
At boardroom level, the network concept provides a far more robust
system of two-way internal and external communications than conventional
Flat corporate structure
Once you get the communications flowing, you’ll be a better position
to test your worth in the market.
SO HOOK INTO YOUR NETWORK NOW
‘The best place to find a helping hand
is at the end of your arm.’
‘Even if you’re on the right track,
The only job security you’re going to find is that which resides in you: your ability to respond to change quickly. And how adept you are at selling your abilities.
If you get axed, you’ll find the job market tough. And with the way the business world is moving, it’s going to get a lot tougher as more and more people are retrenched. My next story illustrates what it’s already like ‘out there’.
A young guy and his girlfriend were involved in a particularly vindictive lover’s tiff on the bridge over the swiftly flowing Vaal River. ‘That’s it. I’m going to end it all,’ he cried. With that he climbed on to the parapet of the bridge.
‘I’m going to jump I don’t want anyone to save me,’ he said as he leapt into the water.
Another young bloke, who had witnesses the drama, dived in after him.
‘I said I didn’t want to be saved,’ cried the floundering young guy.
‘Don’t worry,’ said the other bloke, ‘I don’t want to save you. Just tell me where you work.’
So what can you to protect yourself?
THINK OF YOURSELF AS SELF-EMPLOYED
Play ‘pretend’. Pretend you’re contracted to provide your services to your
present employer for a limited period. Pretend you may have to sell your
services elsewhere a few months down the line.
You must also …
LEARN TO MARKET YOURSELF
To find out your value in the market and how you can enhance it, follow my five-point plan.
Nothing lasts forever. Not even your job. Sooner or later you’re going to vacate your desk, either forcibly or voluntarily.
You can make the situation a lot less traumatic by getting yourself ready now to go job hunting or, perhaps, go it alone.
HOW YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR VALUE.
Your investigation of the job market will highlight several important factors:
Because of the rapidity of change in business techniques and technology, you’re likely to find that your qualifications have become encrusted with a veneer of rust.
Upgrade them. Continuously.
Become a lifelong learner
Acquire skills that you may not need in your present job, but which will increase your value in the job market. I know an electrical engineer, for example, who studied marketing, advanced bookkeeping and industrial relations practice to increase his value should he be forced to seek other employment or branch out on his own.
ENHANCE YOUR WORTH.
Good references from anybody who’s anybody are useful. Superb references from employers past and present carry more weight in the job market that a glowing testimonial from your high school headmaster. Recognised certificates and diplomas from centres of tertiary education attest to your professional competence. But best of all: hordes of delighted customers who testify to the excellence of your service.
Genuine letters of appreciation from customers for jobs well done impress everyone. So, beginning today, start collecting them. If you’ve more than satisfied your customers, few will refuse to put their feelings in writing. Cherish these letters. In a job seeking context, they’re like gold.
SEND YOUR CV OUT.
Even if you have no intention of leaving your present job, circulate your CV. But make sure it’s up-to-date. In addition to your qualifications and employment history, it should contain details of unusual or difficult projects in which you played a major role.
The purpose of sending your CV to potential employers listed in your contact list is simply to let them know that you’re still around.
It also serves to keep them informed about what you’ve been doing since you were last in contact.
Circulating your latest CV is an insurance policy that could stand you in good stead if you get the chop during a company downsizing blitz.
ESTABLISH WHAT YOU CAN DO.
To ascertain you real worth, actually apply for jobs. Attend interviews. This will put your value to your present employer in true perspective. It will also paint you an accurate picture of the job market.
And there’s something else you can do.
You can investigate the possibility of going it alone.
The way the world of business is moving, the age of job security is fast drawing to a close. Permanent positions are difficult to find now. They’ll be even more scarce in the future.
Draw up a strategic employment plan for yourself to cover, say, the next three years. Decide what new skills you intend to acquire during this period. And, in the light of your job market intelligence gathering, what of your existing skills you need to upgrade.
Market yourself. Because if you don’t, nobody else will.
Even if you’re currently employed, think like an entrepreneur. In a job context, the only one you owe loyalty to is yourself. Your boss pays you for your knowledge and what you do for him. When he doesn’t need you anymore, he’ll cast you aside like an old shoe.
You owe it to yourself…
IMPROVE YOUR MARKETABLE SKILLS
in almost any domain
consider their endeavours
their main hobby.’
Professor Keith Siminton,
Dean of Psychology,
University of California.
Love what you do.
Do what you love.
No big deal. A lot of people around the work kick the habit every day. America’s charismatic ‘do-it-now’ business consultant Tom Peters, for example. He junked the weed ‘just like that’. In nanoseconds.
It took me longer. I loved a good smoke. An infusion of nicotine helped me unwind, aided my thought processes and, at times, soothed my shattered nerves. So, after I’d taken the momentous decision, I hated everyone and everything. It took at least two weeks of hell for the craving to fade. It took 14 days for me to rejoin the human race.
But I’d done it. I’d faced the terror of what to me was a major change. I overcame the obstacles. And I’d succeeded.
It took persistence and commitment. And it took time to adapt to life without cigarettes. I’d thrown my psychological crutch away and I had to learn to live without it.
The key elements in my fight against addiction to tobacco – persistence, commitment, time and adaptation – also apply to the change that confronts you.
On the surface, the changes that are revolutionising the way you’re accustomed to run your business lives appear to be a lot more traumatic than ditching cigarettes.
It’s not going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. And it will take time. Certainly a lot longer than Peters’ nanoseconds. But not a lifetime. We’re talking weeks, perhaps months.
Let’s face it, it takes work to change. Hard work. So be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. It also means that you have to change the way you think. And that’s difficult.
No one said it would be easy
But, hey, you can have a heck of a lot fun en route to realising strategic visions and goals. For a start, a lot of the goodies you’re going to encounter along the way will be new – things you’ve never before experienced. So drain all preconceived ideas from your mind and develop a …
You’re about to set sail on a voyage of discovery into a new world … a world of adventure and excitement where anything can happen. And usually does happen.
Like a kid, you’ll have to ask a lot of questions to find out what’s potting. Which reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me.
He and his young son, then at the four-year-old question asking stage, were strolling around the Zoo Lake one Sunday afternoon. The young lad asked his father how electricity went through wires.
‘Don’t know,’ said Dad. ‘I never knew much about electricity.’
A few minutes later the boy asked what caused thunder and lightning.
‘To tell truth,’ said the father, ‘I never fully understood that myself.’
After another short pause, the kid piped up again: ‘Dad …? Oh, never mind.’
‘Go ahead, son ask questions. Ask a lot of questions,’ said the father. ‘How else are you going to learn?’
Dad was right. You learn by asking questions. You don’t always get the right answers, or any answers at all. But it pays to keep an open mind to absorb every scrap of useful knowledge that’s thrown your way.
Rudyard Kippling had some good advice:
I keep six honest serving men;
But please don’t jettison your expertise. Not completely. You’ll need in the new world of business. Just leave space for new thoughts and ideas.
One day a very bright student – a devout Buddhist – went to visit his master. After they were seated, the master offered his visitor a cup of tea.
The student, annoyed, asked the master why he’d kept pouring tea after the cup was full.
”When the mind is filled to overflowing, like the tea cup,’ the master replied, ‘there is no room for anything new in it.’
A few years back Elaine McCoy, the Minister of Labour in Alberta, Canada, encountered problems of the closed mind kind when she sought expert help on troublesome labour matters that had beset the province for 50 years.
‘Experts are often too full of facts about what didn’t work in the past to make the leap into the future,’ she complained. ‘But what these experts can never tell you is where to go from here.
‘We needed a fresh perspective. So I spent a year talking with people from all walks of life to develop a vision of where we want to go in the next century.’
McCoy concluded that most important political choices have to do with human values, not just ‘expert’ information, and have to be made with heart.
So if you get a business idea – now matter how outlandish – play with it, toss it around in your mind. It could prove to be a winner.
Thousands, if not millions, of people had seen apples fall from trees before Isaac Newton was around. But he was the first person to think about the phenomenon. And he discovered the law of gravity.
And don’t worry what other people think of your ideas. You won’t be the first – or last – genius to be treated like a nut.
Controversial American thinker and writer Aldous Huxley had been there. ‘The vast majority of human beings,’ he said, ‘dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and madmen.’
Even if your idea is wildly offbeat, ignore criticism, no matter how well-intentioned. Critics are very much like eunuchs in a harem. They reckon they know how it’s done because they’ve seen it done every day. But they’re totally incapable of doing it themselves.
If your ideas are from out of this world and you can bring them down to earth, you’re entitled to orbit in …
It begins with a vision. Picture yourself as you want be. Then make the decision – the commitment – to be what you want to be.
Goals are funny things. When you first set them, a lot of people – let’s call them earthlings – will say they’re impossible to reach. That’s what happened with the four-minute mile. For a long time people, even the experts, said no one could ever run that fast.
They were wrong.
Roger Bannister did it.
And since he crossed the finish line in four minutes, athletes have been getting faster and faster. For instance, Steve Cram topped Bannister’s effort by running the mile in 3 minutes 46 seconds. Since then, several other runners shave seconds off his record.
The same thing happened in high jump. No one believed anybody could leap over eight feet. With one exception. Cuban Javier Sotomayor. He did it in 1989. Now high jumpers around the world are determined jump even higher.
As I said, goals are funny things. As soon as you reach them, someone pushes them further away. Your initial destination is never the end of the line.
So have faith in your dreams. Pursue your visions with everything you’ve got. Listen to what Henry David Thoreau, the provocative, 19th century American essayist had to say on the subject: ‘If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected.’
It may not happen overnight or the day after. But if you keep pitching, you will join the high and mighty in Galaxy Class.
If you want to get there, you’ve got to stay the distance. This means you have to …
BE TOUGH ON YOURSELF.
The road to the stars in business is pitted with craters and lined with disappointments. To make the journey, you’ve got to be tough.
YOU’VE GOT TO PLAY TO WIN
Muhammad Ali would tell anyone who asked that a champion boxer has to be able to take a good punch.
‘A lot of fighters,’ he said, ‘can throw good punches. But a champion has to be able to take a good punch and then another good punch, and still keep on going.’
He’s has withstand constant battering for 15 rounds. His sole objective: to clobber his opponent. To stay the distance, he has to remain lean and mean. He has train until he feels like dropping. Then he has to train some more.
This requires total commitment and the perseverance that makes you come back for no matter what punishment your opponent deals out.
A friend of mine doesn’t have the necessary commitment. I met him in a Rosebank pub the other night. Although he’s stout and bald, he’s a tennis freak. When I joined the conversation, he was discussing his on-court technique.
‘My brain,’ he declared, ‘tells me: “Run forward. Start immediately. Move quickly. Slam the ball over the net”.’
‘And then what happens?’ I asked.
‘And then,’ my bloated friend replied, ‘my body says: “who, me?” ‘
As a tennis player, my friend is a washout. He’ll never grace the centre court at Wimbledon. As a new-age business person you won’t make championship level either unless you pull out all the stops … unless you constantly train to capture the big prize.
To be a winner you have to become a bad loser. The reason: good losers get into the habit of losing.
So take time off to …
A little stress, doctors tell us, is a good thing. It can hype up your productivity. It gives you the ‘high’ you encounter when you really exert yourself to reach your goal.
It gets your adrenaline flowing. But don’t overdose on stress. Keep it under control. Take time off to do a bit of nothing.
Rest and relaxation on crucial to recharge your batteries. Britain’s wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill made no secret of the fact that he took a long nap every day to clear his mind and keep himself on the go.
In South Africa, busy American-born advertising executive David Wein, locked his office door between one and two every afternoon, put his feet on the desk and took what he called ‘forty winks’.
‘It does me the world of good,’ he confided. ‘I feel like a new man when I re-open the door at two o’clock.’
What do I do to unwind?
I watch videos of really good movies. I love listening to good music and I love reading good novels. And when I want to get a way from it all, my friend Dael Nathan and I head up to a quiet spot in the Eastern Transvaal for a weekend of trout fishing.
I also indulge in more physical activity. I play squash every Friday afternoon if I haven’t been booked to make a presentation.
‘A bow kept forever taut will break.’
You can also reduce stress levels at work.
By having fun.
Cultivate a sense of fun. Professional mind probers are adamant that it raises more than a giggle. An element of playfulness makes you and those around you more creative, more satisfied and more productive.
People who find work fun are:
Philosopher William Lyon Phelps waxed lyrical about the subject: ‘Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good plays, good company, good conversation – what are they? They are the happiest people in the world.’
Don’t be like comedian Woody Allen who complained: ‘Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.’
So how do you inject fun into the workplace? Follow the lead given by North American Tool & Die, a Californian operation that does metal stamping. The company throws great parties to recognise worker achievements. It dishes out plenty of awards and slaps a lot of backs. And they keep celebrations at an informal, spontaneous level. They’re more fun that way.
Funster cartoonist Charles Schulz, of Peanuts fame, had a bit to say about it: ‘My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?’
Dr Laurence Peter supplies the answer: ‘Happiness is liking what you do as well as doing what you like.’
So nourish yourself at work on a …
DAILY DOSE OF HAPPINESS
The way the world of business is moving, change isn’t an option. It’s an imperative for survival.
So don’t hedge you bets …
JUST DO IT.
If you sit in the middle of the road, you’re likely to be run over by traffic coming from both sides. By taking the initiative now you can become someone who makes a difference.
Take a look at the merchandise next time you go into a store. Any store. Most of them are ‘me too’ products, churned out en masse. They’re boring. Without soul, without heart. They’re lifeless. They may be functional, they may even be easy on the eye. But they lack intrinsic beauty.
I met a design engineer when he attended one of my presentations. He had an unusual philosophy for a technical man.
“When I work on a problem, Peter,’ he said, ‘I don’t think about beauty. I think only of how I can solve the problem. But when I’ve finished, if my solution is not beautiful, I know deep down that it’s wrong.’
If you adopt his attitude and put it into practice every day, whatever you do must come roses.
But business isn’t beautiful, you may argue. It’s filling in forms, churning out column after column of figures. It’s noisy machines on the factory floor. It’s research and development in drab laboratories. It’s trying to satisfy demanding customers.
But in the words of a popular hit song of yesteryear: ‘It ain’t necessarily so.’
All it takes is a little more thought, a little more effort to add a great new dimension to whatever you do.
Beauty. Beauty which is more than skin deep. Beauty which has a practical, marketable side. Beauty that has soul.
It will take guts and grim determination, a firm shift in mindset and a go-for-broke attitude.
Dancers daily nourish the beauty of Symphonie Concertante, choreographed by George Balanchine, by their own desire ‘to be more … more lengthened out, more musically precise, more willing to take risks.’
Critic Mindy Aloff says they must find a way to be hungry.. to crave. They embrace all the elements of beauty: desire, improvisation, playfulness, hunger and pain.
According to Luciano Pavarotti, there are two kinds of singers. There is the type who does everything very easily. He hits the top notes without batting an eyelid. Then there are singers who experience a little trouble hitting high notes .
‘But,’ he says, ‘they give you their heart.’
Schools produce the first type of singer and, as he puts it, ‘thy have all the pyrotechnics’.
‘So I think you need a little effort. A cry. Pain. Something in there to make you think it’s true – to the singer and the audience.’
Improve. Innovative. Have fun. Maybe cry a little. Try a little harder. Give whatever you do everything you got …
HAVE A HEART AND YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE