What Really Matters

Over the years I have been involved in many different businesses in many different industries.  Over this journey I have consistently been a reader of business books, The Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review.  When I was younger I would try and assimilate into practice what I was learning about.  It wasn’t very long before I began to notice that what one book said was critical for success were the same strategies I had read articles about that showed business failures that from my point of view were the same strategies.

I began to ask myself are there any ideas, concepts, or strategies that will hold the test of time and not have exceptions?

I have boiled it down to what I think really matters.  These are ideas that I believe successful businesses must do to stay successful, and will stand the test of time.

  1. You must move – businesses that think they can remain stagnant will find themselves out of business.  Any business that thinks they don’t have to actively evolve and change will find themselves with a shrinking margin first, and out of business the next while thinking “what happened, we were doing so well last year.”
  2. Surround yourself with the smartest people you can find or afford – listen to what they say as you pose concerns and questions.  It doesn’t matter whether they are partners, board members, industry experts, employees, or consultants, get them helping you as often as you can.
  3. Get reality on the table – it is the beginning of solving everything.  No progress, or very little progress, can be made if there are things that can’t be talked about, hidden agendas, or any kind of politicking.  It is as basic as it gets, that all those around the table have to feel equal and free to express their feelings.  Heated conversation is ok if it leads to the realities of the business.  It doesn’t matter who has the best answer – only that the best answer surfaces.
  4. Try things – iterate at a rate that will not put the company at risk.  No business can afford to do everything.  Figure out what you can afford to try and then identify the critical components that must be tested to validate or invalidate the strategy.  Then do it quickly.  Waiting to try a concept or strategy till you have all the answers will paralyze the business.
  5. Measure quickly – feed winners and chop losers.  The faster you can figure out what works and what doesn’t the less resources (money, people, time) you waste.  The faster you can recognize when you are off-course and then correct back to course is often more important than picking the right course.

Continue to read but realize that the success stories may or may not work for you and the business you are currently in.  Use books and magazines to increase the idea of “surrounding yourself with the smartest people you can find.”

I’d be interested in your feedback – in keeping with “surrounding yourself with the smartest people you can find.”