by Marshall Goldsmith
In my last blog, I posted excerpts of my interview with business success experts Brian Tracy, known for his classic Eat That Frog! and Mark Thompson, co-author of The New York Times best-seller Success Built to Last. Brian and Mark have written a new book called Now, Build a Great Business!, and recently I had the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their new book. Following are excerpts from our discussion.
MG: In Now, Build a Great Business! you place high priority on developing a great business plan. How can the process of planning help make a business stronger, even if business doesn’t always go according to the plan?
MT: The plan itself enables you to create a checklist of things you must do and learn in order to succeed. It forces leaders to get really clear about those strategies and tactics, and most importantly, to debate those issues with other smart people who can help you. Until you commit to a plan, there is no accountability and no way to clearly measure progress. As it turns out, most plans don’t turn out as planned exactly — things may be better or worse. But without a plan, failure is more likely because you’ll thrash about wasting time and effort without accountability. The planning process saves you time, effort and energy.
MG: Would you share a few tips or techniques to ease the challenges of finding great people and keeping them motivated?
BT: Finding great people is another one of the seven strategies. Your business can only grow to the degree to which you can attract and keep great people who can help your business grow. A great person is someone who contributes much more in dollar value than you pay them in salary, income, and bonuses. Therefore, a good person is actually “free.” Even more, a good person is “free, plus a profit.” What this means is that a good person contributes more than they cost, and much more, yielding a profit every time you can hire one of these people.
A good person is one who fully understands what he or she is expected to do and is fully trained or qualified to do that job. The manager then provides the essential leadership, guidance and motivation, creating an environment where peak performers can thrive.
The basic rule in hiring good people is to do it slowly and carefully, one interview at a time. As Peter Drucker said, “Fast people decisions are usually wrong people decisions.”
MG: When it comes to breakthrough success, why do small startups routinely beat big businesses? How can corporate executives and managers apply your principles?
MT: Most successful companies started small and took market share from larger competitors to succeed. Why should any small company be able to compete against big companies that have more money to spend on experienced people, better equipment, better distribution and service for customers, etc! It should not be possible, but the one core competency that big companies avoid (and managers often sabotage even while pretending to support it) is the one thing that makes little companies win.
It’s innovation. All innovation requires experimentation and all experiments require failure. How many big companies tolerate failure? Would you like to be fired, demoted or humiliated? Not likely. Managers in big companies avoid risk and failure. They think they can avoid it, but eventually it catches up with them. Small companies have no choice but to take risks that are relatively bigger (and fail more often) than their larger competitors.
This is also true about individual people, by the way, according to our global research in 110 nations. Successful people take risks and fail more often than losers. Winners ultimately set themselves apart, innovate more, get smarter, more skilled over time and get ahead because they make themselves vulnerable to risk. Ironically, unsuccessful people don’t worry enough about winning. They are more concerned about avoiding failure, which severely limits their ability to grow.