Five Strategic Tips for a Profitable Future

Future Profit

A recently published book, Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential guide to competition and strategy (Magretta, 2012), compiles and applies the work of management guru, Michael Porter.   Full of useful insights, here are five pearls of wisdom that can if applied, create a more robust, more profitable and sustainable business.

Tip 1: “Strategy explains how an organization, faced with competition, will achieve superior performance. The definition is deceptively simple”

Performance is not about your competition, it is about achieving superior performance, every day, regardless of what is happening with your competitors or markets.

Tip 2: “Competitive advantage is not about beating rivals; it’s about creating unique value for customers. If you have a competitive advantage, it will show up on your P & L”

To create unique value is not about you beating your competitors, it is about you delivering (through superior performance) the unique value by focusing on your customers’ needs.

Tip 3: “Strategic competition means choosing a path different from that of others”

If you accept that the competitive goal is superior performance, then it makes sense to achieve that performance using methods different to the competitors. You have to be able to differentiate yourself not only in the customer’s eyes but in how you achieve that differentiation – in how you deliver value to the customer.

Tip 4: “The value proposition is the element of strategy that looks outward at customers, at the demand side of the business. The value chain focuses internally on operations. Strategy is fundamentally integrative, bringing the demand and supply sides together”

A strategy is about achieving a position.  Here it is to achieve superior performance whilst delivering superior value to the customer.  You need to be able to focus on how you will drive that superior performance, and what this means in terms of superior customer value.  In this, you need to continuously improve the efficiency of your internal operations.

Tip 5: “There is no honor in size or growth if those are profitless. Competition is about profit, not market share”

This tip serves as a reminder that we need to be the most profitable, not the biggest in top-line revenue or headcount.

Consider these five tips in a context of your own organization. What should you do to meet the requirements of all five? Is your current strategy going to work for you in the coming next few years?

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Five Strategies for Growing Successfully

Not all growth is good growth, five tips to help you ensure that growth is good

Do you want to grow your business?  If so, do you know how you are going to grow the business?  And are you aware of the difference between good growth and bad growth?

People often want to grow for growth’s own sake.  This is more about taking on risk than taking on growth.

Strategy 1: Control Your Growth

You need to manage growth, not have it manage you.  I suspect more companies have failed through poorly managed and unplanned growth than any other reason.  At times you will also want to slow growth to allow you to “catch up” with yourself.  Fast and successful growth is rare.  You need to be able to absorb the lessons you learn as you grow and incorporate them into your next steps.  In doing this you also need to consider some of the risks that are associated with poorly controlled growth, these include:

  • Cash flow risks – growth consumes cash, and rapid growth consumes cash rapidly. If you are not careful you can find yourself with insufficient cash to cover your operating costs; you also run the risk of trading whilst insolvent.  It only requires one unexpected cost or one delayed customer payment to push you over the edge.
  • Operational crunch – to produce the volume required to support your growth can be difficult.  Equipment and/or people have to operate beyond what is practical, and things start to come apart at the seams with increasing inefficiencies and attendant risks.
  • Poor customer service – you have more customers to look after and not always the available people or resources to do so.
  • Rapid expenditure – with more orders coming in you may be tempted to spend more on people, infrastructure, and resources.  You want to invest, but not over-invest or leave yourself exposed.
  • People risks – existing people will be worried about the rapid changes, stressed by an increasing workload, exhausted by an expanded role for which they may not be suitable or experienced, and worried if you will be able to pay them each month.  St the time you need them most you may find your best people, who are the most marketable, may leave.
  • Decision-making changeswith rapid growth people need to step back from an operational focus to a leadership role.  There is a risk that leaders can become disconnected from what is happening at the front-line and make decisions based on the incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • Leadership shortfalls – people who may be operationally adept may lack the necessary leadership skills, business acumen or interpersonal skills to lead effectively.  This can cause problems and compound existing risks.

Strategy 2: Go for Good Growth, Avoid Bad Growth

Good growth is aligned with your purpose and what you are trying to achieve.  Bad growth is not aligned.  Often the problem of bad growth is that you are prepared to take a short-term gain but sacrifice the long-term future.  For example, taking on a big client who has a poor reputation for paying on time leads to serious cash flow issues later and takes a disproportionate amount of your precious time in managing the relationship and fire-fighting. This can also impact your team, lower morale and create stress and pressure.

Make sure that what you do, who you partner with, and who you sell to are aligned.  Good growth is about servicing the need of selected and targeted clients – not any client with a checkbook.  For good growth, you need to say no to opportunities to keep focused and aligned.

Strategy 3: Growth Means Letting Go

If you want to grow you need to prune back.  As the demands and needs of your business change so I remember, as a child, playing on the monkey bars.  The only way you can forward on the monkey bars is to let go with one hand, swing forward, and grasp the next rung. So you need to repeat it to get to the other end. Business is just the same. Let go to grow.

Strategy 4: Lead Your Growth

Growth is about change, and change is about leadership, not management. You need to lead your people and share with them the answers to three questions:

  • What are we changing from and why?
  • What are we changing to and why?
  • How are we going to do this?

Doing this remove any vagueness or information vacuums which can cause stress and rumors and stories (often inaccurate) in an attempt to fill the gap.

Strategy 5: Go Slowly

Business is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Paradoxically, by going slower you will get there faster – and with your risks better managed, and you be better prepared for them.

To grow, and to grow profitably, control your growth, go for good growth, let go to move forward, lead your people to growth and to grow well grow slow.

Please feel free to re-tweet, re-blog, email and share this article with others who may find it of use or interest.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Physics & Productivity

How to use Newton’s three laws of motion to become more productive

In our physic classes as children, we all learned Sir Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Universal in their application they can also be used as an interesting analogy for increasing your productivity, simplifying your work, and improving your life.

Newton’s First Law of Productivity

First Law of Motion: An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force. (i.e. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.)

Underpinning this is the basic fact that if you want to be productive you need to take action; you never achieve anything by doing nothing! This law has two key aspects when it comes to getting things going or getting started”

Firstly, objects at rest tend to stay at rest.  If you do nothing, then nothing will happen.

Secondly, objects in motion tend to stay motion.  Once you get things started it is much easier to keep going.

So what are the learnings from this?

Firstly, don’t procrastinate – find a way by which to get started.  Just start it! (With apologies to Nike).  You don’t have to do much, just begin it. By beginning, you start moving, and by moving you start to gain momentum, and in gaining momentum you become more motivated, and as you become more motivated so it becomes easier to do the work and your speed picks up.

This brings us to the second law.

Newton’s Second Law of Productivity

Second Law of Motion: F=ma. The vector sum of the forces on an object is equal to the mass (m) of that object multiplied by the acceleration (a) vector of the object. (i.e. Force equals mass times acceleration.)

Let’s break down this equation, F=ma, and how it can apply to productivity.

The important thing is that F (force) is a vector that involves both magnitude (how much work you are putting in) and direction (where that work is focused). In other words, if you want to get an object accelerating in a particular direction, then the size of the force you apply and the direction of that force will both make a difference.

It’s the same process for getting things done in your life.

If you want to be productive, it’s not merely about how hard you work (magnitude); it’s also about where that work is applied (direction). This is true of big life decisions and small daily decisions.

Fig. 1 Example of How You Could Use Your Skills

For example, you could apply the same skill set in different directions and get very different results. As you can see in the example below you could use the skills, insights, and expertise you gain from completing a business degree in several different ways. You can only do so much, so make where and how you focus time, effort and attention count!

Newton’s Third Law of Productivity

Third Law of Motion: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body. (i.e. equal and opposite forces.)

We all work at an average speed of our life. And our average is, well, just average.  There are times when your levels of productivity and efficiency are at a peak, and there are times when your levels are low. When we are productive and efficient we use productive forces such as focus, positivity, and motivation.  When we are unproductive we experience unproductive forces like stress, lack of sleep or multi-tasking (trying to balance too many tasks at once).

In making progress and becoming more productive and effective there are two things we can do – we can look to double our productive forces (e.g. work harder and longer, watch a motivational video, have a cup of coffee) and/or have the unproductive forces we experience (e.g. simplify what you are doing, learn to say no or change your environment (for example, tidy up your office).

Fig. 2 How To Make Progress

If you reduce the unproductive forces in your life, your productivity will improve naturally.

Summary of Newton’s Laws of Productivity

1. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Don’t procrastinate, look to start on what needs to be done as possible – this will create forward momentum.

2.It’s not just about working hard, it’s also about working on the right things. You have a limited amount of energy, time and resources to bring to bear, so where you apply it matters.

3. Your productivity is a balance of opposing forces. If you want to be more productive, you can either power through the barriers or remove the opposing forces. The second option seems to be less stressful.

Finally, the power of these laws is even greater if you leverage them and use them in conjunction with each other.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The “X-Factor” and Business

Who are the people in your business with the “X-Factor”? How do you uncover them?

The X Factor (Australia)

For those of you living in Australia, this evening saw the launch of a new series of  ”The X-Factor”. For those of you not familiar with the show it is a competition aimed at uncovering new gems of singing talent through a series of auditions, with the final winner receiving a recording contract.  I’ll be honest, this is not something I usually watch – but I did tonight, and I was glad I did!

The ”X-Factor” is that indescribable, innate quality which we cannot define, but which we know when we see it, which marks somebody as having incredible talent and potential.  In tonight’s episode there were two outstanding acts – Siane Hawke, a 14-year old student from Darwin and another student, Bella Ferraro.  What struck me about both girls was not only that they had immense talent, way beyond their years, but that they were unaware of how special they were.  Refreshingly modest they seemed genuinely surprised at the reaction they evoked from the judges and the 5000 people in the audience.  They are ordinary people in ordinary lives – but that may change for them in the near future.  It certainly won’t be the same for them after this.

My question to you is this.  Who in your business or organisation has the “X-factor”?  How will you uncover these gems and help them to recognise themselves? How do you ‘audition’ people to do this? How will you support those that you uncover so that you can build them and reach the fullness of their potential?

Happy auditioning!  You may be helping someone else live their life to the full – and that is the mark of a true leader!

Let me know how you do it. What has worked, what hasn’t, and what would you do differently next time?

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Ways to Improve How You Work

improve2

We are often so busy doing the work that we forget to take a step back and give ourselves the time to focus and re-energize ourselves.  Here are 3 tips for improving your personal effectiveness, no matter what you do.

1. Boost your personal efficiency
When looking at profit improvement potential (or waste) in a business it is often said it is easy to identify 30% of your current overheads as ‘waste’. The same can be said if you audited yourself for your levels of efficiency. 30% of what you do on a day-to-day basis is a waste. Outside the box ways to boost your efficiency are required. Some key tips are:

  • Hire a Virtual Assistant to prevent you performing tasks you don’t have to
  • Stop doing many of the things that are not in the 20% of things you do which create 80% of the benefit
  • Build processes and document all aspects of your business you currently do ‘naturally’ so you can delegate more of what you do
  • Use the latest technology platforms such as Ipads, Livescribe pens, and various apps to better collect your notes, ideas, strategies and increase your speed in finding them at a later date

2. Protect your energy levels
Think of the networks of people in business and personally you associate with on a regular basis.  Are these people providing you a boost in your energy levels when you connect with them or are they taking away your valuable energy levels (acting as what we call ‘Energy Vampires’)?  If you have the balance wrong and have a large portion acting as ‘Energy Vampires’ it can have a detrimental effect on your ability to implement change and deliver the outcomes you are seeking.  Perform a quick audit on your circle of business and personal contacts; what do you have to change?

3. What is your ‘theme’ for the next 12 months?
Having a theme for your plans for the next 12 months can help focus more acutely your team, customers and importantly yourself on what’s important when driving strategies/actions. Themes could include: “Innovation”, “Growth”, “Efficiency”, “Profit”, “Downsize”, “Consolidate” or “Improve Life Balance”.

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Five Strategies for Growing Successfully

Not all growth is good growth, five tips to help you ensure that growth is good

Do you want to grow your business?  If so, do you know how you are going to grow the business?  And are you aware of the difference between good growth and bad growth?

People often want to grow for growth’s own sake.  This is more about taking on risk than taking on growth.

Strategy 1: Control Your Growth

You need to manage growth, not have it manage you.  I suspect more companies have failed through poorly managed and unplanned growth than any other reason.  At times you will also want to slow growth to allow you to “catch up” with yourself.  Fast and successful growth is rare.  You need to be able to absorb the lessons you learn as you grow and incorporate them into your next steps.  In doing this you also need to consider some of the risks that are associated with poorly controlled growth, these include:

  • Cash flow risks – growth consumes cash, and rapid growth consumes cash rapidly. If you are not careful you can find yourself with insufficient cash to cover your operating costs; you also run the risk of trading whilst insolvent.  It only requires one unexpected cost or one delayed customer payment to push you over the edge.
  • Operational crunch – to produce the volume required to support your growth can be difficult.  Equipment and/or people have to operate beyond what is practical, and things start to come apart at the seams with increasing inefficiencies and attendant risks.
  • Poor customer service – you have more customers to look after and not always the available people or resources to do so.
  • Rapid expenditure – with more orders coming in you may be tempted to spend more on people, infrastructure, and resources.  You want to invest, but not over-invest or leave yourself exposed.
  • People risks – existing people will be worried about the rapid changes, stressed by an increasing workload, exhausted by an expanded role for which they may not be suitable or experienced, and worried if you will be able to pay them each month.  St the time you need them most you may find your best people, who are the most marketable, may leave.
  • Decision-making changeswith rapid growth people need to step back from an operational focus to a leadership role.  There is a risk that leaders can become disconnected from what is happening at the front-line and make decisions based on the incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • Leadership shortfalls – people who may be operationally adept may lack the necessary leadership skills, business acumen or interpersonal skills to lead effectively.  This can cause problems and compound existing risks.

Strategy 2: Go for Good Growth, Avoid Bad Growth

Good growth is aligned with your purpose and what you are trying to achieve.  Bad growth is not aligned.  Often the problem of bad growth is that you are prepared to take a short-term gain but sacrifice the long-term future.  For example, taking on a big client who has a poor reputation for paying on time leads to serious cash flow issues later and takes a disproportionate amount of your precious time in managing the relationship and fire-fighting. This can also impact your team, lower morale and create stress and pressure.

Make sure that what you do, who you partner with, and who you sell to are aligned.  Good growth is about servicing the need of selected and targeted clients – not any client with a checkbook.  For good growth, you need to say no to opportunities to keep focused and aligned.

Strategy 3: Growth Means Letting Go

If you want to grow you need to prune back.  As the demands and needs of your business change so I remember, as a child, playing on the monkey bars.  The only way you can forward on the monkey bars is to let go with one hand, swing forward, and grasp the next rung. So you need to repeat it to get to the other end. Business is just the same. Let go to grow.

Strategy 4: Lead Your Growth

Growth is about change, and change is about leadership, not management. You need to lead your people and share with them the answers to three questions:

  • What are we changing from and why?
  • What are we changing to and why?
  • How are we going to do this?

Doing this remove any vagueness or information vacuums which can cause stress and rumors and stories (often inaccurate) in an attempt to fill the gap.

Strategy 5: Go Slowly

Business is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Paradoxically, by going slower you will get there faster – and with your risks better managed, and you be better prepared for them.

To grow, and to grow profitably, control your growth, go for good growth, let go to move forward, lead your people to growth and to grow well grow slow.

Please feel free to re-tweet, re-blog, email and share this article with others who may find it of use or interest.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

7 Secrets for Successful Business Growth

If you want to grow your business, and I mean really grow your business, then here are a few simple but powerful secrets you can use. When you get to the end there is an eighth and even more powerful secret to share!

7 Secrets + 1

  1. Know what you do and what you don’t do.

The temptation for many small business owners is to do anything to earn the next dollar. In trying to be all things for all people you end up not being good at anything in particular. You are not even average, you are mediocre. And mediocre does not stand out, nor does it sell. No sales, no growth.

  1. Know your strengths.

If you want to grow successfully then you need to know what your strengths are. What are the things that you love doing that you do well?  What are the things which you do which have the greatest impact?

Using your strengths allows you to raise your performance and improve your results on a sustainable basis. Don’t make the mistake of trying to improve by addressing your weaknesses, all that does is improve your performance to an average level at best, and you may not be able to sustain the improvement.

  1. Be the prize.

Too often business owners are prepared to work with anyone to win more clients and earn more money. This just makes you look desperate and needy. Frankly, when were you impressed by somebody who was desperate to work with you? You weren’t! So be selective with whom you work with, and hold yourself out to be the prize they want to have and work with! By holding back, you appear more attractive.

  1. People don’t buy what you do

Sorry! The world does not revolve around you.

People are not interested in what you do. I know you are interested in what you do, and you love it, but it doesn’t matter. People are only interested in what you do for them – and there is a world of difference in this! They buy the results and outcomes that you help them realize. So, help people buy by articulating what you do for them clearly and concisely.

  1. Speak their language

Do you remember the first time you want to a foreign country where no-one spoke your language? What were the feelings and thoughts you had at the time? If you want to be understood, make sure you speak their language. Don’t use the industry jargon that you and other fellow professionals use, it just confuses and alienates your customers who don’t share your language. When people feel confused or alienated they want to avoid taking risks, and so they don’t do anything. So, speak with your audience in mind so what you say is what is heard.

  1. Don’t shout, just whisper

We live in a noisy world. Everyone is trying to gain our attention, we are submerged in a deluge of information whether we are at work, at home or elsewhere. If you try to shout louder than anyone else all you will get is a hoarse throat. To outshout others, you need to outspend them in broadcasting your message in the hope that somebody will hear you, and then hope yet again that they will act on it in the way that you want them to! Some chance!

Better to whisper.

To whisper, and to be heard, you need to have a message that your audience is already attuned to. Rather than broadcasting to everyone across all frequencies you need to pick a single radio channel and transmit to those who want to listen to your radio show. By broadcasting country music on your radio show there will be many who aren’t interested, but those who are will be ready to listen and act on your message!

  1. Being good at what you do is not enough

You might believe you are the best at what you do, but it doesn’t matter. Being technically good at what you do will not make you successful. I have come across many business owners who are good at what they do, but their business is in a terrible state. Having technical savvy does not mean you have business savvy. Look at your business through “business glasses”, not your “technical glasses”

Bonus Secret:

Now you know these seven secrets here is the bonus secret I promised you. It’s a simple three-word phrase you probably have already heard – “Just Do It!”

To grow requires action. So, don’t just read these seven secrets and think “Oh! That’s interesting!” – do something with them. Take action now. Choose one thing you can do – right now – and which will help you grow. Share the one thing you are going to do in the comments section below.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Shaping Your Future

What you can do to bring the future back to today.

In the current business environment leaders are subject to increasing demands on their time, requiring faster responses, with less information in shorter time-scales. In this age of infinite information and endless distraction, it’s easy to spend an entire day reacting and responding to what others want as opposed to what we want or need to do.

Here is a question for you.

Do a quick calculation of the percentage of time you spend responding to things in a typical day (answering email and phone calls, etc.). Compare this with the percentage of time you spend initiating actions.

Where do you spend most of your time? In most cases, a reactionary time greatly outweighs proactive time.

The problem is that you spend most of your time dealing with the past in the present, making it difficult to prepare, plan and act for the future.  And it is what you initiate today that will shape the future.  It might be a conversation that leads to a new friendship, sharing an idea that leads to a new product or service etcetera.  Your ability to create a positive charge for others is almost directly proportional to the amount of time you can spend initiating instead of responding.

Leaders look to the future, deal with people, and lead change. So, with your team, allocate time to reflect and look to the future to determine what you can and need to initiate that is aligned with your purpose and goals. Talk with others, and encourage your team to do the same, to gain insights into their perspectives and thoughts and to start the process of developing opportunities for the future. Look to initiate rather than respond, this will help you to be proactive and to take control of the future for yourself.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps to Develop Your Team

Stop-Start-Continue – 3 Steps for Individual & Team Growth

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

3 Steps to Develop You and Your Team – Raise Performance, Achieve Outcomes.

Stop-Start-ContinueHow often do you take the time to stop, look at what you are doing and carry out a “self-audit”?  To reach our potential, or to help others to reach theirs, we need to do this periodically.  This can be used in your business, social or personal life.

Stop-Start-Continue 

There are three parts to this process:.

1.   Stop.

What are you doing that you can stop doing or need to stop doing? 

These might be things that you stop doing yourself, delegate to others, or is no longer required. This frees up time which you can utilise in the next two parts.  Time is limited, so make sure you use it on those things that matter, have priority and help you (or others) to grow and develop.

2.   Start.

What do you need to start doing that you are not currently doing? 

What are those things which will help you (or others) to grow, develop and achieve those things that they are looking for.  You can begin to do these things with the time you have freed up in the first step of Stop.

3.   Continue.

What are those things you need to continue doing?

Identify those things which are currently working for you, and which you can improve that will help you realise what you are looking to achieve. How can you leverage these things and the time to do more of them?

What to Do Next?

For yourself, think of three things for each of the three parts – STOP, START and CONTINUE.  Using the template below, especially if you are a leader or a manager in your business then try this to help your team and reports:

  1. Identify what each person should STOP, START and CONTINUE as regards their role and contribution.
  2. Get each person to do the same for themselves.
  3. Meet with each person and get them to share their ideas with you, and share your ideas with them.  This will create engagement, ownership and commitment for team members who are looking to grow and develop successfully.

Stop-Save-Continue Template

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Salesman Who Lost the Million-Dollar Deal

How failure can make you more successful…

We all make mistakes, but do we learn from them?

As children we are often taught not to make mistakes, and that it is important to be right. This is reinforced as we become adults and so we learn to equate mistakes with failure.  And when we do this we limit ourselves and our potential to grow.

I view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve, and from this to grow and develop myself further. If I am not making mistakes then I am not pushing my boundaries or myself, and I condemning myself to be average as I cannot grow. The important thing about mistakes is not just to learn, but to implement that learning so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

I would like to share a story with you about Thomas Watson Sr., the man who founded IBM and oversaw its massive growth from 1914 to 1956. The story goes like this….

“”IBM had survived The Great Depression. Gambling on a post war boom, Watson Sr. had maintained IBM’s employment levels by increasing inventories when there was little demand. Excess machinery and parts crowded basements and filled every nook-and-cranny of Endicott’s warehouses.

Some on the board of directors, because of this, were lobbying to remove Watson as IBM’s President.

He needed these inventories sold.

A very large government bid, approaching a million dollars, was on the table. The IBM Corporation—no, Thomas J. Watson Sr.—needed every deal. Unfortunately, the salesman failed. IBM lost the bid. That day, the sales rep showed up at Mr. Watson’s office. He sat down and rested an envelope with his resignation on the CEO’s desk. Without looking, Mr. Watson knew what it was. He was expecting it.

He asked, “What happened?”

The sales rep outlined every step of the deal. He highlighted where mistakes had been made and what he could have done differently. Finally he said, “Thank you, Mr. Watson, for giving me a chance to explain. I know we needed this deal. I know what it meant to us.” He rose to leave.

Tom Watson met him at the door, looked him in the eye and handed the envelope back to him saying, “Why would I accept this when I have just invested one million dollars in your education?”

It is that last line – “I have just invested a million dollars in your education” – that brings it home to me.  There are two important learnings here:

  1. The failure you experience and the mistakes you make are opportunities for you to grow.
  2. The failure others experience and the mistakes others make are opportunities for them to grow.

Are you tolerant of and welcome mistakes in yourself? And in others?  Currently do you look to learn from your mistakes and failures? And do you help others to learn from their mistakes and failures?

We are living and working in a changing world, and we are finding that what got us here will not get us there. As well as this we are also discovering that what we have always done will no longer get us what we always got.  Failures and mistakes do not stem just from doing something new or different, but they can stem from doing that which we have done before and which has previously brought us success.  The latter source of failure and mistakes is more insidious and harder to sport, ironically because it is so familiar.

So create an environment where failure and mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn and grow – individually, as a team, and as an organization. Identify the learnings, share them with others, and determine what you need to implement to prevent the failure or mistake from recurring by raising the bar for both what you do and how you do it.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here. (needs link)

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