Play By the Rules But Be Ferocious

“Play by the rules but be ferocious” is the advice given by Phil Knight, co-founder and past chairman of Nike. I believe that all of us need to take this to heart and make some adjustments in how we lead and run our businesses!

There is no need to be ruthless, dishonest, nefarious, or unscrupulous in any way. However, if we want to grow our businesses we need a “fire in our belly” . . . we need to be ferocious!

Can you imagine if your favorite professional sports team was not driven to succeed? I know we always complain about the overall performance of our teams (like the Calgary Flames!) but when you watch them play, they do play the game ferociously. Anything less would be pathetic!

What if this season they decide they are going to play a non-contact style of hockey? Or what if their leadership fails to create and communicate a strategic plan for the season? What if they fail to assign team members to positions or to clearly define the roles each team member is to play? What if they don’t build a sales and marketing plan and fail to reach the sales targets they need to remain viable?

Do You Have a Customer Service Chasm?

In a 2005 Bain and Company survey of 362 companies, a huge gap was identified between what customers experience versus what companies thought they were delivering.

The gap was not just huge, it was staggering! Only 8% of customers in this survey described their service experience as “superior” while 80% of the companies described the service they provide as “superior.”

Tom Peters calls this the 8/80 chasm!

I have experienced this 8/80 chasm on a few engineering projects over the years.

An engineering contract typically has a ton of detail built into it. Because of this, it is really easy to fall into the trap of “working to fulfill the contract” instead of working to understand exactly what the customer needs before you are too far down the design road to make adjustments.

When a project manager falls into this trap of managing to the contract, it is inevitable that they will encounter a customer who is not happy with the finished product. Usually, when this happens, the project is so far down the design path that the effort to get realigned with the customer’s expectations is extremely painful for both the project manager and the customer!

So what can businesses do to bridge this chasm or avoid it altogether?

What Powerful Advice Do You Wish You Had 20 Years Ago?

Recently, I was a guest on “Ideas and Stuff”, a Calgary based podcast (episode 50). One of the questions they provided in advance for me to think about and prepare for was; “If you could go back to the day you started your business/career, what would you tell yourself?”

As it turns out, we had a great conversation during the podcast and never quite got to this question! However, the question did really get me thinking.

If I could back up my career, what do I wish I knew that would make a big difference?

As many of you know, I am an electrical engineer by education and practiced in this field for quite a few years.

As engineers, we are forced to focus on numbers, formulas, Lagrangian multipliers, and other theorems that would give most people nightmares! However, as the Dilbert stereotype so aptly illustrates, we are generally not taught the basic things about effective communication, teamwork, or leadership!

So, what would I tell myself if I could go back to the day I started my career?

Blue Ocean Shift

Beyond Competing - Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth

The book review for this week is Blue Ocean Shift Beyond Competing by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

Blue Ocean Shift is the second book in the “Blue Ocean journey” for Kim and Mauborgne. Here they expand on the concepts defined and outlined in Blue Ocean Strategy published in 2005. It is easy to see that the authors have been busy with research, consulting and projects since then! This book has updated tools, concepts and compelling case studies. Entire countries have got on board and kicked off Blue Ocean initiatives (Malaysia’s National Blue Ocean Shift Summit)!

My takeaway from this book is the Blue Ocean shift diagram (below) and the understanding behind it. Each business leader must continuously strategize on how to move into or stay in a Blue Ocean market. This is a daunting task and takes significant effort, creative thought, innovation, wisdom, and action. However, the alternative, the Red Ocean of cut throat competition, MUST be avoided to avoid the slip into becoming a Red Ocean commodity!

The Critical Importance of Principles in Business

One of the most important things any business leader can do for their business longevity, is to establish the principles by which they and their business will operate.

These principles form the foundation on which trust and relationships are built with all of the stakeholders of the business; shareholders, employees, customers, and suppliers.

Berkshire Hathaway is an example of a highly successful business from pretty much all perspectives. They are a solid company with decades of successful and profitable operations.

In 1983, Warren Buffett established 13 principles that defined how Berkshire Hathaway was to operate. He first published these in what he called Berkshire’s “An Owner’s Manual.” These 13 ideologies are still valid today at Berkshire and followed closely in all the business that they conduct.

Many of these are directly applicable to any business. We can all benefit from reviewing them and perhaps implementing them in our own businesses!

Berkshire’s “An Owners Manual”

I have highlighted seven of the thirteen principles below: