Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

The John Spence Formula for Business Success

I wanted to kick the New Year off with something powerful, a message that I felt would be truly helpful to you and your business. So, after more than 15 years as a management consultant and reading upwards of 1,500 business books, this is what I feel is at least one of the main keys to building and sustaining a highly successful business:


                        T + C x ECF = S


T= Talent. Let me make this as awesomely simple as possible: the success of your organization (or career) is directly tied to the quality of the people you can get on your team. Period! Whether you lead two people in a department, 8,000 across the globe, or are a solo-practitioner… you must understand that your future depends on your ability to attract around you a large group of highly talented people who are invested in your success. Be they employees, mentors, advisers, colleagues, board members, books, seminars, audio books, DVDs… you need a massive network of top talent – and then you need to be really good at going to them and asking for HELP! I cannot possibly overstate how critical this is.


C= Culture. Once you surround yourself with talent, the next step is to create a culture that will allow those talented people to grow, flourish and contribute to your organization’s success. To me, the key elements of such a culture include:

  • Superb communications: lots and lots of open, honest and transparent communication throughout the entire organization. Tell the truth – all the time, and share as much information as you possibly can with anyone and everyone that might be able to help you.
  • Continuous Innovation: a culture where every single day,  every single person in the organization is looking for ways to increase efficiency, improve the product, drive down costs and deliver more value to the customer. These don’t have to be game-changing monumental innovations (although those are good too!) but there must be a relentless focus on continuous incremental improvement by every member of the team.
  • Sense of Urgency: not 400-mile-an-hour craziness, but rather an energy and drive by everyone in the organization to make the important things happen… now! A sort of restlessness that keeps everyone on their toes and looking for the next thing to get accomplished, the next project to get completed.
  • Fun: I am not talking about total laughs all day long, what I mean here is that people enjoy the work they do and the people they do it with. As you walk through the place people are smiling and look like they are having a good time. If it is hard to imagine your organization like this – you have some important work to do in turning it around.
  • Meaning: this may be the most important element of all. The ONLY way to attract top talent to your team is to give them the opportunity to make a difference. To do challenging and important work; be treated with fairness and respect as they do that work; and be shown genuine appreciation for their contribution. You give them tons of this (and a fair salary) and you can absolutely get and keep the best-of the-best on your team.


ECF = Extreme Customer Focus. It is my firm belief that whoever owns the “Voice of the Customer” owns the marketplace. Here is the sad truth: most organizations actually know very, very little (or nothing) about their customers! So the goal here is to take the first two elements (Talent & Culture) and focus them on deeply understanding and connecting with your customers at a level that no one else in your industry could even come close to. If you can do this you will have created a sustainable competitive advantage this is exceedingly hard to copy or combat.


So here you have it, the John Spence formula for business success:


Talent + Culture x Extreme Customer Focus = Success


As always, it is one thing to say that you understand this formula… and it is something entirely different to know that you live it every day in your company!


I sure hope this helped and I very much look forward to your comments and feedback.

I wish you every possible happiness and success in 2010 – John Spence

PS – Thank you all so much for helping to make my book “Awesomely Simple” one of the Top Ten Small Business Books of 2009!!!


  1. John…the only thing I can say is “Awesomely simple.”
    We should make a poster of this and put it in every lunch room in America.
    Well reasoned,

    GL Hoffman
    Minneapolis, MN

  2. Thank you GL — coming from you that is very high praise indeed. May 2010 be your best year yet!!!

  3. Very well said, John…Most people and smart people at that; start and stop with Talent. You’ve nailed it and even made it fun…..It’s a great conversation starter and the timing is perfect.

    Thanks for sharing….Cheers to an amazingly awesome 10′

  4. Brian Martin says:

    Good stuff John… as usual!

    Congrats on making the top 10. The formula is simple, clear, and right on. The key is what you said, apply the first two elements to the third, to achieve success. Easier said than done, but to succeed in 2010, there is no other option.

  5. Very well said. That formula summarizes so many of the concepts that business school and books often attempt to convey. Congrats on the book’s success as well. Thanks for the continued motivation! 2010 will be a great year!

  6. John, this is to the point, powerful and applicable. Thanks! Going to share this with my world. Many thanks, Donna

  7. Geoff Wilson says:


    Good post and good talk the other day with Tutoring Zone. Based on your talk, it looks like you have since modified this formula, adding in Disciplined Execution as a key factor — actually, the most critical factor, since I think you now multiply the above formula by that component. Is that right?


    • Absolutely right! Thanks for the comment — very much looking forward to working with you and the team — looks like I we will all meet in about a week. Take good care — see you soon!!!