Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Some Powerful Feedback About How to Succeed in 2010

Recently I have had the chance to talk to a lot of business people about what they are focused on for survival and success in 2010. During just the last three weeks, I delivered a session for the national sales meeting of a mid-sized industrial manufacturing company, taught two sessions to the combined executive teams and board of directors from 17 different companies, taught a strategic thinking/planning class at the Wharton School of Business to 120 executives from the financial industry and spent three fantastic days at the Inc. Magazine GrowCo event in Orlando, FL with 400+ rabid entrepreneurs… WOW!

So what is the takeaway from all of this interaction?

1. The economy is not going to get (significantly) better any time soon. I think we all knew that, but after talking in-depth with four different prominent economists… they all seem to think we’ve got another 8 to 18 months of nasty economic storms to weather before we’ll be able to enjoy any level of real recovery and relief (that is if nothing else catastrophic happens).

2. Most of the companies I talked with were focused on the combination of THREE major strategies to prepare themselves for the eventual economic rebound:

A) Cut Costs. Do everything possible to reduce expenses and increase efficiency, without cutting too deep.

B) Hold margins. Do everything you can not to let YOUR customers try to reduce their costs on your dime!

C) Invest strategically and aggressively in R&D. Look for ways to add more value, differentiate and innovate across all areas of the company.

3. I heard a lot of people who were concerned that they would lose many of their best people when the economy bounced back. They have been asking their star performers to do so much, with so little, for so long – they are worried they’ll all be “so gone” as soon as they can jump ship for higher pay and less responsibility.

4. Lastly, nearly every business I talked to was in “emergency mode” trying to find new customers and hang on to the ones they currently have.

I wish had something totally new and revolutionary to address these factors, but to me they point back to exactly what I talked about in my first blog of the year:

 T + C x ECF = Success

T = Talent. You need to find, grow and KEEP the absolute BEST PEOPLE on your team.

C= Culture. You need to create a culture that keeps those talented people highly engaged and satisfied… because having highly engaged and satisfied employees is the single most critical factor in creating highly-engaged, satisfied and loyal customers… who in turn will deliver to you as much as a 104% increase in profits. Culture is NOT touchy-feely – culture is cold, hard cash in your hand.

ECF = Extreme Customer Focus. All of this should then be focused squarely on connecting with your customers at a deep, personal and trusting level. I have said it 10,000 times, but here it is once more: Whoever owns the Voice Of the Customer – owns the marketplace.

During the GrowCo event (which totally rocked!!!!!!) I had the opportunity to represent my table in a group discussion about customer service and employee engagement and used that platform to share the “T + C x ECF” equation and was blown away that for the next few days people kept pulling me aside and remarking what a powerful and helpful idea it was. To me it is all about making “common sense” uncommonly easy to understand and apply. Get GREAT people, treat them GREAT… and they will treat your customer GREAT – which will make your bottom line look… even GREATER! What an awesomely simple idea!!

Hope this helped – take good care – John Spence


  1. Bill Gair says:

    John…great post.

  2. Carol Alesi says:


    A simply AWESOME communication….keep sharing these pearls of wisdom!

  3. Bill Dellecker says:


    These are the most challenging times we’ve faced and we’ve dug deep into our business to explore every aspect of getting better in all areas. We simply must. Thanks for your usual clarity of focus on the essential elements of what will drive success going forward.

  4. Simple. Clear. Workable. So totally true that across the board, people have been “asking their star performers to do so much, with so little, for so long”. I think that’s where appreciation and corporate culture, which you also teach, come in. Jumping ship would cause these key people to miss the satsifaction of seeing that hard work pay off in a big way. I’m going to be thinking about this to encourage business owners to conciously prevent this from happening.
    Thanks for summarizing your valuable experiences and conversations.

  5. Daniel Minton says:


    this is very insightful. Great post!

  6. Andy Richardson says:

    Awesome John, per usual!

  7. John,
    To say this was awesome would be in error. It is in fact, what i have come to expect from you all the time. Good job. Thanks friend.