I have just returned to my desk from an absolutely fantastic event hosted by my local Chamber of Commerce which featured four of our area’s most accomplished and respected business leaders talking about how to build a great company. The companies that were featured were all relatively small businesses, yet three of the four competed on a national and even global scale. Two of the owners were in their early 20s – the other two in their late 30s. All four were incredibly bright, talented and successful business leaders.
The format was basically an hour-long Q&A and here are some of the big takeaways I wrote down from these wonderfully thoughtful business owners:
- Most people can keep their job only giving about 80% of their effort – how do you get the last 20%? In our company it comes down to being part of a team, feeling truly valued and genuinely appreciated — and measuring people’s performance carefully so that we can show them exactly how to be successful.
- The key to motivation is autonomy – mastery – purpose. Let people have the freedom and flexibility to go out and do their job well, hire people who are focused on their craft and dedicated to mastery, and show them that their work has some greater purpose other than just earning a paycheck.
- A core element of a successful culture is creating a “family” atmosphere where people in the organization know that the other folks around them are truly interested in them, care about them as an individual and see them as important and valuable.
Another thing that emerged during the Q&A was the idea of hiring the right people at the beginning of the process. As several of the business owners pointed out: I can teach someone to code, or how to develop a new type of app, or how to run a certain kind of program – but I can’t teach them to be a good person who is self-motivated and honest.
Lastly, they asked each of the folks on the panel what was something they had to learn in business the hard way – something they wish they knew before they had gotten started. The answers were:
- Focus – it is extremely important to know what to say “No” to.
- Be a student of learning – constantly be striving for personal and professional growth.
- Implementation is critical – it’s easy to come up with lots of good ideas, but it is very difficult to turn those ideas into products, services and revenue.
- Learn to delegate – you can’t do it all yourself. Hire really great people, give them clear direction, and then give them the freedom to take the business forward on their own.
I read a lot of business books, and attend many, many business seminars each year – the advice from this panel was absolutely superb. I hope you found their words of wisdom as helpful as I did.