Just finished reading “Winning” by Jack Welch (ISBN 0-06-075394-3) which I’d picked up in Seattle just before flying home from MVP Summit in early October. (see http://www.harpercollins.com/global_scripts/product_catalog/book_xml.asp?isbn=0060753943 for more book information).
Overall I found the book to be a very good read. Whilst there were certainly parts of the book that related more to BIG business operations, there was plenty that I can apply to my own business (currently 6 people) and could even be applied to a 2 person operation.
Topics covered included:
Mission & values
Candor in the workplace (read “honesty”)
Hiring & firing
Growth both organically and through acquisition
And the list goes on
There was a great chapter on strategy, and one section that stood out to me is “..what is strategy but resource allocation? When you strip away all the noise, that’s what it comes down to. Strategy means making clear-cut choices about how to compete. You cannot be everything to everybody, no matter what the size of your business or how deep its pockets.”
That’s so so very true – trying to be all things to all people, trying to provide every solution possible to every sort of client you come across, trying to win every single opportunity just because you want to be a “jack of all trades” will ultimately lead to disaster, dissatisfaction, denial and depression. You, your business, your clients and your family will suffer for it.
Focus on what you do best, and then partner with those around you that you know & trust to complement what you do.
For instance, Calvert Technologies specialize in network infrastructure solutions for the SMB space and use Small Business Server as a key part of this. Sure we could also sell & support other solutions based on *nix (or other products) just to win a few additional sales that we might not otherwise get but then we’d lose our focus on working with SBS as well as we do. We’d not do as good a job because our attention would be shared across multiple platforms and eventually our clients would get lower quality service.
There are others in Adelaide who work with *nix solutions (for example) exclusively and they do it very well. If we have a client that wants to use something other than SBS or Windows Server as the backend for their infrastructure, we’ll get one of these other specialists involved and help them get the solution that’s right for them. Saves us a lot of pain and egg on our face J
I could go on and on about this – but let’s move on.
Another key point that got my attention was with regard to people management. Specifically “You simply cannot manage people to better performance if you do not give candid, consistent feedback through a system that is loaded with integrity”.
In other words “don’t beat around the bush when it comes to managing your staff otherwise one, or all, of you will get pricked by the thorns”. This is something I’m learning more and more.
If we don’t give honest feedback, direction and advice to those we work with, how can we expect them to be honest and treat us with respect in return? How will they know if they are doing a good job, a mediocre job or are off track and need to be “realigned”?
It’s something I guess we all know deep down, but can be afraid to tackle and deal with head on. My advice, and that of Jack Welch (to name just one), is to hold true to what you believe in and be honest with those around you before things get out of hand. Remember the last time you got a splinter? If you didn’t take out that small annoyance early enough it could turn into a raging infection that made your whole body feel terrible.
There is so much more in this book that I could report on, but I encourage you to instead check it out for yourself. It’s easy enough to pick up a technical book and read it so we can feel that little bit more capable of being a “geek”. That’s good for client systems as you deal with them, but is it the best thing for that which is even more important – your own life?
Closing the technical books once in a while and reading something that can improve your business, the lives of those you work with and your own life can have a much greater and more profound effect.
The next book I’ve started reading is “The Marketing Playbook” by John Azula & Michael Tong (ISBN 1-59184-038-4). Give me a few weeks to get though this, digest the contents and I’ll let you know what I think. So far, based on the first few pages anyway, it looks like it’s another good read.
So what books are you reading?