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HPMD Bullets


The following is a short speech delivered to a recently acquired company. It captures a simple, yet powerful management philosophy for success.


What makes a great company? I believe it's 3 basic things: Service, Growth, and Winning.

First let's talk about Service. Service should occur in two directions: outside and inside. By outside service, I mean providing products that meets customer's needs, plus excellent service to back it up.

For example, my brother's son, who is ten, loves Cajun food. His favorite dish is Cajun popcorn. My brother took his son to a new restaurant that prided itself on fast, automated service. However, when his son ordered Cajun Popcorn, he was told there was no child's portion. Knowing that there was no way the boy could eat an adult portion, my brother asked for half an adult's portion. The response? "I'm sorry, but the computer doesn't have that option." The point is that no matter how fast or automated a service is, if it doesn't meet the customer's needs, it's not excellent service.

This same type of service also applies to our "inside" customers. By this, I mean first and foremost the Sales department, who is the "customer" to all our other departments. Sales brings in the new customers who pay our salaries, and so if we err as a company, it ought to be on the side of Sales. There are other examples, but the point is we need to constantly ask if we can provide better service to our inside as well as our outside customers.

The second characteristic of a great company is Growth. Growth means first of all a business that sells more and more each month. Like servicing a need, "making the revenues grow" is a fundamental reason why we're in business. All the financial objectives and measurements we follow are tied to this simple objective.

But growth is also personal. It's an opportunity to be a part of each other's professional growth. That means constantly learning new things and stepping up to more and more responsibility and challenges. I'd argue that if we're not growing personally, we soon will cease growing financially.

The third trait of a great company is Winning. This means setting targets and then beating them. For example, at a former position, my company sent all sales support people on an exotic trip if we beat 150% of our office's sales quota. That year it was a week in Maui, all expenses paid for each couple. In August, our branch office was just 90% of quota. I bet the division vice president an expensive bottle of wine that we'd make the 150% goal by year-end. Everyone in the office rallied to meet the challenge, and we made it at 8:00 pm on New Year's eve. That feeling of winning is one which I'll never forget. There's nothing like it, and there's no place I'd rather be. Setting ourselves challenging goals, beating them, and celebrating in the Winner's Circle is what competitive business is all about.

So that's what I think makes a great company: Service, Growth, and Winning. What does it take to achieve this? Commitment. Commitment to change, to take responsibility for more than our job description, and achieve our business goals, is what it takes.

A recent Peanuts comic strip illustrates my point. The scene is a sand lot baseball game, with Charlie Brown pitching and Lucy playing the outfield. Lucy is yelling all sorts of encouragement to Charlie Brown: "Put some stuff on it." "Get 'im out". The batter hits the next pitch, and Lucy let's it fall at her feet. In disgust, Charlie Brown yells, "For someone who talks so much, how come you never catch the ball?" Her reply: "I'm only here in an advisory capacity." That's exactly the type of attitude we need to stamp out whenever we see it. To win, to be a great company, takes commitment, not just involvement. Advisors need not apply.

We need commitment to succeed --the willingness of each person to wrap their arms around a problem and not let go until it's solved. That means making the Business personal. Devoting time and energy as if it's your own, and then savoring each victory as a personal victory.

This is not necessarily about accomplishing big things. It's very much about doing better the so-called "every day" tasks, like returning a customer's call fast, getting bills out on time, or a contract revision sent the same day. It's a thousand of these little things that we all do each day that add up to make excellent service, continuing growth and winning against even steep odds.

That's what we need and that's what I know we can deliver. I've seen it. It matters. And it works.
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