Over the years we’ve seen a lot, learned a lot, and developed some philosophies on what works when it comes to marketing, agency, and business leadership.
Much of this learning has come from working with great people and great companies.
The following is a list of 20 tips, themes, and truths we’ve observed over the years. Please let us know what we missed! This is by no means an exhaustive list of tips and truths – please let me know what you think and add to the list.
Let’s start with the people. Many great businesses like Nordstrom, Aegis Assisted Living, and others have found that job #1 is employee satisfaction, and job #2 is customer satisfaction. The point is you can’t have happy customers without happy employees. With that starting point, here are some leadership tips:
1. Hire top performers – the top 5%. People don’t become top performers overnight or out of the blue – top performers are top performers in school, the arts, sports, volunteer work, etc. They are obvious.
2. Pay attention to goals. See that the agreed-upon goals are attained. People want to know their work matters – and by keeping an eye on agreed-upon outcomes, you’re showcasing that their work is important.
3. Delegate authority to meet accountability. Do this and people develop faster, deliver more, and hold themselves accountable.
4. Track and sense the big stuff. The key issues and key areas. Leadership shouldn’t be in the weeds.
5. Serve. Top management should be a service element that serves operations and the people. Read about servant leadership in our recent interview with Cheryl Bachelder here: Servant Leadership for CEOs and CMOs, With Cheryl Bachelder – Mercer Island Group And buy her book!
6. Listen to learn. The moment you’re right, all communication shuts down.
7. Good executives are like good coaches. They don’t scream during the game. They have high expectations but don’t throw chairs. Think Tara VanDerveer, not Bobby Knight.
8. Develop people on the job. People learn best by doing.
9. Make sure managers are technical experts in their field or function. They need to be if they are to be good coaches, mentors, or teachers.
10. Individualism and teamwork. Both are critical. Leaders create an environment that works for different types of people. The environment should help people be self-confident in the context of teamwork.
11. Healthy systems are interactive. Insist on cross dissemination of ideas, thoughts, and processes.
12. The four key behaviors of leaders:
Ask, ask, ask
Listen, listen, listen
Request, request, request
Follow up, follow up, follow up
With the people systems working well, it’s important to focus on a few fundamentals of good business:
13. Differentiate. Remind yourself and your organization that differentiation is the most important strategy. The sea of sameness is everywhere around us!
14. Profitable delivery of superior value. This is the outcome of effective differentiation and a key objective.
15. Be clear about strategy. A strategy is the implementation of a simple, important idea over time, not a lengthy action plan.
16. Strategy is everyone’s job. The idea of strategy comes in all shapes and sizes. As Howard Behar says: “let the janitor choose the broom.”
17. Speed matters. Whether it’s how responsive you are to customers or complaints, speed to market, or marketing agility – the ability to move quickly matters.
18. Process matters. Sound planning, prioritization, briefing, reviews, approvals, and evaluation are important to make sure intention becomes reality.
19. It’s been done before. If it’s broken and we can fix it, somebody else already has.
20. Things change. You must invest continuously in understanding your craft, the business you’re in, your competitors, and your customers.
21. Be clear about your goals and means. You typically can’t increase market share and earnings at the same time.
22. R&D is of limited value if you have a minor market share. Instead, live off your vendors and copy from competitors. Hire the best agencies. Understand your customers better.
Wrapping all of this up with a bow:
23. 7 keys to running a growth business:
Tap the power of your people.
Build your reputation.
Be vigilant re the quality of your customers’ experiences.
Balance your focus on short-term results and building vision.
Take calculated, measured risks.
Be mindful of your cash position.
Okay, we fibbed. We just covered 23 tips and truths.
Please let us know what we missed! This is by no means an exhaustive list of tips and truths – please let us know what you think and what you might add to the list.
Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.