True Professionals Don’t Fear Amateurs
Professional farmers don’t begrudge the backyard gardener his tomato harvest. That’s silly.
And talented mechanics certainly don’t mind the antics of the Car Talk guys (or their listeners). Sooner or later, if you need a real mechanic, you’ll find one, and if you don’t, well, that’s fine too.
A few years ago, typesetting, wedding photography, graphic design and other endeavors that were previously off limits to all but the most passionate amateurs started to become more common. The insecure careerists fought off the amateurs at the gate, insisting that it was both a degradation of their art as well as a waste of time for the amateurs. The professionals, though, those with real talent, used the technological shift to move up the food chain. It was easy to encourage amateurs to go ahead and explore and experiment… professionals bring more than just good tools to their work as professionals.
The best professionals love it when a passionate amateur shows up. The clarity and intelligence of a smart customer pushes both client and craftsman to do better work.
Gifted college professors don’t fear online courses. Talented web designers don’t fear cloud services. Bring them on! When you need something worth paying for, they say, we’ll be here. And what we’ll sell you will be worth more than we charge you.
If you’re upset that the hoi polloi are busy doing what you used to do, get better instead of getting angry.
“There you go. Bon Appetit.”
A recent dream revealed that that my thoughts are clearly being dominated by the fact that I’m in the process of fine tuning the launch of a new offering. That plus the fact that this is prime time fresh vegetable season. No, the new offering isn’t an organic farm. It’s an information visualization solution. Even more confused? I’ll explain.
The dream went like this….I dreamed that I was salivating over the thought of an expertly prepared vegetable dinner. Corn on the cob, black eyed peas, fried okra, squash, sliced tomatoes all perfectly harvested, cooked and seasoned to perfection. As I entered what appeared to be a beautifully set dining room I noticed that there was no aroma in the air whatsoever.
And as I started to pull my chair back from the table, Frank Stitt said “no, no, no, you are mistaken. Follow me.” He escorted me to a pick up truck and asked me to hop in. We drove for about an hour and ended up going down a dirt road somewhere in rural Alabama. As a opened the truck door and stepped out, Stitt pointed out over acres of vegetables and said “there you go, bon appetit”. The dream seemed to end at that point.
Here’s the connection with the information visualization solution…accounting and other business systems are simply information farms. They should contain all that’s needed to provide businesses with insights for effective daily operations and the achievement of their goals. However, like vegetables on a farm, that information must be expertly cultivated, nurtured, harvested and prepared for it to be valuable.
So, soon small to mid-sized businesses will no longer be left to look simply at the corn stalks of their current financial information. Instead they will be served an expertly prepared full course of astoundingly useful and insightful financial reporting. Stay tuned.
BB&T CEO Kelly King: “We have a lot of people in Washington trying to ruin our country.”
Maybe it’s a semantics or context thing, but this statement (at face value) is pretty idiotic. Does he really think that politicians are actually TRYING TO RUIN America? Disagree with politicians as vehemently as you wish, but statements like these from citizens (especially business leaders) only further polarize us.
Sounds like something you’d hear in a barbershop, not from a CEO of bank with $175 billion in assets.
Jim Collins: The 10 Essentials of Good To Great
1. Download the diagnostic tool at jimcollins.com, and do the exercises with your team. Yes, I thought this was self-serving at first. Then I looked it, considered that it’s free and doesn’t require you to sign up for anything, and immediately saw his point.
2. Get the right people in the key seats. This comes from Collins’ famous observation that building a company is like driving a bus. You need a driver, but you also need the right people in all the key seats. So, says Collins, figure out how many key seats you have, and make a plan that will make sure you get all the key seats filled by the end of the year.
3. Once a quarter, have a brutal facts meeting. Be careful about who you include in this meeting. You will be discussing just the brutal facts. This is not the time to express opinions or strategize. Repeat: Only discuss the brutal facts.
4. Set a 15 to 25-year big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG). This is a goal that is concrete enough, and ambitious enough, to guide your company’s progress for years. Collins writes that “With his very first dime store in 1945, Sam Walton set the BHAG to ‘make my little Newport store the best, most profitable in Arkansas within five years.’ He continued to set BHAGs, which continued to get larger and more audacious, as his company grew.
5. Commit to a “20-mile march” that you will bring you to your big hairy audacious goal. Collins makes the analogy to someone who is trying to walk across the county. The best approach, says Collins, is to attempt to travel the same distance every day. If you’re on a 2-mile march, says Collins, you don’t bolt 30 miles ahead when the weather is good. You go 20 miles. When the weather is bad, you can’t sit inside and complain – you still have make 20 miles.
What does this have to do with entrepreneurship? In his research, Collins found that companies that perform consistently do much better than those that do spectacularly one year and are feeble the next. That’s because if you overextend in good years, when opportunity appears to be everywhere, you may not have the resources to get through the lousy years. The 20-mile march is a metaphor for the milestone that you can reach day-in and day-out.
6. Place at least one really big bet in the next three years, based on having fired bullets first. No entrepreneur has unlimited resources, just as no small army has unlimited gunpowder (this metaphor may be dated, but you get the point). The best use of limited gunpowder, or resources, says Collins, is to fire bullets to ensure that your aim is calibrated properly and that you can indeed hit your target. Only when you’re sure of your ability to hit your target should you load lots of gunpowder into a cannonball and fire away. “Fire bullets to calibrate. Fire cannonballs to go big,” says Collins.
7. Practice productive paranoia. Collins says he fondly refers to his entrepreneurial subjects as PNFs, or paranoid neurotic freaks. “Successful companies have three to ten times the cash on their balance sheets as their peers even when they are very small,” says Collins. Or as one of the CEOs he studied said to him, “We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve predicted 11 of the past three recessions.”
How exactly can one practice productive paranoia? Collins recommends making a plan that will allow you to go for an entire year with no revenues, and still survive.
8. Get a high return on your next luck event. Collins says that both great and mediocre companies encounter the same amount of luck, good and bad. What matters, he says, is how well they’re able to capitalize on it. Collins refers to this as ‘return on luck.’ “How are you doing on luck?” he asks. “Have you turned your bad-luck events into a big part of what makes your company great? Are you squandering your good-luck events?”
9. Make a to-do list. “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any,” says Collins. For every major ‘to-do’ on your list, you should have a corresponding item that you will stop doing. The ‘stop-doing’ list.
10. Commit to a set of core values that you will want to build your enterprise on, without changing them, for 100 years.
CIGNA Customer Pledge
At CIGNA we can’t speak for everyone.
But we can speak for ourselves.
You are our partners and customers.
Serving you is a privilege.
And a responsibility.
It is our responsibility to be understandable.
It is our responsibility to treat you as real people.
It is our responsibility to help you when you are in need.
We will make the process easier.
So that you may enjoy and manage
The greatest treasure you own: your health.
We will encourage. We will protect. We will adapt.
When you need us, you will know us by our names.
We will know you by yours.
And we will do everything within our power to keep you healthy.
Healthy body. Healthy mind.
And together we will explore possibilities instead of limitations.
A much healthier point of view.
We are signaling change.