Welcome to October! The earth is moving ever farther away from the sun (which is not at all what’s happening), and trees all around the world are very, very slowly trying to kill us. If only they could drop their leaves all at once, they might succeed in taking a few of us out – but alas, they persist in single leaf assaults, and so we survive. I did have an acorn fall right by my feet recently, and when I looked up a squirrel was perched on a branch and giving me what seemed to be a very malicious look. Was he trying to do me in? Possibly. But squirrels have terrible aim, which is why major league baseball never uses them as relief pitchers.
But enough about squirrels and their pathetic attempts at world domination. Last month I had the opportunity to pop down to the Bahamas for a speaking event. (Don’t get too jealous, please; I was there for a total of 14 hours, 8 of which were spent being unconscious.) While there I had the chance to talk with the CEO of the company in greater detail than I often get to, and he was nice enough to walk me through the process by which he had helped grow his company into something large enough that they were now able to host 1,600-person conferences in the Bahamas. Some of what he said seemed to apply to a lot of aspiring leaders, and so I thought I’d share the best takeaways here:
Learn About Other Areas of Your Business
This particular CEO had started out as an employee at a company that he later bought out. During his early years the company was struggling, and people were being let go – but the work still needed to be done. So he learned how to do it. With a degree in finance, this guy suddenly found himself responsible for hiring, firing, IT support, maintenance, and even janitorial duties. Hopefully you won’t be put into a similar position, but he credits that experience with really helping him understand the full complexity of running a business and figuring out what needed to happen in order to succeed. So if you’re able to learn something about another department or product, go ahead and learn it. The knowledge certainly can’t hurt you, and it might open doors you don’t even know exist right now.
Once this CEO had bought his way into what was at the time a failing company, he spent an enormous amount of energy figuring out how to turn it around. But he also spent a lot of time reading the biographies of every successful person he could find – athletes, generals, CEOs, presidents, and everything in between. If you have dreams that are as-yet unrealized, it wouldn’t hurt to learn how those who have come before you did it for themselves. Forging a path through a previously untraveled wilderness can certainly be exhilarating, but it takes a helluva lot longer than following someone else’s tracks.
Treat Your Customers Like Partners
This is the first conference I’ve attended where every expense was paid for by the company. Everyone who attended – all 1,600 of them – had their rooms paid for, their flights paid for, their meals paid for, and quite possibly their feet rubbed while they were fanned by firedancers wielding giant perfumed palm leaves. It was a massive expense on the part of the company, and all done with an eye toward making their customers feel like true members of the organization. He said the conference had (quite understandably) become one of the highlights of their year, and he credited it with helping not only their own business but their customers’ businesses as well.
I hope all of that is helpful in some way. Thanks as always for reading, and be sure to tune in next month for a special newsletter surprise! It will be a different than my normal newsletter, that’s for sure. And between now and then, watch out for any squirrels. They may have terrible aim, but that doesn’t mean the can be trusted.