Topic: Leadership


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The Story of Les Schwab and His Pride in Performance

Schwab Close

Photo by ocad123

Business often comes down to a core set of principles.  And the story of Les Schwab is no exception.  Keeping things in their simplest form (Reductionism) is what allows us to arrive at a core set of principles, but this is often difficult to do. Reductionism is a key aspect of understanding anything.  If we apply this concept to business, it always comes down to people.  It really comes down to decisions, but decisions are made by people.  And what I love about the Les Schwab story is that he so clearly understood the importance of this.  He loved people.  And if you’re in business, it really helps to love people – no matter how weird, how exotic, how aloof, or how awkward.  Read More »

The Most Important Organizational Behavior: Empathy

Empathy

Photo by Sprengben

Mental Models Used: ,

Peter Drucker once noted that the basic personality profile of an individual has been formed by about age five.  If even close to true, this has noticeable effects on organizational behavior within a group.  It implies that trying to alter someone’s personality to “better fit” an organization is a fruitless exercise.  But although attempting to change people is likely wasted effort, understanding them is most certainly not.

Understanding people, or the ability to share feelings with them, is what we call empathy.  And a group using empathy in its communications with each other will create stronger connections between themselves.  Stronger connections = better performance.  And as a side benefit, using empathy within a group often creates an environment where empathy is naturally used for communications or interactions with people outside the group as well.  And this is just like a little waterfall of goodness.  Read More »

There’s No Best Age to Start a Business: The Story of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart

Walton

Photo by tsweden

After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1940, Sam Walton took a job with J.C. Penney.  He was 22 years old.  He spent five years with J.C. Penney learning the retail industry.  In 1945, Walton became an entrepreneur and bought a Ben Franklin variety store in Arkansas for $25,000.  He was 27 years old.  Walton spent five years growing his Ben Franklin store.  But in 1950, after Walton’s landlord refused to renew the five year lease he had on the Ben Franklin store location, Walton had no choice but to sell the franchise.  He sold it for a fair price, and then had to start all over again.  Walton was now 32, and it was at this age when he opened his first Walton’s Five and Dime (again in Arkansas).  But it wasn’t until he was 44 years old that he opened the first Wal-Mart.  It was a very gradual progression.  So, does age really matter when starting a business?  I doubt it.  There is no best age to start a business, no perfect time – none of that.  And Sam Walton is the perfect example of this.  Read More »

How Great Leadership is Created: The Building Blocks of a Super Company

City13

Photo by Stuck in Customs

People don’t want to be managed, but they are absolutely willing to be led.  How do I know this?  There is a cognitive bias that we all suffer from called the Authority-Misinfluence Tendency.  Charlie Munger summarizes it as follows: “Man was born mostly to follow leaders, with only a few people doing the leading.”  It’s just the way we are.

But just because people are willing to be led, doesn’t mean that any type of leadership will be effective.  Read More »

How to Build an Empire: The Story of Harvey Firestone and His Tires

Firestone Tire

Photo by Desert Bug

In 1926, Harvey Firestone sat down to write Men and Rubber: The Story of Business.  It outlines his philosophy on how to succeed in business, and to this day it’s still the best and most comprehensive story on how to build a business from nothing.

Firestone’s philosophy is quite simple.  It says that honesty is the fundamental principle of any business.  It says that a business must exist for a reason, and the single reason for the existence of any business must be that it supplies a human need or want.  “To make money” is not a good enough reason to be in business.  If fact, if all you want is money, Firestone advises you to get out of business as quickly as you can, and go work for someone else.  You are destined to fail otherwise.

Firestone was clear that a business must exist to supply a human need or want, and this philosophy can be further explained through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  The primary need for all humans is physiological, followed by safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.  Humans seek to satisfy needs in this order.  Firestone was supplying tires, or facilitating transportation.  Transportation, depending on its intended use, could fall under physiological needs (driving to the grocery store for food), safety needs (driving to the office for work), or love/belonging needs (driving to family).  Either way, Firestone was clearly satisfying human needs with his tires.

This logic applies today as well.  For example, Mark Zuckerberg’s reason for starting Facebook (“to meet girls”), while it hurts my heart, does provide for the love/belonging needs that all humans naturally have.

That’s the end of my Zuckerberg digression – now back to Firestone…   Read More »