A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office

FROM THE CORNER DELI TO THE CORNER OFFICE

In Winners Dream, SAP CEO Bill McDermott describes his journey from his blue-collar roots in Amityville, New York to becoming CEO of the largest business software company in the world. Unlike many CEO books, Winners Dream is structured not as a book of lessons but as a straightforward chronological autobiography — although nearly every page is infused with business wisdom told through compelling stories.

Know Your Customer

One of the earliest business lessons McDermott offers comes from when McDermott is not even out of high school. When the small deli where he works is emptied out by robbers, the owner decides to sell what is now just a shell. McDermott, with help from his parents and after talking down the price, buys the tiny store, stocks it and starts hunting for customers — not an easy task with the competition of two major convenience store chains within a few blocks. “I was David amidst Goliaths,” McDermott writes. “What, I thought, did I have that the Goliaths did not? What could my little deli give people that 7-Eleven and Finast could not?” To get the answers to these questions, McDermott realized he had to ask another question: “Who is my customer?”

The young high school businessman determined that he had three types of customers: senior citizens from a nearby senior home, local blue collar workers and high school kids hanging out after school. For the seniors, many of whom did not like to leave their homes, McDermott set up a delivery service. For the blue-collar workers, many of whom were paid on Friday and broke on Sunday, he set up a credit system — they could buy on credit during the week but had to pay with the next Friday paycheck. For the high school students, he offered something exceedingly simple: they could all go in the store. At that time, the major chains only let students in the stores in small groups because of the fear of stealing. Thus, McDermott writes, kids with money in their pocket were forced to wait out in the cold.

McDermott’s high school experience offered him a clear lesson: To succeed in business, you must give your customers what they want — and that means you must know what they need. It was a lesson that would guide him when he had moved far from the corner deli.

Drive and Empathy

A successful retailer even in high school, McDermott was clearly born with a fine business acumen. But he also inherited a very strong work ethic from his parents and was driven by ambition and confidence. When he applied to Xerox and was told that HR would be contacting him with a response, McDermott asked the last interviewer to hire him on the spot instead — which he did.

For McDermott, passion, planning and confidence are key success factors for a business career. But perhaps even more important is empathy — understanding the needs of the people you sell to and you work with. It was empathy that made his small deli a success during high school, and when in 2010, as SAP CEO, he was working on a new strategy to strengthen the future of the largest business software company in the world, the questions he asked are surprisingly similar: Who exactly are our customers, and what do they want? For SAP, customers were any possible end users of technology. And what they wanted was compatibility with multiple mobile devices and access to cloud computing — and those are the areas in which SAP would move forward.

Winners Dream is subtitled A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office. It is a journey that illustrates, with every step, inspirational business guidance and solid leadership lessons for anyone striving for a similar journey in their lives.

The 31 Practices Revealed

As I began the research for this blog on The 31 Practices, I thought it would be helpful to list at least some of the 31 practices for you to consider. That’s when I realized that there was no such list. Because the practices are based on the values you consider to be most important, the list will be different for every company and person.

Once you choose the values you want to focus on, then you develop the 31 practices (one for each day of the month) based on those values. As authors Alan Williams and Alison Whybrow state it, “The 31Practices® method weaves together principles and practices from psychology, sociology, philosophy, neuroscience, leadership and business to significantly enhance customer and employee satisfaction and loyalty.”

But even though there is no definitive list, here are some of the possible values that can be chosen from to develop your 31 practices:

Accountability                Competitiveness                Decisiveness
Accuracy                       Consistency                       Democraticness
Achievement                 Contentment                      Dependability
Adventurousness          Continuous Improvement  Determination
Altruism                         Cooperation                       Devoutness
Ambition                        Correctness                       Diligence
Assertiveness               Courtesy                             Discipline
Balance                         Creativity                             Discretion
Being the best               Curiosity                              Diversity
Compassion                  Curiosity                              Dynamism

Well, you get the idea. There are a lot of values that can become the basis for running a business, or living a life. But to understand this concept better, we’ve invited Williams and Whybrow to our upcoming Soundview Live webinar.

In this webinar, Release the Power of Your Organization’s Values, Williams and Whybrow show how an organization’s values and brand can be translated into the daily practices and behavior of their employees, drawing a golden thread from the boardroom to the front line customer experience.

Please consider joining us on February 12th to learn more about how you can build your company based on the set of values you consider most important. And bring your questions to ask of the authors throughout the webinar.

How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives

A CEO’S PRACTICE OF CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM

“The coolest part,” writes The Container Store founder Kip Tindell in his book Uncontainable, “is when you’re doing a performance review and give an employee a much bigger raise than she was expecting. She starts crying, you start crying, and the magic spreads across the company, and out into the world.” This short passage about compensation reflects the heart of Tindell’s philosophy of “conscious capitalism” in which the best way to make money is to do the right thing by employees, customers and the community.

Tindell’s authenticity and generosity are shown through his use of words that are rarely, if ever, found in any business book. Words such as “yummy,” which is used as the core description of the company’s culture and environment. “I know, chief executives don’t often use words like ‘yummy’ when talking about their companies,” Tindell writes. “But it’s a word we use all the time around here. When folks ask, “What do you mean by ‘yummy’?” I say, well, it’s the opposite of yucky.” He goes on to explain that “yummy” is “the deeply pleasurable sensation employees and customers get the moment they walk through the doors into our store.”

How do you translate a concept such as “yumminess” into a business model and real-world business practices? The answer, according to Tindell, is found in The Container Store’s Foundation Principles. What stands out in these principles is the unwavering and unapologetic embrace of being kind, generous and even sentimental, of believing that there is good in everyone and that by building on that good, you create a money-making venture. Uncontainable is a respectful (Tindell believes in not saying anything if you can’t say anything kind) but firm rejection of Jack Welch and Milton Friedman.

The Seven Principles are:

1 Great Person = 3 Good People. The Container Store does everything it can to hire the best people, including compensating them at significantly higher rates than the average in retail. With his company consistently chosen as a Best Place to Work in America and boasting a turnover rate of 10 percent (the retail industry average is 100 percent), Tindell proves that his company is filled with truly great people.

Fill the Other Guy’s Basket to the Brim. Making Money Then Becomes an Easy Proposition. This principle is reflected, for example, in the company’s win-win relationships with suppliers, who are treated as partners. In fact, Tindell writes, good relationships with suppliers are win-win-win relationships because the customer also wins.

Man in the Desert Selling. Don’t just give the man in the desert a glass of water. Tend to all of his needs. Don’t sell a box. Sell solutions to the customer’s living needs.

Communication IS Leadership. The Container Store practices open-book management (with the exception of individual salaries). Open communication, Tindell explains, “is a crucial part of our commitment in valuing one another and making sure we all feel appreciated, included, safe, secure and empowered.”

The Best Selection, Service and Price. Most business will not attempt to achieve all three. “We work to hit the Triple Crown every day,” writes Tindell.

Intuition Does Not Come to an Unprepared Mind. You Need to Train Before It Happens. The average length of training in the retail industry is eight hours. In their first year, employees of The Container Store receive 300 hours of training — and the training continues throughout their career.

Air of Excitement! When greeted by enthusiastic employees genuinely interested in helping customers resolve their organizing needs, those customers become just as enthusiastic, Tindell explains.

Conscious capitalism is not always an easy sell, despite the do-good sentiment expressed in every form of corporate communication that emerges from a company’s PR machine. If there is a core lesson from Uncontainable, it is that truly conscious capitalism exists only if the CEO leads with his or her heart.

Maybe most CEOs will never be comfortable using words such as “yummy” or sharing the tears of pleasure that come with a raise. Not all CEOs can be Kip Tindell — but after reading this book, you’ll almost wish they could.

How to Become an Expert Negotiator

You may be a high-ranking CEO or a first day salesman, a service provider or self-employed. If you face encounters with your partners, clients, suppliers or employees, in which you want them to think differently at the end of the meeting and actually do what you want – our next Soundview Live webinar is for YOU. The objective of this webinar, How to Become an Expert Negotiator with Daniel Weiser, is to improve your negotiation skills and to move you one step closer to closing your deal.

Here are 27 Negotiation Tips from Weiser’s book Become An Expert Negotiator:
#1: Ask about the other’s reference point at the beginning of the interaction.
#2: Find out if you’re both in the same “ballpark.”
#3: The status quo effect is the “mother” of many objections.
#4: Lower the perceived risk.
#5: State your purpose in order to lower the firewall.
#6: Don’t talk about a certain topic – before you know the other party is interested to listen about it.
#7: Don’t wait for an anticipated rejection – vaccinate against it.
#8: Adjust your communication style to that of your counterpart.
#9: Address what the term “partnership” means to your business partner.
#10: Pierce the firewall through Aikido.
#11: Don’t tell the other side what he will gain – ask him to speak about it.
#12: Establish that the deal is “fair” according to external objective criteria.
#13: Reframe the interpretation of the situation.
#14: Elicit statements that can later be used to support your position.
#15: Indicate others who made the same decision as the one requested in this negotiation.
#16: Use the rule of comparison often.
#17: It’s not about being nice – it’s about being similar.
#18: Be the first to give something.
#19: When you concede on an issue – request something in return.
#20: The foot in the door.
#21: Limit the time to respond to an offer.
#22: Present the upside potential, but also the downside of rejection.
#23: Feel successful and radiate it.
#24: Be specific about your references and success indicators.
#25: Talk about the fears of relevant others.
#26: Fulfill your negotiation partner’s needs and keep quiet about achieving yours.
#27: Sometimes, simply ask for help.

If you would like to hear more about these tips, join us on January 29th and bring your whole sales team. As we know, every little improvement in our negotiation skills could be the difference between getting the sale or not.

Making Your Attitude Your Greatest Asset

Not All You’ve Heard
The axiom “attitude is everything” has been stated by so many motivational speakers and writers over the years that many of us simply accept it as fact. If so many people believe it, it must be true, right?

Wrong, says leadership expert John Maxwell in The Difference Maker. He maintains that while attitude is important, there are certain things it cannot achieve. It cannot change people into something they’re not. Attitude cannot replace competence, experience or personal growth and it cannot change the facts. Maxwell gives an example of two people applying for the same job. One has skills, talent and 10 years experience, but a so-so attitude. The other has a super attitude, but no experience. Who gets the job? “Probably the one with the greater skills and experience,” writes Maxwell. “Why? Because a great attitude will not make up the gap.”

Attitude as an Asset
Despite the “cannots,” Maxwell writes, attitude is a primary component in determining our success. While it can’t alter what exists, it can influence our future via how we choose to deal with things we encounter in everyday life. “The happiest people,” he notes, “don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they make the best of everything.” Essentially, if we expect bad things, he says, we get them. Conversely, we often get good things by expecting them.

By applying attitude correctly, we can make it one of our most powerful assets. To this end, Maxwell stresses, it’s something we control; it’s a matter of choice, not circumstances, how we deal with a particular situation. To do so, we need to first evaluate our current attitude, create the desire to change it, then rearrange our thoughts to do so.

This is largely done by making an effort to allow our thinking to run in positive channels. Maxwell believes negative thoughts lead to negative beliefs, which in turn lead to wrong decisions and actions, creating a pattern of bad habits. Developing the proper attitude can reverse this vicious cycle. He also maintains that attitude adjustment isn’t a one-time event; it’s something we have to manage daily.

Point by Point
To change our attitude, Maxwell claims, we have to overcome what he calls the “Big Five” major attitude obstacles. “When you can learn to deal with them in a positive way,” he says, “you can face anything else life may have in store for you.”

According to Maxwell, the first hurdle is discouragement. If not handled correctly, discouragement can make someone give up instead of facing the situation. This involves not becoming fixated or paralyzed, but viewing things from different perspectives and taking the best road possible for your personal well-being. The mix includes introspection, having the right expectations and making the right decisions.

The second hurdle is change, something that most people resist. The key here, Maxwell allows, is to objectively examine why we’re opposed to the change. Once that’s established, we need to determine how to make the change successful and positive, keeping in mind that all change has a price to which we must be willing to commit.

Problems are the third obstacle. “Our perspective on problems, not the problem itself, usually determines our success or failure,” writes Maxwell. To this end, the difference between problem-spotting and problem-solving can be crucial. Tackling a problem head-on and working out the best way of dealing with it can often turn into an opportunity for personal or professional advancement.

The fourth obstacle is fear. Here, Maxwell invokes Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” as far more than rhetoric. Maxwell contends that if permitted to run rampant, fear can generate inaction, weakness and more fear, which can be destructive. Rather than waste energy by being afraid, we need to realize the limitations fear places on us. It’s only by properly handling what we’re afraid of, he says, that we can overcome fear and achieve our full potential.

Last, Maxwell discusses failure. The premise is simple: If we fail or make a mistake, we need to learn from it and go on. Otherwise, we run the risk of letting it defeat us. By seeing failure as a teacher rather than a limit, we remain capable of taking risks – something necessary for success.

Why We Like This Book
While some might argue that what Maxwell offers is simply common sense, the book goes far beyond. Written in a light, almost chatty style that uses examples, anecdotes and quotes from Abraham Lincoln to Yogi Berra, it provides many points of entry and shows how anyone, if determined, can indeed make his or her attitude make a difference. Copyright (c) 2007 Soundview Executive Book Summaries