50 things I love about business
From trade shows to exhilarating innovation to company baseball teams . . .one leader's appreciation for the business world.
I spent almost twenty-five years in business, most of them working in and leading 75- to 120-person, high tech start-ups. While I enjoyed it at the time, I can more readily identify the things "I Love" about business now, when I am working at a church, and missing some of the things I took for granted.
- Arriving at the office early—an hour before the first employee arrived—so to get collected for all that needs to be accomplished that day. On many occasions, I'd walk around the building, from office to office, cubicle to cubicle, and think about each person, what they were facing that day, and pray for them. For us.
- Customer visit days—when the entire company is geared up to show a customer or prospect the depth and breadth of our products, skill and commitment. The team work, the energy, the focus, the chance to be selected over our competition!
- The close—convincing a customer to try your product and moving them from trial to purchase.
- Good press—being singled out for vision, quality, and service.
- Customer conferences, when you're doing well and they all love you. Of course, then, the "Things I hate" list gets the opposite of this.
- High tech business where innovation, on both the individual and the company level, is the name of the game—I really don't know any other kind of business.
Fast Company magazine—yes!
- Standing in front of the whole company after a big push—to win a customer, to finish a product on schedule, or to hold a conference—and being able to thank them for their hard work, see the pride on their faces, and celebrate the accomplishments we had as a team.
- Believing in a product so much that it's fun to sell.
- Beating a competitor who uses dirty tactics!
- Meeting targets.
- The extraordinary learning experience at top business schools, particularly The Darden School at the University of Virginia.
- The chemistry (and sometimes explosions) between creative designers, operations implementers, customer service empathizers, numbers-driven salesmen, and bells-and-whistles loving engineers.
- My old boss, Craig Conway (most of the time).
- Employee stock options, even when they didn't pay off—the chance to participate in the upside.
- Creating five-year financial projections for a product that has not yet been developed, let alone sold to anyone. It's fun doing them. It's crazy committing to them.
- Management off-site when the team really gets to work through issues and set the next course of action—best when the "off-site" is a beautiful location.
- Watching someone grow in her job and her self-esteem as she learns new things and accomplishes her goals.
- The increasing interest, especially since 9/11, in corporate, social responsibility â€¦ from one year to the next, the extravagant, corporate Christmas party in Silicon Valley shifted to a service project that the whole company could do together.
- Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky's book, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading.
- Beating targets.
- The way Apple Computer changed corporate dress culture across the country in just a few years. Who says "culture" can't change!
- Company baseball teams.
- The way sexual harassment policies and consciousness-raising made the workplace a more manageable place for women over twenty years.
- The meritocracy mindset (most of the time) that enables women, African-Americans, Asians, and others. to work together and contribute at the level of their skill and competence. Since this doesn't seem to happen naturally in other institutions of our culture, I'm prone to believe that the profit motive is behind this cultural good.
- One Thanksgiving at One Touch Systems, when our 100-person staff of twenty-one nationalities and thirty-seven languages decided to make it a global celebration, and brought in food from each different country to share in a Thanksgiving feast.
- Leadership that is empowering, rather than imperial and hierarchical.
- Putting aside huge differences for a common goal
- "Viral" marketing—the concept that people will actually talk on their own about products and services that are good.
- Straight talk—getting to the point, giving straightforward objections, challenging bad behaviour.
- Setting bigger targets and meeting them.
- Mentors—especially my dad.
- Meetings where all present put their cards on the table, fight for their viewpoints, and work toward the best solution—openly, honestly and respectfully.
- Keeping short accounts in true Matthew 18 fashion, without calling it out as such, really works in an organization.
- Guy Kawasaki—in Rules for Revolutionaries, his first rule is "create like a God"—he gets that we're image-bearers.
- Airplane flights with a colleague where the conversation safely moves beyond the work at hand to the other dimensions of our lives—our upbringing, our families, our faith.
- When a guy and a girl in the company get hooked up—for life, that is. Here's to Dave and Jamie, Matt and Susan, Jim and Laurie, John and Dana—who met at work and then married. Sometimes the hook-up gets messy, but these are all great examples of how to do it with grace and dignity.
The Conference Board—a forum to discuss issues and opportunities facing all businesses at a high level.
- Giving a talk to a large audience—after it's over!
IDEO—the coolest company around. They started life designing the mouse for Steve Jobs and now are designing innovative products with people in mind.
- Not being a target.
Business Week—fills in the landscape after Fast Company paints the horizon.
- Having the classiest booth at the trade show.
- Innovation—the power of the break-through idea.
- Watching departments or teams create an identity of their own and have fun with it—decorating their space, going out together, entertaining the rest of the organization.
- Ads on New York City subways—the current best are those for a storage company convincing people to move back from the suburbs to the city.
- Billboards on Highway 101 during the dot com boom—some were so funny you wanted to honk to all your fellow roadsters.
- Being able to give a merit increase that is well deserved.
- Knowing God wanted me in business; even if I didn't exactly know everything He wanted me to do in business.
- Being able to turn over my job to someone else—knowing it will be done as well or even better than I could—and reminding myself that I am not indispensable to the company (or to God, for that matter).