Over the past four years, my desire has been to create an easy-to-read, understandable book about business principles that create not only good, but great companies. I have combined solid research and practices of excellence from business experts with my real-life experiences so that readers can see, feel, and implement the concepts successfully. However, much of the information in this book represents new ideas and approaches that have grown out of existing principles and cannot be found in other places. Be prepared to laugh, cry, and learn with me as you read my true story that has unraveled since 1981 and over the life spans of eight different businesses.
Passing along the secrets: Entrepreneurialism runs in my family’s blood—I am a fifth-generation entrepreneur. However, no one in my family was there to help guide me, nor did they give me any advice on how to succeed in business. I want to change that mindset by passing along vital knowledge and secrets of how to be a successful business leader, build a great company, and be a good human being. This is the legacy that I hope to leave to my two sons, those who follow behind them, and others like you!
Giving specific directions: In my favorite book, Jim Collins’ bestseller Good to Great, Collins gives broad ideas about how to build a great company. However, many of the details are missing. Collins gives outstanding advice (for example, that companies should hire the right individuals and help the wrong people off the company bus), but does not go into the specific steps to take (which was not his intent when writing the book). By covering many of these details, my book seeks to fill in the gaps left by Collins and others.
Building the business from the ground up: It is one thing to talk about running companies as a corporate officer, to examine them as a researcher, or to lecture on business theory as a university professor. But what about entrepreneurs like me who have taken several companies from idea to success with little money to start? I could try to impress you with my college and graduate degrees, but I have never taken a college course on business! However, few professors or researchers can ever understand, feel, or accurately explain the hardship or the fun of successfully taking an idea, seeing it come alive, and making millions. Sometimes, what entrepreneurs do is illogical. Like they say on Star Trek, we go where no one has gone before. We do things that most folks say cannot be done and endure beyond the point where many give up, even when the odds are overwhelmingly against us or the suffering is immense. We have a burning, passionate desire to build something from nothing and make it work!
Building on failure: Few will ever know the excitement of having a dream, turning that dream into a reality, and creating a very successful company out of it. Larry Bossidy, author of the bestseller Execution, told me that the higher you climb on the mountain, the more sights you will see. He was right! It is a beautiful view from Mt. Success. But those sights quickly disappear when your business fails and you fall off that mountaintop. No book or business professor can ever describe the misery, suffering, and thoughts of insecurity, hopelessness, worry, and emptiness that come with failure. I took nearly every psychology course that the university I attended offered, but even I could not explain what I went through when my businesses failed. However, I believe that in conflict there is always opportunity. For that reason, my BIG mistakes and failures turned into gifts. The understanding I gained by taking a company out of business in the 1980s was the greatest teacher of all time. The painful knowledge it gave me supersedes that given by any MBA program, and I did not let that experience stop me from following my entrepreneurial spirit. I got up, dusted off my ego, and went at it again!
Making the world a better place: I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams and have made many millions of dollars. I owe it all to God and the many people who coached, mentored, and molded me into who I am today, and I feel destined to return those blessings. Thus, I am giving any profits I make from this book to charity. Jack Welch, author of Winning, told me that you have to win first in order to give back, and correct he was. But I also think that we can win and give simultaneously, and I want to make this world a better place as a result of me being on it. I encourage activities in our companies like recycling, volunteerism, energy conservation, profit-sharing with staff, charitable giving, and ensuring that employees have personal lives. My purpose is not only to build great companies, but to build great people. I also wanted to be able to hand new employees a book containing most of my thoughts and philosophies to allow them to become immersed in my companies’ mission, vision, and values. Staff members need to feel that they are part of something unique, something greater than them. They want to work for a business that makes a difference in their community and the world with a purpose beyond just making money. When they are given the opportunity to join a company like this, employees will have fun, be self-actualized, and work harder and smarter to help the company prosper. They realize that they are the company. Then, profits follow.
Being humble: Knowing that you don’t have all the answers is critical to learning and growing. You cannot climb a mountain if you think you’re already at the top! You have to be sincerely receptive to new knowledge. Reading Good to Great in 2006, at about 56 years old, taught me that humility is the first step to greatness.
View the information that I am offering to you as your first steps on a new, exciting journey to build great companies, leaders, and employees. Be open to new ideas and strategies for starting your new company or growing your existing business the right way.
The success equation is made up of many variables that have to line up at the right time and place. Even then, failure can be a part of that formula. Success is not easy—it takes a lot of hard, smart work and does not happen by chance. Your goal has to be not only to create good companies that survive, but great companies and staff that thrive.
Now, let’s begin the journey to greatness!