Top-10 Peter Drucker Quotes

Like many of you, I have been tremendously influenced by Peter Drucker.  The other day I was reminded that it was the 50th anniversary of the publication of Drucker’s classic Managing for Results.

In that light, I pulled together my top-10 favorite Drucker quotes:

  1. There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
  2. Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship – the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.
  3. Management by objective works… if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t.
  4. Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.
  5. Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes, but no plans.
  6. No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
  7. Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.
  8. Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
  9. Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.
  10. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

Inc’s GrowCo: Startups Matter More Than Ever

GROWCO Energy in groups is often contagious and there was an abundance of it at Inc Magazine’s GrowCo conference last month in Nashville.

If one had any doubts about the state of the American entrepreneurial spirit, those are quashed this week as founders and start-up executives descended on Nashville at Inc’s annual confab.

A few issues were noticeable to me.  Here are my top-3:

  1. Management disciplines don’t get enough credit
    OK, frankly basic management is something of a boring topic when reduced to its academic foundations… Rockstar CEOs on the other hand are revered without deeper dives into their management techniques – maybe too much so.
  2. Innovation is seen as hit or miss or luck.
    There’s not enough digging into the decisions made by founders and then showcasing where those founders were quite intentional and well-reasoned in their decisions.
  3. Scaling processes and scaling the team is critical to scaling growth… but largely left out of the conversation.
    Now, if you were paying close attention, Papa Johns CEO touched on it in his interview: “Whatever gets, measured gets done. Whatever gets rewarded, gets repeated.”  He’s actually talking about scale gained by measurement of KPIs and replication (also scale) caused by a reward system that incentivizes it.

Richard Branson’s 3 Tenants


Setting aside the celebrity and the brand that is “Richard Branson,” I am inspired by his bold, simple approach to business.  While appearing impulsive, he is actually quite well-researched.  When that research calls for a decision, however, the indomitable entrepreneurial spirit takes center stage.  I like his 3 core tenants:

“Screw it, Let’s do it.”
While that make reek of reckless bravado, Branson accepts the risk: “Sometimes you’ll fall flat on your face, sometimes you won’t.”  Entrepreneurs don’t succeed by playing it safe – they play it smart.  Playing smart is not the same as playing safe – you can play smart and still fail.  But, you won’t get anywhere until you make a firm decision.  There is a time to pass and a time to say “screw it, let’s do it!”

The key to business is to be entrepreneurial.”
This one is not as obvious as it looks.  I touched on this earlier this year in another post (see it here).  Remaining in an entrepreneurial mode is not as easy as it looks.  Growth leads to a need for organization and it is quite easy for founder CEOs to be sucked into the vortex of bureaucracy where their time is consumed by administrivia and the impact of their value creation efforts begins to wane.  It takes energy and focus to remain entrepreneurial.

“It’s not about making money, it’s about changing the community you’re living in.”
Simple yet profound.  As anyone who has flown on Virgin or used Virgin Mobile Mobile phone service, Branson drives beautiful products based on simplicity to make our lives better.  My own credo, as you read in my bio, is to leave people and companies better than I found them.  There is no ceiling and no expiration date on that vision.  Think about that.

What are your 3 tenants?

Leaders Look Forward, But Know What’s Around Them

The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.Henry Ford

At a recent quarterly meeting the topic of competition came up and the results were not surprising.  On one hand there were people who understood the competition at the visible level – their market actions right down to recent account wins / losses and their quotes and proposals .  On the other hand there were internal team members (Finance / HR) who knew only basic facts.  A third group understood competition at the product level and saw the competition, great and small, at the same relative level as measured by features functions and benefits.  All three groups were correct.  The CEO allowed the discussion to flow for a bit and then reinforced his vision and the achievements that are expected this year.  Perfect!

Knowledge of the competition is needed, but an unbridled passion about your own products, not competitor paranoia is far better.  To be driven by your market instincts and fact based analysis of the CUSTOMER is far better.  To stifle / disallow mealy-mouthed ramblings that amount to excuses is far better.  Don’t allow folks to carry on about competitors unless they have validated data that is vital to the business (major M&A deal, new executive, etc.).  I’v observed over the years that much discussion about competitors surrounds some type of explanation or excuse related to our own performance.  At the end of the day very few of those conversations changed our level of performance.

So I say this – look forward and drive your business and know what’s behind and around you but don’t obsess about it or allow paranoia to seize your team.  Your scoreboard will tell you everything you need to know.

Henry Ford was right – the real threats are silent and are not worried about you.

Be the silent one driving forward.

Be the one to be feared.

If You Don’t Love It Anymore, Sell It!

Question: Do you still love the company you built?

I have loved companies.  I have also hung on too long when that love waned because I am human like you and in that humanness we are all flawed.

I restored a wonderful Ferrari in 1999.  It was truly a labor of love, although waking at 4 AM to call around Europe looking for a flywheel truly sucked.  After the restoration was finished, I drove it all of 200 miles.  The end result was satisfying and I resolved to never part with the car – a very low serial number 328 GTS – the last year of a wonderful model.

That feeling changed in early 2001 when I took my future wife on our first date.  Late that evening I took the tarp off the car in the garage and (gasp) let her drive it.   The relationship was nascent but I had no fear.  She handled throttle, clutch and shift points as I reached over and grabbed the wheel.  Yep – she let me steer from the other side.  We achieved a remarkable level of trust as speeds hit triple digits in the hills of Sepulveda Boulevard just North of UCLA.

That would be the last time anyone drove the car prior to me placing an ad in the renown Ferrari Market Letter.

Why sell?  Well, how the hell can you top it?  A first date with that kind of adrenaline?  It’s an un-effing-repeatable pinnacle.

Back to my original question: Do you still love the company you built?

If you cannot answer yes with conviction, then its time to either:
(A) Become Chairman and hire a CEO
(B) Take steps to optimize things and sell it

If you no longer have passion and it has become a grind, then it’s time to sell.  Set aside all the seemingly logical inner-dialogue (read: arguments) about price, value, investment and reading the effing tea leaves about market prices in a year or two.  Your satisfaction is much more valuable.  And, your time is 10X more valuable than that.

Get over it.  Sell it.  Find the next dream.

Finding The Better Part of You

“I’m just out to find the better part of me.”
– Superman, Five for Fighting

Where is that guy?

The guy who built the company.  The visionary who went out and created it and secured the first deals… designed the product… saw the soft spot in the under-served market… raised the capital… hired the core team.

That guy.

He was alive.  Stretching the bootstrap money and, yes, living on the edge of disaster… but he was alive – and he loved it.  The people around him fed off his energy, vision and enthusiasm.

I was there too – building a company on the metaphorical mountain climb.  I would have gladly fallen to my death 1 foot from the top of Mt. Everest than spend my career trapped in the the purgatory of the ordinary… feeding breadcrumbs to pigeons in the park during my lunch hour.  Yes, the fall from Everest would have led to a closed-casket funeral (if they even found me) but no one could say I hadn’t truly lived.

Back to you.  So, where is that guy?

I found him working IN his business versus working ON his business.  He was chasing the little blue number in Outlook that said 827 unread emails and was late for a meeting that was already double booked.  The people around him no longer fed off his energy.  Oh, they still liked him but they all knew the company was at a point where things needed to change and they longed for the better part of him.

How did this happen?

In short, the business grew and you, the founder and CEO didn’t defend and maintain “the better part of you.”  Instead, the pie chart of your time became clogged with things that felt to you like “stuff I had do… because I am the CEO.”  Like weeds in the garden, that stuff invaded and grew until the garden was fully consumed.

How do we get that guy back?

Here’s an overly simplified starting point:

– Draw a new pie chart of your time and block out 50% for the role / function where you drive the most value.  It’s probably the role you had when you where you started the company.  It’s also probably the role that gives you the most satisfaction.  The other 50% needs to be ONLY the absolutely necessary CEO functions: setting strategy, driving execution from the top, top-level financial and operational elements and mentoring  C-level / Sr. Staff direct reports.  All the other stuff needs to be given to someone else.  Soon.

Now, go show the new pie chart to your spouse / significant other, a trusted investor or board member and at least one key Sr. Manager.  Explain that the goal is to get back to the better part of you and how you KNOW it’s right for the company – and yourself.  You should expect surprise and relief followed by ratification, hugs and even tears.

I have been privileged to engage with many other founder / CEOs  – usually under $100M and under 250 employees.  Truth be told, the obstacles they faced to change their own pie charts were not financial, product or operational issues.  The obstacles were all-too-often management issues and they fell into three major buckets:

– Removing or demoting people they knew and had known were not right fit, right skills or otherwise over their head.  (They were scared to do it or feared the process itself and, thus, were procrastinating or just ignoring it.)

– Adding positions and skills to the organization. (They felt like they didn’t have time to slow down and run the process and some were fearful of the impact on the current team.)

– Personal management in three key areas: (A) delegating and trusting  (B) communicating & confirming and (C) holding people accountable.  (It’s what a few brave souls had been telling them for years.)

Make it a personal quest to take back 50% of that pie chart.  It will, however, take a determined, progressive, ongoing effort.  It’s not a simple takeaway from the last seminar or conference you attended – it’s much more than that.  How well you do on the quest will be directly related to how bad you want it.

Getting back to what you love will very likely drive more value and drive its faster that it is growing today.  Are you all-in?

Your family, board and team will also love the better part of you.

Funny that.