The 2nd (Most Important) Element (in Business)

This simple word of advice makes good businesses great.

With it, you’re going to increase sales. Without it, you’re finished.

It’s deceptively plain and easily ignored.

You already know it’s not people who are the most valuable asset in your business the right people are.

What is the 2nd most important element?

Opportunities.

Why building your opportunities is the only way to become great

In the early 1960s, R. J. Reynolds and Philip Morris derived the vast majority of their revenues from the domestic arena. R. J. Reynolds’ approach to international business was, “If somebody out there in the world wants a Camel, let them call us.”

Joe Cullman at Philip Morris had a different view.

He identified international markets as the single best opportunity for long-term growth.

Despite the fact that the company derived less than 1% of its revenues from overseas.

Cullman puzzled over the best “strategy” for developing international operations. Eventually came up with a brilliant answer: It was not a “what” answer, but a “who.” He pulled his number one executive, George Weissman, off the primary domestic business. And put him in charge of international.

At the time, worldwide amounted to almost nothing.

A small export department, a struggling investment in Venezuela. Another in Australia, and a tiny operation in Canada.

“I didn’t know whether I was being thrown sideways, downstairs or out the window,” said Weissman. “Here I was running 99% of the company and the next day I’d be running 1% or less.” As Forbes magazine observed twenty years later. Cullman’s decision to move Weissman to the smallest part of the business was a stroke of genius.

In fact, under Weissman’s stewardship.

Marlboro became the best-selling cigarette in the world three years before it became number one in the United States.

What’s the point?

This isn’t about being smart, creative or trick.

It’s about knowing where your best opportunity is and putting your best people on them.

Like all other great companies, they have made a habit of putting their best people. On their best opportunities. Not their biggest problems.

The fact is managing your problems can only make you good. Building your opportunities is the only way to become great.