The (Simple Truth) People Forget (When Trying to Grow) a Business

Do you want to grow your business?

You have to know those who build great companies.

Understand the ultimate push on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or products.

It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.

Now, you might be thinking; That’s just good management. The idea of getting the right people.

What’s new about that?

On one level I have to agree with you. The key distinction I want to communicate here is if you were getting people on the bus. First, you will have to get the right people on the bus. The wrong people off the bus before you figure out where to drive the bus.

The second critical distinction is the degree of sheer rigor needed in people decisions.

Why the right people

First, if you begin with “who,” rather than “what,” you can quickly adapt to a changing world.

If people join the bus because of where it is going what happens if you get ten miles down the road. And you need to change direction?

You’ve got a problem.

But if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus. It’s much easier to change direction: “Hey, I got on this bus because of who else is on it.  If we need to change direction to be more successful, fine with me.”

Second, if you have the right people on the bus the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.

The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results. To be part of creating something great.

Third, if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company.

Great vision without great people is irrelevant.

Rigorous, not ruthless

First “who” is a simple idea to grasp, and a difficult idea to do—and most don’t do it well.

It’s easy to talk about paying attention to people decisions. But how many executives have the discipline of David Maxwell? He held off on developing a strategy until he got the right people in place. While the company was losing $1 million every single business day with $56 billion of loans underwater?

His first act was to interview all the officers.

He sat them down and said, “Look, this is going to be a hard challenge. I want you to think about how demanding this is going to be. If you don’t believe that you’re going to like it, that’s fine. Nobody’s going to hate you.”

Maxwell made it clear that there would only be seats for A players who were going to put forth an A+ effort. If you weren’t up for it, you had better get off the bus and get off now.

One executive who had just uprooted his life and career to join Fannie Mae came to Maxwell. Said, “I listened to you carefully, and I don’t want to do this.” He left and went back to where he came from.”

Sound like a tough place to work—it is.

Though It would be a mistake—a tragic mistake, indeed—to think that the way you ignite a transition from good to something great is by deliberately swinging the ax on vast numbers of hard working people. To be rigorous, not ruthless, means that the best people need not worry about their positions and can concentrate fully on their work.

In summary

No company can grow revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth.

If your growth rate in revenues always outpaces your growth rate in people, you cannot—build a great company.

People are not your most valuable asset the right people are.