Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘competition

Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?

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Kemmons Wilson - Holiday Inn

Without personal determination and resolve, persistence and perseverance quickly dissolve under intense and sustained pressures, especially those that are created by adversity and failure. By anchoring themselves in the strength of their personal vision, however, the great leaders were able to withstand both internal and external pressures, strife and feelings of defeat. This in turn, produced the fortitude and resolve to continue in their pursuits. George Washington’s personal vision of the creation of a republic is what gave him the strength to endure eight harrowing years of leading the American Revolution, and then more to lead the republic in its infancy as its first President.

Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) is another notable example of determination. As an entrepreneur from early on in his youth, he experienced a series of adversities and setbacks. “From the days when he first peddled The Saturday Evening Post as a youngster, through his founding of Holiday Inn, up to his creation of Wilson World and Orange Lake, he has stuck to his goals.” [1]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) faced overwhelming challenges when he initially launched his airline. He was immediately sued by his competition to prevent Southwest Airlines from making its first flight. He described his experience, “For the next four years the only business Southwest Airlines performed was litigation, as we tried to get our certificate to fly. After the first two years of defending lawsuits, we ran out of money. The Board of Directors wanted to shut down the company because we had no cash. So I said, ‘Well guys, suppose I just handle the legal work for free and pay all of the costs out of my own pocket, would you be willing to continue under those circumstances?’ Since they had nothing to lose, they said yes. We pressed on, finally getting authorization to fly…

Our first flight was to take off on June 18, 1971 and fly between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. I was excited about being in the airline industry because it’s a very sporty business. But the regulatory and legal hoops enraged me. I thought if we can’t start a low cost airline and the system defeats us, then there is something wrong with the system. It was an idealistic quest as much as anything else. When we brought the first airplane in for evacuation testing (a simulated emergency situation) I was so excited about seeing it that I walked up behind it and put my head in the engine. The American Airlines mechanic grabbed me and said if someone had hit the thrust reverser I would have been toast. At that point I didn’t even care. I went around and kissed the nose of the plane and started crying I was so happy to see it.” [2]

Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels) went bankrupt during the Depression. “Faced with challenges that might have seemed insurmountable, he did what he had done since he was a boy—resolved to work hard and have faith in God. Others, it seemed, made up their minds to put their faith in Hilton. He was able to buy goods on credit from locally owned stores because they trusted his ability and determination to one day pay them back. As the kindness of others and his own ingenuity helped him rebuild his hotel empire to proportions previously unheard of, he solidified his commitment to charity and hospitality—two characteristics that became hallmarks both of Hilton Hotels and of the man who began them.” [3]

Walter and Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft) started their company during the Depression. “ ‘She was the one that kept trying to get the money together to pay the bills,’ said Frank Hedrick, her nephew, who worked with her at Beech for more than 40 years and who succeeded her in 1968 as president of Beech Aircraft…

She said she didn’t give much thought to the problems of starting a new company at a time when most airplane companies were closing, not opening. ‘Mr. Beech thought about that,’ she said. ‘(But) he had this dream and was going to do it. He probably didn’t know how long the Depression was going to last.’ The first few years were difficult, she said. They sold few airplanes. ‘We had to crawl back up that ladder.’ ” [4] Olive Ann Beech overcame additional adversity when she took over the company after her husband contracted encephalitis during the Second World War, and again, after he suddenly died in 1950.

Joyce Hall (Hallmark) saw his company literally go up in smoke three years after he started it, when his business burned to the ground. “Hall was $17,000 in debt when a flash fire wiped out his printing plant. Luckily, he was able to sweet-talk a local bank into an unsecured $25,000 loan, and he has not taken a step back since. By the late 1930s, Hallmark was one of the top three cards.” [5]

[1]  Success Secrets of Memphis’ Most Prolific Entrepreneur (Business Perspectives, July 1, 1997)
[2]  Kristina Dell, Airline Maverick (Time Magazine, September 21, 2007)
[3]  Gaetz Erin, Conrad Hilton’s Secret of Success (American Heritage People, August 2, 2006)
[4]  Earle Joe, Olive Ann Beech Rose to Business Greatness (The Wichita Eagle, February 11, 1985)
[5]  The Greeting Card King (Time Magazine, November 30, 1959)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the fortitude, perseverance and resolve to continue of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills.Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Utilizing Continuous Improvement and Innovation to Generate Growth

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Jeff Bezos - Amazon.com

Great leaders accelerated the power of emerging and growing markets through innovation. They utilized continuous improvement and innovation to generate growth, pioneer advancements and in many cases, to disrupt their industries to create strong competitive advantages.

“Figuring out innovation—how to come up with a killer new idea and then execute it—has long been an obsession of entrepreneurs and the academics and journalists who study them. One of the great myths of the innovation process, often reported in the popular press, involves a creative genius experiencing a ‘eureka moment,’ refining the golden idea, and then pursuing it toward blockbuster status… Successful side projects and the policies that nurture them somewhat deflate this myth. First, they highlight the random circumstances that can give rise to important inspiration. Second, they promote experimentation—not abstract brainstorming—because the ‘aha!’ moment does not always happen at the outset, as mythologized, but somewhere in the middle of the process. Third, they underscore not the mad, brilliant scientist at the top but the collective brainpower of all employees, especially those close to the customer—Richard Drew at 3M, Paul Buchheit at Google. These people are critical to sustaining innovation over the long term.”

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) asserted that it was important to “constantly be open to innovation that can benefit the customer. This point has been made many times in the words above, yet it bears repeating. A company can be incredibly rigid, the bigger it becomes. Competition can become incredibly threatening. Technology can change from one day to the next. But what doesn’t change is that customers will pay you for products that will make them happy. And I fear that a lot, a lot of businesses have forgotten that as they became big, arrogant, and focused on anything but what customers want…”

Innovation is directly correlated to the practice of “ruthless efficiency,” which will be discussed in detail in Chapter Six. It is the result or consequence of focusing on improving the customer’s experience, while continually driving down costs and increasing efficiencies. This is only achieved through the process of continuous improvement, and the introduction of new ideas and insights that result in innovation. “Ruthless efficiency” in reality, is the cause, while innovation is the effect.

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the innovations and innovative thinking of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Why New Ideas Trigger a Competitive Advantage?

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Many effective leaders possess strong creative, innovative and entrepreneurial instincts. Their minds are always keenly open to new ideas, insights and possibilities, which triggers a strong competitive advantage. They have a sense of urgency, if not a bit of paranoia, about their competition. They are always looking back over their shoulders to ensure their competitors aren’t catching up with them. King Gillette (Gillette) was seeking a new disposable product, like the bottle caps he was selling before he developed the safety razor. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) saw the immediate possibilities for his future chain, when he first entered the first Starbucks, which he ultimately purchased. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) had the same epiphany when he first saw the innovative restaurant designs created by the McDonald brothers.

Despite identifying and investigating new possibilities, nothing came easy. While everything starts with an idea, it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to evolve ideas into a profitable concept. Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) observed, “Sometimes, the first step is the hardest – coming up with an idea. Such a concept should be like sitting on a pin – it should make you jump up and do something. I have had a great many ideas over the years. Some were good, others were great, and some I would prefer to forget about. The important thing is to take your best ideas and see them through. Not all of them are going to be winners, but remember, people who succeed may have been counted out many times before. They win because they refuse to give up.” [1]

Fred Smith (FedEx) explains the challenges many leaders experience when investigating and implementing new ideas. “The problem always comes in big companies, particularly ones that are extremely disciplined on the quantitative side, that most innovation doesn’t look like it makes much financial sense when you’re right in the middle of battle – it looks like you never should have done it. It’s only when it’s been done and it’s out there that everybody says, ‘Oh, but of course, that was easy.’ Then the money starts flowing in and you become a very big deal, and it all looks very logical.” [2]

Generating ideas is one thing. The implementation and execution of ideas is altogether another. Kroc had sold mixing machines for many years before he opened his first restaurant. He already possessed the knowledge of what successfully worked in the restaurant business. Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) looked for new ideas his entire life. “In his early career, he read an article about how two stores in Minnesota had gone to self-service, which nobody else was doing. Customers picked out their own stuff and checked out at the cash registers at the front of the store. So he rode the bus all night to visit the stores, liked what they were doing, and changed his store to self-service.” [3]

Montgomery Ward (Montgomery Ward) observed and investigated possibilities as a traveling salesman. “In tedious rounds of train trips to southern communities… listening to the complaints of the back-country proprietors and their rural customers, he conceived a new merchandising technique: direct mail sales to country people…

Ward shaped a plan to buy goods at low cost for cash. By eliminating intermediaries, with their markups and commissions, and drastically cutting selling costs, he could sell goods to people, however remote, at appealing prices. He then invited them to send their orders by mail and delivered the purchases to their nearest railroad station.” [4]

Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank (Home Depot) continually investigated new possibilities to continually change and transform their business. “On a regular basis, they embark on ‘road shows,’ during which they make unscheduled visits to Home Depot stores across the country. ‘Over the years, these road shows have changed the way we merchandise products, because Bernie and I re-learn our business firsthand from the people on the store floor… Associates know more about the products and what the customers are looking for than we do. It is a learning experience and an opportunity to change.’” [5]

[1] Wilson Kemmons, What Accounts for Success? (USA Today, September 1997)
[2] Federal Express’s Fred Smith (Inc. Magazine, October 1, 1986)
[3] Walton Sam, Made in America. A Money Book Summary (character-education.info)
[4] Kim Ann, Montgomery Ward. The World’s First Mail-Order Business (Illinois History, April 2000)
[5] Bernie Marcus & Arthur Blank. Do It Yourselfer’s Best Friends (Entrepreneur Magazine, October 10, 2008)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great. What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the innovative thinking of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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