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The Productive Response to Failure

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Fred Smith - Founder and CEO of FEDEX

Fred Smith – Founder and CEO of FEDEX

The great and influential leaders were no strangers to failure. My research illustrates that most experienced levels of failure and adversity that would compel typical individuals to pack their bags and quit in frustration and disappointment. The levels of success they achieved did not come easily, but from persistence. Their personal levels of perseverance and self-reliance are what realistically defined them. Most viewed failure as a learning experience, rather than a defining event. Fred Smith (FedEx) observed, “Just because an idea isn’t implemented or doesn’t work out doesn’t mean that a person has failed.” [1]

Early in his career at Johnson & Johnson, General Robert Wood Johnson taught James Burke a valuable lesson about failure. “Shortly after he arrived at J&J in 1953 as a product director after three years at Procter & Gamble, Burke attempted to market several over-the-counter medicines for children. They all failed-and he was called in for a meeting with the chairman.

‘I assumed I was going to be fired,’ Burke recalls. ‘But instead, Johnson told me, ‘Business is all about making decisions, and you don’t make decisions without making mistakes. Don’t make that mistake again, but please be sure you make others.’”[2]

In 2001, John Chambers (Cisco) saw his company’s revenues and stock price fall off the cliff during the tech and telecom busts. He was challenged with the reality of massive and likely fatal failure. “Within days of realizing Cisco was crashing, Chambers leapt into trying to fix it. ‘He never dwelled on it,’ says Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM (IBM) … ‘John kept the company focused. He said this is where we are, and he drove the company forward.’

He reached out to [Jack] Welch (General Electric) and a handful of other CEOs. They told him that sudden downturns always take companies by surprise, ‘so I should quit beating myself up for being surprised,’ Chambers recalls. He did. Chambers decided that the free fall had been beyond his control. He now wraps it up in an analogy he retells time and again, likening the crash to a disastrous flood: It rarely happens, but when it does, there’s nothing you can do to stop it… Those other CEOs also told Chambers to figure out how bad it was going to get, take all the harsh action necessary to get through it and plan for the eventual upturn.” [3]

David Packard (Hewlett-Packard) faced failure and adversity in a gruff and straightforward manner. “When he returned to HP in the early 1970s after his stint as deputy secretary of defense and found the company on the verge of borrowing $100 million to cover a cash-flow shortage, he immediately met with employees and gave them what came to be known as a ‘Dave Gives ‘Em Hell’ speech. Packard lined up the division managers in front of employees and told them, ‘If they don’t get inventories under control, they’re not going to be your managers for very long.’ Within six months, the company once again had positive cash flow, to the tune of $40 million.” [4]

John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) advised, “‘Look ahead… Be sure that you are not deceiving yourself at any time about actual conditions.’ He notes that when a business begins to fail, most men hate ‘to study the books and face the truth.” [5]

[1] Federal Express’s Fred Smith (Inc. Magazine, October 1, 1986)
[2] Alumni Achievement Awards: James E. Burke (Harvard Business School, 2003)
[3] Maney Kevin, Chambers, Cisco Born Again (USA Today, January 21, 2004)
[4] O’Hanlon Charlene, David Packard: High-Tech Visionary (CRN, November 8, 2000)
[5] Baida Peter, Rockefeller Remembers (American Heritage Magazine, September/October 1988, Volume 39, Issue 6)

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

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Yes, They Did Built It and Made It Happen!

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Fred Smith – FedEx

It is time to recall how many great American leaders were pioneers who changed the World, as we know it today. There are so many positive contributions to society accomplished through the efforts of these individuals, which are often ignored or are taken granted in our daily lives. If you were to remove any one of them, the world would be quite a different place. Many were pioneers in their fields, whose innovations and inventions influenced subsequent innovations and inventions. While not inclusive, there are many notable examples.

John Dorrance (Campbell Soup) invented and marketed condensed soups to make Campbell’s a household name. Asa Candler (Coca-Cola) launched the soft drink industry with the introduction of Coca-Cola, and Milton Hershey (Hershey Foods) developed an affordable milk chocolate for mass-market consumption.

Eddie Bauer (Eddie Bauer) and L.L. Bean (L.L. Bean) pioneered the development of the sporting goods industry by creating products to meet the needs of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, followed by Phil Knight (Nike) who felt there was a need for a better running shoe.

Related: The Productive Response to Failure

During the early 20th Century Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels) began acquiring hotel properties in the cities, improving them and opening a market for the upper middle class customer. But it was Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), who saw the need and opportunity for predictable quality accommodations for families on vacation. Fueled by the growth of the Baby Boomer generation, Holiday Inns grew across the country and then the world. His success influenced the creation of multiple lodging chains that followed his model.

Kemmons Wilson – Holiday Inn

Both of these leaders changed the hospitality industry by creating predictable and quality standards for hotel and motel accommodations throughout the world, vastly improving the traveler’s experience.

Related: What Does Luck Have to Do With It?

While many individuals contributed to the development of the automobile industry, the production of cheap and reliable automobiles, reliable tires and power diesel motors had an enormous impact on the shaping of America during the 20th Century. These great leaders, along with others, transformed America into a mobile society. One of the most influential is Henry Ford (Ford Motor), who didn’t invent the automobile, but changed and disrupted the automotive industry with the production of affordable and reliable cars for the mass market.

In less than 50 years after the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight in 1906, Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft), William Boeing (Boeing) and Juan Trippe (Pan American Airways) pioneered the early aviation industry, from the early 1920s through the late 1940s, to launch the commercial jet age in the early 1950s.

While Beech and Boeing focused on airplane design and production, Trippe set his sights on connecting the world, first in South America, and then across the Pacific in the 1930s with his famed “China Clipper” flying boats. Trippe worked with William Allen (Boeing) after the Second World War to introduce the jet-age to commercial aviation.

Related: Did You Ever Want to Just Give Up and Quit?

Fred Smith (FedEx) designed and created a web and spoke logistics and distribution model that enabled FedEx to grow into an enormous success. At the same time he incorporated numerous and continuous improvements and innovations to drive up efficiency, while minimizing costs.

Up to 1888, if you wished to have a picture taken, you needed to visit a local photographer. If you enjoy taking pictures, you can thank George Eastman (Kodak), who developed modern photography for the average consumer.

Prior to King Gillette’s (Gillette) razor, men either went to their local barber or used a straight razor to shave. William C. Procter (Procter and Gamble) introduced Ivory Soap.

Estee Lauder

Elizabeth Arden (Elizabeth Arden) and Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder) pioneered the cosmetics industry for women, while J.C. Hall (Hallmark) created the greeting card industry into what we know it to be today, including the celebration of Valentine’s and Secretary’s Day.

While Americans rely on easy access to banking and credit services, this was not the case until the early 20th Century. For this, they can thank A.P. Giannini (Bank of America), who introduced the conveniences of modern retail banking.

Related: The Sheer Power of a Leader’s Personal Determination

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) introduced the prototype and business model for modern franchising, as well as the efficient product of fast food. It still remains the primary benchmark model in both contemporary franchise and fast food industries.

Television, radio, print media and the Internet barrage us with countless marketing and advertising messages to buy myriads of products and services. While Henry Ford (Ford Motor) is credited with launching the Age of Consumerism, you can thank P.T. Barnum (Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus) for first introducing the principles of advertising and marketing, which are still in practice today.

Montgomery Ward (Montgomery Ward) was the first to understand, employ and apply the concept of direct mail marketing. He observed the need and opportunity as the United States population surged in the early 20th Century, providing shopping alternatives for geographically diverse populations, located primarily in rural communities where product choice was both limited and expensive.

Howard-Schultz-Starbucks

The concept of contemporary discount retailing is often credited to E.J. Korvette’s, an East Coast retail chain that operated between 1948 and 1980. However Frank Woolworth (F.W. Woolworth) “was the pioneer of price-driven retail, building an empire founded on chain stores and volume retailing. Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) applied its concepts with his own twist. Walton’s example influenced many other great leaders and the development of their companies, including Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank (Home Depot), and Howard Schultz (Starbucks).

Related: Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?

While the Internet came into prominence in the late 1990s, many individuals failed to utilize the power of ecommerce. Those who successfully pioneered its use include Charles Schwab (Charles Schwab) in discount brokerage services, Michael Dell (Dell Computer), who developed an effective ecommerce strategy to sell computers on-line, and Jeff Bezos (Amazon), who built an on-line empire employing his ecommerce strategies, after as a financial analyst he observed a phenomenal 2400% growth in Internet usage.

If you think, these individuals didn’t do it on their own, you’re mistaken. They not only had an idea, but also had the persistence and resilience to make it happen!

Adapted from Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2012)

If you would like to learn more about the positive contributions 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.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Productive Response to Failure

with 6 comments

The great and influential leaders were no strangers to failure. My research illustrates that most experienced levels of failure and adversity that would compel typical individuals to pack their bags and quit in frustration and disappointment. The levels of success they achieved did not come easily, but from persistence. Their personal levels of perseverance and self-reliance are what realistically defined them. Most viewed failure as a learning experience, rather than a defining event. Fred Smith (FedEx) observed, “Just because an idea isn’t implemented or doesn’t work out doesn’t mean that a person has failed.” [1]

General Robert Woods Johnson - Founder of Johnson and Johnson

Early in his career at Johnson & Johnson, General Robert Wood Johnson taught James Burke a valuable lesson about failure. “Shortly after he arrived at J&J in 1953 as a product director after three years at Procter & Gamble, Burke attempted to market several over-the-counter medicines for children. They all failed-and he was called in for a meeting with the chairman.

‘I assumed I was going to be fired,’ Burke recalls. ‘But instead, Johnson told me, ‘Business is all about making decisions, and you don’t make decisions without making mistakes. Don’t make that mistake again, but please be sure you make others.’”[2]

In 2001, John Chambers (Cisco) saw his company’s revenues and stock price fall off the cliff during the tech and telecom busts. He was challenged with the reality of massive and likely fatal failure. “Within days of realizing Cisco was crashing, Chambers leapt into trying to fix it. ‘He never dwelled on it,’ says Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM (IBM) … ‘John kept the company focused. He said this is where we are, and he drove the company forward.’

He reached out to [Jack] Welch (General Electric) and a handful of other CEOs. They told him that sudden downturns always take companies by surprise, ‘so I should quit beating myself up for being surprised,’ Chambers recalls. He did. Chambers decided that the free fall had been beyond his control. He now wraps it up in an analogy he retells time and again, likening the crash to a disastrous flood: It rarely happens, but when it does, there’s nothing you can do to stop it… Those other CEOs also told Chambers to figure out how bad it was going to get, take all the harsh action necessary to get through it and plan for the eventual upturn.” [3]

David Packard (Hewlett-Packard) faced failure and adversity in a gruff and straightforward manner. “When he returned to HP in the early 1970s after his stint as deputy secretary of defense and found the company on the verge of borrowing $100 million to cover a cash-flow shortage, he immediately met with employees and gave them what came to be known as a ‘Dave Gives ‘Em Hell’ speech. Packard lined up the division managers in front of employees and told them, ‘If they don’t get inventories under control, they’re not going to be your managers for very long.’ Within six months, the company once again had positive cash flow, to the tune of $40 million.” [4]

John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) advised, “‘Look ahead… Be sure that you are not deceiving yourself at any time about actual conditions.’ He notes that when a business begins to fail, most men hate ‘to study the books and face the truth.” [5]

[1] Federal Express’s Fred Smith (Inc. Magazine, October 1, 1986)
[2] Alumni Achievement Awards: James E. Burke (Harvard Business School, 2003)
[3] Maney Kevin, Chambers, Cisco Born Again (USA Today, January 21, 2004)
[4] O’Hanlon Charlene, David Packard: High-Tech Visionary (CRN, November 8, 2000)
[5] Baida Peter, Rockefeller Remembers (American Heritage Magazine, September/October 1988, Volume 39, Issue 6)

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 how the great American leaders responded to failure and adversity 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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