The other day, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review. While I usually like their content, this one annoyed me. It was an interview with Dick Harrington, the former CEO and President of the world’s largest information media company, Thomson Reuters. And now, he is a consultant for small business – lucky them!
Maybe I was in a bad mood the day I read the article, but it seemed condescending when he said:
In addition to the customer-comes-first principle, I always had the motto that the higher you get in an organization, the harder you have to work. Success rarely happens on a nine-to five schedule. Also- dive into the important issues and from time to time “work the line” with other employees. The best way to shape people’s behavior is to inspire them by doing it yourself.
Finally, focus. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Save the intensity and for the most important company priorities and always make sure those are done first. To help make that happen, deal at most with five things at a time, and don’t put #6 on until #1 gets knocked off. You’ll definitely increase your chances for success.
He gets paid for this? Perhaps what annoyed me most, was the fact, I heard myself (not who I am now, but who I was) in his comments. When I first left corporate America, I thought I knew so much. Twenty years in large corporations; all that experience, all that wonderful theory, and academic background! I couldn’t wait to share what I knew with all those small biz owners who didn’t have the benefit of my experience. ( What an arrogant b#$&!ch I was!).
Even my tag line – teaching small business the secrets to big company marketing reflected this arrogance and lack of understanding. Do you want to know the secrete to big company marketing? SPEND MORE! Anyone can get noticed with a $10 million budget. The real trick is what can you do for $10 thousand?
Seven years later I know is it is much harder then it looks to run a small business. I know the difference between what works on paper, and what works in the real world. And I know it is not how much you spend, but how well you spend it that really matters.
Most of all, I understand the tough choices small business owners make, between paying for something which will grow your business or paying for the rent. What was missing from the author’s tone was any sense of understanding of what the average small busienss owner faces every day.
Unfortunately, he is not alone. With the current downsizing of America, the market is filled with would be consultants. Experts with 20 years of corporate, but no real world experience, printing business cards to share what they know with us lucky small business owners.
And if you are one of them, here’s my advice, you may have much to share, but you have much to learn as well.