“Man, there’s little that beats a simple breakfast at the beach.”, Thatcher said as the group sat on the deck overlooking the Pacific. The marine layer hung close to the ground, making the world seem still and just a little smaller. While everyone else got ready, Thatcher had made a run to a nearby Einstein’s Bagels. Eric grabbed an everything bagel, spread a little plain cream cheese on it, and poured a cup of coffee. He walked over and sat on the same bench where he and Thatcher had their conversation earlier in the morning. Gail spotted him. “You seem a little distracted this morning, is everything good?”, she inquired. “Real”, said Eric. “I had an interesting discussion with Thatcher this morning and was running it back through my head.” But, before he could offer more of an explanation, Thatcher asked the group to join him in the living room. It was time to start.
The room was simple, a couple of large couches and a few overstuffed chairs. It was the view that made it so spectacular .“Sit wherever you’d like, get comfortable and relax.”, offered Thatcher who looked right at home barefoot, in a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt. Although the rest of the group was dressed pretty casually, they had put a little more thought into their attire, and arguably made a little more effort with their personal hygiene. Thatcher looked like at any moment he might jump on his longboard and head down to the beach.
“I’ve got a question for you guys. What do the best companies do better than their competition?”
“Alright, let’s roll.” Thatcher started, “I’ve got a question for you guys. What do the best companies do better than their competition?” Gail jumped in, “They make more money!” Thatcher smiled, “ I would hope that’s how our CFO would answer that question.” “The best companies I’ve worked for run efficiently and don’t have a lot of waste.”, Don offered. “Good point”, Thatcher acknowledged. But, before he could continue, Don jumped back in and added, “When I talk about waste, I’m not only referring to product loss but, also the waste of time and effort that comes from bad processes and useless meetings.” “I’m hoping that you don’t view this as one of those meetings.”, Thatcher said with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “I hope so too.”, Don responded. Eric looked over at Gail and rolled his eyes slightly. What an arrogant SOB, he thought.
“Gail, Don, while those are both good answers, I view them as results, not actions. Making more money, being more efficient and, therefore, wasting less of everything, including time, are the results of actions taken.” Thatcher explained. “I am interested in what those actions are.” Jodi spoke up, “The best companies retain their employees.” “I agree, and they also have happy and loyal customers.”, added Eric. “Okay, we’re still talking results here, but I think we’re getting closer. Why do the best companies retain their employees and have happy and loyal customers?”, Thatcher asked trying to dig a bit deeper. The room went quite for a minute or so and then the answer came from the most unlikely source. “Because they know how to communicate.”, offeredDon, to everyone’s amazement. “Bingo”, Thatcher exclaimed as he gave Don a thumbs up. “The best companies communicate in a manner that is both impactful and effective. They do it better than their competition. Awesome, we got the first one, and I will give you a hint, I believe there are two others.”
“The best companies communicate in a manner that is both impactful and effective. They do it better than their competition."
This time, the room remained pretty quiet for a few minutes. Eric was mulling it over in his head, and coming up empty. Thatcher didn’t make him think too long. “Okay, I will let you off the hook on the second one. The best companies make smart decisions. Does anyone want to take a stab at what I mean by that?”, Thatcher asked. “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?” Don said, not really nastily, rather more so rhetorically. “It means they make the right decision more often than their competition.” What Thatcher said next took the group by surprise. “Not really, sometimes a smart decision turns out to be wrong. Here’s what I’ve learned. Making smart decisions is about knowing when and how to make them. I’ll try my best to make some sense of this for you. When the repercussions of inaction are greater than those of imperfect action, the best companies take the imperfect action even at the risk of being wrong. Conversely, when the risk of making the wrong choice is greater than the risk of not making any choice, the best companies slow down. They rely on data and the collective intelligence of the group to make their decision, even if that means the window of opportunity closes before they can make their choice. Does that make any sense?”, he asked. Everyone nodded, but still seemed a little confused. “I tell you what, this is one of those principles that you need to see in action before you can fully grasp it. We will have that opportunity as we work through our strategy. So let’s move on to the final thing.”, Thatcher suggested.
"When the repercussions of inaction are greater than those of imperfect action, the best companies take the imperfect action even at the risk of being wrong."
“Any thoughts as to the last one? Nothing? I am just getting crickets here.”, Thatcher laughed. “You guys are killing me, but I can’t blame you. These are kind of broad questions. The third thing that the best companies do is to maintain focus and accountability. Let’s face it, every one of us can be a squirrel at times, just chasing nuts. The companies that are winning have a dogged determination to do the things and only those things they believe will lead them to where they want to go. Look at a company like Zappos, for example. Everyone is focused and held accountable for one thing, delivering happiness, as they call it. More commonly known as exceptional customer service.”
“If we can do these three things, communicate effectively, make smart decisions, stay focused and accountable, and maintain our people first mindset, we will succeed. Huh, I can tell by your glassy-eyed stares that we are overdue fora break. Think about these three things, and we can talk more about them when we get back together. I’m really grateful for the energy that you’ve brought here this morning. Don, I’m going to do my best to make sure these two days don’t fall into the “useless meeting” category.”, Thatcher winked.