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Two Timeless Principles for Building Great Companies

Every business owner has a big dream for their business and wants to make it happen. However, sometimes a lapse of curiosity can cause a company to fall from great to just good. It’s likely that it happens to all businesses at some point. But I believe adopting or re-discovering curiosity will put a business back on track to greatness

Over three decades of loaning money to closely held businesses, I conducted thousands of interviews determining the strengths and weaknesses of businesses and their owners. When you analyze financial statements, you discover what happened. Profit or cash went up or down, debt or net worth went up or down. Those are the “what” questions. But there’s a greater story to discover by asking the “why” question to every “what” question. This is where my curiosity was developed. This same curiosity should exist in us as business owners. It helps us dream dreams, shake up the status quo, and aspire to step out of our comfort zone and into greatness. Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great”, advocates for fostering a culture of relentless curiosity within organizations.  

Collins also advocates for prioritizing people. His quote, “get the right people on the bus and in the right seats” resonates still today. 

Having been the Profitability Coach for about 15 years now, I don’t think I’ve ever coached a business that didn’t have people issues. Hiring processes vary among businesses. However, I’ve found a tendency for managers to hire on skills, but fire on behavior. Here’s what I mean. You hire a person because they’re good at sales. But then you discover that that person behaves in a toxic way. They’re an energy vampire that is sucking the life out of you and your team. So, you fire them. Finding the “right people” means finding people who share your core values (integrity, professionalism, collaboration, whatever they may be).   

Further, you may have people in the wrong seats. Do you have a detail-oriented person functioning in a big picture position or vice versa? A person in the right seat means they’re doing things that they love and are really great at. Being in the wrong seat means they’re doing things that they don’t like and/or aren’t good at. Bottom line: they’re a productivity drain. Prioritizing people is critical to productivity. 

So how about us and our businesses? Have we allowed our curiosity to lapse or do we have some toxic people or people in the wrong seats in our organizations? 

The synergy between curiosity and the right people is undeniable. By prioritizing the right people and cultivating an environment where curiosity thrives, organizations create the ideal conditions for innovation, growth, and sustained success. 

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