No, there�s no easy, top-secret, and foolproof recipe for succeeding
in business. Instead, says OfficeMax cofounder and former CEO
Michael Feuer, the components of reaching the top are available to
Have you ever said to yourself, How in the world did (insert name of
powerful business executive) get to where he is? He�s not any
smarter than I am! Well, chances are you�re right. That executive
who made it big probably doesn�t have more powerful brain cells than
you � but what he or she probably does have are three non-glamorous
but crucial qualities: focus, discipline, and follow-up.
�These three qualities might not sound extraordinary, but they can
truly set you apart,� says Michael Feuer, author of the book The
Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business,
And Outwit The Competition . �The truth is, there isn�t a simple
magic bullet that will propel you straight to the top. Success in
any endeavor, especially business, really comes down to specific
character traits and habits. If you have those qualities, you�ll
excel. And if you don�t, you probably won�t.�
Feuer speaks from experience: He has launched a number of successful
business ventures, including OfficeMax and his newest business,
Max-Wellness, a new and unique health and wellness chain. And he
insists that utilizing these crucial ingredients will get the
results you want � whether you�re launching a start-up, leading a
team of employees, or going after that big promotion.
�Before you ever craft a sales strategy or walk into a client
meeting, whether or not you have a chance of success has already
been decided by how you think about your work, what you have to do,
and how you do it,� Feuer asserts. �Outcomes are shaped by your
focus, discipline, and commitment to follow-up�or lack thereof. It�s
important to remember that achievements are often less dependent on
your technical know-how and more dependent on how you organize and
Learn what these qualities look like in practice, and how you can
make them work for you:
Take good notes.
Taking notes in business is just as important as it was in your
advanced economics class in college. Your brain isn�t always as
powerful as you think it is, and having a written record of your
boss�s project analysis or your colleague�s sales strategy can save
you from having �oh darn� moments, and can set you apart from the
pack and put you on a straighter path to success.
�I�ll frequently dictate the notes from a meeting the second I walk
out, or appoint someone to act as a scribe beforehand,� Feuer
shares. �I keep all of my past notes in a folder on my computer, and
I always make sure to jot down next steps. These habits ensure that
nothing falls off the radar unintentionally, and that I always have
a good idea of what needs to happen next.
�And, I often shock new team members by writing the letters �FU� and
a date at the bottom of my notes. New people are always relieved
when they learn that those letters aren�t a pejorative, but a
shorthand I use as a reminder to �Follow Up� by a specific date!�
Do what you say you will, period.
In today�s uncertain and competitive environment, a person�s word
isn�t always his or her bond. And that�s a shame. When you fail to
follow through on promises and commitments, you imply that you lack
discipline and � perhaps � shouldn�t be trusted with more important
tasks and objectives. However, if you cultivate a reputation for
being completely reliable, you�ll enjoy more responsibility and
success as well as better business relationships.
�I routinely tell my employees that I�m not their father and won�t
babysit them, and that if they tell me they�re going to do
something, they�d better make good on that assurance,� Feuer says.
�However, I do provide alternatives by giving everyone three
acceptable �outs� � (a) they can tell me that they can�t finish on
time, (b) that they don�t want to do it my way because they have a
better idea, or (c) that they think their assignment isn�t worth the
effort and can convince me why.�
Give homework assignments.
A leader�s job is to make people think and discover alternatives.
It�s a great way to determine who on your team you can rely on, and
who is capable of taking a project to the next level. You can afford
to invest in developing someone who is interested in developing.
�When I give assignments, I keep a running tally of what happened or
changed from previous sessions on the same topic or project,� Feuer
elaborates. �No matter if you�re on the giving or receiving end of
homework, remember that the way these assignments are handled is a
great way to gauge attitude, commitment, potential, reliability, and
whether or not someone is a player.�
Scrap your iron clad five-year plan.
Being able to work with focus and discipline is generally a good
thing, unless you�re focusing on things that won�t help you or
propel you forward! To help prevent this, Feuer recommends
developing a short-term plan with a six- to nine-month outlook. This
plan will help you get through the year.
He also recommends creating a longer-term plan with a seventeen- to
eighteen-month strategy. It will encompass the goals and benchmarks
you need to achieve during this time period. Why have two plans
instead of one? Well, the world is simply evolving too fast to rely
on a one-size-fits-all five-year plan.
�I�ve found that many organizations spend too much time thinking
about what�s going to happen way down the road when all they�re
doing is guessing. And when their predictions turn out to be
inaccurate, they find out too late that they�ve been focusing their
efforts on the wrong things,� he notes. �You must always be ready to
modify your plans when necessary, change quickly, and deal with the
unexpected. That�s what will make the difference between a company
that might get by and one that is good or even great.�
Use a rifle, not a shotgun.
When you fire a shotgun, your shot hits a wider area, but it lacks
focused precision. In business, a shotgun approach gets the job
done, but usually doesn�t yield outstanding results. Sure, you�ll
hit something with a shotgun, but the price in doing so seldom
provides the big payback. Yes, a rifle or laser-sharp approach will
take more planning and forethought, but in the end you�ll probably
save time and resources. It pays to identify exactly what needs to
be done, focusing relentlessly on accomplishing those objectives.
�When you take the time to focus, have discipline, and require
follow-up, you�re creating a road map that documents what has to be
accomplished and by when,� Feuer concludes. �Few things ever fall
through the cracks when you follow this process. It is the most
direct way I know to set yourself up for success.�
(The book is available for $24.95,
www.benevolentdictator.biz, at bookstores nationwide and
from major online booksellers.)