No One is Above The Basics

Yesterday I was shocked to realise I had completely failed a fundamental tenet of business — To lead with the vision. To start with why.

(full video)

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

“The goal is not to sell to people who need what you have. The goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

I first watched and loved this video a long time ago. Years, in fact. And yet, as I re-read the copy on the Content Lab home page (and thought of my own vision of its future) I had clearly ignored the why.

It might be basic, but I will never be above the basics.


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My home page sales copy was as drab and uninspiring as my “elevator pitch” has been since I started this venture.

How well something sinks in doesn’t depend on how long you’ve known it for. It depends on how many times you have repeated it, and how many times you have put it into practice.

We are addicted to the new. I love many of the points Alain de Botton makes in his critique of secularism – his thesis that huge amounts of wisdom could be “mined” from religions if only we looked past our tribal disdain for them. One of these is the principle of repetition:

(6:13 to 7:06)

We are never above repeating the basic tenets to ourselves. In fact, mastery of the basics is mastery.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Bruce Lee

Darren drives home the point with some examples from legendary American football coaches:

(25:06 to 27:12)

Vince Lombardy started every season (even after winning the World Series) by holding up a football and saying, “See this, Gentlemen? This is a football.”

“The key to winning is to be brilliant at the basics.”
– Vince Lombardy

Imagine a sales department in a company smart enough to hire a full-time coach for the team. If he wanted to emulate Vince Lombardy, he would sit them down after a record breaking quarter, hold up a tenner, and say, “Gentlemen, this is money.”

wolf-of-wall-street-dollar-bill-money.jpg

It doesn’t matter how much product they had just shifted. They’ll never be above the basics.

For entrepreneurship, imagine someone building up a successful business, exiting for a huge sum. The next day he sits down, pen in hand, to a playlist of videos that includes Simon Sinek’s Start With Why.

No one is above the basics.

Read – The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

(9%, location 329 in Kindle)

I was attending a client’s leadership conference, sitting next to the CEO. This wasn’t just any company. It was, and still is, one of the healthiest organizations I have ever known and one of the most successful American enterprises of the past fifty years. In an industry plagued with financial woes, customer fury, and labor strife, this amazing company has a long history of growth and economic success, not to mention fanatical customer loyalty. Moreover, its employees love their jobs, their customers, and their leaders. When compared to others in the same industry, what this company has accomplished seems almost baffling.

As I sat there at the conference listening to one presentation after another highlighting the remarkable and unorthodox activities that have made this organization so healthy, I leaned over and quietly asked the CEO a semirhetorical question: “Why in the world don’t your competitors do any of this?”

After a few seconds, he whispered, almost sadly, “You know, I honestly believe they think it’s beneath them.”

And there it was.

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