This post is related to Making It In America post.
I'm only going to talk about a few things in the book to lock in my brain some interesting points the author makes. I'm not going to discuss everything because you should read the book. He has some great stories to tell that illustrate vividly the points he makes. The stories are just wonderful.
The first rule of being able to do business in the US, especially against tough competition such as China, is you have to have a winning attitude. If you have a defeatist attitude, you are most likely going to fail. Now it doesn't mean that with a positive attitude you will definitely succeed, but your odds will increase with a positive (not Pollyannaish) attitude. This one is a tough one because you also need to be realistic, so you don't go into deep trouble.
But then, sometimes I think the reason youth seems to succeed at starting new businesses is because they don't know better. Ignorance can be bliss here.
So, this is kind of tricky.
"We need more football coaches in this country and fewer MBAs." Making It In America, p. 37
The author doesn't always pound us in the head about how ineffective the MBA degree can sometimes be, but in reading the book, I get a sense of the little regard he holds for the MBA degree. Or at least he looks at the degree with a bit of healthy skepticism. Here's another quote:
"I have nothing personal against men and women who further their education in business school...It's just that too many of today's so-called business experts are so obsessed with their quarterly earnings reports, P&L statements, and quantifiable data points, they tend to lose sight of the crucial human side of any enterprise. They barely notice the awesome power of a winning attitude." Making It In America, p. 37 (hard copy).
In the author's case, he and management ignored the usual MBA analysis to outsource manufacturing and instead showed that they were fully committed to keeping the factory in America. They had to show the winning attitude in order for their employees to believe in them and fully embrace them. The most powerful signal management sent was to make significant investment in new equipment to upgrade the manufacturing process. Nothing speaks louder than where you are willing to spend money. If you don't spend money on plant equipment to upgrade the manufacturing or you don't invest money in training your employees, you are sending a strong signal that your commitment lies elsewhere. Most companies in America have shown that their commitment lies elsewhere.
The other point the author stressed (or maybe I'm stressing it) is that you have to believe in yourself enough to take risks. When he invested significant money into upgrading the plant, he signaled that he believed in the people despite the great risks of competing against China. China had a significantly lower cost base so the plant had to compete on other qualities. This was a huge risk.
At the end of the chapter, the author provides action plans which I think is important, even on a personal level for myself. Found on pages 50-51 in Making It In America (hard copy):
- Don't accept what others tell you. Create your own story of (plausible) success.
- Make investments in the business or in yourself. For employees, those investments are the strongest signals showing management's commitment to the company's future. On a personal level, it shows to others that you are serious about your endeavors and that you believe in yourself.
- Say it until you believe it. Keep repeating to yourself that you will succeed and eventually you will incorporate that belief subconsciously. If you believe in it, it becomes easier to convince others. This is kind of a "fake it until you make it."
- Project your winning attitude. The attitude can be contagious and others in the company will pick up on it and start acting confidently too.
And now, to close this post, a final quote from the book (he writes better than me and I love how he phrases things):
To win, you have to want to win, know you can win, insist on winning, refuse even to consider the possibility of not winning - then get out there and bring those victories home.
Kind of sounds like what Trump did. (Again, there is a limit to this winning attitude. It doesn't always get you to the finish line but it increases the odds.)
The other post is: