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Here's the latest installment of SmallBiz Mailbag, a collection of some of the most recent and thought-provoking readers letters from our
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Feedback section. We want to hear from you about which stories made you think and what issues affect your small business.
Stadiums "Can Only Do So Much"
It's repugnant for taxpayers to be dragged by the hair by mobs who want public financing of sports temples. Let these people finance their temples without tax money. Where's the outrage over the much-vaunted (though mythical) "wall of separation between church and state"? Sports are the American religion. No public funding!
Amoeba Music's Simple Formula
I really liked this article. Usually when I think of business, it's so cut and dry. It's so nice to see a piece about business and personal dreams working together. I have been to Amoeba Music and it's an amazing place. I am glad this magazine recognizes that.
A Company's Long Road to Greatness
Thanks for taking issue with [Jim Collins' book] Good to Great. I agree with your conclusions. What I find in many business books is a ton of good research that goes into stating the obvious -- like the value of finding good people. They follow that up with very little information (usually in the last chapter, with little or no data to back it up) on how to improve the situation.
If you're looking for another BlackBerry-eating-inducing business book, how about Now, Discover Your Strengths. In this book, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton eloquently make the point that we should have people whose strengths are matched perfectly to the needs of their jobs. Like Collins, they have plenty of data to support this earth-shattering theory. Unfortunately, they jump out of the window of Collins' moving bus by suggesting that people must be moved to a job that fits their strengths.
In the theoretical world, that might be possible. In the largest companies in America, that's possible with maybe 10% of their employee populations. For the rest of us, this is laughable. We don't have endless positions to move people around to until the company's needs are perfectly served by the employees strengths. Instead, we do our best in choosing an employee who we think fits the position and then we coach them to best fit the needs of the organization.
I have never had an employee that was held back in his or her opportunities in my organization due to an underutilization of a strength. People are held back and fail because of weaknesses. That's why we spend so much time working on them.
A&A Manufacturing Co.
New Berlin, Wisc.
I substantially disagree with the manner in which you dismiss the value of what Jim Collins was writing about in his book, Good to Great. It has been my experience and observation that understanding the qualities, values, and behavior you are looking for in an individual is the cornerstone of a good hire.
Yes, you never bat 1,000. But if you ignore the nature of the variety of personal characteristics that best predict the match of the person to the job responsibilities, and the match of the person to the nature of the company culture, your average will likely fall below the Mendoza line. And you will do unnecessary harm to the people you hire, the people already on the bus (sorry, couldn't help myself), to the larger organization, and to yourself.
Why Companies Go from Hot to Not
This was an interesting story and deserves additional attention. "Management disagreement" is present in all companies, both as creative tension and that which is more destructive, of course.
I wonder whether mega-merger failures could also be attributed to this. Certainly, they distract management from operations, so focus is lost, and many of the acquired management team will be resentful and non-cooperative. It requires a subtle hand to distinguish between the constructive and the destructive, and most just don't have it.
Great Falls, Va.
While the topic of sustaining growth is very important to executives globally today, the conclusions reached by the superficial study done by the author is entirely inaccurate. We've been researching this topic for five years and have determined that the issues identified by the ad agency are not why companies lose their growth rates. Morever, focusing on them as the causes inevitably leads growth stalls to worsen.
Almost all companies hit a growth stall, and only 7% ever recover. Understanding those 7% is critical to success. It's not a problem with internal focus but rather a weak understanding of external factors and an inability to redefine outmoded success formulas (even if only a few months old or held only by top management) that causes companies to falter and subsequently fail.
There are critical requirements for any company to avoid, or recover from, a growth stall, and as the statistics show, only a few actually do the right things. Most, unfortunately, follow the kind of advice in this article and see their problems worsen until they fail.
Giving My Movie a Media Edge
Great article. Trying to create buzz for our software company has been a difficult task. Maybe we're not as open to the media as we should be or that we haven't established our "James Bond edge." We have the same frustration when selling -- the "who are you?" aspect of the sales process. Often, we lose business to competitors because customers haven't heard of us from anyone other than ourselves. After reading this, I'm off to establish our edge, and the doors are wide open!