Bill Ford (a car guy by blood) stepping aside and giving the job to Alan Mulally, formally president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airlines (a non-car guy) states loudly and clearly that lack of industry specific experience is no reason to hesitate taking on a business you know little or nothing about. With just a bit more focusing you probably have all that you need to be a successful business owner.
In the late nineties I took over the responsibility for a $30 million precision parts manufacturing company that served the auto industry. I made a number of trips to Detroit to talk with our customers and our plant received many engineers from our US and foreign based customers. The people employed by the US companies labeled me a non-car guy and basically paid no attention to my comments, ideas and plans. Those who worked for the foreign companies, however, looked at me as a qualified person who, as part of a team, would be able to do his part in finding solutions to problems and improving the production processes for their parts.
It was immediately obvious to me that there were two different cultures in place and that they each had their origins at the executive level of the companies we were working with.
I believe that you can succeed as an entrepreneur, as the CEO of your business, even if you have never run a business. There are many keys to being successful such as: getting involved with something that you like and enjoy doing, recognizing your limitations and taking the necessary steps to add the resources that will minimize their impact, working hard, making a plan and knowing when and why the plan needs to be modified - and many more. But the most important attribute is to be able to communicate.
Not only the ability to state clearly and succinctly, verbally and in writing, what you want to say - but to be able to listen. Continually successful people have the ability to be quiet and to listen to what is being said. Often times it isn’t easy. The temptation is great to correct or clarify or question and because of your position as leader, you can stifle or influence another’s comments. When you do, and if you do it often, you lose the contributions of those who are trying to help.
I think Detroit lost the ability to listen - or chose to draw a line based on job level below which they only “heard” what the other person said - they didn’t really listen.
I’m sure Bill Ford is a nice guy and well intentioned. And he certainly has a lot at stake - his family’s name being the most important. But I’m not sure even he had enough credibility to get everyone on board the “listen to the new ideas and make changes” train that is needed to get Ford on the right track.
And I think that it is very telling that he went outside the auto industry to find a new leader. But then, why not? His Uncle Henry Ford III (“never explain, never complain”) saved Ford in 1949 when he brought in the Whiz Kids, Tex Thornton, Robert McNamara, etc. who all went on do more great things in a variety of careers.
For those of you who are just getting started on your entrepreneurial career watch the situation at Ford carefully and learn. Unless I am mistaken, Alan Mulally will make a positive difference and he will act quickly. I expect to soon see new faces at Ford in key positions, and he won’t buy into the “car guys” are the answer rubbish that Detroit has followed way too long.
Mulally has resources to draw from, intelligence, he’s well educated, and experienced. Anyone thinking about going into business for themselves should not focus on what they lack compared to this new CEO - they should take comfort in the fact that Bill Ford, the guy whose name is on the door - may have finally concluded that instance on looking only to auto experienced executives may be a major part of what’s wrong with Detroit and that an individual trained in the pursuit of logic (Mulally has two engineering degrees) and the ability to listen and apply may be what saves the company.
I know from experience that as you progress through your entrepreneurial career you will be given opportunities to take on businesses you know nothing about. When you do you will hear people tell you that their industry or business is different. That’s true, but the differences are small.
Business is business and the principles of good management don’t vary from one to another. And if you listen carefully, you will hear the answers to your questions.
By Art Consoli, www.artconsoli.com - author of “How to Evaluate and Profit from a Business Opportunity - The Entrepreneur’s Guide”
Art Consoli held eight corporate positions with Johnson & Johnson before starting his first business. He went on to build over twenty businesses from patents or ideas or from businesses others couldn't make successful. These ranged from starting a veterinarian drug company to taking over a steel fabricating company to developing the first manufactured home subdivision to qualify for every private and government assisted mortgage program in Arizona. He also did ten workouts for lenders and owners; the last was a $30 million, 300 employee, precision parts manufacturing plant that made parts for the auto industry. Consoli's unique background and skills allow him to speak and write about how someone with limited experience can do a self-evaluation which will let him decide which business opportunity is best, how to evaluate opportunities and gain control over the one which offers the greatest potential and then manage that business to success. Readers of his book call and write to tell him how much his book has helped their lives and improved their business.