There is no question that we are currently in an age when the fundamental economics of business success are being rewritten almost daily. The internet and 24/7 connectivity, coupled with global transparency and compounded by breakneck technological advances in all fields have made the road to business and financial success into a multilane superhighway. When the likes of Facebook can have revenue of just $25 Billion yet a market value of $340 Billion, with almost no physical assets, it is a testament to the fact that the game of business is very different now from 1oo years ago. Compare Facebook with ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel producer, which has recent annual revenue of $65 billion, yet a market value of only $25 billion. The market places greater value on an internet/technology/social media company like Facebook than a global steel producer like AcrelorMittal.
But are the fundamental principles for effective leadership and business success different as well? Or are they the same, just perhaps speeded up? And is there anything to be learned from the writings and teaching of those who built successful mega-businesses in the last century, or should these past success formulas be ignored?
Think and Grow Rich
In an interview with Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world at the time, a young reporter, Napoleon Hill, accepted the challenge to put down the formulas for personal and business success by interviewing the great business and political leaders of the early 20th Century. Andrew Carnegie would insure accessibility to over 500 successful individuals and it was Hill’s job to tease out the common success principles. In 1937 the book Think and Grow Rich was published and since has sold over 100 million copies and inspired many to build successful businesses and personal lives.
The main thesis of the book resided in the principle that success in any endeavour begins in the mind, with a strong, compelling belief in self. It is this strong belief that separates the “I would like to . . ” from the “I will . . .” and leads to action. Belief, put into determined action, combined with persistence and the desire to give more than you receive, are the fundamental success principles repeated over and over, in various ways, by those whom Napoleon Hill interviewed for his book. And many readers of Think and Grow Rich during the 20th Century prospered by these success formulas.
Are they still valid? Or has globalization, social media, the Internet and technology rewritten the rules?
There is no denying that the economics and financial metrics of business success have changed since the days of Andrew Carnegie, Alfred Sloan, John D. Rockefeller and other business giants of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Markets value future earnings more than current performance and investors trade stocks quickly rather than seek out long term value holdings.
But when I look at the human formulas behind huge modern global corporations like Alphabet Inc. (Google), Amazon, Starbucks, Facebook, Zappos.com, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and others we find the basic laws of success still very much at the foundation. Silicon Valley type companies frequently come and go, but those which have lasted not only have cool technology or engaging social media, but the foundations of common success principles.
Steve Jobs was notorious for his strong belief coupled with determination that anything was possible and that there was ALWAYS a solution. Reed Hastings built Netflix based on a solid culture of accountability, open discourse, willing to change and learning from mistakes.
“Our mission statement about treating people with respect and dignity is not just words but a creed we live by every day. You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management. That’s the contract.” Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks
If you want to build a sustainable modern enterprise and a successful culture with accountable leadership at all levels, I strongly suggest you make a New Year’s resolution to buy a copy of Think and Grow Rich and really study it, then put the principles into practice in 2017.
The best investment you will every make, better than stocks or bonds, is in yourself! ~My Father
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!