As I mentioned last month, I recently published my business book, The Think Big Movement, and that included doing all sorts of promotion. This extensive Q & A was a thought-provoking exercise and one I recommend to anyone. Sometimes it helps to ask yourself some tough questions and then demand fine-tuned (and honest) answers.
Much of the following, the second set of the Q & A, serves as a mini-guide to my Think Big philosophy and the importance of staying fresh and unstuck.
Q: How can a company determine if its culture is productive?
Jon Dwoskin: Everything in business should be measured so you can look at the bottom line and revenue growth – as well as intangibles like fulfillment and satisfaction. Tools like SurveyMonkey, which you can find online, give a net promoter score so you can gauge the attitudes of both your staff and your clients. Another way to look at it: If you hear people laughing and not nervous to leave early for a doctor appointment or their kid’s school event, then you have the workings of a good culture.
Q: What top three standards should a company have to cultivate growth?
JD: 1. Only hire great. 2. Keep the bar high. 3. Everyone should be working hard, but also having fun. Don’t forget: People need an environment where they smile and laugh while they work.
Q: What are three essentials for any business owner or C-level executive?
1. Measure everything, but don’t micromanage – you always want to know where you are going and where you are.
2. Hire the right people and put them in the right seats with the right culture. Pay them the right salary.
3. You are only as good as your lowest bar. Show compassion and let go of those who don’t fit with the company.
Q: Name top three qualities that help a CEO bring out the best in their people.
1. They have a high level of TRUST in their people.
2. They ask great questions and listen to their opinions.
3. They empower people to make decisions.
Q: What is the biggest mistake you see executives make over and over?
JD: They don’t listen and they don’t hear what is really going on. They take their pulse off the people, the client and who their ideal client is, so they have no idea what their message is. When this happens it’s so easy to do the wrong things and take the wrong paths. You can’t forecast when you don’t know where you are, because you don’t know where you are going. Your people and your clients will tell you if you ask them. Stay in touch with them and you will always know what they are thinking and wanting.
Q: Is it better for companies to be rigid or flexible?
JD: You need a combination of both in today’s world. People need structure, but they have lives and want balance so they need the flexibility to do it all. Companies need to provide this and trust their people that they will get their work done. We are an on-demand society today where we think in a 24/7 world. Say someone needs to leave for their kid’s soccer game at 3 p.m. If you have the right culture and the right person, they’ll work from home that night to catch up and stay on track.
Q: How should companies be looking at recruiting?
JD: I always say ABR: Always Be Recruiting. Always be proactive and never behind the eight ball by only starting the recruiting when someone quits. Always be in a position to hire great people and replace someone who is just good or okay with someone who is great. It may sound harsh, but we are in business. If someone is uncoachable, untrainable and unlikeable, they don’t belong in the company. Someone who is driven, hungry, likeable and coachable is right behind them to help you grow the company (and themselves).
Q: How do you hire the right people?
JD: It’s a numbers game. Recruiting is a proactive game, not a reactive game. You need to always have a succession plan in place for not only the C-level people, but everyone in your company. That means proactively recruiting so you are always having the best and not just looking when someone leaves. That being said, you should be so in touch with your people that you know if someone is going to leave. If you don’t, there is a bigger problem.
Q: What do you do when you need to fire someone? In the Think Big Movement book, you say it’s an act of compassion to let people go. How is that so?
JD: Most people don’t have the courage to leave and most owners/managers don’t have the courage to let someone go. When you can’t find the right seat for someone who is not a fit for the company, letting them go gives them the space to find something that is a fit for them. It may not feel like it in the moment, but they will be thankful when they find something they love and can bring their best self to the table. I also tell my clients: Do what allows you to sleep well at night. That means, don’t wait and be scared. If you want to give severance, then do it. Letting someone go does not have to be nasty, but it should be straightforward. It’s always best to leave on good terms.
Q: I think I have a book in me but I don’t know how to begin. Any advice?
JD: Keep a journal every day. I write down my thoughts and ideas all the time. Have an idea or book journal and simply write down everything. The best stories and ideas come from the collection of your writings. Just start writing and don’t worry about grammar or run-on sentences. Later, you can hire a co-writer and/or editor to help turn your dream into a reality.
Q: You meditate daily. How has this changed your focus?
JD: I have a lot of ideas on an hourly basis. I needed a tool to slow my brain down and teach myself how to think about nothing so I could relax and be sharper with my ideas and with my clients. It is critical that when I am with my clients they are my 150 percent focus. I need to be clear, present, grounded and sharp for them. Meditation is a huge thing that helps me do that.
Q: What is one lesson you learned from having testicular cancer?
JD: Be present, do what you love and don’t compromise what is in your soul. Get in alignment with your purpose and soul because you never know what tomorrow brings — but today you are in your light doing what feeds you and others.
Q: Any advice for these polarizing times?
JD: Slow down and stay educated. I read tons of newspapers and news websites and listen to podcasts, every day, to keep me in the know. Everyone should do the same and not rely solely on others’ opinions as their news sources.
Now it’s your turn. What in particular would you ask yourself? Do you have the answers you need? Business magnate Elon Musk calls this the single best piece of advice: “Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
Above all, don’t forget to Think Big! Very Big!