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#100 – Building a Business: What have we learned in 4 years?

What Does It Take to be a Great Leader?

Every Tuesday, we’re sharing valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BE a better leader so you can BECOME a better leader. Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders. You might start by building on the communication matrix and making sure you’re defending the castle to get done what only you can do. Make sure to take some time so you’re thinking past today. Don’t forget our 12 part Leadership series.

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Finally, Column No. 100?

If I haven’t put you to sleep yet, you’re not reading every one of my columns published in the local New York Times affiliate … and guess what? By my count, this column is a milestone as column #100. Has anyone else written that many … other than the Editor in Chief, of course?

Have I been listening in on your conversations?

This journey began in the Fall, 2007 and for the most part, bi-weekly since then. The only exception is the most recent L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. series that was published over 12 consecutive weeks. Most of the columns have climbed around the monkey bars at the intersection of Strategy, Finance & Leadership, but according to several keen observers, I’ve also listened in on their boardroom conversations. Others have said they recognized themselves in my examples … I’ll never tell … and some have even said, “stop writing about me”. We’ll never know if it was intentional or accidental, will we?

What are some of the most important concepts in Building a Business?

So, from that platform, I’ve decided to re-examine some of the concepts I’ve discussed over the last several years … and since so many of you have remarked about how much you love the quotes that have accompanied each column  … and have liberally “borrowed” them … I’ve used some of them again to re-introduce those concepts (and give you collective access to a bunch of them at once.)

Go ahead and borrow some of your favorite quotes

In most cases, time has only strengthened my conviction about the importance of these concepts. Most of them deserve to be regularly refreshed and repeated as the touchstones of successful businesses.

“There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.”

This is one of my favorite quotes about entrepreneurship, capturing the risk and danger while highlighting the invigorating feeling it creates. Thanks, Sir Winston, for succinctly pinpointing the essence of what it means to pursue our entrepreneurial passions.

“If you dont know where youre going, any road will do.”  ~ Socrates

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”    ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

There are plenty more where these come from … and each of them is a powerful reminder of the need for strategic thinking. I’ve frequently touched on strategy and planning as cornerstones of successful businesses. Yes, it’s a time-consuming process and requires sharpshooter focus and relentless diligence … but the rewards for companies who pursue it with a passion are unarguable.

I said then and reiterate now: “Countless business studies have shown that businesses with a disciplined and consistent process for formulating AND implementing their strategy have out-performed their industry peers by a significant margin.

“In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running; if you stand still, they will swallow you.”   ~William Knudsen Jr., Former Chairman, Ford Motor Company

This quote accompanied an article about competitive intelligence. I used a football analogy because football teams, and professional sports in general, invest heavily to assess the competition. While you may be unable to obtain videotape for every play your competition has made, don’t let that stop you from evaluating the competition with as much vigor and rigor as you can muster.

“Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.”   ~Winston Churchill

In my column entitled, “Put the business back in the family business!” I reflected on the strong predisposition to focus on the “family” part of the “family business” at the exclusion of an equally important discussion about the “business” of the family. I watch companies struggle with these issues every day, and urge them to remember that the strength of the “mother ship” is the fountainhead of family stability and harmony. Without it, squabbling crescendos and family dynamics tend to disintegrate.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”   ~ Albert Schweitzer

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon

Are we having fun yet? This is one of several columns in which I emphasized the power of passion and commitment … as well as having fun. Others have said “if you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life”, so make sure you’re committed to something you love and have fun along the way.

Stay tuned as we continue the magical mystery tour over the next few weeks. Try to stay awake this time, will ya’?

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This article will be published in the September 26, 2011 edition of the North Bay Business Journal, a publication of the New York Times, and a weekly business newspaper which I have served as a regular columnist for over three years. The Business Journal covers the North Bay area of San Francisco – from the Golden Gate bridge north, including the Wine Country of Sonoma and Napa counties. The electronic version of this article, as published by the North Bay Business Journal, may be found here.

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Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors, providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses in the wine and other industries, and hosts the Exkalibur Leadership Forum for leaders of middle market companies in the North Bay. Please visit Exkalibur.com for a library of valuable resources, articles and insights or connect on Twitter, LinkedIN or the Exkalibur fan page on Facebook.

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