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Some thoughts on‘Good to Great’, ‘The Tipping Point’, and Business Start-Up or TurnAhead

by Rick Baker
On Mar 24, 2008

If a good business idea exists and the right people to implement it are in place then there is a chance to attract money, create and build a successful business.

The good idea part and the having the right people part were captured by Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’…‘Hedgehogs’ and ‘Buses’. Jim Collins used the flywheel metaphor to capture the thought - success builds momentum as people push together.

Malcolm Gladwell believes business success can achieve tipping points, where epidemic-like growth can occur. Three ingredients are required: Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople.

Some of our thinking about how to succeed at business start-up or business TurnAhead borrows thoughts from these two authors.

How does this play out?

How might one borrow thoughts from ‘Good to Great’ and ‘The Tipping Point’ then go about building a successful start-up business or doing a business TurnAhead?

Perhaps, the answer is clearer when we split the business activity into 3 separate components…

Strategy
People
Action

Strategy

To use Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept, we first need a business idea. It has to be an idea people can get passionate about. If the ambition is to grow a large/great business then people need to think big, like – “What can we do better than anyone else in the world?”   But, whether large/great/best-in-the-world or not…how does one go about starting that business? Let’s assume we agree a good first step is to establish the Hedgehog Concept for the business…ie, clearly establish:

 

That sets the framework for the business – it is the overall strategy for the business. The overall strategy must be set and done. In other words, there can be no second-guessing of the Hedgehog.

With the Hedgehog done, what other strategic work should a business do?

The Hedgehog establishes the strategic footings… what about the strategic foundation walls? What do those next-level strategic supports look like? How much? How much detail?

What are the right next-level strategic questions?

The answer: we need to begin by thinking about the People.

Using the Collins’ metaphors:
  • Does the business have the right people on the bus?
  • Are those people pushing the flywheel as required

People

Business start-up or TurnAhead will be relatively fast-and-easy if the business in question has perfectly established its Hedgehog and filled its bus with perfect people…the flywheel will spin ever faster…and faster and faster, maybe even to tipping-point speed.

But, what if the Hedgehog is set, the people are on the bus, and the flywheel doesn’t seem to be spinning and accelerating as quickly as it should be?

What is wrong?

What’s the problem?
  • Is it a Strategic weakness?
  • Is it People problems?
  • Is it something else?
  • Is it some combination of the above?

Let’s assume an audit proves the strategy is sound…let’s assume the Hedgehog is a good one.

If the ideas are sound then the next consideration is the people. Using Collins’ words – “Are the right people on the bus?”

***

Embedded in all this, the business ideas/strategies are captured before and at statements and pictures called the Hedgehog. Those ideas are the spark of the business.  The spark inspires passion, passion-in-people…that’s part of the Hedgehog. The spark must inspire passion in a sufficient amount of people. When enough people are inspired by individual or shared passion those people will act and they will act in ways that align with the Hedgehog, they will start the flywheel spinning…in other words, their combined action will cause the company to achieve its desired goals. When that’s happening, Collins would describe it as – “The right people are on the bus!”

***

But, how would a business go about finding then putting the right people on the bus?

Or, how would a business go about making people changes if it becomes evident the right people are not on the bus?

Nobody will argue - People are the critical aspect of success.

Gladwell talked about 3 types of people who seem to be present when there is a tipping:
  • Mavens: technical specialists who seem to love to both know and talk about the gory details
  • Connectors: people-persons who introduce unrelated people who then do commerce together
  • Salespeople: naturally charismatic people who persuade other people with ease

As a business seeks people for its bus, or as a business goes about trying to make people changes when it appears the seats of the bus are not properly filled, perhaps the three people-categories above can be of help.

If I understand Gladwell accurately, Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople stand out as noticeably different from other people. They possess qualities that make them important to businesses that aspire to rapid and/or large growth. If a business employs these 3 types of people then the chances for success and even tipping increase. Implicit in this, I am assuming the people embrace the business’ Hedgehog.

Success Formula:
Collins’ Hedgehog + Gladwell’s (Mavens, Connectors & Salespeople) = Business Success

 

In words:
If a business has an accurately-thought-out Hedgehog and employs enough Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople then the business will achieve business success.

***

To ensure the right people are on the bus, the qualities of Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople should be understood and care should be taken during recruiting to make sure the people possess these qualities.

Obviously, other skills and traits will be required to perform the specific functions of the specific business…these could be described as Industry-Specific technical skills and traits. These people skills and people traits will vary from business to business. These skills and traits can cover a broad spectrum…from super-technical speciality to general business acumen.

What if the business does not employ Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople…can it still succeed?

It seems to me:
  • A business cannot achieve quick or large success if it does not have more than one talented salesperson on the bus. The salespeople do not necessarily have to be as naturally-gifted and impressive as those described by Gladwell, however, it is tough to argue that Salespeople of that calibre will both hasten and expand business success.
  • A business may be able to succeed without Mavens and Connectors on the bus, however, people on the bus must at least know how to connect with Mavens and Connectors. I would describe these people who know how to connect as Ally Seekers.

Ally Seekers

Are Ally Seekers salespeople like Gladwell describes Salespeople?
  • Perhaps.
  • While they may or may not be Salespeople, Ally Seekers must possess a strong desire and some skill at seeking out other people who can ‘fill the commercial gaps’. Ally Seekers do not need to be naturally charismatic…as in born salespeople. Ally Seekers do not need to be persuasive…ie, persuasion being the key skill of the salesperson. Ally Seekers need to have pleasant-enough personalities and they need to believe people [only people] get things done. For example, if the business is lacking salespeople then that business’ Ally Seekers would have their antennae out – looking for salespeople.
  • While Ally Seekers do not have to be Gladwell-described Salespeople, they can be Gladwell-described Salespeople. Salespeople would make excellent Ally Seekers.
  • Ally Seekers may become very skilled at making connections and that is a key aspect of gaining trust and a network of contacts. All of this could cause Ally Seekers to want to develop skills at sales. So, Ally Seekers could be Salespeople-in-training.
Are Ally Seekers technical experts like Mavens?
  • Likely, no.
  • Ally Seekers do not have to possess the technical or detailed knowledge as Mavens do. Ally Seekers need to know how to find [connect with] Mavens. With the easy-availability of information, an Ally Seeker could prepare Maven-seeking plans then sit at a desk most of the day scouring the Internet…seeking Mavens.
  • Over time, Ally Seekers may become well known. They may become well known for specific technical expertise and they may be thrilled to possess detailed information. They may become Mavens.
Are Ally Seekers true Connectors?
  • No.
  • If I understand Gladwell correctly, Connectors know huge numbers of people…like a multiple of 10 times what average people know. Gladwell’s Connectors strike me as shotgunners who know where their pellets hit so they can sharpshoot at will. Or, Connectors are connectors who have numerous rifles and they are skilled at shooting all of them at a variety of different targets…so, when someone calls them they pick the right rifle and use it to connect with the desired target. Whereas, Ally Seekers need to be skilled at shooting certain guns at certain targets.
  • Ally Seekers must be proactive, whereas, it seems Gladwell’s Connectors do not…people come to Gladwell’s Connectors because people know they are connectors by reputation. Conversely, Ally Seekers may have little or no incoming interactions.
  • It is not clear how Gladwell’s Connectors became the Connectors they are. Clearly, they are much more gregarious than the average person. If an Ally Seeker sincerely wants to be a champion of the Ally-Seeking role then certainly, over time, an Ally Seeker has the opportunity to build a large network of contacts. Ally Seekers may be Connectors-in-training.

***

  Collins’ Hedgehog
+
Gladwell’s (Mavens, Connectors & Salespeople)
+
Ally Seekers     
=
Business Success

***

The bottom line is: Ally Seekers can fill the gaps where Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople are lacking.

***

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Entrepreneur Thinking

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