LINING UP YOUR TRAINING DUCKS

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Inc. just published its annual listing of America’s 500 fastest-growing private companies (“Inc. 500” September 2016, pp. 20–34. [For the larger complete list of the top 5,000, visit Inc.’s Web site ]). The list itself is helpful and we can learn much from it. To extract additional value, Inc. quizzed the CEOs of these companies about all aspects of how they choose to do business (“How Dreamers Become Doers” pp. 44–48). How they approach ongoing training and professional development is interesting and provocative. Here are four ways in which their ducks are lined up, each followed by my comments.

  • 89% prefer to develop employees by giving them different jobs. Just as those founding entrepreneurs were willing to take a risk, they are also willing to take a risk with their people. That approach challenges and inspires their people. Looking beyond the person’s “official” resume, these leaders recognize the value of identifying the people that are trainable. This works to everyone’s advantage. The person that is trainable will totally invest in that new job and the organization will reap the value of that investment. Too many times in today’s economy, I have seen many companies that want the “perfect” candidate rather than the trainable candidate. There is a big difference.
  • 61% provide outside training. These founding entrepreneurs recognize the value of the diversity of the marketplace. Not everything is necessarily best done in-house. In those cases, going outside will connect your people with diverse, fresh enrichment that is needed to bring them back in equipped for a higher performance level. That outside enrichment translates to inside profit.
  • 28% have a formal leadership development program. While that proportion is woefully low, I can understand why it occurs. By virtue of being one of the 500 fastest growing private companies, getting all the ducks in line is still a work in progress. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that 28% have taken that important step. The future of their companies depends on it. Chances are this percentage will only increase as these companies evolve.
  • 29% reimburse employee tuition. Similar to the prior point, these ducks very likely will get into line as these companies evolve. On this item especially, it may even happen faster than the previous item for one very important reason: tuition reimbursement is an increasingly important talent attractor in today’s job market. Everything about tuition reimbursement ascribes value to employees. It will attract and retain your best people.

Your organization may not be on the Inc. 500 list. Nevertheless, you can still give careful consideration to how these companies lined up their training ducks. Then, answer the crucial question—Where should you realign your ducks?


WHERE SPEED IS KING

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Inc. just published its annual listing of America’s 500 fastest-growing private companies (“Inc. 500” September 2016, pp. 20–34. [For the larger complete list of the top 5,000, visit Inc.’s Web site ]). To have earned a seat at the table of the Inc. 500, the company must have:

  • minimum 2012 revenue of $100,000.
  • minimum 2015 revenue of $2,000,000.
  • been based in the USA, privately owned, and independent (not a subsidiary of any other company).

Once the table is full, the 500 companies are ranked by comparing revenue growth from 2012 to 2015. Of course, just to be on the list is quite an accomplishment. The higher up you go, the more impressive it becomes. For all of them, the three-year revenue percentage growth is amazing. Here is a small sampling:

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Collectively, over the past three years these 500 companies have added almost 56,000 jobs to the economy. They have done that through ingenuity, creativity, innovation, and untold hours of hard work. Some of these companies are disrupting industries. Some are adding new industries. Some of them almost didn’t make it. All of them are on the right track for our economy.


COMING OUT STRONGER

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Entrepreneurs face more difficulties than most people can imagine. Many of these difficulties are encountered before the new business is launched. It is how the entrepreneur responds to those difficulties that will determine ultimate success or failure.

Inc. just published its annual listing of America’s 500 fastest-growing private companies. In reflecting on the difficulties that every entrepreneur experiences, Leigh Buchanan quotes Stanford professor of entrepreneurship, Steve Blank, who reminds us that entrepreneurs can come out of those difficulties stronger than they entered them (“Inc. 500” September 2016, pp. 20–34):

Doing a startup is an act of violence and chaos. . . . Near-death experiences—your co-founder quit; your best customer walked away; you lost your funding—that’s what happens before launch. You go through a series of trials, and from each one of them you come out stronger.” (p. 27)

We’ve all heard the saying about what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger (Friedrich Nietzsche). We have a lot of strong entrepreneurs out there today!


HEROS’ UNTOLD WAR STORIES

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Approximately half of all startups do not survive beyond five years. That is one of the harsh realities of entrepreneurship. It is the half upon which many people don’t like to focus. Most people want to focus just on the success stories. Certainly, those are important too. However, they do not always consist of purely peaches and cream.

Inc. just published its annual listing of America’s 500 fastest-growing private companies. In reflecting on the significance of a company achieving a place on this list, Leigh Buchanan reminds us that this success never comes easy. In fact, in some cases, that success may have pivoted on one thin dime that made the difference between success and failure (“Inc. 500” September 2016, pp. 20–34):

The Inc. 500 seem like the invincible inverse of those roughly 50 percent of startups that, famously, don’t survive their first five years. But these companies aren’t so different. No, they didn’t die. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t almost die.” (p. 27)

The next time that you are admiring the outward beauty of a successful organization, remind yourself that there are very likely some untold war stories. If not for them, some of those companies would not be there to admire.


TECH’S UNKNOWN BENEFITS

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One of the benefits of technology is that it keeps advancing even when you don’t know about it. Most of us can barely keep up with our own little sliver of technology let alone keep up with everything that is happening with technology everywhere. Nevertheless, we read, we browse, we talk, we network, and we study, somehow hoping that we are keeping up enough to capture the benefit for our own businesses and endeavors. This condition predisposes us to knowledge gaps that occasionally circle around to shock us.

I had consistently used a particular brand of printer in my business for decades. “Brand A” had strongly impressed me with its reliability, quality, and performance and that is why I stuck with it. One day “Brand B” came along and I viewed it with skepticism for many years. In spite of my skepticism, eventually a printer emergency situation arose prompting me to take quick action and that quick action meant that I was purchasing a Brand B printer. 1). How does that happen? and 2). What were the results?

  1. Brand B sold me! I was convinced. Brand B’s pitch, demo, advertising, marketing, and reputation persuaded me to switch brands—something I thought I would never do.
  2. The results were terrific, even surpassing my wildest dreams. Brand B’s printer performed even better than my old Brand A. I was thrilled that I made the change.

Technology, by its very nature, cannot remain stagnant. If it does, then so too does your organization, your customers, your people, and you. Technology demands constant innovation and growth. That means change. The positive changes are the ones that we keep and the negative changes are the ones that we eliminate.

That is why it is equally if not more important that you and I change with the technology. We cannot afford to sit still. Sitting still might cost you the better deal.

People often say, we need to change with the times. I disagree. I think that we need to change with the technology.