Providing Business Value


One of my favorite books is Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters.

One story from the book particularly resonated with me.

In 1890, a cocktail party was held in Pittsburgh. All of the movers and shakers were there, including Andrew Carnegie. He held court in a corner of the room, smoking a cigar.

He was introduced to Frederick Taylor, the man who was becoming famous as an expert on organizing work.

“Young man,” said Carnegie, squinting dubiously at the consultant, “if you can tell me something about management that is worth hearing, I will send you a check for ten thousand dollars.”

Ten thousand dollars was a great deal of money in 1890. This would be worth $281,000 dollars in 2020.

The conversations in the room stopped as people nearby turned to hear what Taylor would say.

“Mr. Carnegie, I would advise you to make a list of the ten most important things you can do. And then, start doing number one.”

As the story goes, a week later, Taylor received a check for ten thousand dollars.

Taylor’s advice provided value because it was simple: focus on what matters.

This advice is commonly used by business marketers and consultants today, but in a twisted way. They create huge PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, full of rationales. That’s not what businesses need. That isn’t how real people think about themselves or the world.

Businesses - and the people who run them - need straight answers to their questions.

What do I focus on? How can I increase revenue?

What do I do?

The consultants who give straight answers are the ones who get it right.

I strive to be such a consultant.

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