3 Essentials for Business Success: Competence; Chemistry; and Systems – Oh, and don’t forget…(OK; 4 Essentials)

As a final word of discouragement: a great culture does not get you a great company. If your What you Do is Who You Areproduct isn’t superior or the market doesn’t want it, your company will fail no matter how good its culture is.
Ben Horowitz, What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture


Start here (the 1st actual essential):  you’ve got to have a product, or service, that the market wants.  And, your version of the product or service has to be really good to succeed in this modern-day, zero to one marketplace.

But, once you’ve got that, now you need a whole lot of other elements to be successful.  These might fall under a general category of “culture.”  With plenty of emphasis on team building.

Here’s how one person described it to me: I had a conversation with a very successful small business owner this week.  His business is flourishing, but he faces a challenge with building, and keeping, an effective team.  His team is not large; but essential to his business success.

He definitely provides a service that is needed in the marketplace.  And he provides a version of the service that is very good indeed.  But, the challenge of getting the team right, with team members striving for excellence always, is his challenge.

As we talked, we focused on three elements that are critical.

#1 – His team members have to be exceptionally competent.  This is a business where things simply must not fall through the cracks.  If they do, then the ripple effects are not good; not good at all.  So, attention to detail — competence — is critical.  And, the team members have to be competent all the time; in every interaction with the people/clients/customers.

#2 – His team has to have good team chemistry.  They have to work well together.  They have to be attentive to each other; helping each other all the time.  And they have to “enjoy” working together.

I was reminded of a line from the new Jim Mattis book, Call Sign ChaosWere the troops comfortable speaking in my presence? Did they nudge one another in appreciation of a wisecrack or incorrect remark? Did they feel at ease with their immediate superiors?

You can call this chemistry; you can call this team morale.  But the team members have to get along, enjoy working together, and genuinely have each other’s back, helping to make each team member ever-more effective. Because the team members have to “watch” for the possible cracks that have to be filled.  No “one” can do this without the help of good team members.

#3 – His team has to have the right systems in place, and follow those systems to the ”T.”  Yes, this is directly related to the competence issue.  But even if the individual is competent, if the system is deficient, the team will not be effective.

Here, the wisdom of W. Edwards Deming is worth remembering:

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“A bad system will beat a good person every time.”
“Every system is perfectly designed to get the result that it does.”


So, these three are essential — competence; chemistry; and system mastery.

And, yes, hiring the right people – people who can get along with and work well with other team members; people who are reliably competent; people who can learn to work within a system, letting nothing fall through the cracks – hiring such people is always the critical need.

So, how’s your team doing?

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