In 1971 a seemingly ordinary man named Darwin E Smith became CEO of Kimberly Clark, an old fashioned paper company who was steadily losing the market share against Procter and Gamble and Scott paper with a forward looking way he transformed the company over 20 years to outperform companies such as Coca Cola, HP 3M and General Electric. What he actually did was sell off all his paper mills and forest land. At the time his main product was coated paper and the market for this was declining. He then went and invested the money into Kleenex Tissues and Huggies Diapers. At the time the move was ridiculed in Wall street and his shares dropped but his foresight proved correct and he went on to buy his competitor Scott Paper and form the World’s largest tissue manufacturer.
People remember him as a man of great ethic and personal integrity. He was the type of leader who gave credit for success to the employees, the managers his predecessors, and the customer.
Darwin E Smith didn’t appear the most likely candidate to be CEO of his company and one of the directors even told him that shortly after his appointment, but he was the type of man who could look ahead and see the potential of his business and lead his company in the right path to achieve the goals he set.
The tendency of many business owners is to be locked into the day to day running of the business and not to look at the overall picture.
In order to be an effective leader you need to understand your product or service and periodically step back and see if you like the direction it is taken, or if there opportunities you might have missed.
Good business leaders also put effort into external and internal communication.
External communication is the way you portray the company to the outside world using communication methods such as web, advertising , packaging and marketing. Internal communication is with your staff. All the people within the company should be clear on the values of the company and the virtues of the product and service.
Very often the business owner is the best person to be the salesman as he has got the clearest vision and greatest enthusiasm about what he has to offer, but it is important not to get emotionally involved. Fear of failure or rejection is one of the primary things that stop growth within a company. If you have conviction in your product and you can look ahead and keep a positive attitude you can succeed .
Bill gates is a visionary who most of us agree is one of the most successful businessmen in the 20th Century. In 25 years he built a 2 man business in a multi billion dollar corporation. He started off tinkering with computers when he was a student in Harvard together with a fellow student called Paul Allen and when Allen showed him an article about the world’s first microcomputer, the Altair 8800. He realised the potential for personal computers and knew that a language had to be written to make them usable and user friendly. He called up the manufacturer MITS and told them he had written a language for it called Basic. The truth was he had not perfected the language but he spent many days and nights afterwards getting there. MITS collapsed but he went on to write software for the other PC makers and that’s how he started off Microsoft.
His vision is summed up in a statement he made:
“Ultimately, the PC will be a window to everything people are interested in-and everything we need to know.”
The lessons from big multinationals can be used on a smaller scale for our companies too. As the leader of your company your vision, mission statement and positive leadership will be the inspiration for your staff, investors and customers. The quality of your leadership is magnified by the clarity of your communication.
Winston Churchill famously said “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”