The summer is reading season for many of us, that rare time when “the tower of guilt” on my nightstand gets reduced to a manageable inch or two. I have always been a huge fan of Verne Harnish, Mastering The Rockefeller Habits. This is an incredible book for small business owners, chock full of tools and ideas that unleash your inner entrepreneur without limiting you. The “tower of guilt” euphemism is in fact borrowed from Verne!
This summer I decided that if my favorite business book today is about Rockefeller and his habits that I would go right to the source and read about John D. himself through the book, Titan. (Yes, it is seven hundred pages.) Rockefeller was, well, quite a force as a businessman, father, philanthropist, investor, etc. He gave more money away than any man alive. His family started colleges, medical research and national parks. He also made more money in his day than any other Robber Baron or business figure in modern times!
I thought it might be fun to share what I think our John D’s top few “habits” and how they might apply to your world today.
- First and foremost know the numbers. John D. started his career as a bookkeeper. He always knew his figures for his companies and for any business deal. He always did his homework and had the information to make informed business decisions because of it.
- Demand excellence. John D. was ruthless in many ways and his reputation legendary in how he did anything to gain market share and hurt a competitor. The greatest impact his story had for me was to expect excellence from your people. John D. expected his staff to work within his culture and to win. If you were into many of life’s vices, he had no time for you. If you did not do your job, you were asked to leave. This is easy to read and understand. By today’s business standards I see many business owners and managers struggle with something so basic. Establish expectations. Inspect what you expect and be direct in your feedback about it.
- Always having a contingency plan. With staff, in an acquisition, in a negotiation – John D. always worked many chess moves ahead. He had backup plans. He had strategies. Most importantly he was in control of the details with his business.
- Be adaptable. John D. was the world’s original change agent. Well before “who moved my cheese” sentiments he was able to adapt to the changes around him and use them to his advantage. For 60 years John was a fiercely private man and ran the world’s largest business that way. He protected all trade secrets fiercely; only a handful of top executives really knew about his broad reaching plans. Yet later in life he became more comfortable and learned to use media to his advantage. His company started the first Public Relations Department ever in business.
- Never be “owned” by your funding source. John needed bankers early on to fund his business and thousands of acquisitions in the oil business. He built great relationships yet always detested the process of needing them. Over time Standard Oil became their own bank keeping high cash reserves on hand to do their own lending to the business! John D. was in advocate for running a business in a conservative fashion; he would be “fashionable” today.
There is so much more to say about John D.! Send me your notes and emails on what books have captivated you this summer!