TOPIC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a business leader, and how did it change your perspective?
The best business advice I have received is to not be afraid of failure. Most successful business leaders have experienced failure at some point in their careers. Well-known members of the “failed before success club” include Bill Gates, Henry Ford, and Mark Cuban. Failure is a byproduct of taking risks, and without an appropriate degree of risk-taking, businesses rarely succeed.
Randy Allen, CEO
James Limousine in Richmond, Va.
Some of the best advice I have received is to be careful about growth and how you grow. Growth can come in many different forms: penetration of a new market, diversification of accounts, or acquisition.
In any case, plan ahead for your growth and be prepared to finance it through a bank, financial institution, or personal financing. Do this in advance!
Maurice Brewster, Founder & CEO
Mosaic Global Transportation & VIP Airport Shuttle in San Jose, Calif.
Neal Patterson, the late, great CEO of Kansas City-based Cerner, told me the key to his success was knowing the value of time. He said, “Time is the great equalizer. You cannot save time. You cannot make more time. No one gets more time than someone else. No matter your station in life, everyone gets exactly 24 hours. No more, no less. What you do with those 24 hours determines the course of your life. Time does not play favorites.”
He passed away last month and I reflected on how much he accomplished in just one lifetime. I thought of the proverb we use in our chauffeur training manual: “A leader works hard and has more time. An underachiever is always ‘too busy’ to do what needs to be done.”
It makes me think how equitable life is, especially life in America. Truly, the only limits we have are those we place on ourselves. We can accomplish anything we desire if we invest our time wisely.
Bruce Heinrich, Founder & CEO
Leader Worldwide in Kansas City, Mo.
A huge mentor in my life once said to me: “To lead you have to follow.” What makes you any different than your competitors? A car is a car and a bus is a bus. The difference is in the people. The simple question is how you build an exceptional team. The key is that your team must be invested and buy in to you and your vision.
The secret ingredients for this may vary for different leaders, but I have found that you should share your vision transparently, provide the training and tools, and, most importantly, let your team know that you work for them. If your team knows that you are there for them, their investment will meet the level of investment you provide them. “Exceptional” is a team effort that you have to create because you cannot do it by yourself.
Terry Jackson, Director – Sales & Revenue
BEST Transportation in St. Louis, Mo.
The most important piece of advice I’ve received over the years, which was especially useful when I was a new operator, was “big doesn’t necessarily mean better.” Don’t be too quick to run and purchase as many vehicles as possible just to be as large as the next company. A large fleet doesn’t equal profit. Be very thoughtful and wise in all purchases. Make sound financial decisions. You very well may put yourself out of business trying to improve it.
Bill Kerr, Owner
Camryn Executive Transportation and Limousine in Charlottesville, Va.
The best piece of advice I received was that you only have so many hours in a day and so many days in a week, so make the best of your time. Do not let life take over: Have a daily list of non-negotiable items and complete them no matter what. This can be for personal items like a daily walk, or business-related like payroll. If you stick to your non-negotiable to-do list, even when it gets crazy, you are accomplishing something every day.
Becky Laramee, President
All Points Limousine in Millbury, Mass.
A valuable lesson I received as a business leader was “Do not fall in love with the metal (cars) or bricks (real estate). You’ll often need to make changes. You can’t operate effectively if you’re emotionally tied to the product. Focus on the financials instead.” Ironically, the exact same advice came from two different informal mentors of mine, Dan Goff (A Goff Limousine and Bus) and Glennis Buford (retired real estate mogul in Chicago).
Travis Latham, Founder & President
Fellowship Fleet Limousine and Bus Company in Chicago, Ill.
One of my mentors, Maurice Brewster, once said to me that in this industry we are all like “crabs in a barrel,” clawing all over each other to get to the top. The problem is that the crabs keep pulling each other back down. Maurice’s advice was to reach out to other operators (the competition) in the area and forge relationships where we can all work together. Following this advice, I organized a safety meeting sponsored by the Arizona Limousine Association that was open to all Tucson operators and airport representatives, which featured guest speakers from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. Bringing about 30 percent of local operators together to participate and network for the first meeting made it a success.
Abdou Louarti, General Manager
Diamond Transportation in Tucson, Ariz.
An important lesson that was passed onto me is to never, ever terminate someone in anger. Time is your friend. Place them on suspension for a day, a week, or even a month while you calm down, then evaluate the situation and move forward. Termination is a permanent action.
Jim Luff, Marketing Manager
Chosen Payments in Moorpark, Calif.
Early in my career, as I was moving up the ladder in the new organization that bought my first company, the new CEO, who came from a Fortune 500 company, took me aside. He congratulated me on my promotion, but then passed on advice that gave me a very realistic perspective of the corporate environment. “Never forget that as you move up the corporate ladder, you get closer to the door,” he said.
He was essentially saying that as you take on more responsibilities you will be held more accountable—not only for your own actions, but for everyone you manage, and eventually the entire company. Thus, if any issues occur, you are the one closest to the door that can lead you outside the company.
I took his advice very seriously. Throughout my career, it has always framed my perspective, my fiduciary responsibility to the company, how I view my actions, and at the end of the day, how I manage the company. Self-preservation is a powerful instinct.
Tony Simon, COO
Reston Limousine in Sterling, Va.
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