Focus on People, Product, Process

The third in this series, “this much I know”, is that successful organizations require three ingredients:  People, Product and Process.

I have experienced success with our foundation, The Business of Good, our media company, WorkPlace Impact and my son’s restaurant company, Raising Cane’s of Ohio.  I’ve also failed three times. I’ll withhold the names to protect the innocent.  In those cases, two were due to investing in the wrong people and one was due to good people with a good product trying to execute a flawed process.

Looking one at a time, the first ingredient for successful organizations is having a product (service) that offers something no other organization can claim.

  • Our foundation is the only one that exclusively serves those who serve the working poor
  • Our media business delivers coupons and samples where people work, not where they live, and
  • Our chicken product is the only fresh tenderloin, cooked to order, hand breaded chicken finger restaurants in their markets

Don’t believe your organization lacks something unique to its market.  I challenge Vistage owners and CEOs around the country to find their sole uniqueness and while it takes lots of digging, they usually can find at least one unique element of their product or service to tout.

Great People distinguish great organizations but I learned that great people are not enough.  In fact, great people only excel when they can work in a great culture.  A Vistage speaker once told me that “A” players hate playing for a “B” coaches.  Think about that for a moment.  Are there people in your organization whose talent may not be fully realized because the culture doesn’t promote their individual potential?

Finally, process in your organization may be complex (if necessary) but whenever process seems complex, it’s less likely to succeed.

Said simply, process that is hard to understand is less likely to be consistently implemented.  My favorite example of a complex process made clear was Dell Computer.  They became famous in a commodity category (desktop computers) by implementing a direct-to-consumer, design-your-own product process. It must have been complex and time consuming to create and implement but Dell experienced decades of success by making that process fully understood to team members and consumers alike.

Finally, I found (like Michael Dell) that Product, People and Process become infinitely more possible to organize effectively if your organization is focused.  Doing one thing well is always more scalable than two or more things.  Sound too simple?

  • Our foundation is often tempted to add the homeless and addicted to the working poor organizations we serve. We won’t.
  • Our media company could use our process to deliver stuff to residences. We never have, and we never will.  (yep, I said “never”)
  • Raising Cane’s is constantly tempted to add salads and other items to their menu. To date, our founder, Todd Graves, has resisted and I believe he always will.  His/our reward?  We’re the second highest grossing restaurants in our category doing more sales than chain restaurants with 25 products and more.

At the end of the funny and famous movie, “City Slickers”, Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, is alone with Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly is giving Mitch some life advice.

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s***.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.



Tim McCarthy

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