How and why all “farms” need both hunters and farmers
During his remarks at an annual meeting of GE shareholders, then chairman and CEO, Jack Welch, said this when responding to why he wanted GE to behave like a small company: “For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”
This way of doing business is the result of a mindset, what John Dini would characterize as the “hunter’s mindset.” In fact, it’s a business way of life. As he explains, “Building a business isn’t just an ‘itch.’ Entrepreneurs are driven to hunt and win. Some are born, some choose to be entrepreneurs and some stumble into it by circumstance. Not all entrepreneurs own a business, and not all business owners are entrepreneurs. But entrepreneurs are the hunters of the 21st century and they all have specific traits in common.” More about these traits in a moment.
This is a theme that Larry Schweikart and Lynne Peterson Doti examine in their brilliant book, American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States. Surveying entrepreneurship from Christopher Columbus and Benjamin Franklin through Kemmons Wilson and Ray Kroc to Steve Jobs and Martha Stewart, they explain how and why they and dozens of others were the “hunters” in their own time. This is what Dini has in mind when suggesting, “bringing in new sources of revenue is hunting. Finding and training great employees is hunting. Closing deals is hunting. Motivating people to excel is hunting.”
The business world needs hunters but at also needs farmers. In fact, Dini suggests — and I agree — that, during the last four centuries and especially during the last two, the business world has been a farmer’s world. That is to say, executives tend to be managers rather than entrepreneurs, focused primarily on increasing the efficiency and profitability of the status quo. Dini cites tasks such as these on which managers tend to focus:
o Manage what can be measured
o Develop job descriptions
o Know the numbers and balance the books
o Pursue Six Sigma quality
o Formulate and enforce policies and procedures
Dini fully understands and appreciates how important tasks such as these were. However, with regard to aforementioned “traits,” he suggests that these words are music to hunters’ ears:
o Do something you love
o Make a lot of money
o Don’t sweat the small stuff
o Work hard and work smart
o Have fun
Many managers become vulnerable to what James O’Toole aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” They tend to be staunch defenders of the current status quo, after having led the charge to replace the previous one. As indicated, Dini realizes that efficient and profitable organizations need both hunters and farmers. In his book, he explains how they can work effectively together, and, how best to lead both. Hunters and farmers pose different challenges while being able to add value in different ways.
Several books published in recent years share much of value about the complicated relationships between leaders and followers. The U.S. Marine Corps offers an excellent case in point. There is, heaven knows, a crystal clear chain of authority but a general will defer to the expertise of a private when an important decision must be made if the private has better information, sharper skills, etc. to answer a question or solve a problem. Dini points out that hard-charging entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs may chew up people like a rolling ball of butcher knives but will defer to better-informed and better-qualified managers in a comparable situation.
I think this book is a must read for anyone now preparing for a business career or has only recently embarked on one. Also for entrepreneurs whose companies are now struggling and need a turbocharger of street smarts and reassurance. Although it has less than 200 pages, John Dini has provided in it a wealth of invaluable information, profiles, mini-case studies, insights, and counsel. Bravo!