People celebrate the start of a business, and certainly celebrate the years a business has been operating. But apart from all this celebrating, there is a lot of hard work necessary to grow a business effectively?
Jeffrey Hayzlett knows this first hand, and certainly offers terrific insights in his book with Jim Eber: Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless.
I discovered his book while at a day conference a while back. It sets the right tone for any business establishing a confident culture ready to take things to the next level.
What Is Think Big Act Bigger About?
The book offers Hayzlett’s perspective on owning who you are as you scale your business. This “owning who you are” phrase may sound like the opening line from a personal trainer, but Hayzlett offers something richer — the idea of being your own person by aligning your actions to prepare for the big decisions and big moments.
Hayzlett knows of what he speaks. He was CMO of Eastman Kodak until 2010. He held numerous senior management positions prior to that. And he is a prime-time TV and radio host, a highly sought-after business keynote speaker and author of two books prior to Think Big. Hayzlett has a brash straightforward style which has become all the rage. Witness the tremendous popularity of business TV shows like CNBC’s The Profit and ABC’s Shark Tank where entrepreneurs receive brash straightforward advice from seasoned veterans.
Also Hayzlett’s insights in the book seem to always target the corporate professional in scope. However they are still applicable enough to fit the lifestyles of everyday freelancers with ease. I nodded in agreement as I read about his view on change and transparency.
“Yes, your story will need to evolve over time. Yes, you must refine how you think and act to face emerging challenges as you grow and face new competition….But if you do all things having defined the core of who you are and hold true to it in all parts of your life, evolution, refinement and adoptions do not change who you are, only how and what you do.”
The later chapters of the book delve into facets of company culture. Hayzlett offers good questions to ask to keep you and your company together. In the chapter “Be In A Constant State of Awareness” he asks “What are the key attributes of your business, according to you? What do your employees and customers say? Are they saying the same thing you are?”
His insights suggest a constant eye on the big picture. I personally love the quip in Chapter 10 which covers being a servant to people around you. “I am not going to be the person who is going to have the funeral home call Rent-A-Pallbearer. Who will be at your funeral?”
What I Liked About Think Big Act Bigger
I really liked a section where Hayzlett talked about perceptions and their impact on branding over time. Hayzlett advocates image renewal as essential in maintaining business growth and avoiding tunnel vision that can limit how customers are attracted. That perspective was once reserved for larger businesses, but small businesses that have existed a while can experience stagnation as well. Hayzlett uses Cadillac as a renewal example:
“In marriage it’s nice to grow old together. Not in business. Cadillac had an audience it literally rode to death, meaning it depended on the same customers who continue to buy Cadillac until they died. Cadillac is in the process of reinventing and redesigning the brand to attract that younger audience, but must do this continually to show its commitment to those customers.”
I also liked the approach of keeping ideas down home in tone, which was natural in step with his opening chapter comments of maintain a core of who you are. When he writes about how “talking about failure is so en vogue it’s even passed in some industries” he shares his philosophy:
“Simply put, failure has become too much of a badge of honor in this country. I’m never going into a situation thinking I’m going to fail no matter how risky or seemingly impossible it is. There is always a win-win scenario that doesn’t involve hurting anyone if that’s what you want to do.”
The chapter names balance a colorful slogan with a subtitle that serves as a clear call to action. Chapter 6 – Clean Your Own Bathroom – Stay Grounded and Connect – encourages the reader to audit one’s behavior to “stay visible and get out there”. Chapter 9 – Find a Bigger Pond – Always Ask What’s Next? – focuses on remaining competitive and not standing still.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
This is a hard question to answer for this type of book. I really liked it. Plus given Hayzlett’s experiences creating value, one can’t knock a person for sharing well written and valuable experience.
Yet some ideas could have been better expressed to appeal to small business owners. Many of Hatzlett’s examples come from corporate culture. But again, these ideas come from Hayzlett’s own experiences, so it’s hard to knock him for that.
When you take the book’s ideas as a whole, you recognize that Hayzlett parses truth out of the minutiae business owners of all scales hears. Business owners starting out should seek out and listen to as many points of view as possible. Hayzlett’s own point of view certainly should be among those in any business owner’s consideration.
The key phrase for business success is “perspective on your core”. Every business owner should examine his or her core, be it an entrepreneur launching the next great start up or the small business owner who sees his or her business as a financial mechanism for family. That reflection is especially needed as technology disrupts the core of so many businesses, even beyond the “retail apocalypse” occurring now.
With Think Big, Act Bigger, Hayzlett finds the right prospective to keep your business thinking big and acting bigger than in its early days.