I watched the movie “The Founder” on a plane a few weeks ago. It’s about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s. Although about 30 minutes into the movie, you realize that he wasn’t actually the founder at all. Sure, he recognized the genius that the McDonald brothers had come up with in their process design and focus on efficiency by listening. But what I really took away from the movie was a totally different lesson. The real key to Ray Kroc’s success came when someone who worked for him pointed out that he wasn’t actually in the restaurant business. He was really in the real estate business. And that’s when the light switch flipped for Mr. Kroc. Once he had this realization, he changed his entire strategy and corporate structure and the rest, as they say, is history.
Why am I bothering to tell you about this?
Because if Ray Kroc hadn’t been open to learning from everyone around him, he would have missed his opportunity.
How many bosses have you had who didn’t listen to a great idea because it came from someone lower on the corporate ladder? What a waste. Ray Kroc’s genius was that he listened to anyone who had a good idea.
Is this something you do in your business? If you have people who handle sales for you, have you asked them to share the feedback they are getting from sales leads? If you have a brick and mortar storefront, do you ask your sales clerks to suggest ways that you could better meet customer needs? Often, as business owners, we are too many steps removed from the customer to really understand their changing wants.
But it’s not just our client- or customer-facing colleagues who have potentially important information to share. Accountants or lawyers can combine their particular expertise with knowledge about your specific business to make some pretty important observations or suggestions. You never know, even a delivery person or an outside vendor could casually make an observation that you never would have come up with on your own. All of these people notice the things they deal with day to day, details that might be outside your high level experience of business operations.
You need to be open to ideas from all these sources. So I guess what I’m really asking you is: Are you listening?