If you could quit your job and start a business tomorrow, what would you do?
I wouldn’t care about the product or service I was selling: building and running a profitable company would be a continual motivation for me.
What would be important would be to run a company that didn’t follow the Silicon Valley “hire the best and brightest” mantra. Instead, I would want to develop a company where training was baked into the DNA.
One of my favorite leadership books is “It’s Your Ship” about a navy boat captain who didn’t have the naturally best and brightest, but through training and effective leadership he got extraordinary results from his crew.
IBM was known for having an insane focus on training. Tom Watson’s first employee was a head of Human Resources and talent development was part of IBM’s secret sauce. Their IBM university was legendary for taking engineers and turning them into extraordinary leaders.
In the early 1990s, when Blue Chips like Ma Bell and IBM had massive layoffs in the tens of thousands, Inc magazine did a profile on laid off IBM employees who subsequently started businesses. They were all highly intelligent individuals, but what they all spoke to in regards to their success was the methods they learned on the “IBM way” to managing and problem solving.
They weren’t just used up by the company—they were built up to be even greater than when they were hired.
I would love to hire people who lacked the traditional skills and education for positions and to train them in an apprenticeship program over three or four years, after which they could leave and get hired elsewhere because of the reputation of our firm. For those who had the experience and the education, I would want to invest in training them to be extraordinary and I would want to create an environment where they would choose to stay for the long-term.
I’ve been a professional trainer, as well as an operations consultant, and for me that would be a challenge of epic proportions and of infinite satisfaction if I could succeed over the long-term.