Exceeding expectations leads to great things

August 5th, 2022

I’ve often been asked, “What’s the secret of your success?” Usually by someone young. I imagine they’re disillusioned when I blithely say, “It’s pretty boring. It’s all about long, hard work.”

The harder you work, the luckier you get. Sometimes I offer the tidbit that, to get really wealthy, pick your parents carefully, or, that you can marry more money in five minutes than you can make in a lifetime. But that’s not what they’re looking for.

I do know a formula for success, and it’s not exactly a secret: $ = A/E > 1. Really. It works. $ = Success, A = Actual performance, E = Expected performance. It’s simple. If you exceed expectations, you’ll make your customers, employees, boss, whoever, happy. And success should follow.

There really is no silver bullet, no one way, no “secret.” I try to keep to myself that age and guile trounce youth and enthusiasm; that lesson comes with age. Success has many fathers. A few come to mind.

  • Exceed expectations – see above.
  • If at first you don’t succeed — and you probably won’t — keep trying. Then when your second and third attempts aren’t as successful as envisaged, keep trying. Very few entrepreneurs hit it out of the park on their first company. It took me many tries before I made it beyond moderate success. Almost everyone I’ve met who has experienced great success also tried a great number of times.
  • Be organized. In my estimation, it’s a significant reason for my success. Being organized is so much more than having lists, but that’s a good start. I make lists daily. I love making them. They’re covered with doodles and notes and are a major component in my system. They act as a mini-journal, a snapshot of my life. I get a jolt of dopamine when I take a check mark. At the end of the day, I have a visual reminder of what I’ve accomplished (hopefully). For me, lists can be contemplative, almost meditative. No airplane takes off without referencing a checklist. No surgery takes place without a checklist. Ever wonder when you’re at the hospital, why they keep asking your name and date of birth? It’s not so they can remember to buy you a birthday gift — it’s the first item on their checklist.

Knowing your goals — even a short term/daily goal — and having a process/roadmap for getting there is of paramount importance. Our business has a system of long-term goals, shorter-term goals and benchmarks that are more bite size. We constantly track our progress, so we’re not surprised when we achieve our goals.

Businesses that don’t have strategic goals mapped out and that don’t benchmark their progress are doomed to random results. Everyone in the organization needs to be playing from the same sheet of music. Randomness can be fun, but there’s a time and place for it, and it’s certainly not at a well-run, high-performance company.
I’ve been told by my friends in the deal community that businesses with optimized, effective formal management and strategic processes are worth more than those that aren’t, which makes sense. I suspect they make more money, too.

Now, systematizing the visionary’s or chief strategist’s role, there’s an interesting thought. Stay tuned.

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