The ability to have a vision and develop a strategy around that vision is crucial to reaching your goals.
“If you have good, fast-thinking people, you have a to-do list that is about eight times as long as what you can actually achieve,” Rodman says. “You’re looking for what are the most important parts. What’s going to help us grow the fastest within our strategic vision? Who out there is doing that sort of thing. Then you can start to narrow it down.”
Rodman is a big believer in aiming high when developing goals, something that more conservative business leaders tend to shy away from.
“A very common mistake is when you have an established presence in a market or an established product line and a set of solutions and in the effort to maximize the return on your investments, you focus on more incremental improvement rather than looking for something radically new,” he says.
Rodman uses the example of adding a new button to an existing product and having a pretty good idea of how much revenue doing so will add to your business.
“If it’s a revolutionary product, you often can’t predict what that’s going to add,” he says. “So you take your best guess based upon talking to your customers, your partners and your users. Sometimes you do the best you can with all the information you have and you put it out there.
“Hopefully you’re right enough of the time that it pays off. But if your entire strategy is we’re going to keep adding one more button, you’re going to die. There are other companies in whatever market you’re in that can add a button faster than you can.” ●
- Get to the heart of what customers need.
- Give people a chance to get to know each other.
- Don’t settle for less when you can achieve more.
The Rodman File
NAME: Jeff Rodman
TITLE: Co-founder, fellow, chief evangelist
and staff piano player
COMPANY: Polycom Inc.
Born: Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, engineering, California State University, Northridge. My specialties were electrical and electronic engineering.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I was a bus boy at the Original House of Pies on Reseda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. I learned how to not be squeamish about cleaning a restroom. I learned that customers come in all flavors — some are complete jerks and some are really sweet. I learned to maintain equanimity and keep a good face, even when things aren’t going your way. If you’re hired for a position, you want to be flexible enough to do pretty much what they ask, if you possibly can do it. I never got to the point where I said, ‘Wait a minute, I’m a busboy. Why do I have to mess with cleaning the bathroom?’
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? My first summer job, which was a year after being a busboy, was as an intern at Hughes Aircraft Co. There was a gentleman there named Bob Farnsworth, who was the sweetest genius you’ll ever want to meet. He took me by the hand and did very little criticizing. If I did something wrong, he was able to position things so that I recognized the problem first and could fix it. I learned an enormous amount from that and from him as a person and how he interacted with his co-workers.
If you could speak with anyone from the present or past, with whom would you want to speak with? Francis Ford Coppola. He’s built a good family and a number of businesses and is said to be a good person to work with. He creates a high level of performance and excellence in the things that he does.