Fred Ode

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:05

The five senses of business leaders

Throughout their careers, business men and women meet and talk with thousands of owners, managers, and leaders.

These "business professionals" include customers, salesmen, vendors, employees, prospects, friends, and associates. Some are extremely successful-others simply average at best.

For the successful, five traits seem to distinguish them from the rest. The following list, which defines these "five senses" of successful businesspeople, can help you gain a better understanding of the core business skills essential to success.

Numbers sense

The ability to intuitively know how you stand quantitatively is critical to success.

Sales, expenses, margins, cash flow, quantities completed, units sold, inventory, and potential market are just a few issues that are represented by numbers.

The most successful are able to sense when something is right or wrong without having to perform an in-depth analysis. There is too much activity when running a business to take the time and explore every possibility. Decisions must be made and chances taken.

The most successful can do this because they are able to take a "leap of faith" beyond detailed analysis and statistics and arrive at a conclusions before it is too late.

People sense

Great football running backs have a sense of where players are and, more importantly, where they are going to be. Great leaders in business also know they're playing field.

They understand people, know how to adapt to different circumstances and adjust "on the fly." Chameleonlike, they become what they need to accomplish their goals.

This ability does not imply dishonesty in communications, but rather the ability to effectively relate to the multitude of personalities, motivations and circumstances when dealing with people.

Product sense

This may appear obvious, but there is a twist to product sense. It is common for individuals with excellent product skills to start their own business. An auto mechanic opening a repair shop, an electrician bidding on a job or a programmer writing a software package can all lead to new businesses. However, to be successful, you must also have the ability to perceive how your product relates to your customer.

If a product is created for, in essence, an imaginary customer, does that product exist?

Past observations have proved that the product does not exist. To be successful in business, you must have a sense of product that includes your customer. Without the customer perspective, your product or service will simply be an empty shell.

Sense of opportunity

Countless times, business owners credit much of their success to a combination of hard work and luck. However, luck is simply being ready for the right opportunity and acting accordingly.

The first sale that made a business or the chance meeting at the airport could all be attributed to luck.

The issue is: Are we ready when these opportunities arise? Do we act quickly, decisively and correctly? Successful business people do all of this. They are competitive by nature and have a winning attitude. They prepare and they move forward with the intent of winning the game.

Luck is simply opportunity seized.

Common sense

The ability to step away and view a situation exempt from self-perception and the immediate environment is common sense.

From a creative perspective, this is referred to as "thinking outside the box." From the practical perspective, this means being objective, calm and rational, or "seeing the forest from the trees."

Individuals that are able to separate themselves from the situation at hand, but keep full knowledge of the facts, are better able to make common-sense decisions.

All great managers have this ability.

The "extra" sense

The ability to see the future is a characteristic of our greatest leaders.

There are multitudes of successful businesspeople. However, true visionaries are rare.

Sam Walton of Wal*Mart, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Andrew Grove of Intel all have a sixth sense. They create institutions.

Long after they are gone, their companies will flourish.

This sixth sense is a byproduct of the five base senses working in concert.

So the next time you're networking at that business luncheon or attending an association meeting, take notice of those professionals around you. And how you can learn from them.

Fred Ode is the founder and chairman/CEO of Foundation Software Inc., a company that provides construction accounting solutions for the specialty-construction industry.