Tom Nies

When sales and marketing departments get together to position a product, new or existing, in the marketplace, it is often a challenge to get both parties to agree on what should be a product’s messaging.

While both parties bring great ideas to the table and a business case can often be made for why their ideas should be given importance, there are a few things that should always be considered as a part of a product’s key message — and some that should never be a part of that message.



They often say that a customer’s favorite radio station is WII-FM — “What’s in it for me?” When it comes to technology, this is doubly important, especially as more individuals get involved with the buy cycle.

A salesperson no longer speaks to a room full of tech experts and a few executives that must sign off on the sale. Today, the salesperson may be speaking to business users prior to ever coming in contact with the information technology side of a company.

These users might not know what the brand new development you’ve implemented behind the scenes of your product means. They won’t care if it’s built on the latest and greatest platform. Instead, they want to know what your product being built on the latest and greatest platform means to them.

In this instance, case studies and customer success stories are of tantamount importance. A salesperson needs to have these pieces with key messaging about how the product has helped other similar businesses and how it could potentially help theirs.


Features and functions

But just because a salesperson might be speaking to more people in a company during a sale doesn’t mean they can only focus on the aspirational nature of their product. There will still be people involved in the technical side of a company who need to know whether or not your product can integrate with the systems they currently have in place.

These individuals will be seeking information about the features and functions of your product. They will want to see those latest and greatest improvements and innovations in your product. But they are heavy investors in WII-FM.

They are seeking the same answers to “What’s in it for me?” but with a different focus on how a product will benefit them.

Because of this dual focus on needing to know the technical aspects of a product but also seeking to meet personal and business goals, these features and functions cannot be the main focus of a product’s messaging. It, like case studies and success stories, needs to be a piece of the message of a product when it is taken to market.


Price is never a feature

One thing that should obviously be included in discussions during a sales cycle but should never be considered part of the WII-FM or features and functions is price. Both sales and marketing often want to focus on the price as a benefit of a product. It is frequently seen as a cost benefit that the purchasing company would be receiving the great software, the great support and the huge benefits to their company and selves for the “small price” charged.

This is why the key message of any product, new or existing, in the marketplace needs to be value — the value you bring to a company, the value you bring to a customer, the value you bring to their existing systems. If you convince them that you’re the most valuable offering in the marketplace then price is not an issue. Every product message needs to further the value of that product in the marketplace.


Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance.

Thursday, 31 January 2013 19:00

Tom Nies; The sales Rubik’s Cube

The Rubik’s Cube — you may have seen this toy as a child and either solved it or became frustrated with and discarded it, never to think of it again. However, I ask that you recall this strategic puzzle now, as it is more relevant than ever in your business life.

There are more than 43 quintillion different combinations in which a Rubik’s Cube can be exhibited — that’s 18 zeros. That huge number makes it seem as though it would be impossible to solve the cube and have a solid color on each of the six sides, but it’s not.

In fact, speed-cubing competitions are often held and people try to break Australian Feliks Zemdegs’ world record time of 5.66 seconds to solve the cube. Michal Pleskowicz of Poland even holds the record of solving a Rubik’s Cube with one hand in less than 13 seconds.

Sales cycles, or buy cycles as I like to call them, are growing increasingly complex like a Rubik’s Cube. Information is readily available on the Internet and sales representatives — while still crucial to a sale — are brought in at later and later stages.

In fact, some reports say that a customer can know up to 80 percent of the information they will need to know before making a purchasing decision prior to speaking with any sales representatives.

As all this occurs, the Rubik’s Cube of that sale becomes more and more scrambled.

The analogy of the cube

Not only does the complexity of the Rubik’s Cube contribute to this analogy, but the sides of a Rubik’s Cube adeptly describe a sale.

Each of the six sides represents a person or department a sales representative will interact with in a cycle.

The salesperson never knows which combination he will be given in the Rubik’s Cube each time he calls on a customer. Things change on a daily and even hourly basis as customers deal with situations in their business, staff changes, budget requirements and every other critical detail of sales cycles.

It takes a very adept salesperson to understand how to solve each of these new combinations of colors by working with the situation to finesse the colors into the solved puzzle and — in a buy cycle — close the sale.

An untrained salesperson may find a sale daunting, but like those who train to compete in speed-cubing, a salesperson who trains in the best practices of selling, a complex sale can seem relatively simple.

Just like with a Rubik’s Cube, there are salespeople of varying capabilities. Some can solve the cube in six seconds, some in three minutes, others in a couple of days, and still others take months. It all depends on how much time they devote to the practice of turning those blocks and learning the intricacies of the cube.

Make an assessment

I am not advocating that you go out and purchase your own Rubik’s Cube to practice your sales — though they are a fun puzzle to play with. Instead, making an assessment of your strengths as a seller and then working to improve those areas where you’ve been lacking would be a better use of your time.

Even bad salespeople will close a sale every once in a while. But just like a person might solve a Rubik’s Cube by turning the sides without a plan, luck is not repeatable. You must know, as in any science — and selling is definitely a science — what you’re doing if you want to be able to repeat the action.

Over time, discipline in how you approach sales can speed up the process. I’m not saying that practicing selling will lead to a very quick sale as customers set their own parameters on their schedule, but if you know what you’re doing, you can speed up your portions of the sales process.

Practice will also help you better anticipate the twists and turns of the Rubik’s Cube that the sale will present to you. ?

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. Go to

Thursday, 03 January 2013 14:22

Unity demands diversity: Tom Nies

“E Pluribus Unum” — it’s the motto of the United States of America found on our national seal and all coins currently being manufactured. Its translation from Latin means, “out of many, one.”

It’s no surprise that the United States adopted this motto in 1776 upon its founding as a nation — the forefathers took 13 separate colonies and created one United States to which we continued adding states and territories over the years.

The same is true of the American people themselves. They came from many countries but together those many became one people, one nation.

I didn’t set out to write a history lesson when I began this column, but as I was reflecting on unity, I came to understand how relevant these words were for entrepreneurs or, truly, any business leader.

Out of many, one

A company is best when its employees come together with one another to develop unity.

There must be mobilization around a central theme or an organizing unity of purpose — a mission statement, an idea or culture.

Since no one is exactly the same, unity by its very nature demands diversity. The more diverse the different members of an organization may be, the greater the need for union and harmony.

Diversity does not mean division any more than solitary means solidarity. Nor can unity tolerate division. Because of this, the important idea seems clear enough: Diversity in unity strengthens, but division from unity weakens.

A truly successful business will only develop when this idea is taken into account. You have to find the delicate balance between personalities, work styles and ideas to unify a diverse group of individuals and strengthen an organization.

Good leaders will not want to surround themselves with “yes-men,” or those who are unified with the leader on every subject possible. Diverse viewpoints and ideas will only serve to strengthen an organization.

The value of a dissenter

Great leaders can also recognize the benefit of having at least one person surrounding them who can play the devil’s advocate. That person will present a differing viewpoint to the one commonly agreed upon.

This is not to say that a person should continuously argue for argument’s sake, but a confidant who can push and needle an issue is of great importance. It forces one to dive deeper into one’s views on a subject to ensure that it is the best route to take and either defend the position or discard it in favor of another.

This devil’s advocate must not cross the line as a negativist. However, when that occurs, that person will be a division from unity and weaken the institution.

This guidance can come into being during many different times in an organization’s life. When an entrepreneur brings in business partners, they all must work together to reach the unity to become one organization.

When a start-up discusses a corporate strategy with angel investors or future buyers, they must work together to find harmony and reach an understanding that strengthens the business or brand.

When an organization puts a board of directors in place, it is seeking counsel from a diverse group of individuals who can mobilize around a central theme of bettering profits or extending a company’s reach.

But these ideas extend even deeper into an organization. A group of employees may find value in them during a meeting as they attempt to implement a social media strategy or discuss internal purchases.

The best meetings will come out of the fact that diverse employees with differing ideas can unite and strengthen an organization. ?


Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. Go to

Friday, 30 November 2012 19:00

Tom Nies: Location is everything

Do you have to start your company in that “trendy” city, or is your hometown just fine?

When Cincom was founded in 1968 in Cincinnati, there was no Silicon Valley. No one questioned why we founded the company in an area that might not be considered “trendy” for the software industry because it was just beginning.

As I was deciding to leave IBM, Tom Richley and Claude Bogardus and I looked around at the landscape of the city and found that there wasn’t a software presence in Cincinnati. I’m a Cincinnati boy. I grew up here. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of Cincinnati. This is a great city — so we decided to focus our efforts on serving clients here.

Great benefits

Looking back from a logistics and marketing opportunity standpoint, we probably could not have picked a better city to be in than Cincinnati.

Since there weren’t many alternative software employers nearby, Cincom was able to get the best and brightest employees who wanted to work in the industry and remain local. It was easier to recruit top graduates from local universities, and we were able to invest heavily in our people because we knew we were all dedicated and committed to our company.

And the cost of living is tremendously favorable compared with places such as New York or Silicon Valley.

It also made sense in terms of geographical location. We could be in Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland within an hour and Atlanta in an hour and a half by flight. We could easily drive to Lexington, Louisville, Columbus and Indianapolis.

This so-called “rust belt” had a heavy concentration of early clients. We were no more than an hour and a half away from maybe 70 to 80 percent of the manufacturing industry.

Even when we expanded to Europe, the Concorde allowed us the opportunity of express travel to our offices and clients abroad.

Limited disadvantages

Of course, there were some disadvantages to being located in Cincinnati, too. Early on, a lot of marketing and promotion of the software industry began to centralize around Boston with some magazines and consulting and industry adviser groups located there — a lot of them still have a presence in the city. It seemed, to us, that these groups heavily promoted the Northeastern-based software firms.

The same thing happened when software companies sprang up in Silicon Valley as the media, consultancy groups and attention concentrated on covering the firms in that area.

Cincinnati has never received that same kind of attention for software, which has been a liability for us in the past. However, this became less of an issue as more work began to happen online.

With today’s technologies, it is not as important to be located in the trendy city for your industry. Companies can compete from anywhere because they can connect with customers from anywhere.

Location, location, location

If you’re thinking of founding a company or expanding a business, it’s important to think of three things. Where will you be happy? What are the unseen advantages of this location? And are the perceived disadvantages surmountable?

As I said before, I’m a Cincinnati boy, and I know that this is a great city to raise a family so I knew we would be happy here. Even today, the advantages of being headquartered in the Midwest are great for our customers and prospects for reasons that a lot of people might not think about.

We’ve found that we can counteract the disadvantages of not being as exposed to traditional media and analysts by having a dedicated team of professionals focused on self-publishing and getting our name out there even though we aren’t located in the trendy area.

So is Cincinnati perfect for Cincom? Not quite, but it’s close and I know that in my opinion, and the opinion of many who work for Cincom, it is the right city to be in. <<

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. Visit

Wednesday, 31 October 2012 20:00

Tom Nies: Core values for success

I recently received a very pleasant note from one of Cincom’s new customers who spoke of the software buying cycle he had just helped lead his company through and offered some words of thanks to the team of Cincom employees with which he had worked.

This customer had read a portion of my writing, which focused on a sales process as a “buy cycle” and being a “servant seller,” which I’ve discussed in previous columns. He also let me know that he saw the main values that I hope every Cincomer embodies — character, competence and commitment — in the employees with which he worked.

We have framed the following value statement at several places at Cincom, and we want all Cincomers to exhibit it:

“Character to act on our beliefs, competence to achieve our goals and the commitment to see them through.”

These core values drive productivity, resulting in profitability and sustainability for the benefit of Cincom and our customers. As an employee or an employer, they are essential minimums. But what do they really mean?

Character includes trust, honesty

Character is embodied by the behaviors and values that elicit trust and commitment. It is doing the “right thing” in a professional manner.

We make these demands of each Cincomer as it promotes an emphasis on seeking solutions instead of casting blame. It leads to a culture of saying “yes” instead of “no” when working toward a solution.

Hiring people with a good character allows you to foster an environment where honest communication is encouraged and differences of opinion are allowed. This is great for internal employees, but it also helps your customers because your dedication to seeking solutions will allow you to provide a high level of service.

Competence is business acumen

Competence is the business acumen and the knowledge required to manage the various functions of any organization.

A truly disciplined organization will continuously learn and consistently apply the best methods to achieve its goals. I’ve strived to make Cincom one such organization over the past 44 years by encouraging entrepreneurial ventures and allowing people to have the opportunity to grow and learn both in their positions and in other areas of the company in which they may be interested.

It is important to allow employees the freedom to fail. To truly have an initiative of self-growth in an organization and live up to the value of competence, employees must feel safe when proposing new ideas or attempting new skills.

You drive with commitment

Commitment may be the most important of the three core values. While it alone cannot be a measure of success, committing to a goal or idea provides the drive or force that will compel a company forward.

I’ve always looked at the value of commitment as a promise to do what has been asked and provide whatever assistance is required to meet a shared commitment.

This commitment can be a pledge to fellow co-workers, the community in which your company is located, or your customers and prospects. It is part of the character of saying “yes” first and always seeking a solution through competent business acumen.

As you can see, each of these three core values is a great trait to possess on its own, but the three work best together. A truly successful organization will be composed of committed individuals who have the competence to continuously seek to learn and the ethical integrity to work in an honest way.

I have been lucky enough throughout my career to employ hundreds of amazing people who embody these values to the fullest. And their importance cannot be summed up by more than that customer who wrote to me: Products don’t win sales cycles, people do.

Do you have the right people on your team? <<

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. Website:

Sunday, 30 September 2012 20:00

Tom Nies: Entrepreneurial road map

“You’ve got to be daring! You’ve got to be first! You’ve got to be different!”

Ray Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s what it is today, once said that to an audience of entrepreneurs. It can be considered one of the unique value propositions of McDonald’s. Kroc took a small chain of drive-in restaurants and exploded the business into a highly successful national icon. Using his own quote as a road map, you can see his path to success.

Kroc’s McDonald’s began with hamburgers, then added french fries and a beverage to turn it into a meal. When imitators began to gain traction in the marketplace, McDonald’s introduced the sesame seed bun to differentiate its burger. In the 1980s, it dared its competitors to keep up by introducing the Egg McMuffin. McDonald’s also captured the children’s audience with Ronald McDonald, play places in stores and the Happy Meal with a toy.

In short, the 1.5-oz. hamburger that McDonald’s began with demanded a lot of superb marketing to generate preference and brand development.

A new competitor enters the market

McDonald’s isn’t the only fast-food brand specializing in hamburgers that can be first, daring and different, however. In 1969, 15 years after Kroc joined McDonald’s and began to position it as the market leader in the industry, Dave Thomas founded Wendy’s.

While similar to other fast-food restaurants in the market, Wendy’s dared to be different by offering a 4-oz. square hamburger patty instead of the standard 1.5-oz. round burger offered by McDonald’s and some other competitors.

Wendy’s also offered 11 different choices of toppings and sides instead of the standard french fries. It customized each hamburger as requested, with all additions — including the meat — being fresh daily.

It all came together beautifully and the upstart Wendy’s grew rapidly against much larger and already very well-entrenched competitors.

Why does it matter?

While the story of two fast-food giants seems irrelevant to many businesses outside the food industry, all of this information is 100 percent applicable to any industry.

Every entrepreneur strives to be first, daring and different with his or her business. Not all of us can be the first in an industry, but with a little creative thinking, we can all add a new first to an industry.

Reposition competitors so they work for you

Challengers in a marketplace can reposition dominant market leaders, but we must understand what we are trying to do. We must have a unique value proposition that is compelling, and we must do those things well if we are to be successful.

If Dave Thomas had decided to offer the same experience and choices as McDonald’s, Wendy’s might never have left Dublin, Ohio. Instead, he creatively repositioned Kroc’s offerings from the most popular burger to a small amount of meat with one phrase in an advertisement. Entrepreneurs need to always be thinking of how they can ask, “Where’s the beef?” of their competitors.

Focus on the customer

The Achilles ’ heel of most dominant providers is that with success, they inevitably move from an emphasis on trying to sell what the customer wants to buy to using their marketing muscle to try to sell the customer what they want to offer.

The fast-food world can try to throw its weight around when introducing a new product, but it seldom lasts if it is not something a consumer wants to buy. This is dangerous because customers have so many fast-food options that if a certain provider isn’t focused on what they want, someone else will be. <<

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. Reach him at

Friday, 31 August 2012 20:00

Tom Nies: Dream the Impossible Dream

We recently celebrated what we call “Quixote Day” at Cincom. It’s the day where we recognize our top performers of the previous year and inaugurate them into our “Quixote Club.”

Ever since I saw the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha,” I’ve admired the story of Don Quixote. The musical is so inspiring, and I brought its ideals back to Cincom where we’ve adopted the Miguel de Cervantes character as a sort of corporate mascot.

Anyone familiar with the 17th century novel or the 1960s musical may be scratching their head in confusion. Isn’t Don Quixote the story of the crazy man who jousted with windmills?

Yes, it is, but the story of Quixote can teach us so much more if we look a little closer.

The impossible dream

Quixote may appear crazy to the casual observer, but the man of La Mancha stands for everything an entrepreneur should. He dreamt the impossible dream. He ran where the brave dared not go. He continued to try even when his arms were too weary and fought to reach the unreachable star.

These words, these modified lyrics from the theme song “The Impossible Dream” from the musical, are an overly formal way of saying Don Quixote possessed the characteristics of perseverance, creativity, vision and endurance.

Creativity and vision

Entrepreneurs need to be able to see things no one else can. For Quixote, that meant seeing windmills as giants, monks as enchanters and inns as castles. For me, it meant seeing the rise of the importance of software when everyone else in the technology industry was focused on hardware.

While Quixote’s creativity and vision might not have led to the birth of industries or new products and services, his imagination follows that of a true entrepreneur. He could look at an object and see it in a new, unique way.


Quixote’s creativity often got him in trouble. The “giants” break his lance and throw him to the ground, and he receives multiple injuries during a great “battle” in which he slew sheep. But even so, Quixote does not sway from his vision.

His ideal of not dismissing what he saw even though others pleaded with him and tried to show him “the truth” is a key component of an entrepreneur’s personality. How many goods and services wouldn’t exist if their creators had listened to those who couldn’t see their vision and design?


Throughout the epic tale, Quixote is broken, beaten and scoffed at. When he isn’t being physically harmed, it appears as though he is mentally harming himself by forgoing sleep to reminisce about his lady Dulcinea del Toboso as he believes any good knight-errant should, among other activities. None of this stops him from trying to reach his goal to honor Dulcinea with his knight-errantry.

The same is true of many entrepreneurs. There are very few, if any, stories of anyone creating something new in which they weren’t opposed in some way. Entrepreneurs can meet road blocks at every turn, be they a lack of understanding of the product, a lack of funding, a competitor moving at a faster rate, and even their own potential to be burnt out.

Products and services don’t come to market in an instant. It takes time, effort, buy-in from friends and family, money and what some might consider a bit of craziness to be an entrepreneur.

I urge you to take a lesson from Miguel de Cervantes’ epic knight-errant. Persevere, endure, and see things that others don’t see. Allow your mind to run wild and always dream the impossible dream and reach for the unreachable star.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance.

Entrepreneurs are a driving force of our economy. They help to create the jobs that deliver value, that deliver paychecks to people to raise their families, send their kids to college, buy cars from the local car dealer, etc. Entrepreneurship, for many, has now become the new “great modern dream” — that is, to become an innovator and leader, who can see and take an opportunity, and so be more able to shape and control one’s destiny in today’s globalized world.  To make such a difference one must truly be different. Consider

-          In the United States, about 600,000 to 800,000 new businesses are started each year.

-          Seven out of 10 new jobs are created by entrepreneurial businesses.

-          The National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Commerce and others have reported that since World War II, “Smaller entrepreneurial firms have been responsible for 67 percent of all inventions and innovations, and 95 percent of all radical innovation in the United States.”

This data, from important government organizations, prove that it is not the large, and very large, organizations that are the innovators and leaders but the “smaller entrepreneurial firms,” which start small and then become large through their entrepreneurial spirit and innovative mindset. 

Entrepreneurial success

Three factors are among those that contribute to entrepreneurial success: passion, luck, and willingness to risk greatly and be or offer something that is different and better.


Passion is talked about often. But what is it really? Passion is the willingness to suffer and endure pain, sometimes very great pain, for one’s beliefs. Passion is the foundation of entrepreneurial success.

Any leader must possess passion for what he or she does if success is to be achieved. Without the willingness to endure very hard and uncertain times and to defer gratifications, there will be little chance of success, and little reason for others to follow. Passion also has an ingrained essence called persistence. Without persistence, one might talk a good game — but doesn’t play the game for keeps.


Luck, I believe, is everywhere, although not everyone sees luck when it beckons. That’s because luck favors only the alert and prepared mind. But, leaders do recognize luck when it happens and seize lucky moments to advance. 

The word entrepreneur means “to see and to take an opening.” Therefore, entrepreneurs must be persons of vision and of action. The word opportunity suggests an open port, or portal, for success, which demands the unity of purpose that generates the power needed to achieve the successful gaining of the opportunity recognized. 


I simply cannot overestimate the importance of being in the right place at the right time.  But finally — and this is what separates an entrepreneur or job-creator from a job-seeker — is an entrepreneur’s willingness to risk almost everything — comfort, income, home, health and, yes, oftentimes even family involvement, to seek opportunities, to take openings and to satisfy as yet unmet demands. 


Passion, luck and willingness to risk are the requirements to tread the path of the entrepreneur.  Sounds easy, but it’s not. Because what I forgot to mention was success also demands action.  The greater the success, the bolder and more persistent the actions required. This takes courage, creativity and commitment. While you must be willing to lay it all on the line, you must also have these latter-mentioned attributes.

Is there more? Of course. You really didn’t think there were just three requirements for great entrepreneurship did you? There are many more. But those are the nub, the essence, the core of it.

If you’re considering building a business, becoming an entrepreneur, controlling your own destiny, creating jobs and making a real difference in this world, do you have the three essentials?

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. For more info visit

Thursday, 31 May 2012 20:01

Tom Nies: Anxiety and its antidotes

Golf is a sport that forces the athletes participating to relax and calculate how a shot might be affected by the traps and slopes of the fairway or on the green of a course. There’s a measure of self-doubt and anxiety that can creep in very easily while you’re selecting the correct club, assessing how the wind might affect your shot and preparing to swing, but to become a winner, one has to cope with these challenges and remain confident in their abilities.

What makes anxiety so bad?

Anxiety develops and grows in the human faculty of the subconscious. It heavily affects and agitates various emotions. Since the subconscious and emotions are nonreasoning or non-intellectual human faculties, logic or reasoning are inadequate means to manage or assuage anxieties. Experience, self-discipline, self-control and other means of coping are necessary aids in successfully dealing with the torments of anxiety that can be debilitating and even paralyzing to human thought and action.

Learning from golf

The world of sports and athletic competition is widely followed precisely because of the uncertainty involved and the anxiety produced. However, anxiety generates not only interest and emotional experiences for fans or supporters, but can also influence outcomes or results for participants who may have self-doubts about their capacity to cope with the challenges.

This anxiety is perhaps most readily seen in professional golf, especially in the major championships.

In such situations, the desire to achieve and the pressure to perform are at their peak. Moreover, the more real the opportunity to win, the greater the risk of the emotional distress the anxiety inevitably causes.

It often happens that the most proficient golfers who have shot great rounds in the beginning of a tournament may succumb to the anxiety of having the talent, desire and finally, the real potential of winning. They may shoot their worst rounds of the tournament on the final day, allowing golfers who may not be early contenders due to poor first round scores to overtake the original leaders.

It is often not fair to say that these golfers lost their tournaments more than the other golfers, not affected by the same anxieties, who were able to play at their normal, high-quality level of performance.

What does it all mean?

What does all of this professional golf analysis have to do with business? It most certainly is not meant to criticize any athlete who has suffered anguish from unsuccessfully coping with anxiety. Rather, it is meant to show that while skills, talents and desires are important to gaining success, the personal control of the psychological and emotional factors that anxiety produces is also of immense importance. This anxiety is similar for anyone who seeks to achieve success in virtually every field of endeavor.

It’s contagious

While personal anxiety may be largely self-induced, it is also contagious. The fears and doubts of one salesperson can easily be transmitted because they come from the subconscious. If one person begins to doubt, everyone can begin to doubt very quickly. Not allowing this fear to creep in is pivotal in a business to create a supportive, encouraging environment. Debilitated, discouraged and disheartened persons and organizations very quickly become disoriented and disabled.

Build on it

Human strength and character must be developed to be able to usefully and positively manage anxieties rather than allow the anxieties to debilitate and paralyze persons or organizations. The self-confidence that enables a person or an organization to perform each necessary execution as though they have already achieved success — even before that stage is reached — is vital.

Everyone in a business must concentrate on developing the skills necessary to compete at the highest levels to be able to excel in competitive environments.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. For more information, visit

Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

Tom Nies: Lessons from Venice

There is a scenic portrait of Venice directly across from my desk. The scenic beauty, the magic, the history that the picture portrays in the mind is inspirational but not in a way you might think.

This scene of Venice is not to remind me of an enjoyable vacation or as a dream of a place I want to visit. Instead, the scene is a constant reminder to not succumb to the follies to which this grand city fell prey years ago.

The rise

Between the ninth and 12th centuries, Venice was an invaluable and almost invulnerable naval and commercial power. It was a flourishing trade center between Western Europe and the rest of the known world at the time. 

By the late 13th century, Venice was quite simply the most prosperous city in Europe. 

It was easy for the city to rest on its laurels. The city leaders had been strategic throughout the rise of the city. They snatched up land surrounding waterways outside the series of islands to eliminate the threat of pirates. They also expanded the republic to create buffers against neighboring, unfriendly nations. These crucial expansions guaranteed trade routes and allowed traders safe passage to and from the city.

So what could go wrong?

In a word: everything.

The fall

The leaders of Venice believed themselves to be invincible. And the city veritably was for a time based solely on its premiere trade location. 

Then, Christopher Columbus sailed under the banner of Spain and discovered the New World. At the same time, other countries were exploring the surrounding lands and locating their own sea routes to Muslim nations which eliminated the Venetian monopoly as a gateway to India.

Furthermore, it was impossible for Venice to compete in the race to expand its empire through populating colonies due to its outdated naval ships. Venice hadn't invested the time or funds into updating the oared boats that had allowed them to dominate the waters surrounding them during its rise to power.

Today, while still an admirable tourist destination, Venice has fallen from the grandeur and power with which it was once blessed.

The lesson

The history of Venice can prove a valuable lesson to any business that feels it is at the top of its game or holds the largest share of the market. One must never rest upon success for too long.

I realized this during my early career as a salesman at the very successful IBM. At the time, it was selling the computer hardware and including the software — which I believed to be the most valuable part of the transaction — for free. 

I felt so strongly about looking toward the future of this industry, of preventing the history of Venice to repeat itself, that I left the company to found Cincom.

Obviously, IBM avoided its Venice moment and is still a respected and flourishing company, but had I not followed my convictions, Cincom wouldn't exist. The tens of thousands of people we have had the great joy to employ through the years would have had to look elsewhere.

That portrait across from my desk reminds me to:

Consistently take risks fueled by passion, belief and good sense. Never decide that you will never take any risks;  if you do so, you risk not doing something good or furthering your company’s customer base or legacy.

Invest in your people, yourself and your company. Imagine what could have been had Venice invested in its naval forces. It may have extended the reach of its empire for years, maybe even to present day.

Never rest on your laurels. Always strive to be doing something different, something better. If you sit back and watch, others will surely pass you or your business by.

Constantly re-evaluate your place in the market. Are your offerings the best they can be or ahead of your competition? Re-evaluation allows you to see where you can take more risks and invest in your people and company, and prevents you from resting on your laurels.

Outstanding products and companies can become outdated in a blink of an eye. Markets evolve. Survival and success demands you must too. You don't want to be a “living museum” as some refer to Venice, so you must learn from the floating city to remain vibrant and successful in your field.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance.

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