If you've been reading my column here on Inc.com you'll see several hundred articles I've written on topics like increasing sales, retaining your best employees, managing cash flow, and growing your profit margins. Many of these ideas started from a seed I read in one of the 1,000+ business books I've read over the past twenty years.
I recently discovered that none other than Warren Buffet one time bought a case of one of my all time favorite business books to give out as gifts to his colleagues. So what's the book? It's, Less Is More, by NYT bestselling author Jason Jennings.
In a moment I am going to share with you the single most valuable idea I personally took from the book, and how I applied it to scale my company, but first I want to challenge how you read a business book.
Don't read it for entertainment; don't read it for 101 ideas which you'll never get around to implement anyway. Instead, when I read a business book I read it to come away with just a small handful of key ideas that I will directly apply to my company. You should do the same. Just like the title of the book, truly "Less is More".
So what was my biggest takeaway from Less Is More? It was a concept that Jennings shares in chapter one of the book called, "the single big objective." While the idea that you want to rally your entire team around one simple, clear big objective is obvious, what isn't obvious, in fact, what blew me away, was the idea that we as business leaders should make this single big strategic objective a core part of our company culture.
Here's how it works.
First, ask yourself: What is the single most important strategic objective or idea that if your entire team rallied fully behind it, would have the biggest positive impact on helping your company thrive?
When I asked myself this question five years ago my answer was, "If we would just follow our own coaching structure that we use with our business coaching clients, that would impact everything else."
Then, I take this idea and put it into a clear, contagious statement that I can share with my team. For us I came up with, "We eat our own cooking."
Finally, we embed this single idea into the culture of our company. This step takes time; it takes energy; it takes gentle pressure applied relentlessly with your team over time. But when it works, you now have the single most important strategic element to help your company succeed part of your culture, which means it becomes the automatic way people think, filter, and behave.
In my company, it took about two years before this idea really took deep root. It meant that we do our quarterly planning just like we coach our clients. We do our weekly "Big Rock" reports in the coaching app we initially developed for our clients. We even have our key leaders working one-to-one with their own business coach, just like our clients do.
Today, it's an automatic response that we do things just like we coach clients to do. Sure we screw things up at times -- we're human and this is an aspirational goal. But at our core, we've made this strategic idea part of our company culture.
So I ask you, what is the single most important strategic idea that if your entire team bought in and lived it, would do the most to automatically help your company thrive?
Now you just need to drive this simple idea to become part of your company culture.