Somewhere, someplace, Henry Ford is crying.
It is truly an amazing story of how one man’s entrepreneurial vision and spirit led to the creation of one of the greatest companies in history. And how, in time, his successors came to destroy it.
Ford Motor may survive but it is a shadow of the industrial miracle it once was. And the reason is as common as the ones that fire a bullet into the hearts of thousands of lesser known companies, large and small, every year.
Put simply, they fall into the hands of people who don’t care. Left to the natural flow of things, the same will happen to your business or the department you are responsible for. Why? Because business is forever challenging, unpredictable, swirling and swirving like an Oklahoma twister. Rather than predict, analyze and outsmart the forces aligned against your business, many prefer to take the easy way out, running for cover until the storm passes.
Only leadership can prevent that. How? By keeping up the quality, the drive, the culture that refuses to take cover from anything and that is determined to keep raising the bar on performance regardless of the obstacles, the barriers that will always be part of the calculus of business.
Think about it this way: for decades, Ford executives coasted. They allowed their cars’ quality to deteriorate, they gave Toyota a pass to steal their customers, they turned their backs on Henry’s legacy, built an enormous bureaucracy, raised their pay as the company’s fortunes deteriorated, luxuriated in their Grosse Point country clubs and built lifestyles where power and ego where the badges of success. That they started to produce junk hardly matterred as long as payday came around every week and the checks grew fatter in an inverse relationship to the Ford bottom line.
This is the curse of business. It is not the competition: they can always be beaten or marginalized by the warriors who are determined to win. To keep thinking and dreaming and fighting to thrive in the glorious jungle that the marketplace always is.
No, the real curse of business is the cancer that grows unabetted from within. It is expressed by those who:
- Refuse to take chances
- Settle for mediocracy
- Bitch about everything in the company but never come armed with solutions nor the ambition to fix it
- Believe their positions in the company are entitlements.
At our firm, we see the scars of companies that have been ravaged from within. Where the genius and the hard work of those who built these enterprises is forgotten, squandered and turned into dust. Much of the work in getting once strong companies moving again, involves routing those who have decided, consciously or not, to hold it back.That would make Henry smile again.