Promo Marketing Top 50 Distributors 2013: The Interviews
One of business journalism's core thematic pillars is "the study of success." What causes one company to succeed while another fails? How does a person go from poverty to leading a multibillion-dollar company? Is it possible to learn from the past successes of others, or is the study of anecdotal victories a pseudo-logical trap, retroactively applying design and intent based on the student's own biases and ideas and not on what actually drove the success?
It's certainly possible, and in may cases, even probable. But the potentially distorted logic of business biographies doesn't necessarily make them useless as a self-improvement tool. Sure, reading the biography of Steve Jobs to turn your company into the next Apple may be more self-delusion than self-instruction, but there's also always something you can learn from observing the lives of others—provided you look at them the right way.
The point of studying the successes of others should never be for successful mimicry, even in a piecemeal sense. You can read articles like "7 Productivity Secrets Bill Gates Used Every Day" all you want, they will never make you into the next Bill Gates. His successes are based on the total experiences and circumstances of his life, and for better or worse, you cannot have the same ones. Psychologists and strategists may look back at his life and attempt to extract some kind of rule or methodology of how he got to where he is today, but it will always be an incomplete adage, a six-sentence assumption about why it rained 2.5 inches on a Tuesday in Des Moines when in actuality, the whole of Earth's history was involved in that rainstorm and seeing all the events that lead up to that point are impossible by any conceivable method or living mind. You can count the inches, but you will never know fully why it rained the way it did. You can describe the successes of a man, but you will never fully know how he got where he is today. Nor will you ever be able to recreate it identically.
To gain from the study of another's life, the study should be a more philosophical and reflective thing, less about emulation and more about comparison. If you're reading the biography of Steve Jobs for business advice, think of it this way: How does Jobs' handling of challenges compare with your own? What do the differences say about you? The similarities? Do they matter, and if so, why?
Studying the successes of someone else is not about understanding events or strategy, it's about understanding people and how you relate to them, which brings me to what I wanted to talk about in this year's Top Distributors interviews: The idea of motivation.
Like studying the biography of a successful salesperson you'd like to emulate, much of motivating staff is about understanding people, yourself, and the differences and similarities you share, but there are other facets to it as well. Is sales motivation something you can create in staff, or is it something intrinsic to people that just has to be nurtured into blooming? Is creating a solid company culture a hard, top-down management decision based on rules, policies and free beers in the break room, or is it something more organic, formed over the days and years of work a staff does, something that needs to be steered rather than shaped?
Complicated questions, to be sure. Perhaps some answers can be found by asking some experts in our field: 2013's biggest and highest-earning distributor companies. There are a lot of questions out there in the business world about how best to motivate people—who better to ask then those who are having the most success?