The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek
In most dealerships the senior management structures are similar. There is a President, perhaps a CEO, in larger dealers a COO, followed by the Departmental Executives. There are numerous customer facing functions, and support facing functions.
The “Executives” focus on goals and objectives and market share. That is important, performance matters. Everything looks at goals and objectives: financial performance, sales, gross profit, expense control. All are very important. What about the Customer Experience? Who is responsible for ensuring that the Customer is at the forefront of everything that we do?
Who is the person that creates the “vision” for the dealership? Who is it that inspires every employee to be driven to get better at what they do – at “delighting” the customer?
This is an area that Simon Sinek points at in his recent book “The Infinite Game.”
He posits that we are all too concentrated on winning and avoiding losses. We are focused on the short term with no real attention paid to the future. But he isn’t talking about next year or the year beyond. He is talking in terms in decades. How can we make our businesses sustainable over time?
This caused me some interesting reflection time. Most of you know I swam when I was a young person. Swimming is all about improving your own performance and less about “beating” the other swimmers in your race. I think that gave me a focus that was somewhat different than my peers. I was always about making everything better. There was no such thing as “best.” That is a “point in time.” Think about GE under Jack Welsh, arguable one of their best leaders to date. He was always about the short term. His comment was “Isn’t long term just a series of short terms?” Well to be honest it isn’t. As a result, GE since he left has had serious performance failures. Jim Collins, author of “Built to Last” among others, famously compared two companies in the same Industry and pointed at similar things. Most of our businesses focus on the short term. A study by McKinsey reported that the average life span of a S&P company has dropped since the 1950’s, over a span of fifty years, from sixty-one years to eighteen years today. Harvard Business Review, and many others, report that 70% – 90% of acquisitions fail. A rather serious statement on the ability of business to merge two businesses together.
Sinek contends that is because of our focus on the short term at the expense of the long term. In his book “Start With Why,” on of the most watched TED Talks ever he says; “Most people know What They Do, some can even tell you How they do it, but very few people can tell you Why they do it. It isn’t about making money.
“The Infinite Game” uses the United States as an example of a “Business.” It started with the War of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was not a statement of getting rid of the control of the country by Great Britain. It was about “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” That made the effort worthwhile. They then got to work on writing the Constitution which set out a series of enduring principles to protect and advance their big, bold, and idealistic vision of the future. That is a future that we still strive to achieve and will constantly be aiming at that vision. It is not an end game it is a journey.
In order to stay in the game long term, to stay in business, long term we must be good operationally at all of those win/lose games we play; market share, gross margin and expense control, asset management, etc.. That this is critical, is something on which we can all agree. But in order to have long term sustainable success it is also about the culture of the company. What makes each employee strive to be better at what they do in order to satisfy their customers.
I highly recommend that you read “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. It might provoke you to reevaluate your view on how your business operates.
The Time is Now.