Summary: The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham
Summary: The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham

Summary: The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham

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Culture Is Not About Jelly Beans in The Kitchen

Nor it is about brining your dog to the workplace. Culture is how we talk each other, how we treat each other, how we trust each other, how we handle conflicts. Culture is about accountability, measuring and bias for urgency, a focus on solutions, calling it tight and saying what needs to be said, being kind and generous, acknowledging one another and expressing appreciation.

In case you doubt what the culture really is, take a look at navy seals. They have one of the greatest cultures all time not because they get to bring their dog to work, have jelly beans at the pantry because they get work done and work in unison for the common objective and they are proud of their results. The key to a great culture is creating and fostering never ending conversations about the rules of the game so everyone knows how to act how to communicate and how to treat each other.


Culture Is Often Subconsciously Created and Reinforced

The problem is the culture we live in is rarely the one we consciously created. Rather it’s the culture we tolerated because of the lack of courage to address back-biting, smack, clicks, excuses, blames, silence, procrastination, missed deadlines, being late and unprepared for meetings, mediocrity and doing just enough to get by. This is exactly why Keith made his potential hires aware of his culture even before they even come to an interview. In his on words:

“If you can commit to and live with the following principles, you are the type of person who will be successful and help our company thrive. If you feel this level of engagement is not right for you or that you’re not willing or able to participate with us at this level, we’re not a good fit for you.

Our expectation is that you will take necessary steps to do what you say you’re going to do and hold accountable for your actions. We understand that not every person is ready for this performance and we appreciate the honesty of those who decide this is not the right place for them.

On the other hand, you’d make an ideal candidate to join this company if you’re willing to commit to following above-the-line principles.

  1. Accountability – see it, own it, solve it, do it
  2. Respect for others
  3. Act now
  4. Ask the questions
  5. Personal ownership and pride
  6. Reject average
  7. Show others you care”


Planning for Tomorrow Breakfast While Cooking Today’s Dinner

Leaders must plan tomorrow breakfast while continuing to cook today’s dinner. Anytime we announce initiates or change priorities, we require change in resources, the team, time and money. We also require the less of one thing to do more of something else. None of us has the ability to keep adding without curtailing something else.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • When the market shifts downward, you can’t cut overheads fast enough. Cut your overheads early and cut them hard. It’s so easy to overpay and beef up when the world is viewed only from upside perspective.
  • Don’t confuse intellect with economic reality. Never rely on your consultant recommendations alone. If you don’t understand it, don’t do it.
  • A small percentage of large number is a large number. Any fool can make money in good times. But only a few can make fortunes when times are bad.
  • When the duck quacks, feeds it. The market doesn’t really care what you have nor does it care what you created. The market wants the problem solved or the gap closed. When they tell you what that is see that.


Leaders Ask Strategic, Not Tactical

  • Tactical sounds like “What could we do to increase sales?”
  • Strategic sounds like “Why aren’t our sales numbers twice as big? What’s the core obstacle preventing from doubling our revenue?”

In answering your strategic questions, it pays to follow the five core disciplines of thinking:

  1. Find the Unasked Question — Create a question that will result in clarity and generate better choices
  2. Separate the Problem from the Symptom — Identify the real obstacle that is blocking your progress
  3. Check Assumptions — Differentiate the facts from the story
  4. Consider Second Order Consequences — Clarify the risks and the possibility/cost of being wrong
  5. Create the Machine — Create the executable plan and identify the resources (people and money) required to solve the real problem and make forward progress


Strategic Growth Relies On One Simple Formula

Internal Strength + External Needs = Opportunity

Knowing the competition, particularly the gap between what your competitors are doing and where the customers are frustrated is vital to identify opportunities. Likewise, knowing precisely what you are good at and why your customers are buying from you is a must to mattering your strategic growth.

Based on the insights you gained, your business model should answer five crucial questions:

  1. How many resources – time, money and effort have to be invested?
  2. Over what period of time?
  3. To produce what volume of revenue?
  4. Is that revenue adequate to cover the cost of creating and servicing that revenue stream with enough left over to justify the effort and the risk?
  5. Are the investors who allocated resources provided with superior return on their investment in their desired time frame?


Taking A Detour Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

Let me ask you this. “How did you get where you are right now?” It certainly wasn’t your messy expertise or goal-setting. It’s your willingness to create, engage with the market, learn from your mistakes and be responsive to opportunities after the journey started versus obsessively grinding onto the original dream.


The TWO Most Powerful Words in Leader’s Dictionary

  1. Help me understand
  2. What do you recommend?

To give you an idea, let’s see what Keith said to his employee when she was underperforming:

“Help me understand why I’m seeing a mess in our lobby this morning. I know we’ve discussed this with you several times in the past. Yet here this is again. Is the problem there you don’t understand what we want, you haven’t been adequately trained or you just don’t care what the lobby looks like despite this being part of your job, you don’t own your job and unaware of the consequences of not doing the job we hired you to do. Help me understand why this problem doesn’t get fixed and stay fixed.

It has now reached the point that we’re now begging you to do the job which makes no sense. Because you’ve never had to beg me for your paycheck. Neither one of us wants to beg and neither one of us should have to. You’re a smart woman. You understand what we want, but for some reason it isn’t getting done consistently.

Here’s what I know. When my effort to help you get better exceeds your effort to get better, this stops working for both of us.”



You are the CEO of You Inc.

You as a person are the CEO of You Inc. As with all organizations, someone must be actively engaged and managing the host of activities to be successful. Things like production, finance, accounting, operations, marketing, sales, advertising, R&D, wellness, quality of relationships, training and development.

Unlike most CEOs of the business however, you do not have a board of directors you report to. But what if you did? What if you had a board that would follow you around all day every day for the last 7 days? They had seen every click of your mouse, every level of your intensity, how you plan and prioritize your work. They had seen everything that you did as CEO of You Inc. Ask yourself this question? “If I were the board of directors, will they give me a raise or will they fire me?” Would your stock price be rising, falling or stagnant? Who do I have on my team that is performing just enough to get by instead of really stretching and going for the gold medal? You never know who’s naked until the tide goes down.


People First, Systems Second

First, use systems carefully. Systems are great at draining an organization with flexibility and passion. How can you deliver exceptional service if you’re not willing to bend a few rules? Second, feel and express gratitude to your people. Feeling gratitude and not expressing is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

Tip: If you’re an employee, here are the three most important questions you can ask your boss:

  1. What else can I do?
  2. What can I get better?
  3. What do I need to do more so I can continue to grow?


Start With Your Customer and Work Backwards

Marketing is done right then selling becomes (almost) unnecessary. Find out what customers want. If you start with what you do, you’re doomed to push your solutions down the customer throat. Start with what your customers need and work backwards from there.

When you’re not performing well, remember your target market may not buy from you for 4 reasons:

  1. Risk: How would you expect your customers to take risks and buy from you if you don’t offer some sort of risk reversal (warranty, money-back, return…)?
  2. Friction: Reduce friction. Make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you. Make pain of the change is worth the gain.
  3. Difference that makes the difference: Confused customers rarely buy. Make it extremely clear what they’re getting if they buy from you. Better make it clear if you want this buy from us, if you want that, by from them.
  4. USP: Value created but not delivered is not value – It does no good to wink at a pretty girl with the lights out – you’re the only one who knows what you did.


The Triangle of Constraints

Time – Cost – Quality. Extremely successful companies attempt to excel at only one of these, maintain parity at second and usually ignore the third.

It is rare, if not impossible to find a business that delivers the highest quality, in the shortest period of time at the lowest price and has the greatest customer experience process. The reason is that is not the formula to scale a business or being profitable. That is the formula of trying to please everyone and as a result going broke.

Could McDonalds and Microsoft have fixed their products? Could they make them tastier, better or snappier? Of course, they could.  But they don’t have to. They can get filthy rich with a lousy product. Sometimes your success has very little to do with WHAT you do and everything to do with HOW you do it. That also explains why royalty and license fees for a patent are rarely worth more than 5% of revenue. Ideas are a dime a dozen. But the ability to execute that idea, how to deliver it, how to differentiate and how to monetize these ideas are worth way more.


Plans Are Useless. Planning Is Indispensable.

Everyone has a plan, until I punch him in the nose. – Mike Tyson

The biggest problem with plans is they rarely work out in the way we envisioned. Certainly, making the plan more detailed does not increase the likelihood of itself is viable, nor it does give us any greater degree of control.

So why plan? Because the value is not in the plan. The value is in the planning. Being well-versed with how all the pieces are interconnected and which lever drives specific results is the key to adjust when things go side ways.


Thinking There’s No Risk Is the Biggest Risk.

Risks and facts don’t cease to exist just because you ignore. Risk analysis requires extreme humility. Overconfidence is the enemy. When you think about what could go wrong you dramatically increase the chances of creating something that could go right. Don’t always assume the higher the risk, the higher the reward. The better statement is the higher the risk the greater the likelihood of the loss.