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Harvey Mackay: You can’t make it on your own

Harvey MackayThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

Flying solo is a concept that is rightly left to aviation. For anyone to achieve business success, it’s essential to know how to communicate, cooperate, collaborate and celebrate. An idea can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime. But it takes teamwork, collaboration and the minds of many to nurture it from concept to creation. Start with the premise that two heads are better than one and three are better than two. It doesn’t matter how smart you are – or think you are. Ideas and input from outside sources can help you improve and refine your thinking. Let me share a remarkable example.Rick Beyer, author of “The Greatest Stories Never Told,” tells how a multibillion-dollar corporation started from very humble beginnings. During a terrible economy, with plummeting markets and hundreds of bank closures, a Midwestern businessman planted an idea that continues to grow 175 years later.That’s right – this all began in 1837 when Alexander Norris observed that his two sons-in-law needed the same raw materials for their businesses. One was a maker of candles; the other made soap. And they both relied on animal fat. In the bad economy, Norris encouraged them to join forces. They reluctantly agreed.The little Cincinnati-based business joined the skills of William Procter and James Gamble. Their cooperative venture grew eventually to include more than 250 products, from Pepto-Bismol to Pampers and from toothpaste to toilet paper. Their influence even helped coin the term “soap operas,” first on radio and then on television and sponsored by the soap makers. Procter & Gamble Co. brands are known around the globe. And just as two heads were better than one in 1837, the company’s innovations that continued through the following decades were the result of collaborative thinking. Michael Eisner, who as CEO of The Walt Disney Co. for more than 20 years oversaw many and varied collaborations, says that “a successful partnership allows you to recognize your own weaknesses, and draw on a partner’s strengths, without being uncomfortable about that vulnerability.” He quotes Warren Buffett: “That comfort comes from a complete lack of envy in a partnership.” Eisner continues, “Partners must value trust, must discover how to keep their egos in check, and they must put a premium on not just brains but human decency. Partners also have to be comfortable with the way that someone else views the world.” I have often touted the importance of my own “kitchen cabinet” – an informal group of advisers whom I trust to test ideas and give unfiltered feedback. They have encouraged me to proceed on some projects and thrown up roadblocks before I crashed and burned on others. Collaborations and partnerships don’t have to be permanent. I’ve written about the importance of the consultants and coaches I hire for both business and personal advice. I don’t go into business with them, but I rely on them to help me stay in business. They bring varied perspectives to my questions and often raise new questions for me to consider. And most importantly, they occasionally remind me that I am not always the smartest guy in the room. We can all do with such a reality check.Anyone who is contemplating a partnership arrangement must understand that it involves much more than compatible personalities. Obviously, legal and financial issues must be addressed and clearly resolved. You might have to jump through some hoops. Don’t let that drain the energy out of your big dreams. Anyone can think, dream and imagine. Translating those thoughts to positive action often takes plenty of teamwork and collaboration. Partnerships and alliances between businesses are increasingly common today as competition becomes stiffer and more complicated – and, often as not, global. Here’s some perspective from the late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s restaurants. Wendy’s is the third-largest hamburger chain in the world, with more than 6,600 locations and 46,000 employees. About three-fourths of those locations are franchised, a prime example of the importance of partnering. “Teamwork is the starting point for treating people right,” Thomas said. “Most people think that teamwork is only important when competing against other teams. But competition is only part of the picture. “In most things we do in life, people have to work with rather than against each other to get something done. Win-win situations and partnerships are the most important results of teamwork. The best teams in the world are the ones that help people become better and achieve more than they ever thought they could on their own.”

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. He also spends about six weeks a year in Aspen.


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