Louis Gerstner’s management principles

I have a few “book” mentors. They are the leaders that I admire and they wrote books to share their wisdoms. One of them is Louis Gerstner. He was a former CEO of IBM who turned IBM around. When he took over the role, he shared his management principles with his executive team. I want to share some of them that I strictly follow until today.

  1. I manage by principle, not procedure.
  2. The marketplace dictates everything we do.
  3. I look for people who work to solve problems and help colleagues. I sake politicians.
  4. I am heavily involved in strategy. The rest is yours to implement.
  5. Move fast. If we make mistakes, let them be because we are too fast, rather than too slow.
  6. Hierarchy means little to me. Let put together in meetings the people who can help solve a problem, regardless of position. No committee decision making.

One of his quotes that I like is…

Watch the turtle. He only moves forward by sticking his neck out.

Louis Gerstner

I put my neck out there all the times. It would be chopped off one day.


How to prioritise

We are very busy. We cannot do everything. There are a lot to do. And, I don’t have time to do this for you.

I never say the last sentence. This is because you always have times for things that are important to you. If I say that to anyone, it means he/she is not important to me. The easiest solution is to add the word ‘now’. I don’t have time to do it for you now. Is tomorrow ok?

How about prioritisation? To prioritise, you need a clear goal. Will this thing move me closer to my goal? Which option is more likely to get me closer to my goal? What is the most impactful thing I could do to move closer to my goal? Without the clear goal, you just choose to do things base either on doing a favor to please people or just taking orders. You will be super busy but end up feeling achieving nothing.

In a professional life, you don’t come to work to please everyone or to be everything to everyone. It’s not possible. Setup a clear goal to add meaning to your career.


What Apple and Taylor Swift do well

I wrote about Taylor Swift’s smart marketing skill the other day. I also found that Apple or even Nike use a similar strategy in their marketing. They all put a serious focus on their true fans, their influencers.

Taylor flew to surprise one of her super fans on her bridal party. Of course, the content went viral. Apple partners with their fans by allowing them to get their hands on the product before the public. Apple also encourages their fans to use the products in creative ways. All of these went viral.

The era of selling stuff to people has gone. The role of marketers has changed. My role as a marketer has changed. It’s exciting and very challenging. My biggest challenge is how to turn a direct marketing approach to a brand marketing mentality. The direct marketing approach would never yield a successful inbound marketing. Unfortunately, not many people understand.


No one to someone

I got a new team member who has been working with the company for 5 years. I wonder why he has been in the same role with minimal changes in salary. He has great potential and is very eager to learn. It’s the attitude that I like. Something doesn’t add up.

Upon investigation, it turns out he doesn’t have any academic degree, this is his first corporate job, and he is an honest person. Being honest in a corporate environment is not always good, especially if your boss doesn’t like blunt responses (even the facts is the facts).

So, I am going to change his focus and his job. He wouldn’t go back to study. Therefore, I will position him to fill our gap in the Google world. He will be a Google expert in our team – Analytics, SEO, SEM, Google big query, etc. He has to get all relevant Google certificates for his future references.

I am excited with the idea. If I could change someone’s life for the better, I feel fulfilled even though he might leave us one day. I am a university. My team graduate from me, hopefully for a better future.


Making mistakes

Do you work in an environment that accepts staff mistakes? I make quite a number of mistakes myself. I am lucky though that most of my supervisors were ok as long as I could show them what I tried to do and how I managed potential risks. That’s how innovation happens.

There are 2 types of mistakes that I cannot accept though. Firstly, I don’t like the mistakes that are careless. If you don’t care enough to make an effort to think it through, it’s not acceptable. And, secondly, I expect my team to weight pros and cons before spending the company’s money. When you do that, you calculate the potential risk if things go wrong.

When you make mistakes, you normally feel bad about them. My tip is that you just focus on what lessons you learn from those mistakes. Then, you move on.

“Forget it enough to get over it, remember it enough so it doesn’t happen again”



Marketing inspiration from Taylor Swift

I have read quite a number of articles about how Taylor Swift planned her new album and music video launches. You have to admit, she is a great marketer. Her success is calculated and hard-working. There are 3 things that we all can learn from her.

  1. Focus on you superfans and surprise & delight them. I watched a show that Taylor was a guest. It’s very clear to me that she looks after her superfans very seriously. She knows about them well on a personal level. She even attended their life’s events.
  2. Make your customers “feel”. We all know about this. Our marketing activities should touch on customer’s emotions. Not all of us can do, sadly.
  3. Deal with critics creatively. Every brand, every company get critics. There are a number of ways to deal with them, ranging from ignoring them to passionately defending youself. What Taylor does is she uses their criticism to make a ton of money and stand firm. You cannot make everyone happy. It’s hard not to feel offended. I thought I was strong but I was emotional from time to time when I got criticised on social. The best I could do was ignoring them and walking away.

Sometimes I wonder, we all know about how to do good marketing, why can’t I do it successfully or even consistently?


Sales and marketing function

The context in this post is specific to my industry. I work in marketing and my goal is to change the way our product is marketed and sold. I believe our product is suitable to certain groups of people, but not for everyone. I also believe that we should create demand and build a brand. I have been testing and trying different inbound marketing approaches in the past 5-6 years, none of them is big enough to make a difference.

My mentor used to tell me, I cannot change the way the company is doing as long as our sales process is not changed. In my mind, I agreed with him but didn’t want to accept it. He said that 3-4 years ago. It has come to my realisation that I have to accept it.

The era that companies “sell” stuff to customers has long gone. The whole company must have the same understanding and act the same way. Marketing should lead sales. Marketing should create demand, not sales.


Different VS Remarkable

There was a blog post from Seth Godin and I really like. He talked about the difference between being different VS being remarkable. I have been pursuing a differentiation in my entire adult life until I read his blog.

According to Seth, ‘differentiation’ is selfish. It’s the act of the marketer with intense interest in his segment of the market. He just wants to market his interest to customers.

Being remarkable is not about the marketer. Remarkable is in the eye of consumers. The goal is to create something that people choose to talk about, something that could improve consumer’s lives, regardless of what competition is doing.

To me, remarkable is harder and is worth pursuing.


The most important asset for a company

I have been working in a corporate environment for more than 25 years. One of the most challenging aspect in my career is to find the right person to do a job. I made a few wrong hiring decisions along the way and they were miserable. What is the quality of the right person?

The answer is the best person for the job is the person who possesses the right balance of her skill sets, attitude, work ethic and how she puts work in her life. It’s easy to say but very difficult to find. If you can find the persons with these traits, believe me, please do everything you could to keep them with you. They are your greatest assets. They can make a big difference.

I hope that before I retire, I would have an opportunity to work in a company that treats staff well. If you already work in such company, you are very lucky. Do your best, give it all, and make a difference. Those companies are very, very rare to find. Most of them are hopeless.


New trend in SEO (2)

A few days ago, I wrote about a new trend in SEO which is Zero-click searches. It’s interesting because it’s a direction that Google is taking. Google wants to make it easy for users, but not necessarily easy for marketers.

The second interesting trend is more about the focus on contextual search. Google has developed technology that tries to interpret the intent behind how people search. They call it “BERT = Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers“. It is Google’s latest algorithm update. Its focus is to deliver results based on real search intent, considering context and natural language.

All marketers need to do is to publish high quality content that could actually answer customer’s questions. This will help with optimising for user intent and giving the most complete answer — which is what Google wants.