The Ten Commandments for Business Failure
Donald R. Keough
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Don Keough—a former top executive at Coca-Cola and now chairman of the elite investment banking firm Allen & Company—has witnessed plenty of failures in his sixty-year career (including New Coke). He has also been friends with some of the most successful people in business history, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Rupert Murdoch, and Peter Drucker.
Now this elder statesman reveals how great enterprises get into trouble. Even the smartest executives can fall into the trap of believing in their own infallibility. When that happens, more bad decisions are sure to follow.
This light-hearted “how-not-to” book includes anecdotes from Keough's long career as well as other infamous failures. His commandments for failure include: Quit Taking Risks; Be Inflexible; Assume Infallibility; Put All Your Faith in Experts; Send Mixed Messages; and Be Afraid of the Future.
As he writes, “After a lifetime in business I've never been able to develop a step-by-step formula that will guarantee success. What I could do, however, was talk about how to lose. I guarantee that anyone who follows my formula will be a highly successful loser.”
“Gloomy Sewell,” they called him. His calendar was firmly set on the year 1929. A crash was always just a few days away. After World War II when new households were being formed in new developments like Levittown, Avery not only failed to see the emerging prosperity. He refused to see it. By the mid-1950s, teenagers’ weekly allowances began to exceed the American family’s entire disposable income in 1940. The country was rich and getting richer. But Avery was so inflexible that he simply would
avert disaster. Charles Kettering, the great engineering genius who helped steer General Motors during its glory years, said, “Don’t bring me anything but trouble. Good news weakens me.” I don’t know that I’d go quite that far, but the simple truth is that all progress in an organization has to, by definition, stem from the effort to solve a problem, which means, of course, that you have to know about the problem before you can get to the bottom of it. You have to work at it. When I would
and without hard facts to the contrary, perception became truth. But the pain was drawn out and the negative publicity was allowed to gather momentum. The whole affair resulted in the largest product recall in the company’s 120-year history and required costly months to repair the damage to its reputation and image. Reputation and image are priceless. Guard them with your life. As it says in Proverbs: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Schlitz beer had one of the greatest
Take the little South American bee and rename it the “killer” bee. Or how about the panic over avian flu? Every newsmagazine, every newspaper, every TV anchor worried over the impending doom of large segments of the human race at the beaks of the flu-carrying birds. In fact, while doomers and gloomers have always been with us from Jeremiah to Cassandra to Chicken Little, they have become especially persuasive since the Enlightenment, when various scientists began to apply scientific methods and
more fun. It’s telling them to work harder because they are capable of doing better. They deserve, for their own self-satisfaction, to perform at a higher level. The hard work itself is what takes you tap-dancing into the office. It’s that passion to solve the problems of the day. If you really want to fail, lose that passion for whatever it is you’re doing. Get that spring out of your step. Say to yourself, “That’s good enough.” Or “That’s not my job.” Or “I don’t care.” Or “I’m retiring soon