Money & Business

John Spence: A Simple Formula for Business Success

By / Mar 9, 2014 John Spence speaking at the ASAE 2014 Great Ideas Conference. (Photo by Sabrina Kidwai/ASAE)

Thought leader and business strategist John Spence laid out several cutting-edge ideas and actions to take your organization from good to great at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference Sunday.

There’s a lot of change happening these days, and it’s those associations that are prepared and anticipating it that will stand to benefit, said management consultant John Spence during the Opening General Session at ASAE’s 2014 Great Ideas Conference on Sunday.

“Those who understand what to focus on, where to put their resources, where to put their time, where to put their energy, right now, it’s an incredible opportunity to get your association poised for tremendous success,” Spence said.

Those who understand what to focus on, where to put their resources, where to put their time, where to put their energy, right now, it’s an incredible opportunity to get your association poised for tremendous success.

Spence, who likes to boil complicated subjects into more simplified explanations—as the title of his latest book, Awesomely Simple, suggests—gave several examples of how associations can strengthen their leaders’ skills, create a culture of accountability, and ultimately create more business success.

Spence used an equation to illustrate the path to success:

(T + C + ECF) x DE = Success

“I believe that these are four key, fundamental things that if you focus on and do exceedingly well, you’re building a great, strong foundation for a highly successful organization,” he said.

Here’s how that formula breaks down:

T stands for talent. “The quality of  the people that you get, grow, and keep on your team directly determines the success of your organization,” Spence said.

After studying and teaching business strategy over the last 20 years, Spence said he believes there are only two dependable differentiators at most organizations: the quality of the team and the relationships they create with customers or members.

“If you’ve got top talent that’s highly engaged, well satisfied, constantly getting better, and they get closer and closer to your customer, your members, that can create an economic motor on an organization that can’t be beat,” Spence said. “You have to look at talent as a strategic objective.”

C stands for culture, and there are two sides to this coin: the culture the employee wants and the culture the executives or board of directors want, Spence said.

Spence laid out nine key things employees want in a workplace: “It’s a fun place to work, with a family atmosphere, where I work with my friends. I can do my job well. I’m treated fairly. I take pride in the organization. I get praised once every seven to 10 days. My job is meaningful, and I feel like I accomplished something.”

What’s the flip side of the coin? Executives and boards want an ownership mentality, meaning competence, creativity, a sense of urgency, high levels of personal and mutual accountability, disciplined execution, and the ability to deliver results, Spence said. “This is the balance between ‘I need to have a really great culture that attracts top talent that’s fun while still absolutely delivering the business results that our association or organization demands.'”

ECF equals extreme customer (read member) focus. Spence drew a distinction between customer focus and customer service. “The idea is to consistently deliver just a little bit more to your customers, your members than they’re expecting,” he said.

DE stands for disciplined execution. “All the rest of this stuff, they’re nice ideas, but ideas are useless if you can’t turn them into action,” Spence said. “There is no shortage of really cool ideas, very smart people, brilliant strategies, but there is a huge shortage of people who can take those ideas and effectively execute them day in and day out.”

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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