Editorial: Idiotic management maxims

Feb 07, 2013

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310) Issue # 994 Originally published 2/11/2013 Twitter is riddled with management experts. Mark Zweig dispels them all. I spend a little time every day on Twitter and there you will find every self-proclaimed management expert in the world – all offering up their wisdom, 140 characters at a time. And it’s not just on Twitter you’ll see these idiotic management maxims that some people take as gospel. The cliché-wielding management junkies (most mature firms have at least one of them hiding somewhere in their ranks) just love this kind of junk. Following are some of the most commonly heard statements that have become “conventional wisdom” in some circles (certainly not mine!): “Fail early and fail often.” Here’s a better idea: Don’t fail at all! Failure is costly. I would much rather plan and work like Hell to avoid failure than failing a lot and never accomplishing anything. “It takes three years to make a new office profitable.” Says who? Someone who heads up an unprofitable office? This is a load of B.S. Few firms wouldn’t have made it from start-up to present if they operated as if they had three years to make money. It’s ludicrous! “You have to call on a new client seven times before they’ll buy from you.” This is just plain WRONG. I have actually sold A/E services to clients the first time I called on them. There’s no magic number of times you have to call on someone to predict when you’ll do business with them. It may happen the first time or you could call on them 20 times and they still won’t hire you. “The number one reason for business failure is undercapitalization.” This statement is like saying the number one reason you go broke is you run out of money! How obvious is that? The ABSURDITY of it makes me want to throw up. A better way to look at it is that the business plan and practices were not appropriate for the limited capital the firm had. This is/was within control of management! “Everyone who is a millionaire goes broke at least once.” Again – wrong. By far more people I know who are millionaires never went broke than did! “All ideas are good ideas.” Read the Steve Jobs biography to see how the founder of the single most valuable technology company felt about this statement. He thought it was crap! And if he thought your ideas were dumb he’d tell you straight away! Saved a lot of time and work... “You can even learn from a fool.” My response to this is: Perhaps, but think how much more you could learn from an intelligent person! Hang out with smart people – not dummies – and learn! “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” Who cares about catching flies, though? “Word-of-mouth is the best marketing.” This is the biggest rationalization for doing nothing there ever was! When I hear this I say to myself that this company is doing no marketing whatsoever and praying for results. “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Not me. I’d rather be good. Then I can create my own luck! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

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