What are the key ingredients for success in business? In my mind its defining effective strategy, having a sense for timing in execution, cohesion in a business culture, focused effort, and a bit of luck. But in the end, there is really one thing that separates successful and unsuccessful businesses: Leadership.
There are several successful leadership styles but there is a character trait most successful leaders share. They have the ability to constantly critique their own success and failures and adapt early. They are people who challenge the status quo routinely, constantly seeking improvement rather than living by rules of thumb and falling into routines and ruts.
You are a smart enough person if you run a business or manage a unit within a company. But if you can't back away from day-to-day duties and get a grasp of the environment changing around you and then strategize for the long run, you might be in the wine business for the short run.
I was reminded of that when I saw [an article] this past week about AMF Bowling seeking bankruptcy protection for a second time within the same decade. I honestly hadn't tracked the company of late, but had in the past as a young banker.
I recall sitting at my office in the early 1980's, reading an analyst report on the company that was covered in the WSJ. In it, the analyst reasoned that with the personal computer taking flight, and given all the accompanying enhanced productivity gains we would see, soon we would all flock to leisure activities to fill up our newly discovered copious free time. As a result, we'd see companies like AMF and Voit take off.