Roy H. Williams, author of The Wizard of Ads, said it best (paraphrased): “The only thing more important than who you select to play on your team is, who selects you to play on their team.”
I fundamentally believe that this is the most important criterion for success, not only for life, but also for a successful business career. A favorite saying that comes to mind is, “Competence and incompetence shows its head.” It may take a day, a week, a month or a year, but sooner or later competence and incompetence will show its head.
Back when I was still in college, I worked in technical support for a start-up company named Netline. Everyone in the company was busting their guts to make this little leading-edge technology business work. Eventually we advanced to the point where we had attracted the attention of a billionaire who was coming to see if he wanted to invest in the company.
The day before he arrived, we set up a demo wall and prepared everything needed to show him the technology. At the time, I was just a peon in the organization, but as I was getting ready to leave that night, I noticed our floor had not been swept or mopped, and the place was quite frankly, pretty filthy. As a start-up, we were so focused on the technology that those small details were simply overlooked. I guess I had learned enough from my mother to feel embarrassed about having this incredibly successful businessman seeing our place looking a wreck.
I drove home and conned my wife into helping me clean the building. As it happened, everyone had left by the time we started sprucing up. The next day I didn’t feel any need to point out what we had done.
The presentation went smoothly. Our investor was impressed with the technology, and the company got the necessary funding. As we celebrated, there was a buzz about who had cleaned the building? Although I was silent, someone figured out I had played janitor and corrected the glaring oversight. As a result Alan Hall, a VP, rewarded me with promotions and opportunities, and became a lifelong friend and mentor. Netline eventually went out of business. However, Alan Hall went on to build several successful businesses and become a billionaire.
I met with Alan a few days ago to ask him to support and endorse me in my latest venture, The Zig Zag Principle. He responded by buying a significant number of my books for his employees and offering to recommend me throughout his sphere of influence. In return, I agreed to sit on the board for a couple of his companies.
By being competent and looking for ways to give and do a little extra, I was able to form a relationship that has been mutually beneficial over the years.
I play on Alan’s team. Whose team do you play on? And more importantly, what are you doing to get on the right teams?