Transcript of Interview with Dana Oliver
Dan: Welcome to another episode of shoulders of Titans, this is Don Lok and today I am so excited I have the privilege of bringing you another industry titian, leadership expert, someone who has over 30 years’ of experience in the field of medical devices. Under his leadership his business grew from 100 million to approximately 2 billion dollars in revenues over 14 years. Dana welcome to the show.
Dana: Dan, thank you very much for having me on Shoulders of Titans, and let me say it’s an honor to meet you sir and a pleasure so thank you very much.
Dan: The honor is all mine. So Dana, tell us a little bit about how you got into, what you do today and tell us a little bit about your background.
Dana: Sure, I started very early and I have been 30 years in the business now, but I think it is very interesting if you go back to the beginnings, I come from a military family both my parents neither one of them went to college, so I was raised to really be a good person, so if I wanted to continue on with my education it was gonna be on my own accord. So ultimately what that meant was for high school I went to night school for 10 years paid my own way, ultimately got my BSME and then went on further towards my Masters. I started ultimately as a drafts man and worked my way up to the senior direct of research and development of electronic, the world largest medical technology company.
Dan: Wow, its interesting cause I see a lot of executives and CEOs, a lot of them have either a marshal arts background or military background. During that time in the military what are some of the lessons you have learned that maybe helped you in business?
Dana: Yes, so certainly just let me clarify, I wasn’t in the military but my father was a career military person, so I am- I guess I am a Navy brat.
Dan: What about some of the lessons you learned from your dad?
Dana: Yeah, certainly it’s about honor, it’s about love for the country; it’s about love for the flag. It had to do with respect and I think that has a great deal to do with ultimately my career, I have respect for everybody and you will hear me a lot Dan, talk about emotional intelligence, and a lot of that has to do with I respect everybody, if the cleaning crew walks in my office late at nights, I am the first person to great them saying hello and hand them my trash bin. To me everyone has a place in this world and I think it is important and also if you want to have a dynamic team you have to treat everybody with professional respect and when you do that people are willing to move mountain and give everything they have on your behalf.
Dan: Now with of course your leadership experts , talk to us about what are some of the mistakes that you see in the business world , that executives and business owners make when it comes on to leadership?
Dana: That’s a great question Dan, I think the single biggest thing that I see is that most executives are to focused on their own career ascension, and what’s funny is leadership is about people and it’s not a mechanism to get to a better place in life. Obviously there is perks in that counts, I would tell you that one of the things I preach to my people all the time is that business is about people and most executives they worry about a great strategic plan which is important and also they worry about an equally effective infrastructure which is also important, but to me its three legs to a stool; you cannot have a great business if you don’t have great people and great people won’t stay and they won’t perform if they don’t have respect for you. So that’s were emotional intelligence comes in and again to me you have that strategy, you have that infrastructure, you have the great people and then you empower them.
Dan: Dana, like there are so many different leadership books out there and everybody has their take on leadership. Some say the old military way, kind of tough handed management which is managed by dictatorship, like it’s my way or the high way, you do what I say or now a days, entrepreneurship it’s more managed by the consensus or lead by consensus. What’s your take, what is the most effective leadership style?
Dana: Yeah, I believe in inclusion, I mean make no bones about it I can be tough as they come but ultimately that’s not my first goal; my first goal is to be inclusive. I like to try to hire the best people humanly possible, I like to give them the tools that the need to do their job, I like to give them direction, I set them up with everything they need to be successful, after that it’s up to them and it’s up to their own accord. My job is try to help with the strategic direction and to ensure that I have an effective infrastructure, and then again I believe that if you take an interest in people you treat them professionally , you give them everything that they need to succeed then they are going to go out and do that.
Now at the end of the day, if you have somebody that just doesn’t fit that culture you, well then you need to move that bad apple out of the business and that’s fine and I am happy to do that. But to me it’s not kind of I through you over the boat and you’re gonna sink or swim, I am going to give you everything you need to be successful, and again I find when you do that people take a different approach they look at you as, this person cares about me and they want me to succeed so they in return say my God I want to help this person succeed.
Dan: Now I am sure you have a lot stories over the years when it comes to leadership. Share a couple stories with us of maybe sometimes in the tough situations how you have lead the team and ultimately overcome certain challenges.
Dana: Yeah I think the hardest thing to do is when things perhaps aren’t going good, I mean I think that’s where leadership have to have a vision, you have to remain consistent, because it takes a lot of hard work and it takes time for everything to click. But also too I have had instances where I have made a bad decision, you have to come out and say, you know what I own that one it was my decision, let’s get beyond it here is a slightly different strategy going forward let us keep the going and we are going to win this war. I do businesses no different from my competitors it’s kind of like a war. You go after and you are gonna win, and take no prisoners.
Dan: Any particular stories that may come to mind that you can illustrate the principle?
Dana: Yeah, I think for us, for me in particular I have been in medical devices; handles and throats neurologic technologies. We spend a great deal of time where we were working on a high speed hand pieces, these are hand pieces that run on 80, 000 RPM, you know imagine a million revolutions in 12 minutes. Anyways at the time we were thinking about going to just a straight hand piece and we were going to go after some curvier attachment and interesting enough our technology was so far ahead of the curve and our customers weren’t ready for it.
Ultimately we had to back track so we had to abandon, not abandon but we kind a put it on the back burner a little bit didn’t promote this technology as much and we went back to a more traditional straight drill and handle drill attachment interestingly enough it took a long time but where the market place went, it went to our straight hand piece with these high speed curved attachment. We were just a head of the time, and we just had to admit that you know what instead of continuing to push a bad position that our customers weren’t ready for we choose to say you know what let’s take a step backwards lets accept it and then it worked out fantastic.
ADVICE TO LEADERS
Dan: Great story and its interesting cause I know that we have listeners over in 27 countries and when some of them in starter mode, some of them are running millionaire companies, some are running 8 figure business or even 100 million dollar company, what would you recommend them to, how could they become more effective leader in the business world.
Dana: Yeah that’s a great question Dan and I think, leadership, and I am gonna keep saying this , that leadership is about people and leadership is not hard but people make it hard. So if you want to be a good leader, there have been books and there have been courses written about this, there is an entire industry around 360 feed backs. What happens is that people think of it simple if leaders think of this simply, what do you do well and you want to embrace what you do well, you wanna understand where do have room for improvement, and that’s where you start to make an effort to do better, but here is the big key. It’s what your blind spot? Most people have a blind spot, for instance a blind spot could be that you don’t have emotional constraint and this is truly important because when you go into leadership the more and more responsibility you take the more and more bad news you get.
If you can’t look people in the eye and walk them into your office and say thank you for that feedback and now I have all the information I need , I can make the proper correction, but if you can’t control your emotions do you really think you’re gonna get all the feedback possible? No, and the reality is people are going to quietly lie to you and what I mean by that they don’t want to give you bad news because they know emotionally you are going to lash out . No one wants their head bitten off, so they will euphemize the news. So to me if you want to be a better leader and leaderships about practice you have to find out what is your blind spot and you have to ask your reports this and say look guys where do I have a blind spot that needs to be corrected in order to for me and us to be the best leader and business possible.
Dan: That’s goes back to include your team and ask for feedback. It’s almost also like not letting or ego gets in the way.
Dana: Oh my goodness, you know if you wanna have a great business you can’t pretend to think that you are the smartest person, who wants to work for you if your ego is so large, where you wanna finish everyone sentences. Your job as a leader , is you want to pick the best people humanly possible , you don’t want people identical but you want them complimentary, and if that’s the case you can’t possible think that you can do their job so why bother why try . Hire, surround yourself with people help them with the direction, establish the limits on what that can and can’t do, then after that empower them and let them go do and you would be amazing to see how things are done irrespective of how you might have done them.
Dan: That’s correct, and I would say if you are the smartest guy in your company, your company is in trouble.
Dana: Well said Dan.
Dan: Yes, so now we are getting feedback from them can you gives us some strategies –things I can go do tomorrow –maybe should I have a morning meeting , should I have a quarterly thing , or a weekly thing, what would you recommend?
Dana: For being a better leader-if it were me what I would start with is I would have a very candid conversation. You could do this two ways depending on your credibility with your team you can either call a meeting or what you can do you can send out something through email. Some people sometimes are a little troubled or some bosses are very intimidating and people irrespective won’t say that and that’s why the 360s happen. To me I think if you want the best business and be the best leader possible you should ask your team, hey what do I do good, where do you think there is room for improvement , help me with something that is troubling this, help me the best leader I can humanly be and then what everybody know there is no recourse in this, you have to be genuine but being genuine is key right, if it just words on a piece of paper and people don’t believe you that you are really looking out for them then that’s where it starts you’re not going to get candid feed back
Dan: Once I get the feedback what do I say to the team , I appreciate you, I appreciate your feedback, and then what’s the next step?
Dana: I think he key is you ask people to keep you on tap and what I mean by that is – let’s just say that you have a problem with your emotional constraint, what you can do is you can say look guys if you find me in a meeting and we are having a conversation and I am not listening properly or I am not controlling my emotions maybe you will have a signal, you know maybe you just point your finger to your temple or you some simple little thing .
Dan: Just scratch your nose.
Dana: Great, exactly Dan, something that let them now so that when you start going off you do that and hopefully it will get you back in check. Again if you are a genuine leader you are gonna appreciate this and the more dynamic and the more candid you can establish with your senior staff –how do you expect to have a business if people can’t speak what they are true feeling and it doesn’t mean that everyone- you know not everyone can be right, there is gonna be disagreements and that’s ok, the key is after you speak your mind and the business agrees on the strategic direction, everyone has to click their heels , you can’t be subversive, you can’t compromise that position when you walk out of the room. If that’s the case then in my mind then a very different conversation has to take place not a particular good in tenant and you need to be dealt with. So you wanna hear the truth, you wanna have a vigorous debate on what’s the wrong and right things to do in the business but after that debate after everyone has been heard, after decision are made, ok we are all in this as a team.
Dan: Its sounds so simple but it is actually very profound. It’s a concept that is easily understood but it’s not easy to do, and that’s why when you talk about emotional intelligence that’s why that’s so key unless we have that self-mastery is tough to be a good leader.
Dana: Yeah, but you know what’s funny Dan, it is simple what happen that its people make it hard. They make it more difficult than it really is and you know I think a lot of it has to do with the end of the day is, business culture is a byproduct of leadership and that’s why…
Dan: Say that again I love it
Dana: Yeah sure culture is a byproduct of leadership and what I mean by that is as a leader you are gonna get exactly what you want, whether you asked for it or not. An example, if you go on to suggest that all you care about is a schedule for picking a subject, well all of a sudden when maybe people are struggling a little bit with quality, but they know that their boss’s hot point is always around hitting the time lines and hitting the schedule do you think that people are really going to- they will put in the quality they will put in the time necessary but at the end of the day they are going to hit the schedule.
Even though maybe they could have introduce a better product, maybe they could have added some additional features, but they say we can stay on track and on time because the boss is keen on schedules. Well what’s gonna happen is you’re going to stay on schedule, you might not get the best product or the best features or all those things at the end of the day. It’s up to the leader to position your team to do the right thing otherwise you’re gonna get exactly what you get.
IMPORTANT BUSINESS VALUES
Dan: Over the years Dana what do you think that makes some of the most important values that we have to build in the culture?
Dana: Yeah that’s a great question Dan, certainly for me we have to have high ethics, you should never compromise your ethics and what’s interesting to me is that the more successful you become as a business, the harder it is to not want to hit plan, and that’s where the slippery slide begins to take place, and it’s a slippery path. A lot of leaders today they are so worried about hitting the short term objectives because they don’t want the stock price to take a hit. But what happens Dan, is they no longer begin making the long term strategic decisions that are benefit to the company because they are so worried about that short term stock price hit. Well if that’s your case then you’re gonna get exactly that you’re gonna keep on deferring decisions that –let me give you an example might be an expensive infrastructure improvement or a massive capital improvement.
It could be that you have to increase your strategic resources, increase your infrastructure of things and if that’s the right thing to do then that’s what you need to do even though it might mean that you have to make a pretty sizable investment to the business and maybe that means that your operating margins have to take a small hit. You can pretend that you don’t want to see the operation margin begin to shrink and so you continue to go on with the capital that you have or with the people that you have, well at the end of the day when you look into the future all you do is compromise the growth of the business. So to me you have to think long ball, you can’t let the stock price dictate you, you have to be smart , you have to listen to people, you can’t pretend to be the smartest person in the room.
Dan: I have studied some of these companies in Japan, some of these successful companies in Japan they have like a 100 year plan and they may not last 100 years but just the way they think it should be is pretty remarkable.
Dana: you know one thing I applaud the Japanese in so many levels; 1 for their culture and 2 they do think long ball and what I mean by that is that, I have seen Japanese companies even though they don’t have a superior technology what they will do is they will take a sizable priced discount on their selling product. So even to the point where it might even mean a loss to their business. But if that loss means that they can then compromise the credibility of some of their competitors to the point where they are maybe not making the investments or to the fact that maybe they want to momentarily poison the market place, so that they can be maybe the lone or one of the few survivors in the long term, they have done that before.
It’s amazing to me, so they do play long ball and again I think culturally, they are in it to win in that 100 year plan. Can you imagine been the CEO in America and suggesting that you are going to take the loss for the next never mind quarter , I mean everyone will dump your stock , no one would want you, they would abandon you until you are successful. So culturally is far different, but to me it does go back to you have to be smart, you have to judiciary prudent and on behalf of your business, but you need to play long ball otherwise you are not going to survive and when you look on the big companies, these great companies that have been around forever, the aristocrats in the country, it’s because they had strong leadership and they had not been afraid to make those tough decisions.
Dan: In your opinion like what are some of the companies that you admire for their leadership?
Dana: Yeah thank you for that Dan and it’s a great question. I think one of the great companies, obviously if you look at Apple , it’s amazing but let’s talk a little bit more narrowly , let’s talk about Intel, I think Intel is a great example at least in this country in America. What happens is too many CEOs company started based on technology and what happens is you have a lot of technical people that are very involved at the very beginning of a business and they help make it great, but then as the business gets more successful they are often replaced with too many finance people, and finance people begin to look at numbers, they begin to abandon their brand, they begin to abandon their customers, and what happens is then you’re trying to grow the business purely based on numbers.
This to me is a disaster, it’s going to be short term, short lived and you are going to strip the value out of your business. I have a mantra which is called dance with the girl you came with, and that means –an example is if you are in a close loop with Intel, Intel was about we are going to make the best microprocessor, and what’s interesting if you look at some companies like Intel if you look at Star Books and if you look at Victoria Secrets all be it even though they are technology platform maybe narrow, they set out to be the very best in that spot, and they continue to reinvest and innovate themselves. How many times has Gilet reinvented the razor?
Dan: Correct, correct and the way they do their marketing the way they position them, they sell anything but they are not selling razor right.
Dana: That’s right, identify who you want to be, but then choose to be the very best in that space and to me I have 4 foundational principles to be successful. One is you want to invest no less than 10 % or far greater back into organic research and development as a percentage of your revenues, two I think you want to develop your products through your customers eyes, three you want to focus on the few truly strategic things that can move that operating plan needle and then you want to hire really great people and lead them with emotional intelligence.
Dan: And when it comes to high grade people what are some of the things you find that you could share with us, like how do you find them, is it best to have a recruiting company or like we just post an Ad, like what do we do?
Dana: Yeah, I think that’s a great question and what’s funny is most great people are right before your eyes, and what happens its goes back to emotional intelligence. So if you are a hiring manager- example Let’s say Dan you and I come into my office and I momentarily acknowledge you, and all of a sudden the phone rings I am looking down on my phone, or my computer I am working a way and you know excuse myself momentarily, I am distracted, I am not looking you in the eyes. I am looking out the window all of a sudden these entire things do you really want to come to work with me? You might take the job because maybe it’s a good position it’s good for your career and your resume but the reality is how many respect do you have for me and that respect means that how much you are really going to give me at the end of the day.
And so to me when I want to look for higher grade people it starts with a fantastic job description. How do you expect to ask your team to interview for a candidate to find the best possible candidate if you can’t describe who that ideal candidate is. If you can’t right that done in a job description looking for that ideal person, and then two when they come in I look for people in small groups. I never agree to bring in one person, certainly I interview one at a time but that’s after a lengthy phone screen, but when I do I want to have a small stable 3-5 people.
Now here is the key, when I talk to people when I talk to people that I call get it done individuals, I ask them some questions around help me understand something that you have accomplished, that you were able to sway a team that was divisive or help me understand a product that you personally marshaled and what you find is when you scratch the surface with that individual something very personal they get excited they are dying to tell you how they were able to cross the gold line, you can see it in their eyes , you can hear it in their voice, you can see it in their body language, and these are the people when they have genuine emotion you can probably hear it my voice right now , these are the people that I want on my team. So that’s the key but there is too parts right so not only can I find these great people I have to inspire them.
Dan: I like the way you inspire; one of the things I do and I kind a learn that from your book as well and I kind a accidentally did it , when I hire a sales person I always sit down with them and I always find out what their personal goals are, I say what your goals are? ..Here is the commission her is the compensation plan but what’s your goal? Oh Dan my goal is to buy this house, I wanna know where they are going personally and I always sell them on the vision I say you know what if you hit these bench mark, these milestones, you meet the sales quota you will get to your goal, and they are all fired up like you said I inspire them, I don’t want to micro manage them at all
Dana: Dan, your fantastic and you have tapped into taking an interest in their careers by asking them you know hey what’s important to you , what’s important to your career, and then you help them embrace and you help them find that, my gosh you have know taken an interest in them as a persona and as a boss and as an employee if your boss takes an interest in you my goodness don’t you think you want to make them look good, don’t you think you want to work extra hard. When your boss takes an interest people will just move mountains for you.
Dan: Defiantly I was feel more and much more emotionally invested into the company, not just- you know there may be other companies just slightly high paid or this and that but you know what, I feel by been recognized I feel been feel valued in this company then I’ll stay.
Dana: I think that is absolutely right Dan and one of the ways, you hear about golden handcuffs and certainly money is attractive, but the reality is that money is not the secret to keeping people long-term and keeping people engaged. For me I include them strategically, for example, if you’re working for me and I am asking you a Dan help me refine our strategic plan I want to hear what you have to say, and then if there is credibility in what you’re telling me and I embrace what you’re saying all of a sudden we are in this as a team, we’ve now marshaled collectively what that strategic plan is. If you’re telling me you think something is strategic and can make the business grow and I as your boss acknowledge that and embrace that, don’t you think that you’re gonna go out of your way to ensure that happens? The answer is yes.
Dan: Very, very powerful. I also believe that one of the power of been good leader need to learn how to ask great questions, instead of just a you know what do this, all though we know what we want them to do it is much more powerful if we draw it out of them, so it comes from their mouths not just from us.
Dana: Yeah and actually a fantastic leadership technique is that, I do this at some regular times, and what I mean by that I might have an idea I might have an idea or I might have a direction and I’ll sit down with my team and my staff and even though I might know where I want them to go I kind of open up the floor , I’ll open up a debate and I will kind of push them to where I want them to go, but then if I can get to appoint where I have my team telling me where I wanna go even though I that’s where I want to go when all of a sudden they hey the boss is asking me my opinion they are listening to me I am part of the strat plan I am engaged he cares about me , it’s pretty powerful.
Dan: Yes and I think human nature when they think it’s their ideas they are much more excited about it.
Dana: Exactly, it goes back to again I will keep talking about harping on emotional intelligence; this is just beginning to understand some fundamentals about people. Whereas if I just call up my team together and say this is my new strategic direction and my new plan, ok Dan we will do that because you are the boss. Comparatively speaking if I call a staff meeting and say we are going to have a strategic meeting and I wanna collectively work through this and everyone sharing then the reality is of this is probably whatever you’re thinking people can bring additional value, how good is that?
Dan: Yes, how often we should have we should have these strategic meetings?
Dana: You have the big strategy meeting once a year and what I mean by once a year you schedule. This could occur over weeks to months right but you’re thinking your scoping out that great pain what is that one year three year strategic plan now after you have that you don’t close the book you don’t put it on a self and then look at it next year, but what do you do it’s a live, everyday depending on how the numbers are coming in and depending on what your competitor is doing and what type of technology advancement you are taking place, you better be massaging that strategic plan, and that- so to me you have to be able to share with your stakeholders what that strategy is but you need to be flexible otherwise you’re gonna fail.
Dan: And after you come up with the plan do you share it the team and you say, guys this is where we are at like maybe give them kind of a monthly report, like this is where we are at, that’s our next 12 months plan but we are on track or we are little off track this is what we need to do.
Dana: I think that’s a great question Dan, I will tell you that the average company fails because they are too distracted and what I mean by that is they haven’t identified what is their few strategically important this to do. For me if you want to be successful after you have your strategy you have to pick , what is your single most important thing to do , what’s number 1, what’s number 2 and what’s number 3, and you put that together as a part of your policy deployment. Now again you might find that the plan need to be adjusted overtime, but at the end of the day if you don’t have good policy deployment and that means that if you don’t have a visual road map, for example maybe you meet with your spouse in your board room and if you can’t come up with your policy deployment is and your tracking against your policy deployment then your – example for us I am a part of this big run from an hundred to two hundred million we would look at revenue numbers daily.
We knew that boy at the end of the day if you make two million that would be eight million a day, and if we work 8 million that means okay we need to be compensated accordingly but that just on metric. If we need to grow the business, if we need to put an electric system or we needed more room, or needed to add on a different building, no different judiciary responsible. If we knew that we would have to hit a particular even number our operation we have to put that in a budget, we have to figure out if we were growing ten percent how many people that mean we were going to add , or we didn’t compromise that if we were allowed to grow your group ten percent whether that was through salary or heads well that’s what we did , and that was not exceeded, the only that was exceeded is if you were to look back upon it or if someone was going to compromise or you gonna compromise compensated revenues.
Dan: That’s make a lot of sense because when you focus on expense one of the concept I teach people is called daily, daily goal; it could be anything, it could be business , it could be weight loss goals but if you are not hitting your daily goal, guess what you’re not hitting your weekly goal , if you’re not hitting your weekly goal chances are you are not hitting your monthly goal so it’s like you don’t have to wait till Christmas to find out you what I kind a gain some weight.
Dana: That expression in business and that is what gets measured gets done.
Dan: Very true
Dana: And so to me but that’s also a double edged sword and this is where big businesses get compromised, you have to understand what is truly strategic, to me I have another mantra which is market shares of your GPS, and so for me this three metrics that all other metrics in which all other metrics are subservient to these three. One is top 1 revenue, two it’s your EBIT earn before income taxes and then three it’s market shares. What’s really interesting is as leadership teams you can affect control of two of the three in some capacity. You can somewhat control revenue and EBIT; market shares that’s tough, but that’s so powerful you have to understand who your customers are and boy you have to make darn sure you are servicing them. So by continuing to evaluate your market shares, or what’s interesting Dan is that a lot of leaders don’t like to measure market shares because they can’t control it.
Dan: That’s very, very true; it goes back to their emotional intelligence
Dana: Right exactly example if we expand a little more on the market shares so let’s just say that your business maybe you are having a soft quarter and at the end of the day you know you could always raise prices. Now if you look in one or two quarters later and if you your customers don’t have a lot of competitors to choose from you can certainly increase your revenues and it’s gonna show up on your EBIT right if you grow the top you can pull the bottom, but now what’s gonna happen overtime is you gonna begin to compromise your market shares because your customers they will overtime find different competitors or different product to take that technology place, so for me it’s that balance, your ever have to be triangulated in these three metrics.
Dan: So basically what you are saying is we are striving to be the leader in the category in that industry right?
Dan: So it’s like Jeff Welsh even talks about it, if you’re not first, your second or third number 1.
Dana: Yea and Jack would certainly arguable the greatest CEO of all time you can maybe make an argument against that now with Apple. But I think Jack had it right , now what Jack had in my opinion and who am I to say this , but I think what happen was part of GE way has been compromised and what I mean by that is they have taken so many people have taken the Jack Welsh philosophy to say look we need to be the number one or number two, but there are also now a strip in the value of the business and what I mean by that is you can’t be so obsess to grow the stock price that you are willing to compromised the health of the business; for example, you can begin stripping the business in cutting back on research and development, and those monies now you can begin to drop them to the bottom line, so if you are so obsess on may be meeting your quarterly earnings you start to compromise on maybe layoffs , maybe you strip people off, maybe you cut back on advertising , maybe you cut back on your research and development budget, maybe you cut back on travel, well okay you doing that so that you can hit your EBIT number but when you are at the end of the day you should begin compromising the future. If you start to cut back on your organic development because you want to drop it to the bottom but what’s gonna happen in the long time you are no longer gonna be able to offer differentiated products and you gonna ultimately at some point in time be evolved by your own competition .
So to me it goes back to you have to business health and I think too many leaders in America has looked at the Jack Welch and the GE Phenomenon and they have morph it, you know GE is very phenomenal and if you look at it now and what I mean by that what the Jack Welch wrote from 40 billion to 400 billion, this thing is now they have lost value I think market capitalization is what 170 billion, they have lost more than 50 % of its market account and that’s because they strip too much value out, so instead of reinvesting in the business they have not they stripped it out they put it to the stock price and at the end of the day all your stake holders have been compromised, your shareholders might have been rewarded.
Dan: And I think what also makes a great leader is, all great leaders are also great students and they never stop learning so sometimes we follow certain principles and the rules but at the same time we are not afraid of, you know what that might have worked 5 years ago, that might have worked 10 years ago but we are not afraid to challenge kind of conventional wisdom, but before it’s kind of to say what got you here will get you there, right.
Dana: Absolutely and I think to your point another mantra I have and you said but not in the same words that leaders are readers, and I love that expression. When you look on some of these businesses that are been stripped of great wealth it makes you ask the question well are those leaders or those CEOs are they listen to people, if you look on the ice berg effects right the knowledge gap between people at the Sea Sweden and my workers is 96% . Now I am not suggesting that knowledge gap needs to be lessened because not all line workers needs to know what the CEO needs to know and vice versa, but if the gap is that big it probably means that there is also some more serious cultural issues that are going on.
Dan: And also I think sometimes CEOs is hiding in their corner office and they don’t go out there, they don’t talk to the customers enough, they don’t talk to employees enough, they kind a loose touch right.
Dana: Yeah, isn’t that so the truth and I think that’s where again your customers, you have to develop your products through your customers eyes, and sometimes what happens is that too many of these executives- leadership is about influence, and so they have this ability to influence they problem is that sometimes leaders influence their products too much, and you do have to have checks and balance with your customers. So even if you have a product that may be- You know I talk about our drill system which was before its time, you can’t just stick to the point where you are gonna drive the company into the ground, you have to listen to your customers until they are ready to adopt it and if it’s that great they will, but you have to queue in your customers and for me I like to introduce what I call one on one in their world and two innovation begins with an I , the eye ball and as your developing your products you put them in your customers hand in a simulated environment you watch them use those products and then you hear the articulated user needs but then you look for the ones that they are not talking about.
So for me I look for those pain points and if you find a pain point or something that is inefficient or is just hard to do or something that users have adopted over time even though it’s not that nice, there is an opportunity there and to me that’s where or met need can be likely protected by patterns and then you can drive premiumness into your product. So to me it starts through the eye.
DANA AS THE AUTHOR
Dan: That’s profound, and that leads to the next question which is, you have written two books, Mantra Leadership and Mantra Design, both concepts is kind of interesting because leadership I get, but the design book talk to us a little bit about that what inspired you to write that book?
Dana: Yeah, you know what’s interesting Dan when I started writing the first book ultimately I had the stip apart the leadership from the innovation. I have been in research and development for 30 years, so for me both subjects warrant their own books and volumes of material.
Dan: It’s kind of like volumes one and two.
Dana: Yeah it is kind of and I keep thinking about a compendium and a third edition to this, I will keep noodle on that but I have been very successful I have worked with some exceptional talent. To grow a business from a 100 Million to 2 billion in 14 years is phenomenal track record and I wanted to share that business success, I wanted to share not only my business philosophy but I wanted to share the best practices on how to do that and that’s what the book ultimately stand for. Its a self-help guide book to share those best practices particular around innovation and identifying your customers unmet need and then transforming them into pattern protected premium priced market share leading products.
LEADERSHIP VERSUS INNOVATION
Dan: And how do you think they work together with leadership and innovation although you have written it into two books but are great leaders’ also great innovators or are they allow the team to give space, likes what’s your take?
Dana: Let’s talk about Steve Jobs for instance, if you asked Wozniak. he will tell you that Steve was not wonderfully technical, and I think probably everyone would agree to that however I think if you had to describe Steve it would be that he was a wonderful extraordinary visionary, he had a vision, now he didn’t know how to get there and that’s what Wozniak and team was all about. Now at the end of the day though I do not condone- and many people despised him because of his style. So to me think about how great –as great as he was – think about how potentially even more great he was if he had a greater human decency and employed emotional intelligence, imagine how extra ordinary maybe Apple would be beyond how great it is today.
Dan: That makes a lot of sense, speaking of vision like with a leader what if let’s say as a CEO that my vision is a bit blurry I kind a know that’s where I wanna be , I kind a know about the market share but I am not 100% clear how we get more clarity?
Dana: if you look at most companies you need to ask yourself are you a customer focus company , are you a technology company, are you a portfolio company, and I think you have to have that hard conversation to say who do you wanna be , who is the girl that you wanna dance with, and so example, for us we were always very focused on what we call our ENTs, these are ear and nose and throats surgeons, they were our customers so if that meant that even though there might have been a very attractive technology, but that technology is irrespective example-facial plastics, well even though there might be a need or facial plastics or goal was to be a surgical company that was going to service ENTs, so even though there was technology all in and around that space , well we were very carefully evaluated to say is this surgical is it going the be used in the sterile field ..and are we servicing or ENT customers? If the answer to any of those questions were no , for example, you could look at diagnostics, what a great diagnostic, but if it didn’t fit in the surgical field and is not for ENTs; didn’t matter how profitable it was , we were not going to dance with that girl.
Dan: I love that distinction, because it is very clear like you said are you customer focused or are you technologically or your just a portfolio company like what type of company you are and truly at the end of the day I think also what type of leader that you are, some listeners may be very much into technology, some of the are people oriented more focus of the market place and some of them are just no type, that’s actually a very profound distinction.
Dana: And that gets back to this strategic plan right, if you don’t know who you are, and if you can’t articulate that to any one if your team , right down to your line worker, well how then do expect everyone to be in lock step with who you are. And if you can’t articulate that then all its going to result in is confusion, and confusion is bad cause then confusion means that it’s inefficiencies. Your business development people are they wasting their time talking to the wrong companies.
Dan: And also I think having a clear vision attracts the right people to the team.
Dana: Oh my goodness, it goes back to talking about if you want to be a great leader you have to figure out that job description , who are the people you wanna hire, but that should tie back into who you want to be what kind of company are you. Again none of this is hard, it’s really like you said, it’s really simple and when you keep it simple and you articulate it and grow in depth, and for me I tend to over communicate but I do that to ensure that-it’s funny if I give you Dan, all the information I have I would like to believe you would make the same decision I would given the same information. So to me communication is essential for having your team execute accordingly. So that’s one of my strategies you know I try to once again hire those great people, but make it very clear what –who are we , what’s our goal , what are we trying to do, and again it’s not hard.
Dan: I love that, share with us any final thoughts any if people want to get hold of your two books what’s the best way to do that?
Dana: Yeah, thank you for that Dan, certainly the best way is through my website which is www.mantraleadership.com, which is great because I post the interviews like this or magazines, things I have done, so that people can get a flavor of who I am, if they like what they hear they can certainly get a preview of the book and do some reading as well and it’s linked out to credible sites like Amazon to get a copy
Dan: Dana, are you thinking about a third book?
Dana: You know it’s funny you know I wrote the two books in large part because they are my new resume I am kind of thinking of going into be a consultant on innovation leadership right now, although I have a friend that I might be willing to help in out to make his business a raging success.
Dan: Awesome, awesome, Dana thank you so much for inspiring us and informing us and empowering us with your amazing story and ideas and also leadership concepts, you are a true Titian so I appreciate it.
Dana: thank you for having me and been a part of the shoulders of Titans this is an incredible show you have had some incredible guest so I am just honored to be part of that.
Dan: Thank you I appreciate it.