A Philosophical Foundation

Posted: March 1, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Leadership, People, Startup

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Dr. Chuck MatthewsOne the great joys of being in an academic or teaching profession is seeing one’s former students succeed in life.  Such was the case this past December when a former student of mine from the 1990’s, Andy Kaiser, called and stopped by to see me.  Catching up is always exciting as he told me about the birth of his start-up idea in 2004, the subsequent birth of his now five children, starting with twins born 2005, and the re-birth of his business idea in 2011.  As he related his 10-year start-up run, I was struck by the underlying philosophy that drives and sustains him.  This past week, I invited him to speak to my class and there it was again, the unmistakable core philosophy.  In fact, on his company’s web site, he outlines not only his entrepreneurial journey and business, but his core philosophical foundation.

It also reminded me of a former professor and mentor of mine, Dr. George J. Gore.  Dr. Gore was a Fellow of the Academy of Management and a pioneer in the emerging fields of strategy and management.  I think of him often and was deeply saddened when he passed away in 1998. Early in my collegiate career, he walked into my office and asked me point blank, “What is your philosophy of education?”  I really hadn’t thought about it, but managed to respond that I had always been guided by the British philosopher Herbert Spencer who once opined, “The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.”  He gave me a nod and produced a piece of paper that I still have tacked to the back of my office door to this day.  It read, “Good Management Philosophy.”

A philosophical foundation provides a point of reference as well as a point of departure on our life’s journey.  Here are the ten points on that piece of paper Dr. Gore handed me that day.

Listen to your customer.  Their wants, needs, and wishes are your strategic plan.

Justify your expenditures as they relate to your goals.  This point almost goes without saying, until you realize how easy it is to over spend on non-essential items.

Quantify all aspects of your business in order to create benchmarks for success.  There is nothing wrong with subjective goals, but at the end of the day, what gets measured, gets counted.

Avoid bureaucracy.  Employees must make direct contributions to your firm’s goals

Emphasize Quality. Good enough never is.

Respond quickly and decisively to opportunity. You may be tempted to think that in Andy Kaiser’s case ten years is a long time to get a start-up off the ground.  Not really, especially when other opportunities are in play.

Create an environment where ideas are encouraged, recognized, and rewarded.  This is the core philosophical foundation of entrepreneurship.

Help employees grow personally and professionally.  Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers and your business will succeed.

Work together toward goals and be rewarded together when they are achieved.  Recognition for a job well done motivates and builds an esprit de corps in your team.

Commit to leadership in every aspect of your business. Instill leadership throughout your company.

The student has become the teacher.  The custom motivational apparel venture that Andy Kaiser launched is called Life is Short Why Not.  The business value proposition is simply that everyone has a list of things that really matter to them and Life is Short Why Not reminds us of that call to action. His underlying philosophy is both the core value proposition for his business and its mission: “Life must be lived in the moment; not next week, not next month, not next year.  Rather the moment – right now.  The moment is truly all we have. The moment next week, next month, next year may not belong to us.  But this moment, right now, belongs entirely to you.”  By the way, he also created a separate non-profit as well called, “Why Not Give.org” and his featured charity is Cancer Free Kids.  Please excuse me while I go order some t-shirts for my entrepreneurship students that read, “Life is Short Why Not – Start a Business!”  Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

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