“There is hardly anybody good for everything, and there is scarcely anybody who is absolutely good for nothing.” – Lord Chesterfield (Letters to His Son, Jan 2, 1748)

To grow a business, there are three things you must do. First, develop a good, marketable product. Second, learn how to sell it. Third, keep doing the first two things even when you’d rather not.

In the beginning, when there is nobody in the office but you, all three responsibilities may be yours alone. Later, as the business grows, you may find someone or several people to take over one or two of them for you.

A perfectly balanced business might have three top executives: a pusher, an idea man, and a marketer. Each would be a master of his skill. The pusher would be relentless in moving the business forward and encouraging everyone to do a good job. The idea manager would know the product completely, understand how and why the market uses it, and make adjustments to it so that it would always be attractive to buyers. The marketer would sell the product at the right price, the right cost, and in sufficient quantities to keep the gross profit where it needs to be.

Think about your own business or profit center. Who is responsible for each of these critical functions? Is that person masterful /competent/adequate to do the job? If less than masterful, is he on his way to mastery?

Of the many businesses I work with, none has all three functions “mastered.”

Typically, you have a mixed bag: a good marketer who is also a good pusher running the business himself. Or a masterful product developer (idea man) who partners with a good marketer but has no one to do the day-to-day pushing. I know of one business that has neither a good marketer nor a good idea person but gets by (somehow) by virtue of its CEO’s pushing inexperienced people to try mostly mediocre product and marketing efforts.

Imperfectly balanced businesses can succeed, but you’ll reach your maximum potential only when you have become masterful at generating good ideas, selling them, and pushing everyone to do a good job.

In “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell says that social epidemics (including business breakthroughs) usually involve the input of three types of people: sellers, mavens, and connectors.

In Gladwell’s analysis, the maven equates to the idea man. He is the one who learns something — an idea, skill, technology, methodology. or even just a perspective — that the world finds valuable. If you need something done, he is the guy that can make it happen. The seller, of course, is the person who persuades the world to buy this new idea, skill, etc. And the connector makes it all happen by hooking up mavens to sellers to buyers.

There is an obvious similarity here between marketers and sellers; mavens and idea men, and (less exactly) connectors and pushers.

If you are in charge of a business or enterprise, assess the strengths and weaknesses of your executive leadership according to one of these two similar models. If you are an employee, think about which one of these “tracks” appeals to you.

To make your company grow and improve, make your three top leaders grow and improve. (And this includes you.) To accelerate the success of your own career, make sure you are on track to becoming a master of one of these functions.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.