America's CU Conference
Tom Peters

Stop Talking and Start Doing

Companies too often get bogged down in planning and fail to act.

June 19, 2012

Stop talking. Start doing. Put people first.

That was the essence of Tom Peters’ presentation Monday at the America’s Credit Union Conference in San Diego. Too often, he says, companies get bogged down in planning and fail to act.

That’s why Peters prefers business mogul Ross Perot’s philosophy or “ready, fire!, aim” to the old General Motors strategy of “ready, aim, aim, aim,” he says. “Whoever tries the most stuff wins.”

Peters (in photo at right with emcee Greg Schwem) is a fan of small- and mid-sized companies, including credit unions, asserting that “all of the big companies are ugly.

“If you’re a mid-sized organization and can’t beat the giants, you should be ashamed,” he says. “Being mid-sized is an opportunity to be different and special. You’re the agile creature that darts between the legs of the monsters.”

One of Peters’ favorite business books is “Retail Superstars: Inside the 25 Best Independent Stores in America,” which highlights such companies as Jungle Jim’s International Market and Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.

“They should be at an infinite disadvantage to Costco and other retail giants, but they’re not,” he says. “Being close to their community gives them a leg up. The book has a great line: ‘Be the best: It’s the only market that’s not crowded.’”

Peters offered attendees many business lessons gleaned over his years of experience that will help create sustainable success, including:

• Take care of your people, giving them the respect and recognition they deserve. “Every day is worth a thank you,” he says. “There are no normal days. Employees who don’t feel significant rarely make significant contributions. We are as strong as our workforce—period.

Peters says the four most important words in any organization are “what do you think?”

• Realize the importance of front-line supervisors. They run the show. “Any idiot can be a vice president,” he says.

• Strive for excellence every day, in everything you do, even if you don’t achieve it. “I don’t understand people who don’t pursue excellence everyday—it’s a personal affront,” Peters says. “You won’t necessarily get there, but why not try?”

• Focus on the small things—tiny touches can have a huge payoff. For example, when Walmart increased the size of its shopping carts, customers’ purchases grew also grew.

And during a flight on India’s Kingfisher Air, a stewardess walked down the aisle asking passengers if she could clean their spectacles before landing.

“I’ll never forget that,” Peters says. “Little is big."