FE: On to How to Be a Fierce Competitor, the book’s focus is on sales and marketing. However, I think there’s applicability beyond this field. If you think about it, we are all managers of ourselves, so we could apply the same principles if we wanted to become stronger employees. What’s your take? Does the book’s theme cover all areas of professional fierceness?
JF: Yes, the book’s applicable to all disciplines, but in context. There are two main competencies – marketing & innovation. All employees, 100% of them, are responsible for acquiring and retaining profitable revenues. That could be the engineers creating new product lines or the marketing team bringing in new clients. While each employee draws from the company’s bottom line, they each contribute in some way.
One of the chapters touches on how to conduct sales meetings with laser beam focus. Too many meetings are a waste of time and resources, so any industry that has meetings (that is, all of them) could benefit from what’s in the book.
FE: I noticed something very interesting about your book. Taking a more realistic approach, you highlight actionable traits beyond the intangibles. Many other books in this genre get trapped in the “believing” of becoming better, not in the “doing”. Do you think these characteristics set the book apart?
JF: I use a phrase in How to Become CEO – WACADAD – Words Are Cheap And Deeds Are Dear (sounds like something a Muppet would say). Leadership needs to come from the CEO. It shows that everyone within the organization could be doing something because the CEO is.
Whenever you hear buzzwords like “synergy”…. RUN! Buzzwords are the language of non-doers. They are used to disguise what those who aren’t doing, aren’t doing.
FE: Along the same lines, what’s your opinion – unlimited possibilities in a limited world or limited possibilities in an unlimited world? Meaning, there’s a limited number of Fortune 500 CEO positions (500 to be exact), but anyone can start their own business and become CEO. Are we predestined to a certain ceiling of success or is the adage “you can become anything you set your mind to” hold true?
JF: Absolutely not! A stalemated company only reflects stale managers. Here’s my take. Successful companies: create markets, create their own economy, & create industry. There are many examples whereby companies had no market, but they created their own and the truly innovative ones ultimately go on to create an industry.
This has to be the most successful form of marketing – creating a product that everybody needs, but nobody has. Think of a simple technology like email. Nowadays, people are crippled without a connection! Yet everyone communicated easily enough before it.
FE: Speaking of CEOs, you are the founder of your own marketing consultancy, Fox & Company. Before that, you acted in various vice president and director roles such as the wine division of The Pillsbury Co. What catalyst led you to starting your own firm? Was it a home run from the get-go, or were the early years patchy? Did you end up learning more about your industry once you branched out on your own?
JF: Of course it wasn’t rosy, but we’ve been successful since the beginning. We’re constantly adopting and growing the service. While very hard to consistently produce, it can be very easy to lose. Every day I work myself out of a job. That’s the goal within marketing. You have to in order to become good at it, and that constant pressure helps maintain the focus.
I always knew that I’d start my own firm and even noted this in my Harvard application. Actually, I started a few in college and was even written up in the book, How to Succeed in Business Before Graduating From College.
Have you seen business school ranking? Harvard and Stanford are consistently ranked 19th or 20th. Following graduation the majority of students, really 50% or more, go into family businesses, working for small start-up firms, or starting their own businesses.
FE: One of your firm’s strategies is a proprietary technique known as “Dollarization”. From your website, “Dollarizing is the act of assessing the differences between your products and competitive products and calculating the financial impact those differences have on your customer.” Can you explain how this process came to be and how successful it has been for your clients?
JF: Truly believe in Dollarization as one of the most critical business principles. A relatively simple concept, companies never buy anything – they invest. If you think of the core functions of a company, you can break it down to: reducing current costs, increasing revenue, and stopping future costs. Many people confuse cheapness with value. Whatever is cheapest now, usually will be most expensive in the long term.
*We went on to discuss how this concept plagues engineering. Many times projects are optimized for longevity, but typically derailed by funding shortcomings. It becomes a “what can we get for this much now”.
FE: Wrapping up, let’s find out something a little more personal about you. It appears you purchased an old home, then proceeded to move it 3 miles next to a brook. Care to elaborate? Did you literally have the home picked up and moved? Was that site something you always envisioned having a home next to?
JF: Oh yes! This was another “defining moment” for me. One day, I walked into the local drugstore and the owner offered me thei house FOR FREE. A large complex was being built and they were going to tear down everything in that area. The only stipulation was I had to “move” it.
So I started researching how to move a home, started calculating the costs, and organized the team (movers, police, etc). I also found this plot of land by a creek that was owned by an older lady. I simply asked if she would sell a segemented part of it, and that I’d pay cash.
She agreed, so I needed then get the financing. I found a Harvard graduate banker and pitched my approach. Explained that because of the low cost for moving the home and the location it was being moved to – it would be twice what it was worth once in place.
He agreed and I was right! The entire relocation cost $27,250 and it was valued at $50,000 after the move so the difference was my equity. It was a nice little start after graduation for my new family.
FE: Now for my own benefit as I’ll be reading Don’t Send a Resume next. After pursuing my own dream job and landing flat on my face, there’s this lost sense of feeling. This seems to be a common theme many people are experiencing right now. What are your suggestions as far as: reassessing your interests, realigning your expectations, and getting back on track?
*We ended up talking predominantly about my own experience. Mr. Fox definitely bolstered my confidence and reassured me that he saw ZERO mistake with the risk I took. It was an incredible opportunity for someone as young as myself, and there was nothing to regret.
Alright folks! That concludes the interview with Jeffrey Fox for How to Be a Fierce Competitor. If you enjoyed the write-up, make sure to check out the book along with the other dozen he’s written.