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Friday, July 27, 2007

Excerpt from the new Book ‘Walking with Tigers’ – Success Secrets from the World’s Top Business Leaders by Frank Furness.

Focus of a Tiger: Dave Willis

After change comes focus, the quality that will clinch success. And for many focus must act like armour plating to help achieve those dearest ambitions. Whenever you take risks be prepared to be criticised by your friends and family. But be prepared to take those risks and stay focused. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t get where you hope to be. The best thing that could happen is that you get there, in spite of everything.

This is another one from a company that I have been working with for some time, hugely successful and the man who leads them is a dreamer and an achiever. This is what he says; “I’m fully focused on the task at hand and do not have more than one major objective at a time. When focused on an objective, I will not likely consider or investigate any other opportunities that may take my focus off my main objective”. Like all tigers he has a dream and he goes for it!

There are a number of companies and tigers that have made their special mark on me, but one that really stands out. I spoke for a CEO group a few years back and in the audience was Ann Willis who was the Managing Director. She invited me to speak at their conferences in Europe, America and Asia and that was where I met her father Dave. He founded the Whitford Worldwide company, makers of fluoropolymer coating used on cookware and in industry, and, at the age of seventy one, he is still the top salesman, CEO and one of the most energetic and fully focussed people I have met. This is his story.

‘Shortly before Christmas in 1968 I was fired as a sales manager. I was 28 years old, had four children, a big house and not much money. I was determined never to be in that vulnerable position again. The company accountant had been fired the same day and the only option as we saw it was to start our own business where we could control our own destiny. We might fail, but it would be on our terms, not someone else's.’

‘The oil industry, centred in Houston, needed the product to coat studs and nuts for flanges, pipe lines, pumps, valves, offshore and down hole equipment. We called on the stud and nut producers and then made joint calls with them on the end users. In a relatively short period we were specified by nearly every Gulf Coast oil and chemical facility.

It took some time to build a strong senior management team. Not everyone wants to take a chance on what is by any measure a small company. It takes time to convince people of the credibility of a company as small yet as diverse as Whitford. We have our own people in 14 countries, we manufacture in seven of those.

In building the team, we have also concentrated on the technical side of our business. Over the past 7 years we have added many technical skills in the form of about 15 PhD's with very diverse educational backgrounds. Along with the people we have added superb analytical capabilities particularly suited for our markets.

What has resulted so far is a group of people who get along well, actually have become friends. This group works hard and plays hard. Long days coupled with an occasional long night. The result is the ability to talk out difficult problems on a non- personal basis.

‘I hear about Business Plans, Exit Strategies, Burn Ratios and many other of today’s ‘sophisticated’ business buzz words. We had none of these then, we have only a smattering now. We do not and did not "fly by the seat of our pants." We concentrate on the opportunities at hand; try to make the most of them by converting them to sales and profits as quickly as we can. We have become slower at this as we have grown.

‘We do not do sales budgets. A sales budget is simply the end point of an argument between the budgetee and the budgeter. How low can I get away with vs. how tough am I going to insist on what I think they can do? We make all comparisons vs. the previous two years. We chose two years because if we have had a tough year, the following year's comparisons can look like more progress than really occurred.’

Going forward I fear for our ability to find people willing to take some risks, make some mistakes and get on with it. I see a real reluctance to take risks in the younger generation that we count on to carry the business forward. That may be the attitude of anyone my age, but I don't think so. Every decision seems to be based on what is the least risk path? This, in my mind, is seldom the least risk and may well be (cumulatively) the most risk.
What they are saying:
I think all people who want to become ‘Tigers’ could learn so much from Frank and the light-hearted yet in-depth thinking he has put into this book.
Raymond Ackerman, founder of Pick ‘n Pay Stores, South Africa

A must read for anyone who wants to find their own path to success
Mike Southon, co-author of the Beermat Entrepreneur and other business books

Frank Furness is one of the finest speakers you can find to entertain and teach your staff how to produce better results.
Thomas Power, CEO Ecademy


Anonymous said...

Good excerpt. Brief and to the point - no meaningless waffle. If the rest of the book is as good as this it will be an inspirational top seller.

Amanda Goldston said...

Looks like an excellent book. I hear frank speak at a PSA (Professional Speakers Association) meeting last year and thought he was excellent. If the rest of the book is presented with Frank's straight-to-the point approach, then it will be excellent. Best wishes. Amanda Goldston

David said...

It's about time you shared your passion, wisdom and wit with the rest of the world on a grand scale. Thanks for writing this book.
David Perry, coauthor "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters" and managing director Perry-Martel International Inc.

Dr Gustav Gous said...

Well done Frank. As always great things come from your side. The practical non-theoretical down toe aerth style is to be commended.

Anonymous said...

Frank, it's great to know that you're sharing your extensive experience and wisdom in "Tigers". You write in the way I like to read a book - you cut to the chase.

"The Corporate Ninja" Ron Lee, author of "What Shintaro Taught Me - Zen & The Art of Success"