If I Knew Then Advice on careers, finance, and life from Harvard Business School's Class of 1963

Warren Batts on Business

I have joined a company that was wedded to a dying industry and old technology; one that was grossly undercapitalized and yet in a high-fashion industry fraught with miserable ethical practices; one where the CEO nearly sank the company with extraordinarily bad acquisitions and then tried to become larger than life; and one that was highly successful with very large free cash flows, three-piece suits and black-tie Christmas parties, but was unable to devote the focus and resources to remain competitive. All were taken over by better-managed firms.

I learned that a company is simply people with a purpose and the resources to achieve them. Losing sight of the customers — no matter who they are, what competitors are doing, or what the cutting edge of technology is in your industry — is a recipe for disaster. Cash is king and must be conserved. Internal politics cannot be tolerated.

People have to believe what they are working on is important to the company’s success and they will be treated fairly and with respect. The boss is the servant of the organization — not the opposite.

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