Business Musings From Carter Cast

I was having breakfast the other day with a friend of mine, Carter Cast, and we were discussing the dynamics and effort necessary to successful build an entrepreneurial company into a larger organization. Carter is a great guy and well known for his balanced approach to management and the effort he spends on building effective teams. Over the years, he has been head of marketing for Blue Nile (one of the first 5 employees), CMO of eBay and CEO of Walmart.com. He mentioned that he has a set of principles that govern him which he shares with employees when he comes into a company. He is a big fan of transparency and believes if employees have clear understanding of the rules of the game, they are more productive. He has captured them in a short, one page document "A Few Musings on Business Life" which he hands out to his team. I’ve attached the Word doc, but the content is below. (Download carter_cast_musing_on_business_life.doc
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A Few Musings on Business Life

1.    Integrity
•    “Honesty” usually comes to mind when you hear the word “integrity” but it’s more than that. It’s also “candor” and “managerial courage”—saying what needs to be said for the good of the business or for a person’s development. By the way, anyone can say, “I emphatically and categorically disagree with you.” The challenge is to say it with a little finesse, communicating what needs to be said clearly yet tactfully.

2.    Managing people
•    If you let people know you care about them and want to develop them, they’ll reward you by cutting you some slack–they’ll look past your foibles.
•    Listen, not only to what’s being said, but how it’s being said. Ask questions—actively listen.
•    Don’t underestimate a person’s bias toward self-interest. Saying that isn’t harsh, merely human. We see things from our own vantage point. We’re all trying to survive and thrive in the concrete jungle. So put yourself in the other person’s shoes as much as humanly possible to understand what they’re going through, what they need, and what they aspire to.

3.    Productivity
•    Congratulations on working hard, but working smart is more sensible. Organize your day, have a game plan to maximize your productivity and ask yourself, “Am I focusing on the key activities that will move the needle?”
•    Don’t be afraid to show your passion. Be intense. Be demonstrative. It creates energy.
•    Ignore the noise. Don’t get head rot. Generally, other people’s gripes are…other people’s gripes. Anyone can see what’s wrong. How many can see what’s possible?

4.    Learning
•    Take the time to become an expert in your area. As long as you learn, you’ll progress. Don’t worry about titles and promotions. If you focus on learning, the promotions will take care of themselves.
•    Learn the value chain. There’s no substitute for knowing how it all fits together and what activities drive organizational value. It will lead to good decision-making and will also give you credibility in the organization.

5.    Communication
•    Business is a complex set of interdependencies. Few good decisions are made in a vacuum. Solicit input. Shop your agenda. Get out of your cube for goodness sakes.
•    Communicate a consistent agenda. I suppose that’s the Reagan Rule.
•    Get to know the agenda of others—especially those outside your department. Take them to lunch.
•    Put yourself in the other person’s shoes when encountering conflict.

6.    Zoom in, pull back
•    Details matter—the trick is figuring out which you need to make the call.
•    Don’t ignore Malcolm Gladwell’s notion of “thin-slicing.” Listen to your immediate reaction to things.
•    Sit and stare at the wall—it doesn’t mean you’re not working. Throw assumptions out the window and reconceptualize the business.
•    Monitor the marketplace. Most great ideas are borrowed.

7.    Have fun
•    When you’re loose, creativity blooms.
•    We work for 10+ hours a day. I’d rather sashay, not shuffle through it.
•    Work is more fun when you’re optimistic.

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