3 Ways My Harvard Executive Education Confirmed My Instincts and Opened My Eyes
Triple Crown has grown so much in recent years that we have a wonderful problem. (Yes, the right problem can be wonderful.) Here’s the challenge we’re facing: can we continue our robust growth, push to the next level and still maintain our people-first culture? It’s the essence of whom we are and where we came from. As co-founder, I wanted to examine that question with business leaders who are confronting the same growth challenges. Harvard University recently gave me that opportunity.
At the beginning of the year, I attended a week-long Executive Education course at Harvard Business School. Focused on the Professional Services sector, the program brought together business leaders from around the globe. I’ll admit that there was a dubious part of me that showed up on campus. I wondered if Ivy League lessons and academics could give me useful insights into the path ahead for our successful, yet at times, scrappy, unconventional, odds-defying tech recruiting firm.
By day five, my doubts had evaporated. I left Harvard with several business theories I formulated while growing Triple Crown confirmed. My eyes were opened to how much sticking-to-core-values (like focusing on people) drives profitability. Academically and instinctually validated, here are a few of the lessons from my Harvard education:
1. Focusing on People Is Profitable
Recruiting is a people business so when leaders across our industry talk about being “people focused” it can sound like white noise. During the program, we examined how leading businesses take the philosophy of continuous improvement to drive sustained efficiency gains throughout their business. For professional services firms, people – their performance and commitment – are central to building a culture of continuous improvement.
At Triple Crown, our focus on cultivating outstanding people and pushing their performance potential has defined our growth and success. I felt validated, seeing it is a strategy that yields results for businesses around the world. It was also a powerful reminder that no matter how much Triple Crown grows, focusing on our internal people first will always be key to our success.
2. Listen for Greatness
One of my favorite stories from the many anecdotes and case studies we heard during the program was about basketball player Bill Russell and his coach Red Auerbach. When people asked Russell what made this nine-time NBA champion coach remarkable, Russell said, “he had the best set of ears.” Auerbach listened to his talent people. It made his teams great.
As a leader, we often see our jobs as talking, sharing and telling. This lesson reminded me how valuable institutional knowledge is. Our team knows our clients. They know themselves, and they know their peers. We see challenges and opportunities, first-hand. That knowledge is essential to becoming the problem-solvers clients want as partners.
3. Good Customer Experience Takes the Right Customers
Every business in the majority of industries today is buzzing about the importance of “the customer experience.” One of the most important lessons for me during my week at Harvard was that building a great customer experience starts with the right customer. Too often, professional services companies take on a customer because the account is big or the name has cachet. The thinking is taking on a big-name account can win more business even if it’s not profitable or doesn’t align with the company model. That’s a fatal mistake for any account, and a world-class “customer experience” can’t solve it.
Rather than building a customer experience to fit any potential client, build it around the clients that are good for your business. Be selective and unafraid to turn down the wrong clients. The more you serve the right clients, the stronger your customer experience, business results and profits will be.
Is There Ivy All Over Me?
Despite the fact I’m sporting my newly acquired Crimson t-shirt as I write, I’m fairly certain the majority of the Triple Crown team doesn’t view me as an Ivy League guy. My time at Harvard had a tremendous impact. These lessons I shared and the numerous others that I couldn’t fit into this blog resonated. They reminded me of how hungry people are to learn and grow and put their knowledge to work. As we face our growth challenges and opportunities ahead, one of my goals will be to encourage that hunger for knowledge. If you’re learning, you’re growing. Growth for our staff, for our clients and for our business, is exactly what we expect at Triple Crown.