Paul Kiewiet, MAS, is a speaker, coach, writer and the executive director of MiPPA. Leadership is not about being liked. It’s about doing what’s right. This means being visionary and looking beyond your corners of the promotional products world. It means that as a distributor, you must strengthen the supplier channel and vice versa. You must ruffle feathers, or you’re probably not doing your job as a leader. You were hired or started your business to lead--not to be a caretaker. You must have the courage to describe the current landscape and define the ways to strengthen your clients’ organizations in the context of today’s market realities.
Windows of opportunity not only open and close, they get bricked over and disappear. Your destiny will be shaped by how you respond to opportunity when it presents itself. You cannot allow yourselves to be blinded by fear nor paralyzed by it. And if you want to look for opportunity, look no further than your fears. Usually, if you will just pick up your fears and turn them over, you will see the beautiful opportunity that it presents. We are currently living in a time of the most opportunity that we will ever see in our lifetimes. If you are in the business of solving problems and taking away pain, you are living in what should be the best of times.
Commitment starts at 100%. Leadership begins at the extra mile. If you are to become the organization that your competitors will try to emulate rather than the other way around, you must have skin in the game. You cannot fear failure. Tom Peters said, “Screw-ups are the mark of excellence.” The most successful people on the planet have failed more than ordinary ones. The only failure is the failure to try and dream and dare. But the greatest failure of all is not dreaming big, not setting big hairy audacious goals, not setting new standards of excellence and possibility. It is learning to be discerning enough to realize that when you say "yes" to something that is unimportant, that you have just said “no” to something that is.
Reinvent. What would you do if your very survival were at stake? What if you faced a challenge so enormous that immediate, drastic changes and shifts were needed and need now? Pressure and challenge will make you bigger, stronger and more relevant. It can be your catalyst to greatness. But you cannot afford to wait.
The small, independent, mom-and-pop business landscape is littered with the corpses of those who failed to have a value proposition relevant to today’s world. Office supplies. Travel agencies. Book stores. The internet demolished some. Giant competitors crushed others. Only a few who have differentiated themselves and created unique value have flourished. It may be time to burn your boats and move with courage to completely overhaul your structure, your message and your ways of doing business so that you can be an example to your employees and your clients and inspire them.