I wasn't asked to speak at a commencement ceremony this year. But if I had been invited to pontificate in cap and gown, I'd give the same advice I give to all recent college graduates: Namely, that despite the hundreds of management and motivational books published each year, there are really only three keys to success in business:
- Show up on time.
- Return your phone calls.
- Do a good job.
Painfully obvious? Of course. But think for a moment about how many people you know who actually perform all (or any) of the three. And reflect, too, on the fact that the successful managers you know probably don't follow any one set of rules about strategy or tactics or markets or leadership or anything else. They do it their own way, except for my three keys. Think, too, about what each key to success means:
- Showing up on time is a way to express respect for the time and intentions of colleagues and customers. Courtesy is the oil that makes the gears of commerce mesh smoothly; you might as well make it work for you.
- Returning phone calls is a dying art. Yet there is no better way to meet new prospects and to keep old customers happy than to return every call -- even the annoying ones -- within 24 hours.
- Doing a good job is the most important, and most difficult, task of all. While most people begin each day planning to do a good job, few will take the time and make the effort to stick with it.
Most amazing of all, I tell those graduates, is that you don't need all three keys to succeed -- two out of three will do fine. Just pick the two you like best, and watch the money roll in. And imagine how much more you might make if you actually did a good job, too.
Speaking of graduation, this issue marks the commencement of our fourth annual class of the world's largest publicly held manufacturing companies -- the
. A year in the making, the
and its accompanying editorial package offer a fascinating view of how, where, and why the world's most prestigious companies are investing and managing for the future. This year
is indebted not only to Project Director and Associate Editor Glenn Hasek and his staff, along with independent data consultant Erik Fine, but also to our new data partner, Waltham, Mass.-based Primark. Five individuals at Primark deserve special thanks: Renny Ponvert, vice president and managing director; Matt Menheneott, customer service manager-North America; Laddie J. Hunter, director, research center services; Scott Schwartz, manager, data acquisition; and Corey Downes, production manager. Send e-mail messages to John Brandt at