3 Big Wisdoms of Business Leadership

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Matt Johnson on his show, YouX, a podcast dedicated to helping creative business leaders turn their rock star business into a machine that multiplies the impact of its leader. Matt has produced some fantastic episodes over the years, from business models to fractional services to moving from a transactional to relationship business.


In my conversation with Matt, I narrowed down my advice for YouX listeners into what I called my 3 big wisdoms, briefly summarized below, that I believe play a critical role in business and leadership success based on my experience.

  1. Define your niche and be all in. I first heard this when working at National Instruments – it was key among a few driving forces that led them to their very first product. In my book I talk about Southwest Airlines and their niche flying one type of aircraft. Even to this day, they are one of the most profitable, respected, and loved airlines in the industry. At the agency I cofounded, TREW Marketing, defining our niche became a point of survival coming out of the 2009 recession. In the first chapter of my book, I refer to this as Say No to Grow - that is, saying NO to distracting, less profitable business so you’re available to say YES to exactly what you want to do and can do most profitably. To define your niche, you have to ask yourself “What am I expert in and what do I love to do that can be profitable?” That’s a loaded question, and I explain in the podcast how determining your “three uniques” helps you figure out the answer to this question.

  2. Have clearly defined objectives with a process to reliably measure progress. When I was at National Instruments, I distinctly remember the time, years ago now, when the leadership team introduced a new process for defining and measuring business goals. There were 5. They were short and succinct. And they were measurable. Everyone in the company knew them, there were sub-teams built around them, and they brought focus to 100’s of people from engineering to marketing to sales. It’s not rocket science, but it’s incredible how many companies don’t do the simple task of defining business goals and measuring progress toward them regularly. For smaller businesses, I highly recommend reading Get a Grip and implementing the EOS model. Today, I help engineering executives dissect where they’re lacking measurable objectives and help them define and measure them over time.

  3. Work and live accountably. This final piece is where it all happens. This, at the end of the day, is about people meeting deadlines, achieving objectives, and building trust among their team members. This is more than integrity, which is you doing what you say you’ll do. Integrity is part of accountability, but accountability is more because it’s two-way. You should be held accountable for your responsibilities, but you should also be able to hold others accountable for their responsibilities. And you should hold your manager accountable for supporting you with the resources and decisions you need to be successful in your role. And you should hold the leaders and owners of your company accountable to define what success looks like, and lead the company in a transparent way, both financially and ethically.

To listen to the full podcast, visit this blog post or listen on iTunes.

Engineers are Skeptical People Who Loathe Marketers

This was the opening line of a review of my book a couple of years ago by my good friend, and well-known and respected engineering editor, Martin Rowe. Martin’s words are worth re-visiting as business leaders of technical companies - from owners to sales and marketing leaders - are reminded of this tough audience.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 3.23.24 PM.png

One example, and tip, Martin shares in the comments section of this article is about what he calls “poof articles”. Here’s how he explains them:

I've been in this technical editor business for 23 years, 11 months and one thing hasn't changed: PR/marketing people still send "poof" articles.

Poof articles?

That's when a "technical" article describes an engineering problem and then poof, buy my company's product, problem solved. I rejected one such article just today.

So to you PR/marketing people, if you want someone to write a "poof" article, put it on your own web site.

You can read more about Martin’s thoughts on the book, and tips on building trust with your engineering audience in the article here. As I like to say, it’s a marathon not a sprint - authenticity, starting with education, and persistence pay off in due time.

Keysight Technologies Partner Event

Book signing on the patio at Keysight Technologies HQ in Santa Rosa, CA.

Book signing on the patio at Keysight Technologies HQ in Santa Rosa, CA.

Recently I had the honor of speaking at Keysight Technologies’ Solution Partner Executive Summit in Santa Rosa. Throughout 2 days, I met with engineers leading companies across deeply technical industries from wireless communications to military and aerospace test.

Many of their challenges go beyond the basics of marketing and expand to include organizational issues, tradeoffs regarding ROI, and maximizing partnerships with technology leaders such as Keysight, Rockwell, National Instruments and others.

As a business leader of a deeply technical company, if you struggle with similar issues, have you considered setting up an advisory board? Or bringing in an interim manager to partner with you to solve the organizational and leadership communications challenges you face and accelerate your path to realizing your vision?

To learn more about how RIVE can help, email info@rivevisor.com or complete the form on our Contact Us page.

A Compilation of Advisement Posts

The RIVE blog is still in the works. In the meantime, check out Rebecca's posts on the TREW Marketing site on the following topics. And while you're there - subscribe to the TREW blog - it's the best marketing-to-engineers blog around!

Brand Positioning and Messaging:

Part 1: 10 Steps to Develop Your Brand Position and Message

Part 2: 4 Steps to Develop Your Brand Message

Culture, Mission and Vision:

Align and Inspire Stakeholders with Your Mission and Vision Statements

We Are On a Mission

Leadership & Communication

The Leadership Chemicals: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Some Don't

Book Review: Get a Grip