Two years ago I came to my staff with an idea for a new magazine. They listened politely but they were secretly rolling their eyes. "Here he goes on another harebrained adventure," is probably what they were thinking. I could feel it. I was way out there… and they were disinterested. Even my visionary top people were screaming on the inside while politely hearing me out.
Upon receiving everyone’s feedback I heard that my idea was a bad one, that it would kill the company, that it would be a wild goose chase. I almost took their advice. Yet my gut kept telling me I needed to move forward. So, I announced that we were indeed launching this new magazine. It was not widely supported. Some were mildly interested while others thought I was insane. After all, I’ve launched many things that did fail.
Almost two years and a whole lotta cash later I am initially vindicated. Wild success for the product is an understatement. In fact the success fell at a time when part of our other business was soft. The natural reaction is to "hunker down" and conserve cash, which of course we did… kind of. We hunkered down everywhere other than the new launch. Turns out it has become our cash cow, has brought in countless subscribers and advertisers and may surpass billing of some of our other business units.
Why share this? I’ve been glued to a CEO chair for more years than I would admit. The majority of times I have had wild, harebrained ideas I rarely get support internally (and often externally). It’s critical to listen to your people because they are usually right… yet no one in the company has your perspective, your experience, your vision, and your gut. A CEO must follow his or her gut against all odds. As a sole business owner I live by my decisions and they impact my net worth one-way or the other.
I’m reminded that Abe Lincoln asked each of his cabinet members if he should enter into the Civil War and 100% advised against it. After loss of sleep for days Lincoln proceeded against the advice of his strongest advisors. Truman did the same when making the decision to drop the bomb. (Sadly in both cases lives were on the line where in my case the impact is not life or death).
The moral? Listen carefully. Follow your gut. Live with your decisions. Its not about being right or being popular, it’s just business.