“Hell on earth would be to meet the man you could have been”

With more than 40 years of business and investing experience, and with the experience of failing and then rising again, Keith J. Cunningham shared his views on the critical business skills needed to be successful.


Keith Cunningham does not just provide inspiration. He also gives you the tools to take that inspiration into practice.

Cunningham started by reminding the audience that you would not trust a pilot that does not understand the different buttons in his dashboard. At the same time, many business leaders run their business as they would be playing the game of “pin the tail on the donkey”.

Business is an intellectual game. What you need to be successful are business skills and tools. Passion and hard work are not enough. You need to understand the goal, your current situation and what is required to get you where you want to be. This needs careful analysis. A doctor must look behind the curtain to see what is really going on. The same applies for a business leader.

According to Cunningham, a CEO cannot delegate four things:

  1. Organization Chart. Choose the right people to produce the right outcomes.
  2. Culture. Three rules of a great culture are: Let’s do the right thing. Let’s do the best we can. Show other people that we care.
  3. Strategy/Machine. Strategy is a plan that helps to overcome an obstacle that is stopping me to get to where I want to be. A machine is the cure for the problem once it is identified.
  4. Allocation of resources. What often undermines growth is the misalignment of resources and the wanted outcome. There are two good reasons to allocate money: Keep existing customers and getting new ones.

There are some key points to take into account when thinking about these four things.

Most people are focusing on getting new customers at the expense of keeping the existing ones. But, Cunningham rightly asked “How big would your business be if you still had every customer who ever tried you?”

In addition, Cunningham reminded the audience that most people fail to identify the real problem and focus on symptoms, not problems. Only by identifying the actual problem can you identify the right cure.

Identifying the right problem requires effort. Therefore great leaders take time to think. The best ones reserve time to think in their schedules to make sure they’ll do so on a regular basis.

It is not all the same what you think, when you finally take the time to think. Focus on these 4 questions:

  1. Who do I want to Buy from me?
  2. What MUST happen to cause them to buy?
  3. What MUST happen to keep them Buying?
  4. What would cause them NOT to buy?

To sum up, in order to get your customers to say “I would be crazy not to do business with this guy”, you need to take at least the following four points with you from Cunningham’s speech:

  1. Allocation of resources to keep in the existing customers.
  2. Figuring out what is the real problem.
  3. To think. The key questions do not change but the answers do.
  4. Simplify. Focus on the core questions. Simplifying will help to bring clarity to complex situations.

If you need more motivation to apply these points in to your own life, I am going to leave you with one thought: Hell on earth would be to meet the (wo)man you could have been if you just took the time to think and asked the right questions.




Author: Susanna Eskola (@susanna_eskola on Twitter)


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