By: Wesley Legg
There has been speculation that Apple is looking to get into the automotive industry. Exhibit number one for the speculators is the fact that Apple has been on a hiring spree for auto industry talent. In fact, Apple’s poached so many car battery engineers from A123 Systems, that A123 sued Apple claiming foul play. So what exactly is Apple doing? Are they looking to make an Apple branded automobile, are they working on operating systems that would play in another maker’s car? I certainly don’t know the answer to that question, and I suspect neither does Apple.
You may remember Jim Collins’ findings in the research he and his team published in “Good To Great”. One of the key elements for taking a company from good-to-great was getting the right people in the right seat on the bus. That wasn’t really a profound idea, but what was more interesting to me was the “First Who…Then What” concept. The key point there was that the “who” questions come before the “what” questions.
In other words, build the right team, give them leadership and general direction and you’ll have a better “what”, i.e., vision, strategy, organizational structure, etc. I’m willing to bet Apple is putting the “First Who…Then What” idea to the test. Assemble a great team, put them on the bus and then decide the destination.
Recruiting, training and retaining the right talent takes focus and intentionality. Yes, it is a big investment, but it will cost you real money if you don’t make it a key discipline for your company. How much will it cost you? Go to Caliper Corporation’s “Cost of Turnover Calculator” to explore the cost of turnover for your company. You might be surprised to see the practical costs of hiring the wrong person or losing the right person, and this is before considering opportunity costs not measured in the Caliper’s formula.
The benefits of hiring and associating with the right people are endless. The right people will bring the same passion you have to the business and steward it with the same rigor. They’ll find a way to capitalize on opportunity and navigate the times of challenge. It will not only lead to great business, but also a great life. Finally, having the right team can pay big when you bring on an equity partner or make your exit.
Finding companies with strong management teams is the strategy of most smart investors, including Warren Buffett. If you won’t take it from me, take it from him, “When you are associating with the people you love, doing what you love, it doesn’t get any better than that.”