Articles From Mark Thompson View Profile

Share this Article
  • What Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates Told Me About Getting Out of My Own Way

    Mark Thompson, What Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates Told Me About Getting Out of My Own Way

    When I ask self-made billionaires what they wish they knew when they started out in business, one of the insights they most frequently share points to a common experience for all leaders when it comes to decision-making: They struggle to get out of their own way.

    1. You don't get paid to make all the decisions.

    "You can't grow or scale your business quickly if you're making all the decisions. It's not about you," warned Vinod Khosla. The billionaire has had a few notable failures, but is best known as a co-founder of SUN and a pioneer in venture capital at Kleiner Perkins and his own firm, Khosla Ventures. "It's too risky to bet year after year on a company that depends entirely on one ego." The job of a leader is to "recruit and develop people who can make better decisions than you. What you're looking for in leaders is the ability to build the teams that can make decisions on their own--while the leader asks great questions and provides guidance. They're more of a beacon than a commander," he smiled.

    "If they are proactive CEOs," he continued, "just the fact that they asked a particular question may change the direction in which his or her team thinks. Of course, the leader has to be there to resolve differences between team members, but most of the time a leader's job is putting together the right team, and putting the right questions in front of them to change their inherent internal built-in biases."

    2. You don't get paid to do what others are doing.

    At the turn of the century, market analysts wrote about how Amazon was going out of business. "They had low margins and the company was under enormous pressure. Amazon started to raise prices for a little bit, and that made Wall Street happy temporarily," Khosla shrugged. "Jeff Bezos realized it was the wrong long-term strategy, so he reversed that decision. 'We're going back to low prices,' Amazon announced, which earned greater customer loyalty, but thinner margins. They took a pummeling in their stock price." But the long-term decision he made was correct and today Amazon is the world's biggest store.

    "To me, leaders are too influenced by what Wall Street and the press have to say," Khosla insisted. "This gets worse the bigger a company gets. Overreacting to what someone writes (who hasn't run a business like yours) is risky. When the press criticizes your direction, it's likely because they're following conventional wisdom, which is what everybody else is doing it anyway."

    Steve Jobs showed great counterintuitive "courage in announcing the iPhone in 2007 at a price point everybody thought would be disastrous and with no keyboard, which everybody thought would fail," Khosla reminded. "You should look at December of 2006 and see how the press predicted doom for the iPhone. Everybody wanted them to follow BlackBerry and Nokia. Guess what would have happened if they'd followed those two other market leaders at the time?" It's not your job to follow the crowd.

    I shared that story with Khosla's disruptively brilliant friend Elon Musk. "You don't get paid to copy the other guy," he laughed. "It's too easy to fall hopelessly behind; it's your job to have the courage of your convictions and dare to disagree," the founder of Tesla and SpaceX said.

    Musk's sentiment is reflected in the headline on the opening page on Khosla Ventures' website: "Change depends on unreasonable people."

    3. You don't get paid to chase the next crisis.

    "When you sit down Sunday night to look at your week, what percentage of your calendar is focused on being proactive?" Khosla asks. "What direction do you want to lead that will create a clearer path to growth and profitability, as opposed to just responding to one meeting request after another, or an emergency here or there? There will always be crises that must be managed. But the difference between being proactive rather than reactive is making the time to really decide" where you want to lead your organization.

    "How will you help others solve problems to build a better future, not obsess about the past?" Bill Gates once admonished me when I whined about a crisis that had wiped out my day. We were at the World Economic Forum in Davos to talk about reinventing business and America's richest man thought I was missing the point. "You have to learn from your problems, but stay focused on the road ahead, not just what's in the rearview mirror."

    That's what your clients are counting on when they give you their hard-earned time and money to do business with you. That's why investors will take a bet on you. And that's why the best employees and leaders risk their careers to come to work for you. What are you creating that's bigger than you are?

Share this Article
X

FIND A SPEAKER

TESTIMONIALS

Testimonials
  • "Your tenacity and persistence in staying in touch with us is a model example of good salesmanship and partnering.  I will be using you as an exa...
    Schneider Electric
  • "I wanted to share with you feedback of my experience in working with Executive Speakers Bureau.. Very responsive and detail oriented.  When I wa...
    Amdocs
  • "I appreciate your recommendations.  In addition, you are always a pleasure to work with and understand the pains of an over worked meeting plann...
    Milliman
  • Everything went really well and we really enjoyed having Jack Uldrich as our speaker!  He was entertaining and funny and provided great examples....
    Novo Nordisk
  • "I will be sure that all involved know what a wonderful resource you have been. The universe smiled on me when I discovered Executive Speakers and you...
    Ocala Eye
  • "The group that I work with to obtain all of my keynote speakers is Executive Speakers Bureau and I can tell you that I don’t like working with ...
    Indiana Youth Institute
  • "Let me just say again, what a pleasure it is to work with you and ESB. You really make it harder for others to reach the bar."
    ASTD
  • Bridgeworks was awesome!!! Great feedback from all!! Thanks for all of your collaboration and positive we'll use you in the future.  
    Johnson & Johnson
  • "Richard, Your ability to put me in front of just the right group again and again, is nothing short of amazing. You work your tail off, you sweat the ...
    Alan Hobson
  • "Thanks to you and Jo for all your efforts.  Connie Podesta and Roger Dow were great!"   
    National Apartment Association
  • "Everyone loved Bob and he was so nice on site. Thank you for all you did. The process was so easy and we will definitely work with you again next yea...
    NBC
  • You ladies really are the BEST!  After this event I am going to be on the hunt for keynote speakers in May.  I really want to work with you ...
    ICMI
  • Angela, you & your team have my endorsement for making Memphis events successful. People should use you to plan their next event.
  • "I LOVE this list that you sent me! I emailed several different places on Tuesday an...
    CoreLogic
  • I’ve used the services of a number of speakers bureaus in the past. However, my current experience working with the Executive Speakers Bureau ha...
    Intel
  • "We loved our speakers. Thanks to you and your team for your outstanding service and thank you for your patience!"

    National Association of the Blind
  • We could not have done it without you.  Thank you for the outstanding suggestions.  The speakers were by far the best we have ever had.
    FedEx
  • The Nebraska Hospital Association along with numerous other state hospital associations have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Executive Speak...
    The Nebraska Hospital Association
  • Our bank has held an annual business and economic conference for the past 9 years.  We have worked with Executive Speakers every year and I have ...
    First Midwest Bank
  • I want to thank you for all of your assistance you and Jenny were wonderful. If it had not been for you sending me suggestions I would not have found ...
    West Virginia Tourism
  • Mr. Schelp you are a Rock Star! Thank you!!!  Deal #7 is done and more to come!
  • Thanks to you, Jo and the rest of your team.  You are the BEST.  Knowing you are behind a speaker allows us the luxury of concentrating on o...
    Ohio Hospital Association
  • We truly appreciate the excellent support and attention to detail we have received from Executive Speakers Bureau.  They have provided us with so...
    IBM
  • As always, you deliver excellent service. Thanks!
    Camden National Bank
  • Thank you to both of you for everything surrounding Mr. Will as our special guest. I suspect, soon, I will be in touch regarding our next event. 
    Oxford Financial
  • "My mind was very much at ease knowing that Jack Uldrich was so well prepped.  I will definitely use your agency again."  
    EAIE
  • "OMG Richard! As always you make me look like a rock star. Every single speaker we selected hit it out of the park. Thank you again. Can't even say wh...
    Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Assn.
  • "We not only went 3 for 3 but I'd say they were all home runs! Thanks for your help on the speakers. It was a key and very positive component of our c...
    Chem-Dry
  • “Thank you guys it was a pleasure working with you.... You made the whole process easy. Thanks again”
    CableNation
  • "I want to thank you for helping with our Principals Day event. Marshall Goldsmith was excellent. Not only is Marshall the consummate professional, be...
    Burns & McDonnell
  • Thanks to Richard and Jo for all the coordination. Another homerun from Executive Speakers Bureau!  
    Wisconsin Hospital Association
  • "As I mentioned before, your engagement model was incredibly easy to work with, and I know we came to you on short notice!  I would highly recomm...
    Capitol One
  • "You made my job so much easier! You are the only bureau I will use."     
    Sigma Systems
  • "WOW, is all I have to say and thank you!  Our event was a huge success and you never steer me wrong, both David Cottrell and Ryan Estis were exc...
    ICMI
  • The event was EASY Cake! and it went over very very well.  Thank you so much for the help and organization, it made my life very easy. 
    Boys & Girls Club
  • "My entire team has enjoyed the experience of working with you and ESB more than words can express. Everything was handled in a professional and timel...
    Cregger Company
  • "Thank you so much for all your help in putting this together on such short notice. I will definitely use your services again in the future."
    Applied Materials
Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Call us to discuss how we can help find the right speaker for your organization.

Get Ideas in 2 Hours or Less

Please fill in information below

Executive Speakers Bureau consistently receives praises about our speed and efficiency. From the beginning of your event planning, our extensive online speaker database and resourceful staff allow us to quickly equip you with the best speaker for your event.

Need a last minute speaker? No worries. Our speed and efficiency help us give you ideas for speakers in two hours or less.


Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM