Success is difficult to measure because we all have our own definition of it. What Apple may consider a success, IBM may shrug off as just another minor achievement, and vice versa. So it’s possible that, even if we all believe Google is a hugely successful IT company, the people at Google don’t think so. But who are they kidding?
So what do Google, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle, to name a few, have in common?
The proper response is, “Where do I start?” Is it with the gazillions of dollars of market capitalization? Is it their being household names? Or is it because it’s pretty tough living in a world without them?
I’d say yes to all, and more. Clearly, all these companies are the embodiment of success, with a capital “S”.
Success, however, does not happen overnight. Or over a fortnight. Or over a thousand nights. It’s countless nights of wringing one’s brains of every ounce of creative juice, a lot of prudence, rising back stronger after falling, and probably a hundred other intangibles. But if you really want to paint a very clear and easy to appreciate picture of success vis-a-vis the IT industry, where these companies are undisputed leaders, there are only a handful of secrets. Good news is, after I reveal them to you, they won’t be secrets any longer. So pay attention.
The Top IT Companies’ Recipes for Success
To be clear, all the top IT companies have:
1) Competitive advantage
2) Excellent management
3) Market leadership
These are the clearest indicators of success in the IT Industry (or in any industry, for that matter). Here’s how they were able to reach the pinnacle of success.
1) Hire fast and fire slow
Sounds strange, but the “Hire slow, fire fast” slogan applies only for startups, especially when they’re tempted to hire just about anybody when business suddenly picks up and they have more customers or clients than they have initial staff for.
In the entirely different world of stable, successful businesses, it’s good to hire fast. The top companies do not waste time hiring people when they can fill up a required position. There’s not much fanfare – when you impress them, you’re hired. But of course, the vetting process on who gets to qualify for the interview is in itself a stiff challenge.
About firing slow, well, HR’s job is to get the right people on the train and the wrong people off. But here’s the problem: When an employee has spent a considerable amount of time in the company, has enjoyed hundreds of hours of training and learning the systems and processes and has embraced the culture, does it make business sense to fire them? Unless they use the corporate credit card to purchase a new car or endanger a coworker or do something really stupid (like spill a trade secret on social media), I believe in firing slow.
If an employee who used to perform well hasn’t been up to the job lately, aren’t you curious what led to the change? The point is, most things can be solved by way of good old diplomacy. You don’t have to fire everybody at once. Ask the top IT companies and they’ll tell you that keeping employees is more than just not feeling guilty for having to fire somebody.
2) Take care of their people
It’s not a coincidence that some of the top IT companies are also cited as the best places to work at. These companies believe that if they take care of their people, the people will take care of their customers.
Take Google for example. This tech giant isn’t just the most popular name in all of the internet – it’s also on top of most people’s list of “best place to work at”. And it doesn’t come as a surprise anymore.
From Inc.com: “Google has long invested in wellness as a way to keep employees happy, productive, and functioning at their highest levels. Wellness-boosting perks at Google include healthy snacks, bring-your-pet-to-work days, on-site doctors and massages, to name a few. The company’s own Search Inside Yourself program, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training program developed by Google’s own “Jolly Good Fellow” Chade-Meng Tan, is offered free of charge for all employees.
It’s very simple. Take care of your people and they’ll take care of your customers for you.
3) Provide phenomenal customer service
I cannot overemphasize the value of customer service in any kind of business. Whether you sell products or offer services, customer services is that one area where there’s no excuse to fail because you don’t need a lot of money to do it, you don’t need a lot of research, and you don’t need the latest technology. All you need is a genuine care for your customer or client and you’re good.
People should be the cornerstone of any business. See, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will. That’s what the top companies believe, and they always make sure that through their customer service, they are worthy of the people’s trust.
That’s why, even if you hear an occasional complaint about an iPhone that sucked, you almost never hear a customer complain about Apple’s customer service.
From the Huffinton Post: “… Salesforce, whose roots are in the customer relationship market, also has superb customer service. In fact, Salesforce is so customer focused and so transparent that the company will even tell the public when its cloud services are unavailable or having reliance issues. Consumer trust is of paramount importance to the company as “transparency builds trust.”
4) Take time to rebuild company infrastructure
It’s safe to safe all of the most successful IT companies have, in one way or another, undergone company restructuring. It’s like when people get so stressed out and burned out, they take a vacation and introspect and find ways to improve themselves? Companies do that, too. They take a step back and look at things at a different perspective so that they can put themselves in a better position to succeed.
From Inc.com: “Post-organizational restructuring in July 2013, Microsoft operates through five segments: devices and consumer licensing, devices and consumer hardware, devices and consumer other, commercial licensing and commercial other. Devices and consumer licensing segment addresses Windows OS and related software, their licensing, Windows original equipment manufacturing licensing and MS office products for consumers. Devices and consumer hardware segment addresses Xbox gaming and entertainment consoles, its subscription and PC accessories and video game royalties. Devices and consumer other segment operates through resale of Windows store, Windows phone store and advertising, and Xbox live transaction.”
5) Learn from their mistakes
If you happen to work for Google, Microsoft, or Apple and your CEO tells you after a major blunder that “It’s okay to make mistakes. But make sure that every time you make a mistake, it’s a new one.” and gives you a pat on the back, don’t freak out. It’s very likely to happen as these companies are one in the belief that the only real mistakes are the ones you don’t learn from.
It’s understandable to make a mistake, but making the same mistake several times means that you haven’t learned anything from it. Similarly, making new mistakes shows that you’re trying something different until you figure out the right way to do something well. Here’s What IT Leaders can Learn from (the fall of) Nokia
6) Put Principles before Profit
There are times when a company realizes that there’s more to the world than profit and actually puts its principles above it.
This explains Google’s unparalleled employee benefits or Amazon’s belief that everything should be about the customer or Bill Gates’ advocacy to find the cure for AIDS. IBM, for instance, is a well-like company because of its very strong corporate social responsibility.
Inc.com notes that “Apart from the business growth, the work ethics of the company are also recognized worldwide and it is one of the most preferred companies to work in. IBM has been regularly awarded for its work ethics and is a popular employer for people looking to make a career in IT and technology.”
These companies (and people) understand that at the end of the day, your core principles and values are actually what put you in the position to earn more money that you can spend.
While these traits are not the entirety of the fabric that makes these companies strong and tough as a unit, each strand contributes to the general make-up and collective strength of the organization. All these give the company competitive advantage and a better chance at market leadership. Take out one strand and it might not instantly break, but it will be vulnerable.
Tell us what traits made your company succeed. Your comments are welcome!
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