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A Day with Tom Peters
By Debby Edelstein

It’s always fascinating to see a legend in action and I grabbed at the opportunity to hear what Tom Peters had to say at the recent BRG conference themed ‘Reinventing Excellence!’ (www.brg.co.za).

Almost 30 years and 16 books after his celebrated In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters continues to influence business. As CNN says, “While most business gurus milk the same mantra for all its worth, the one-man brand called Tom Peters is still reinventing himself.”

A feisty, irreverent character, he’s just as charismatic and outrageous as I expected, but he’s a whole lot more accessible too.

These were some of my take-outs:

  1. I like the way that he refers to himself as a “Reminder in Chief”. He was quite candid about the fact that he was telling us nothing new, but reminding us instead of the truths grandmothers teach us, which are usually forgotten in everyday life.
  2. Hiring is the most important aspect of business and yet it is woefully misunderstood.
  3. Execution is strategy. Get execution right and who cares about strategy?
  4. Leaders spend all their time running meetings, having conversations and writing emails, so learn how to make those meetings and emails count. Also make sure that you invest time preparing for conversations and meetings. “Every meeting is pure theatre. It is the stage on which you express your aspirations and values. Every meeting that does not stir the imagination and curiosity of attendees is a permanently lost opportunity.”
  5. By definition, managers can’t do all the work themselves. So the manager’s sole task is to make others more successful, one at a time. So, what’s your plan to make each individual within your team more successful with the next week?
  6. No company ever expended too much thought/effort on training. It’s 10 times more important for a small company than for a big company to invest in training.
  7. The problem is rarely/never the problem. The response to the problem becomes the problem.
  8. Cash is King. You can go to business school and take four courses in accounting but ultimately running a business is all about cash flow.
  9. Of course, I couldn’t help but be impressed by his attitude to women’s leadership. The truth is that Tom Peters has been talking about women’s leadership for more than 10 years. In his book Re-Imagine! he says, “If we are serious about the pivotal role that talent plays in the new economy, the connection in our minds between ‘talent’ and ‘leadership’ and ‘women’ must become automatic.”

At the end of his workshop Peters left us with this quote from The Economist: “Forget China, India and the Internet, economic growth is driven by women.” Not surprisingly, I left a fan.