Cudahy’s 10 rules for business success

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

According to Michael J. Cudahy, it’s just as important for a corporate leader to know "what not to do" as it is important to know what to do to grow a company. Cudahy is the president of The Endeavors Group LLC, a Milwaukee investment company. He is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Marquette Medical Systems Inc., a Milwaukee company he founded in 1965 that was sold and has since become a division of GE Healthcare.
In recent years, Cudahy redeveloped the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and is currently leading the development of Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin on the city’s lakefront.
He recently received the 2005 Headliner Award from the Milwaukee Press Club for his accomplishments as an inventor, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and a community leader.
At age 81, Cudahy acknowledges his ideas may not fit the traditional mold of ways to do business. In fact, he said he was once criticized for being a "socialist capitalist."
Actually, that may be the perfect description for a man who firmly believes in capitalism, but believes in sharing his wealth with his employees and the community around him.
Cudahy gave his permission to Small Business Times to share his "Ten Golden Rules," which he also refers to as his advice for "How Not to Screw Up an Organization."
Cudahy told SBT he wrote the rules down while he was on a flight to give a speech in New York years ago.
Here are Cudahy’s "Ten Golden Rules," unedited:
1. Stay financially independent. Don’t panic about your debt-to-equity ratio and rush out in search of more capital. It’s just a number. Don’t bring in outside investors. Don’t go public until you’re all grown up.
2. Don’t hire professional managers or consultants. Chemists, OK. Engineers, sure. Even accountants. But no business managers or management consultants. They’ll change things for the sake of change, put down your old, trusted employees and try to make heroes of themselves at your expense.
3. Never make an organizational chart. The last one I made was 16 years ago, and everyone had their nose bent out of shape for six months. You can’t represent human interaction in such a simple-minded way.
4. Don’t allow meetings. Meetings are the curse of American business. Communicate and decide things in the hall, parking lot or over lunch. That way, no one shows off or gets bent out of shape if they weren’t there.
5. Have a love affair with your employees. I mean all of them. Trust them, embrace them, tell them all your secrets and treat them like one of the family. This is a good idea for customers, too.
6. Give away the store. I’ve optioned, granted, given and otherwise distributed about one-third of my entire company. and it’s paid me back a million times over. Even the floor sweeper has stock.
7. Let people do their thing. If they want their office pink, so be it. Ugly tapestry on the walls, hang plants, decorate the factory – fine. All this makes the place an extension of their home.
8. Don’t play big shot. Don’t put in a mahogany row with thick carpets and reserved parking places with the first brush of success. As a matter of fact, save the fancy stuff for your personal life.
9. Ignore the competition. More people waste more time worrying about, spying on, copying and trying to undercut competition than almost anything else. Just go forward and do your best. Elbow grease is a good substitute for paranoia.
10. Preserve your sense of humor. At all costs. I know it’s hard to laugh when you lose a million dollars, but if you don’t have a laugh or two each day, you might as well drive a cab.

May 27, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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