Stay on top

For some time I subscribed to a magazine called “Bottom Line/Personal.” This publication offers advice from experts in a wide spectrum of fields, from investments to relationships. Somehow, when I moved to Florida I failed to keep up with this helpful newsletter. I think I’ll get back on their subscription list.

One Bottom Line article that I found in my files resulted from an interview of John Capozzi, who was then head of JMC Industries, an investment banking firm. The title of the article is “What Successful Executives Must Remember to Stay Successful.”

His advice is neatly organized into four areas: managing, personal excellence, meetings, and positive thinking.

The article was published in l998, but nothing in it seems outdated. On the contrary, Capozzi’s advice seems even more to the point now. Here are some of the key points in each area, along with my comments.


Your example is more important than your advice. Your employees watch you more than they listen, that’s what I believe.

Don’t worry about who’s right, worry about what is right. Being right is way over-rated at work and at home.

Reward employees for their good ideas. You want to melt down any fear of offering new ideas or suggestions. How great if it becomes contagious! Steve Jobs would second that, I’m sure. Capozzi says any idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent you rub it with. Cool.

Treat your employees as you treat your boss, or perhaps better, depending.

Personal excellence

Revise your five-year plan every six months, at least. I think this is always good advice, unless you can predict the future. If you can, I’ll soon be calling you for lottery numbers.

Know where to get the news and gossip about your industry. This tip might entail your ever-expanding network, reading pertinent trade journals as well as the broader media, and taking part in associations related to your business. Furthermore, listen to your employees.

Master the one-page memo. I would add keep your emails to one paragraph or succinct lists.

As far as verbal communication, Capozzi advises that any meaningful idea in business can be stated in less than one minute. And … can be said so that it is understood by a fifth-grader, may I add.


Your memory is made of paper…keep great notes. Along the same lines, I advise clients to do the important follow-up after meetings, confirming the decisions made. This goes for meetings via telephone, email or internet connection. You know by now that I think many meetings could be replaced with a five-minute focused standing conversation.

Sometimes the most impressive or intelligent thing you can say is nothing. I’ve been around a lot of conference tables where the most influential person says the least.

People in meetings agree on decisions that they, as individuals, know are stupid. Embarrassing, but true. Then we have the second committee meeting in the hallway. What a waste of resources, including time.

Positive thinking

Capozzi recommends that we find out what our competition is doing right, and tell our employees. He also recommends that we share our own success and reward success wherever you see it in the organization. Out loud.

For every complaint you receive, assume there are a couple dozen more people (at least) who didn’t complain. Keep the complaint window open so as many as possible come through. Then you have the opportunity to do something about it.

No matter the economic conditions going on in the world, it isn’t easy running a business organization. It takes guts, perseverance, continuous learning and character. It helps to return to some pithy basic advice from those who have gone before us, like the experts featured in “Bottom Line/Personal.”

And…if you are driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, you gotta do it and the rewards are worth all your effort indeed.

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