I never get much out of Ted Talks or inspirational business speakers. That all changed when I heard Manoj Bhargava speak. I think you’ll like what he had to say, too.
I don’t get inspired by motivational speakers. I get nothing from most Ted Talks. When my local weather forecaster Instagrams photos of nature with “Hang in there”-type motivational quotes, I laugh. Inspirational business culture or self-help books? I have a million, and I use them to prop windows open.
As you can imagine, I see a lot of so-called motivational and inspirational speakers as I cover hotel industry conferences. I’ve seen the “Catch Me If You Can” guy probably three times. I’ve seen both “Mr. Wonderful” from Shark Tank and Gary Vee twice. Nobody has stirred my inspiration muscles one tiny bit. You get the picture.
And then I saw Manoj Bhargava speak, and I don’t ever need to see another keynote speaker again as long as I live, as far as I’m concerned. He’s that good.
The founder of 5-Hour Energy spoke at this year’s AAHOA conference in Washington, D.C., and the perspective he spoke from was entrepreneurship and philanthropy. After founding 5-Hour Energy and seeing the money he generated, he pledged to give away most of that wealth to fund projects that alleviate problems in the areas of water purity, energy availability and health, largely in India, where his cultural roots are.
His efforts are marvelous, his story is inspiring, and you can learn more about him and his philanthropic goals by watching his documentary, “Billions in Change” on YouTube.
But let’s get back to his business side for a minute. He gave so many zingers in his presentation that I have to share with you because they rang so true not only for the hotel industry, but for business in general.
Here are some of the topics Bhargava talked about that are, according to him, “approaches to business that simplify both business and life and let you actually do something.”
Doing means more than theorizing
“A lot of what we hear today is MBA-speak. A lot of you who started in the (hotel) business don’t have MBAs, and my contention is that’s why you are successful. The good (leaders) understand that they went to school, but it’s really all about doing.
“What I like to do in hiring is hire sergeants. I don’t like officers. Officers write memos about why they didn’t get stuff done, and sergeants get stuff done. We like people who execute, who do things, who see the enemy—not people who sit behind desks issuing memos.
“You want people on your team who have actually done stuff, not read about stuff. If you want the pipes in your house fixed, get a plumber—don’t get a theoretical plumber, who’s read about pipes and written about them and researched them but never seen one.”
My takeaway: Bhargava values experience, and people in all levels of the organization who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the work. And that plumber quote? It’s going up on my wall.
Keep it simple and you’ll be successful
“The approach I take in business is not that complicated—you have to make it really simple, because if it’s not simple, you’re going to have a mess. If something looks easy, it’s going to be hard. If it looks hard, don’t even go there, because you’re not going to get it done.
“If you can’t break something down to simple, you don’t have the answer (to your problem or challenge). If you want complicated, hire a consultant—they’ll give you all kinds of complicated.”
My takeaway: Bhargava said asking yourself questions that allow you to strip problems down to the fundamentals is what helps you figure out how to solve your problem in the most simple, straightforward way—and that way always will be the best.
People matter most in business
“In business, my opinion really doesn’t matter. The only opinion that matters is that of your customer, or whoever is across the table from you. What they perceive is the only reality you have to deal with. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter.
“The biggest lesson to learn is that the other person is the most important. It’s the same thing in your hotel business: If someone is dissatisfied, he won’t come back. And your best customer is the person who comes back and recommends you. Complaints are the biggest problem in business. People make decisions based on two emotions—greed and fear—and when they go into a hotel room, there’s fear that something will be wrong. If something is wrong once, like the room isn’t clean, that’s it, that customer isn’t coming back. It applies to every business.”
My takeaway: We always hear that people matter most, but Bhargava’s take on this is that what matters is your customer’s opinion.
Cut out aggravation
“I have a view of life and business I call ‘no aggravation.’ Aggravation in business and life is the biggest cost there is. The person or company or whatever aggravates you takes up 80% to 90% of your head and attention. Our most valuable thing we have is our time and attention, and if all of that time is going toward something aggravating, it’s not working. If it’s not useful or entertaining, it’s just useless.
“There are so many tasks we do in business that are completely useless, like meetings and PowerPoints. I found at work that people spent so much time doing these presentations and not actually doing work. So now I say PowerPoints are illegal. I want a half page or one page for a presentation and that’s it—if you need more space than that, you haven’t thought through your issue.”
My takeaway: These tips from Bhargava seem like they will be the most useful in work and life … and also the toughest to actually execute.
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