See the Potential by Larry Kemball

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it…”  Jack London

 Ewing Kauffman was an excellent speaker and motivator.  He was having a sales meeting for the company, and was getting everyone fired up. We were ready to take on the world. We could have run through walls, he was simply excellent at getting everyone focused and fired up. During his speech he asked everyone to take out their business cards and write down the percentage they would be over quota for the year. He did not ask us to write down a goal. He asked us ‘what percentage you would be over quota?’ I took out my card because I was so fired up, and wrote down a ridiculous number. Everyone else did the same thing, we all wrote down numbers that were nothing short of crazy.

At the end of the meeting, he stood at the door and he shook our hands and collected the cards. Collectively, everyone said, ‘oops.’ Everyone knew they were had. Then every month we would get a memo personally from ‘Mr. K’ as we affectionately called him. The memo reminded us how we were doing. If we were ahead of quota, he would tell us what a great job we were doing, and if we were behind, he would encourage us to do more. Everyone in the company realized what he had done, and we all talked about it after the meeting and during the entire year.  We all agreed it was a great leadership moment.

What did it do for the company and me? 

It was the best year I ever had up to that point, and it was the best year for the company up to that point.  It taught me the power of written goals, and the power of peer pressure.  He made all of us better. He made all of us push beyond our perceived limits. That is the secret of a best boss. Best bosses make all of us better. Ewing Kauffman made me reach for the best of myself.  In addition, he had a way of getting it, and more.

Note: Ewing Kauffman was the prototypical entrepreneur, who started with few resources, grew his firm into a multibillion-dollar company over four decades, and did so in an ethical and compassionate manner. His company, Marion Laboratories, was later purchased by Merrill Dow, and he was the original owner of the Kansas City Royals.

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