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另类生意经:祖母的教诲

Vickie Elmer 2011年11月02日

很多成功的高级经理人经常将自己从爷爷奶奶等老一辈人身上得来的真知灼见运用到商业领域。无论如何,这听起来多少都有些另类。

    为了寻求管理方面的真知灼见,有人求助于导师或老板,也有人靠阅读彼得•德鲁克的书籍,试图从中找到商业智慧的精髓。而亚特兰大地区律师韦恩•基尔则依赖于祖母的智慧。

    基尔在迈阿密郊外经营着一家律师事务所。他曾经收售数家企业,还写过一本书《祖母讲故事:商业多样化寓言》(Tales My Grandmother Told Me: A Business Diversity Fable)。尽管他的商场经历相当丰富,但他还是常常回想起孩提时从祖父母那里学到的经验。小时候,每年暑假他都会去祖父母开的杂货店玩。这家杂货店位于牙买加莫尼格小城的中心,向工人们出售鱼、肉类、大米、糖果、三明治和苏打水。祖母还会卖冰淇淋,甚至在晚上经营一个小酒吧。

    基尔说:“她绝对称得上是镇上的焦点人物。”祖母要兼做老板和售货员,在脑子里算账的同时还要营造一个理想的生意环境。

    基尔的祖母对多样化经营很在行。除了这家杂货店,她还买了地皮和几家加油站。后来基尔也采纳了祖母的多样化模式,转向公共演讲和少数族裔企业咨询。

    他的祖母多丽丝(真名是艾琳•玛科斯塔)还教导他,要以诚实公平的态度与经销商和其他商人做生意。他说:“我祖母早已经在实践双赢理念了。”这意味着他在谈判中既要立场坚定,但又不能做得太过火。他回忆说,当时供应商都愿意跟祖母做生意。现在,每次谈判的时候他都会告诉自己,“如果我退一小步,对方会更开心,那我们就能建立长期的合作关系,还能以诚相待,彼此尊重。”

默默追随祖母教诲的信徒

    向祖母借鉴智慧作为领导法则的高级经理人远非基尔一人,不管他们的祖母是叫雅诗•兰黛,还是叫路易莎。

    雅虎公司(Yahoo)前高管蒂姆•桑德斯现为作家和咨询师。他把祖母比莉在感恩和自信方面的洞见和经验写进了自己的新书《今天我们很富有》(Today We Are Rich)。

    桑德斯说,“她教会了我自信,拥有自信我就敢于面对一切。我知道我的自信源自何处。现在我正在挑战其他一些权威和商业作家,他们也说从自己的祖母那里学到很多东西。”桑德斯说每周他都能遇到个把人,声称自己的商业灵感来源于祖母。

    宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院(the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School)领导力与变革管理研究中心(the Center for Leadership and Change Management)主任迈克尔•尤西姆表示,高级经理人不会耗费太多时间谈论家人和家族轶事,但家人对他们的影响是巨大的。他说:“我遇到的很多人,他们的家人和先辈为人处世的方式对他们现在的人生观影响非常大,这让我印象颇深。”

    有的是祖父祖母,有的可能是几代之前的祖先。当尤西姆询问其领导力项目参与者,他们最崇拜哪些领导人时,最常见的回答是纳尔逊•曼德拉,百事公司(PepsiCo)总裁卢英德,或者是最近逝世的史蒂夫•乔布斯。尤西姆表示,大约有10%到15%的人会提到自己的父母,这是他们祖父母影响力的延伸。

培养祖母式的商业智慧

    这种观点听起来似乎有些古怪,因为在这个不断变革的时代,我们通常会通过Twitter、博客和其他来源获取大量管理方面的深刻见解和观点。当今的商业领袖必须懂得国际金融、世界经济危机、不断演变的社会媒体平台以及社会品味和潮流。祖母们的思想或者智慧精髓如何才能真正与当今复杂的商业形势产生共鸣呢?

    Some people turn to a mentor or maybe even a boss for management insights. Others look to Peter Drucker's books for pearls of business wisdom. Atlanta-area attorney A. Wayne Gill counts on the wisdom of his grandmother.

    Gill runs a law firm outside Miami; he's bought and sold a few businesses and he is the author of Tales My Grandmother Told Me: A Business Diversity Fable. Despite his considerable business experience, he often recalls lessons he learned while at his grandparents' general store in Jamaica, which he visited in the summers as a child. The store, which was located in the town center in Moneague, Jamaica, sold fish, meat, rice, sugar, sandwiches, and sodas for workers. His grandmother offered ice cream and even ran a small bar in the evenings.

    "She was just such a central figure," Gill says. She served as the sales person, and the deal maker, managing figures in her head and creating an ideal business environment.

    Gill's grandmother was all about diversification. She bought land and a couple of gas stations. Gill followed her model by moving into public speaking and minority business consulting.

    His grandmother, known as Doris (her real name was Irene Macosta) also taught him to deal fairly with vendors and other business people. "My grandmother was already practicing win-win," he says, which to him means being strong in your negotiations but not going overboard. Suppliers always wanted to do business with her, he recalls. Now, when he's negotiating: "If I get a little less, if I make the other guy happier, we can have a long-term deal, and treat each other with trust and respect."

A silent army of grandma disciples?

    Gill is far from alone among executives who refer to their grandmothers as leadership guides, whether her name was Estee Lauder or Louisa.

    Tim Sanders, a former executive at Yahoo and currently an author and consultant, weaved his grandma Billye's insights and lessons on gratitude and confidence into his latest book, Today We Are Rich.

    "She taught me confidence, and with confidence I could do anything at all," says Sanders. "I understand where it started. I'm challenging other gurus and biz authors to 'fess up' on their grandmothers' contributions." Sanders says that he runs into half a dozen people a week who refer to their grandmother as a source of business inspiration.

    Executives do not spend much time talking about their family and family histories, but their impact is considerable, says Michael Useem, director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. "I've always been impressed in how many people I encounter -- how much the family, their ancestors did what they did and influenced how they think about life now," he says.

    Sometimes it's grandma or grandpa, and other times it's an ancestor going back several generations. When Useem asks people who participate in his leadership programs which leaders they most admire, he often hears Nelson Mandela or PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi or the recently deceased Steve Jobs. Around 10 to 15% refer to their parents, which is an extension of grandparents' influence, Useem argues.

Cultivating a grandmother's business sense

    It may seem like a quaint idea in an era of constant change, where we receive a barrage of management insights and ideas via Twitter, blogs, and other sources. Leaders today must understand international finance and world economic crises, changing social media platforms and evolving societal tastes and trends. So how can grandma's ideals or sampler-stitched wisdom really resonate amid such a dense business landscape?

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