I do everything fast. I think fast. I talk fast. I play fast. I make decisions fast. I always have. Then I came to work in and run an Internet company, the fastest -- and fastest-changing -- thing around. That meant I had to hire fast, buy companies fast, change strategies fast, put out fires fast, and push people to do things they never thought they could -- and to do them faster than they ever could have dreamed.
When I was first out of college, I remember picking up a book called The One Minute Manager. I liked it a lot. I was running my own business, a party- and event-planning company called Amazing Events. We did things like arrange for a chorus of tap-dancing pickles to greet the U.S.S. Coral Sea, courtesy of the admiral's wife. Or, as a corporate party gag, chip a golf ball into a board meeting, then send a golfer, a caddy, a television announcer, and a course marshal in after it.
But back to The One Minute Manager. I was really impressed with the book's simple, commonsense approach (and given its enduring sales record, I'm clearly not alone). Over the years I've recommended the book to lots of people. But recently I was telling a colleague about it when I suddenly realized I'd completely forgotten the details of the book's message. I could still remember the main points: that managers can and should act quickly and at the same time value their people. But the subtleties had faded from my memory. I decided to reread the book.
I ordered a copy and enjoyed a pleasant surge of nostalgia as I held the familiar, compact volume in my hand. But within minutes of starting to read, I found myself getting incredibly impatient at the author's leisurely stroll through the book's key points. Frustrated, I put the book down. Working in the Internet world had so completely rewired my mind that I'd actually believed The One Minute Manager was a book I could read in one minute. The problem, I realized, is that the way things are going these days, it's hard for me to find a free minute.
Internet companies expand at a mind-boggling pace. They're full of super-motivated people who generate three times as many ideas as any company could possibly handle. Internet customers demand more and better and faster every single day, and companies are trying to build and maintain a technology war chest in a world where technology is a moving target, evolving every day.
I also didn't have a free minute because I would get dozens of calls, e-mails, letters, and requests every hour: old friends would see me interviewed on television and want to get together; there were invitations to attend Internet conferences and trade association meetings; businessmen from China were coming through town and top media executives supposedly wanted to thank me for advertising on their networks but really just wanted to pick my brain about what is all this Internet stuff anyway? I would get a half-dozen calls a month from someone who wanted to buy us or wanted us to buy them, and it would be impolite of me not to speak with CEOs running Fortune 500-size companies who were gnashing their molars into powder over Internet stock market valuations. And then, of course, there were the reporters, politicians, nonprofit groups, and business school students who wanted to set up interviews.
Sometimes they wanted juicy insights about Amazon.com, where I used to be vice president of marketing. Sometimes they wanted feedback on the deal du jour making the headlines that had to do with Internet stocks or software wars. But the majority of the time they would want to know: What's the secret of being an Internet CEO? What's the Internet going to look like in six months? How can they get a copy of the secret to-do list that will enable them to finally jump off the Old Economy steamer and kick up some spray in an I-way speedboat? In short, they wanted to know where they can get some magic dust. You know, the stuff you add water to, stir, and -- poof! -- you've got a popular Internet company.
Believe me, if I could give them some, I'd do it in a heartbeat; it would save me a lot of time. But starting and running a successful Internet company isn't about secret lists or magic dust. The new economy requires new skills and new mind-sets. At the same time, though, the stunning successes of Amazon.com, eBay, AOL, and others were based on classic business execution: caring about customers, serving needs, and building brand loyalty. The difference is that it all has to happen at warp speed.
So here's a nice, thin book -- the closest thing I have to magic dust -- about what I've learned in my years of running full-throttle in the fast lane of the I-way. It's a road, sadly, where my old friend The One Minute Manager would probably be found facedown with tire tracks up his back. It's a fate the book certainly doesn't deserve: I agree completely that the best minute a manager can spend is with people. But what do you do when you don't have a free minute? That's why you need to learn to be The 10-Second Internet Manager.
In truth, we really could have left "Internet" out of the title and called this The 10-Second Manager. Industry evangelists are fond of saying lately that success in business isn't about being the smartest or having the best technology (although that certainly won't hurt). More than ever before, success is about speed. It's about thriving in a world where things are changing at the speed of light. And that rule applies to every business. So whether you're running a company that's based in cyberspace or firmly anchored in bricks and mortar, or whether you're about to go public or you're the head of the PTA at your kids' school, The 10-Second Internet Manager will give you the tools you need to act smart and act fast.
The Magic Dust
Here's what The 10-Second Internet Manager will teach you. If you don't have time to read the rest of this introduction, just read the stuff in boldface.
1.Act fast and act smart
. Your edge against bigger and better-funded competitors is speed. Use it or lose everything. If you're going to do this, though, you're going to have to learn to "will" your company forward, shaving time off every task possible.
2.E-mail morning, noon, and night
. Talk in between. E-mail is the oxygen of the Internet. But used badly, it can smother recipients and slow down an entire company. Using e-mail effectively is what separates the savvy manager from those who don't get it.
3.Make feedback your friend
. The biggest problems most businesses suffer are from not listening to customers, not focusing on customer service, and not working hard to understand what customers want. Appreciating customers is one of the secrets to marketing success -- whether on the Internet or anywhere else. The Internet offers tremendous opportunities to solicit and receive customer feedback. But ignoring it opens the doors to faster-moving, customer-focused outfits who will eat your lunch.
4.Make your meetings effective
. Meetings are the bane of many employees' work lives: too much time, too much discussion and not enough action, too little respect, too much finger-pointing, too many late arrivers, and too many people who talk too much and don't stick to the point. No manager who wants to succeed in the Internet age can afford this kind of dead-end meeting.
5.Make your brand matter
. Building a consistent, recognizable brand image on the Internet is crucial. And creating and securing a brand identity starts with the business proposition itself. To become the authority, the go-to, the "verb" for your category, every decision has to be made with brand in mind.
6.Survive in the investment jungle
. Internet CEOs are constantly going through the ritual of pitching to investors who have the power to add and subtract billions to the company's valuation. To succeed in the Internet world you have to know how to deal with the fleecers, the youngsters, the cynics, and the investment gods.
7. Have fun
. Work should be fun, rewarding, and empowering. But over time, obsessed workaholics will burn out. So subdivide your company into impassioned teams, celebrate successes frequently, and build a "work hard, play hard" culture. You'll reap major benefits in energy, creativity, and productivity.
The tips you'll see in each chapter are just the beginning! Visit www.10secondmanager.com to see more tips on how to succeed in the Information Age. Share your own insights with fellow readers.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The 10-Second Internet Manager by Mark Breier. . Excerpted by permission of Random House Audio, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.