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Afterword

Afterword

J. Peter Bardwick

Some people like the roller coaster, some people like the merry-go-round. Successful executives in today's business world probably need to be roller coaster fans.

It's an interesting time to be in the business world. Nothing motivates introspection like making a public fool of oneself. And in the short time from the dot-com boom to bust, many executives have gone from having all the answers to having none. My slightly bloody experience tells me that technology has truly changed the art of management, and there are no successful businesses without artful management. Clearly, many attributes important to successful management are constant: No organization can achieve long-term success without leadership, shared vision, effective communications, honesty, skillful execution, and a powerful work ethic. But pervasive technology has had a fundamental impact on the skills needed to manage businesses.

Early in my career, management skills didn't seem particularly pertinent. Now that I am older and wiser, that seems a pretty astounding statement. Business schools preach that Human Resources is important, but it's not something an interviewer is likely to ask about. After business school, I went to Wall Street, where senior management is an oxymoron. Succeeding on Wall Street takes myriad talents—smarts, sales skills, competitiveness, political savvy, and a nose for money. But none of this prepares one to actually manage people. I worked on Wall Street in the heyday of leveraged buyouts and junk bonds when there was too much money to be made to “waste time” on managing. And when the heyday ended management's task was simply to cut the head count.

My move from Wall Street to the corporate world came when I was asked by a client to become vice president of finance and help them through a severe financial crisis. I did, thus making the transition into management. The more I encountered (and became responsible for) successful and unsuccessful companies in the borderless world, the more I became intrigued with management. This is a venture capital truism: A great management team with an OK product will always beat an OK management team with a great product. We clearly see this in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble. The companies that have survived and will eventually thrive are invariably led by great teams. Managing a company well is probably the most fascinating, difficult, and underrated job around—it's a 3-D chess game and the timer never stops. Recent experiences building companies in the dot-com world convince me that management has gotten harder and become even more important: Pervasive technology has accelerated the pace of change for every aspect of business.

So where is the roller coaster? It starts the minute you enter any borderless organization. In borderless companies you can't find the merry-go-round. It's in the archives with the sepia picture of the founders, the Selectric typewriter, and the ticker tape.


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