RSPA Recommended Read: The Advantage

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, MSP, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

by Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing at the RSPA

 I recently spent time with an RSPA reseller member in New York who runs a healthy business. He’s experiencing strong growth, expanding into new territories, reporting both low customer attrition and low employee turnover, and he has a capable management team and internal systems that produce consistent results. When I described his business as “sophisticated,” he grimaced. A voracious reader and longtime student of business, he believed his company was simply following standard operating procedure.

“Let me put it this way,” I responded. “A lot of companies in our industry don’t have their act together. You do.” I was comfortable telling him that in private, and I’m not afraid to put my name on that statement in this public post. Too many channel companies are scrambling from one installation to the next, failing to establish a company vision, craft a coherent strategy, and build the foundation of a viable business underneath.

If that describes you, I strongly recommend you carve out time to read The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. Forget the fads; The Advantage is the guidance you need. Here are some the book’s most insightful passages:

  1. The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.
  2. Two requirements for success: Smart (strategy, marketing, finance, technology) and Healthy (minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, low turnover).
  3. The seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little, if anything, to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are.
  4. No magazine or newspaper wants to run a story about a humble leader who continues to run her medium-size company with discipline, common sense, and consistency. They’d rather tell you how a brash young entrepreneur is trying to set the world on fire — and maybe himself.
  5. An organization doesn’t become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion. It’s a messy process that involves doing a few things at once, and it must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to be preserved.
  6. No matter how many times executives preach about the “E” word in their speeches, there is no way that their employees can be empowered to fully execute their responsibilities if they don’t receive clear and consistent messages about what is important from their leaders across the organization.
  7. Permission-to-Play Values: The minimum behavioral standards that are required in an organization. Examples: honesty, integrity, and respect for others.
  8. Strategic Durability: How often will your organization need to change its strategic anchors? That will depend largely on two industry traits: (1) the barriers to entry in a given market and (2) the rate of innovation. When barriers to entry are low and innovation is high, strategic anchors need to be reviewed and revised much more frequently. Software applications companies would fit this one.
  9. The Thematic Goal: “If we accomplish only one thing during the next X months, what would it be?”
  10. Defining objectives: The goal must be further clarified by defining objectives which will make accomplishing it possible.
  11. Employees won’t believe what leaders are communicating to them until they’ve heard it seven times.
  12. Tolerating behavior that flies in the face of core values inspires cynicism and becomes almost impossible to reverse over time.
  13. The last frontier of competitive advantage will be the transformation of unhealthy organizations into healthy ones.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.75/10
I don’t know if I’ll ever rate a book a perfect 10, but The Advantage comes pretty darn close. I previously wrote an entire RSPA blog post on Strategic Durability and I bet I could do that on many of the other points Lencioni raises. Let’s break down #12 – “Tolerating behavior that flies in the face of core values inspires cynicism and becomes almost impossible to reverse over time” – as I pose six questions to you:

  • What behavior won’t you tolerate inside your company?
  • Do you have recent examples of you actually not tolerating that behavior?
  • Do you have recent examples of your employees not tolerating that behavior from one another?
  • Do you have a list of core values?
  • If you ask your employees what your core values are, will they provide consistent answers?
  • And, more importantly, can they cite examples of living those values?

I recently conducted a Communication Workshop with the team of an RSPA member in Massachusetts who I would consider sophisticated (a.k.a. they have their act together). During the 90-minute workshop, the owner spoke maybe 5% of the time while his employees carried our conversation. They talked about the value of quarterly check-ins, annual reviews, and candid conversations with each other. I asked one employee how they keep potentially contentious meetings healthy. Her matter-of-fact reply was, “Well, getting better is one of our values, and getting feedback is one of the ways to get better.”

Act to improve your organizational health today. As Lencioni said, it’s simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it. You don’t have to walk this path alone. The RSPA’s VAR and ISV Advisory Services offers to members staff professional development workshops, strategy sessions, sales training, and more at no charge. Reach out to me to learn more about how we can help you.

You can purchase your copy of The Advantage here.

Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Marketing for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. For more information, contact