To see Kevin live go to http://www.kevinoleary.com/live/

To see Kevin live go to http://www.kevinoleary.com/live/

This morning I had the opportunity to see Kevin O’Leary speak at the Toronto Board of Trade. Topic: “DNA of a Successful Business.”

He talked about everything from dividends being the future to sensor technology being the next best investment.

As you would expect, he had a few surprising things to say.

Not so surprising Kevin advised, “Business is war, never underestimate a competitor“. If you’ve seen him even once on the Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank, you already know that this pretty much sums up Kevin’s approach to business — he’s here to make money, not friends.

I have a problem with the business is war mentality.

I’m in business to make friends and, of course, to make money. But to me, the relationships come first. The friends I make through business are still my friends, long after we stop doing business together.

That’s why I was surprized to get a few take aways from Kevin’s talk that will influence how I run Stafflink.

Surprising takeaways from Canada’s most notorious Dragon Kevin O’Leary

1/Service Trumps Price

Really? Kevin cares about something as touchy-feely as customer service? Yes, because it means you can charge more. (Think of Kevin rubbing his thumb and forefinger together.)

According to Kevin, you can charge at least 15% more if you provide great service .

That’s not all. Great customer service brings loyalty. A well served customer hates leaving. Look at telcos, insurance and benefits companies. These are annuity companies that thrive until their customers not served well.

We all know that happy customers recommend you to their friends, creating new happy cusomers and growing your business.

Maybe Kevin and I are more in sync than I realized.

Takeaway: It’s more important to invest in serving current clients than to invest in getting new customers.

2/ The Boss doesn’t always make the most money 

Whoa! This one hits a little too close to home.

Kevin says to analyze where the revenues are driven from and you will discover that the top sales person should be the highest paid person in the company. With no cap on their salary.

You may have the best product in the world, but without sales nobody cares. Microsoft is a good example. Seldom have they had a best-in-class product, but they have a tremendous sales department.

Phew! I do most of the sales for my company, so all is well. I would LOVE to find someone to share the load.

Takeaway: Mentor my current staff to help out more with sales.

3/ It’s more important to know your weaknesses than your strengths

When Kevin meets a business owner who says she does everything, his BS radar goes up.

Find out what you’re good at and delegate or outsource the areas where you’re not so great.

This reminds me of my mentor Leon Goren (President of PEO – Presidents of Enterprising Organizations) who often tells me to “stay out of the weeds.”

Takeaway: Give other people a chance to step up and solve the problems, because the business can’t grow if the leader is always caught up in the weeds.

4/ Canadian businesses should focus on Asia and SouthEast Asia

These countries have the fastest growing economies in the world. According to Kevin, the lack of unions and fast growing population make these markets attractive. Not easily done, for sure, but Mr. O’Leary says, “Only the Swiss are more loved than Canadians in Asia.”

Takeaway: Be open to opportunities to expand beyond our Canadian borders.

5/ If you’re thinking of firing somebody it should happen at the moment

Dangerous advice for sure. I would never fire someone spontaneously in a moment of anger. However, I’ve beeb guilty of letting people hang around after they stopped being productive, just because I liked them. Big mistake. It’s not only bad for my company but it keeps the employee stuck too.

Takeaway: Provide more frequent employee reviews. When someone is losing interest in their job, work together to come up with a plan to reingage them.

6/ Dragons Den gets more viewers in Canada than Hockey Night in Canada

And their largest growing demographic is 10-25 year old woman.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprized since I watch Dragaons Den and Shark Tank with my wife on Friday nights. I used to watch Hockey Night in Canada.

I hope that those young women, and all of the demographics watching Kevin O’Leary on Friday nights, will start up new businesses, create jobs and keep our economy rocking. And I hope they give me a call when they’re looking for IT staff.

What do you think of Kevin’s advice? Do you agree that business is war?

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