Two Lessons in Leadership and Strategy

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I gather inspiration from a lot of sources–especially people, places and more, recently, meditation. But I also have to put at the top of the list two business books that motivated me to make big changes that have made all the difference in how we built the Nordis business and, by extension, our clients. Of course, there are many ways to run a company, but these strategies have been critical to making Nordis the business it is today.

Work in the business or on the business
I am someone who rolls up his sleeves and does what needs to be done. That was especially true during Nordis’ early days, when I pitched in on everything—production, sales, post office runs to drop off outgoing jobs, you name it. But there’s only so much any one person can do.

Then I read The E-Myth, and a light bulb went off. The book explains that 80% of small businesses fail because they are built around the founding entrepreneur (the E in E-Myth) instead of relying on systems and processes. This insight echoes what a colleague, who had recommended the book in the first place, told me: “Ronnie, you can work in the business or you can work on the business.”

I took that lesson to heart, choosing to work on my business. Over time, I recruited a team of experts in their fields, at all levels of the organization. Collectively, we’ve built the infrastructure, services, products, and systems that have propelled Nordis into a much bigger company than if I stayed so involved in every aspect of the company on a day-to-day basis. Even as my role has shifted as we grow the business, we all remain united and passionate about solving your communications and payments challenges to contribute to your ongoing business success.

Do more of the same or do something different
Another turning point came several years after The-E-Myth, when Blue Ocean Strategy – How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant captured my imagination.

The premise is that if you focus your company on what competitors are doing in existing markets, you end up in the red ocean of undifferentiated commodity businesses, trying to make sales based on a lower price or some other marginal difference. The blue ocean, in contrast, represents innovation that helps you leapfrog competition into untapped markets, driving new demand and new growth. The key is to focus on customers and unmet needs and to add value in ways that other companies are not able.

That got me thinking about ways to bring more value to Nordis’ lettershop customers. About the same time, I was working with a big hospitality client on technology to streamline their communications. Then it hit me, clear as day: The new idea, the new value I could bring, is to not just produce communications for our clients, but give them a better way to control and manage their communications. This spark led to Expresso and to where we all are today, and innovation to deliver greater customer value continues to drive our strategy.

Collaboration and innovation
Both books helped me to become a better leader and entrepreneur. The insights I gleaned from them pushed me to focus on delivering exceptional customer value. That focus remains the North Star of Nordis. 

What book or business philosophy inspired you? We’d love to compile a list for sharing. Please let me know




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