When I was kid the first film we hired on video was a now relatively unknown 80s movie called The Secret of My Success
, starring Michael J Fox.
My sisters and I loved it - it’s funny, there’s romance…what’s not to like? Watching it again as an adult (oh yes, it’s a keeper), I get something quite different from it - it’s also a film about business. It is a look at one man’s rise through the ranks of a multinational conglomerate from post room boy to CEO.
I accept it is a meteoric climb within a very short space of time, but at its heart there are genuine lessons about how to do well. On his way up the corporate ladder, the central character spends his free time understanding what drives the business, stumbles across and resolves inefficiencies, and builds relationships with everyone from colleagues in the mail room and secretarial pool to the members of the board.
When we surveyed SM readers
to find out more about their job, their department, their stakeholders and so on, one question we asked is what was the key skill needed by today’s procurement professionals. Of the three capabilities we put forward – building relationships with customers and suppliers, commercial skills, and market intelligence – by far the largest number (52.4 per cent) identified relationship-building skills as the most important attribute.
Where purchasers used to engage aggressively with suppliers, it is now recognised that softer, relationship-building skills are paramount. And the same applies in this film - it’s the charismatic individual who is able to influence those around him who ends up on top.
He has little “hard-nosed, practical business experience” but his relationship with one key person in particular leads to introductions to investors who he then convinces he can turn the business around. He demonstrates – with this executive support – that he has the ability and ideas the company needs, so instead of it becoming consumed in a hostile takeover it buys a controlling share in the interested party. As Mike Soutar, entrepreneur and CEO of Shortlist Media
, said at a talk I attended on Monday “investors invest in people, not ideas”, so it’s actually not as farfetched as it first appears.