It isn’t every day that a captain of industry offers his business advice, so when the St. Thomas alumni office hosted Richard Schulze, chairman and founder of Best Buy, for the First Friday speaker series, I jumped at the chance to attend. After all, how often does one have the opportunity to learn from the founder of a major corporation with more than 1,100 stores across the U.S. and even more opening around the world?
Speaking on “Learning from Challenge & Change: The Best Buy Journey,” Schulze shared the “Top 10” lessons in business that he’s learned throughout the years:
- Listen to your customers: “Nothing is more important than listening and responding to the needs of our customers,” Schulze said, adding that needs change over time so it’s critical to be agile and responsive.
- Know your competitors: “Know your competitors nearly as well as you know yourself,” he said. It’s essential to rise to the challenge to differentiate your company and deliver value.
- Perseverance pays: There will always be setbacks, uncertainty and disappointments, yet it’s important to believe in your mission and understand that the course may change. Don’t give up.
- You must have a mentor: “Find a mentor. Allow them to act as your guide, as well as your sounding board,” he said, adding that when facing a tough issue, a mentor can help you think outside of the box.
- Hire strong people: Successful people know they need to have access to the very best people, he said. It’s important to hire people who think differently than you to complement your style.
- Learn from mistakes: “If we aren’t making mistakes, we’ aren’t trying, and we aren’t changing and we aren’t innovating,” Schulze said, noting that it’s critical to learn from these experiences. “We often learn more from failure than we do from success.”
- Leverage your strengths: Use your assets to your advantage, both in business and by serving the community. Hire innovative people. “Our people are our single greatest asset. Period.”
- Be a good listener: “It’s a skill that takes practice and a high level of self-awareness,” he said, adding that listening cannot hurt you, but refusing to listen will.
- Create partnerships: We all need partners to help us win, and it’s necessary to understand each other and how each party can contribute to the solution. “Win-win is extremely important.”
- Innovate continuously: “We need innovation in order to grow in order to compete,” Schulze said. “Leaders have got to demonstrate an ‘innovation mindset.’”