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Opinion: The Vision of Jerks

By Misty Sexton

I recently read an interesting article that claimed many of the best known, top-level executives and trail blazing CEO’s are jerks.  People such as the late Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Jeff Bezos are all said to behave in a way that is borderline tyrant with relentless demands and exceedingly high expectations and yet they are still considered visionaries. Why?  Because they have a vision; a detailed, comprehensive, unwavering vision of what they want for their company and product and are completely committed to achieving results by any means necessary.

People who have worked directly under these men have reported unrelenting pressure and a ‘no excuses’ response to any failure. The office environment is often described as high stress and very intense, but also high reward as creativity and input are welcome and the resulting product often changes our world and redefines the industry.  After all, it was Apple iPod launched under Steve Jobs’ leadership that sent shockwaves across the portable music world and made cassette tapes, compact discs and the Walkman obsolete. Talk about vision! While we are not suggesting you become a tyrant, there are certainly lessons to take from these leaders.  You too should have a vision for your company and your products.  A complete but flexible plan with goals, deadlines, and periodic progress reviews.

The industry and world around you will change over time, and the vision should be adjusted, but it should not ever be allowed to just languish and expire.  Design your company or product goals in the short, intermediate, and long term then communicate these goals with your staff making them a part of the vision.  Do you want to expand from heating fuels into commercial diesel and gas deliveries?  Will it take a new truck to do that?  How will you market this new service? What are the boundaries to entry in this market? Inform the staff of your new goal, develop a timeline, and move forward enlisting their help utilizing their expertise and experience every step of the way. Your sales team knows the objections; your mechanic knows the issues with dual hose reels.  Their support is essential to gain forward momentum and make this plan a reality.  That will be easiest to obtain if you open the door for input from all parties and follow through.  Let them not just execute the plan, but help design it as well.

In every industry there is a need and success can be found in fulfilling that need.  A lackadaisical approach to planning and growth will yield lackadaisical results. Develop a vision and go for it.  But don’t be a jerk about it.

Misty Sexton is vice president of sales and marketing for Space Petroleum, a wholesale fuel brokerage supplying petroleum products to the Mid-Atlantic states.  Sexton began her career in the office of a mid-sized home heating oil company and transitioned to wholesale fuels in 2008.  Her customer base is varied and includes distributors and end-users along with government agencies and of course, small home heating oil companies. She can be reached via email at Misty.Sexton@SpacePetroleum.com

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