A Guidebook for Business Owners and Adventures in Leadership
By Dan Cooper and Drew Hiss
Why can business leaders easily point to the cost of mistakes, while struggling to put a price on wise counsel?
If just being the smartest person in the room was enough, then no smart person would ever fail.
But failure lurks around every corner for all of us. It’s hard to believe in our youth, but time reveals how little ‘d’ democratic failure can be. It stalks all of us sometimes and it finds us often in life, unless we figure out how to thrive and how to avoid the land mines.
It takes wisdom to figure that out. And though a handful of us get wisdom early in life, most of us acquire it from a struggle or two or ten. Many times, these difficult moments are of our own making. As we successfully work through those trying moments, wisdom imprints itself and becomes a guard rail against ever failing like that again, whatever it may be. There is safety in wisdom.
When we studied wisdom for our new book we found many interesting qualities that it has versus knowledge. For example. Knowledge may change as times change, right? What we learned in college may not apply anymore in the current business environment. New technologies and new leadership styles are needed to succeed and win. Those changes are moving at an ever-increasing pace, and so knowledge can be quite fluid. It requires us to chase it and try to catch it to keep from falling behind.
Wisdom, on the other hand turns out to be static and true in all generations. Get wisdom and you can use it for a lifetime.
So, how do we get knowledge and wisdom?
The knowledge part is easy. Our childhood and young life are filled to the brim with school of one kind or another. We are taught by people who know more than us and who most likely care about us. We go to college and we are surrounded by doers and achievers who understand the competitiveness of the world and how to win by outdoing other doers. We listen. We make notes. We read books. We get knowledge.
Then, we leave college and we go to work and we use our knowledge to start making money, usually without a great deal of wisdom and foresight. For example, nobody in college told us that money and power can be dangerous if we let them become our primary focus. See also ENRON. A room full of the best and the brightest decided to take their chances and ignore the sirens going off in their heads. The carnage of that decision was strewn across the newspapers and the TV. Billions of dollars lost. Suicides and jail time. Bad things tend to happen when we only have knowledge without wisdom.
Our research regarding wisdom took us back to purportedly the wisest man in history, Solomon. As we studied his life and teachings we wondered over and over again why he is not mentioned and written about more often. He was a smart businessman. He was historically wealthy, probably in real money the richest individual ever on this planet. If you remember the story from Sunday School, Solomon was offered anything he wanted by God himself. He didn’t choose money or fame. He chose wisdom. And, interestingly, the other things he didn’t ask for just came as part of the deal with that request. He got very famous and rich. And wise.
As we read through the book of Proverbs that he penned we found a lot of wisdom, not surprisingly. Though written centuries ago, most of it sounds like something you would say this very day to someone you were counseling to keep them from making a big and costly mistake. For example, be careful what kind of company you keep. Bad company corrupts good morals. Did your mother ever tell you that? I’ll bet she did and she was right. Groupthink is a real thing. It’s why gangs can get their members to kill other gang members and rot in jail for it. It’s why a terrorist can be talked into blowing themselves up for a cause. Bad decisions don’t usually come upon us like a tsunami. They happen by inches. Hang out with people who consistently tell you a lie and pretty soon you start believing it. The business pages are filled with cautionary tales about this one piece of wisdom alone.
Solomon talked about money corrupting us, too. He understood firsthand the perils of great wealth and the pitfalls that had to be avoided. Bottom line: It’s OK to have money. Don’t let it have you.
And, the same can be said for power. Being in charge is an opportunity to do good, to serve others in your organization and community. It’s not there for you to use and take advantage of for your own gain. People don’t follow narcissistic leaders unless they are forced to. But they will follow a servant leader into hell and back every time.
Get the picture? We spend a lot of time and money getting educated and acquiring knowledge. We should spend at least that much effort acquiring wisdom because together the two are the jet fuel that leads to a great and profitable life.
About Drew and Dan
CEO + Growth Catalyst
Drew Hiss launched his outsourced payroll and HR technology solutions company, Checkdate Solutions, in 1994. The entrepreneurial venture was a classic bootstrap start-up whose launch plan underestimated capital needs and ramp up time by significant multiples. The adventure predictably included scrapping for cash, overhauling the business model, rebranding, refocusing, redirecting resources, shifting tech platforms, praying, seeking counsel and wisdom, etc. Not surprisingly, deep entrepreneurial scar tissue was forged. Ultimately Checkdate Solutions became one of Kansas City’s fastest growing companies and was named one of the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce Best Businesses not once, but twice. Additionally, Checkdate Solutions ranked as one of KC’s top 100 fastest growing companies for nine consecutive years and was in the top 25 nationally in its industry.
Today’s workplace culture tends to compartmentalize personal virtues from commerce, creating silos and compartmentalization between business, family, community, values and faith. But as a CEO, Drew and his company grew when he “decompartmentalized:” on his journey, he learned to integrate his life of commerce and his life of family, faith and values.
Drew merged Checkdate Solutions with payroll industry leader Paycor, stepping away from the company in 2008 and serving on its board for eight years. Drew remains an owner in the firm. Today, Drew’s heart to help business owners leverage the influence of their business platform for eternal impact is at the core of Acumen which he founded late in 2015. Acumen is a catalytic iron-sharpening-iron environment forged from the fiery furnace of entrepreneurial battle, marketplace survival and integration of the timeless wisdom of the ages.
Drew and his wife, Sarah have been married for 30 years and have four children (plus two beautiful daughters in law) ranging in age from 25 to 20. He is a raving distance congregant of Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, CO. Drew enjoys snowboarding, hunting, cycling, hiking and a variety of outdoor activities and adventures including running with his three dogs.
President + Growth Catalyst
Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving Fortune 500 clients. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free.
Dan took his leadership and technology experience to work on and in the Sparklab startup business accelerator as well as lead change management and profit building initiatives for mid-market companies.
Today, he is the President and partner of Acumen, an accelerator community experience built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. Dan is also a certified Executive Coach credentialed through the International Coaching Federation.
He and his wife, Ali, have been married for 19 years, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys all things soccer, snowboarding, and burning meat on the backyard barbecue grill.
“As a business leader, I have hungered for wisdom in many circumstances.
Proverbs provides it. Dan and Drew bring to life this ageless guide and how you can lead conscientiously and courageously so that your company can flourish and perform. Take it with you to work!”
Cheryl Bachelder, Former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc, and author of, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others