West Point

We're on the train into the city today. A stunning ride along the magnificence of the Hudson.

As I write this we're passing West Point, a powerful monument to strategic positioning and strong foundations. I'm struck by its permanence.

And after being home sick for a week, by our fragility.

I emerged back into the real world this morning, grateful for the power of antibiotics, but regretting last week's decision to rub my eye in an airport terminal filled with germs. It seemed unimportant at the time. Six days later, it's now clear it was not.

The power of technology has allowed me to remain productive. Virtual meetings, online presentations and free conference call services maintaining both our methods and our margins. Important foundations on which to build a better business.

The diversity of companies with which we work continues to expand. One week, a solo entrepreneur. The next, a global holding company. The scale and complexities change, of course. But the fundamentals remain inexorably the same.

What are we trying to achieve?

Why are our customers our customers?

Who will be our next generation of customers?

Every other question becomes a subset of these three.

Profitability: Do you want to maximize operating margin or build scale? Are we a parity product competing on price, or have we found a way to articulate our value in unique ways?

Expansion: Are we taking full advantage of the talent and capabilities we've already built? Do we add offices, services, both or neither?

Marketing: Are we built to talk or built to listen? Are we consistent? Are we surprising?

Talent: Will the people we have today solve the problems our clients will have tomorrow? Do our systems and workflow help them do better work, and help us identify the great ones faster?

It requires discipline to ask these questions. And honesty to answer them clearly.

And you may have temporary success without them.

But if the effort you put into your business is not matched by the quality of the foundations you are building, one of two things are certain.

The cost to repair them will be memorable.

Or fifty years from now, passers by - whether physical or virtual - will be looking at something other than the business you so painstakingly built.