Every so often there’s an article enumerating “The 10 Most Important Things I’ve learned in Business.” Inevitably it starts with #1: “I learned Excel.”
Well, I’m as big a sucker for these lists as the next guy, and always scan them for tidbits o’ wisdom. And sure, learning Excel is probably one of them.
Oddly though, I’ve never seen the one lesson I’ve always considered most important in my business life.
It came the day my first real boss and mentor, Al Baier, a pioneer in recruitment advertising and founder of what’s now Buyer Advertising, popped his head into my office, and with a gleam in his eye said to me:
“Tom, women are the greatest under-utilized resource we have in this country. We have to start believing them more.”
This simple statement had a profound effect on me: at that moment women became more than the object of my 20-something male longing, and lifelong business partners.
I’ve always been grateful to Al as I went on to a career in the agency business, which in large part thanks to the great ad maven Mary Wells, was one of the first to shatter the glass ceiling for women. And his insight served me well as I worked with some brilliant women, both creatives and clients, throughout my agency and brand coaching years.
To say nothing of the brilliant woman I married. It’s clear she’s much more resourceful and tougher than me. No contest there.
But sometimes I wonder why so many men seemed to have missed the memo. And when women such as my friend Lisa Pertrilli, an extraordinary business woman says to me “I hope you’re right,” when after a significant victory by a woman I suggest “your time is coming soon,” I really wonder what’s taking so long.
I don’t think it’s something we can’t overtly dictate in business and expect long-lasting effect. Regulations are fleeting, political, and subject to resentment and neglect. And my ERA Now! bumper sticker has long faded, a snowball’s chance in hell of being reprinted in today’s political climate.
No, I think this insight must be seeded in our children, boys and girls, by those of us lucky enough to be dads. And for every reason it should start today.
Do so, and my sense is it will all add up to great advances in our businesses, and our lives. Your daughters will thank you. And at the end of the day the numbers in your Excel spreadsheet will in comparison, pale in value.