About Success

I like to watch ABC's 20/20 on Friday nights, which probably testifies to the fact that I'm officially uninteresting because I'm in watching TV instead of out having a good time. Tonight they broadcast a show called, "The New Rich: Secrets, Strategies and What You Can Learn." Two stories from the episode stuck out to me.

First, the report about Costco and their CEO Jim Sinegal. Sinegal founded the company in 1983. Costco went from zero to $3 billion in sales in six years. He's done a phenomenal job of spurring the company onto success. One contributing factor to Costco's success is product simplicity. Costco only shelves about 4,000 products compared to Wal-Mart's 100,000 items. Another factor is employee loyalty. They pay their employees an average of $17 an hour, which leads to the lowest employee turnover in the industry. But perhaps the most effective asset the company has in their CEO.

Sinegal is a blue-collar-type guy who visits hundreds of stores each year. Despite having a skyrocketing company, he accepts only a $350,000 salary, a fraction of what other CEOs make. His employment contract is one page, and says that Sinegal could be terminated if he isn't getting the job done. He truly believes in Costco and will do whatever it takes to see it succeed.

The only people critical of the company is Wall Street. Investors think that Costco could make greater profits if they didn't pay their employees so much. But this is an area where Sinegal is unwavering. He understands that taking care of his employees will take Costco a lot further than a little more money now.

The other story I enjoyed was that of Jeff Skoll, founder of eBay. The billioniare who started the company with a friend in the mid-1990's now has more money than he knows what to do with. It would be understandable if he flushed money into meaningless escapades, but Skoll has donated huge amounts of money into charitable organizations trying to make a positive impact in the world. He's all about philanthropy

Just a few of my observations on principles to apply:

1) Simplicity
Why try to do too much? We've started Echo Church to be as simple as possible. Right now we have two foci: the worship gathering and prayer meeting. Sure, as the years go by we'll have to add additional structures, but I hope we're always avoid becoming too diversified in what we try to do. The more complicated you make your operation, the more things that can get screwed up. Costco has figured this out with their products. Oh, and eBay is a billion dollar organization and only has a little over 8,000 employees.

2) Loyalty
You can't build established success by using people; you have to invest in them and want them to succeed as well. When you invest in people, you create something that will last long after you're gone.

3) Down-to-Earth Leadership
The days from leading from on high is over. People want a leader they can relate to. That's why I think blogging is transforming the way we view leadership [related article here]. Followers don't care if their leader has some foibles as long as he/she is down to earth.

4) The Goal
With both these leaders, money is not necessarily their goal. The world is full of people who have figured out how to make money. But can money really buy happiness [don't answer]. I honestly believe that those who set out to build something significant will find that the money will take care of itself.

Whether it's a business or a church you're building, there's some good stuff here. Check out the articles above for more.