Recently, Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas, talked to his stockholders about the value of basics to business success. Mr. Wynn advised that when you’ve done all you can do and in fact there’s nothing left to do, then you go back to the basics of good business practices. Only this time, you do the basics better. I’ll take business advice from Mr. Wynn any day of the week.
A short time ago, as I was driving home from the Las Vegas airport, I sat at a stoplight about a hundred yards from the end of the runway thinking about Vince Lombardi (1913-1970) and a line he often used in the locker room: “Excellence is achieved by the mastery of fundamentals.” At that very moment, my car began to shake and the level of noise was almost deafening. Overhead, an enormous US Air 747 was coming in for his landing. It felt and sounded like he was only about ten feet over the top of my car and I swear to you he was so close, I could see several of the passengers waiving! I even ducked (a little) when it looked like his tires were going to come right through my sunroof! Of course, they didn’t and the plane landed without incidence – not just because the pilot was good at flying a monster of an aircraft, but because he was even better at one of the most basic fundamentals of flying: the landing!
If you’ve created your plans, put those plans into action, crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s and still feel like real success is just not happening, you’ve got to be asking yourself: What the heck else can I do? When you can honestly answer that there’s nothing left to do, then you go back and do the basics again. But, this time, you do the basics better. I’m not talking about clever new techniques or installing new technology – just the opposite. We all started in our respective businesses with a basic understanding of what it takes to make that business successful. I’m saying that doing the basics better is the one thing we all can do right now without writing a check for a new machine or juggling more employees. Business in today’s market can get sort of rough; I’m challenging you to keep it simple by going back to basics.
Sometimes, by the time we’ve gotten up the proverbial ladder, we’ve forgotten some of the fundamentals that got us here, and that’s when things can start to go wrong. There are fundamentals that will always remain true, such as:
- In medicine: stop the bleeding and solve the problem. Oh, and washing your hands is a big one!
- In law: solve the problem by understanding legal precepts and precedence and then conveying that information in a clear and persuasive manner. It’s amazing how persuasive an attorney can be when she knows the answer before she even asks the question!
- In the grocery business: carry and sell the inventory that your customers want, and fresh is always best. In sales: never lecture the customer, show them what you want them to know, and ask for the order.
- And my favorite, in football: move the football without losing the football!
When Mr. Wynn said “do the basics better,” he was asking his people to exceed the customer’s expectations in every aspect, but without tricks and gimmicks. The Wynn Resorts are perhaps the nicest, most posh resorts on the Las Vegas Strip with a reputation of incomparable service. At a Wynn property, every single person on staff understands that better basics leads to being unsurpassed, unrivalled, and unequalled. Yes, Mr. Wynn you have it right: nothing left to do but the basics.
Several years ago I took flying lessons in Tacoma, Washington. My lessons included lots of studying in a classroom and at least ten hours in the air with the instructor. One Saturday, we were practicing takeoffs and landings called touch-and-goes. I did this maneuver three times with the instructor riding along in the right seat. I did it perfectly each time. On the third time we landed, the instructor asked me to taxi over to the office. I did as he asked, stopping the plane in front of the instructor’s office. He opened his door, turned to me and said, “Jim, you’ve done a great job mastering touch-and-goes. This time, do it on your own.” He instructed me to taxi back out to the runway, do three more takeoffs and landings, and then come back to the office. After that, he got out of the plane, closed the door and walk away keeping his back to me. He never said goodbye or good luck. He just said go do it.
Scared out of my pants, I taxied out to the runway practicing the basics as I had learned. That day I was an expert at solo flying a Cessna 150, and how do I know I was an expert? I did the basics to perfection and am here to tell you about flying by myself. At that moment there was nothing left to do but the basics. When the instructor knew I was competent in the basics he empowered me to go solo and be an expert that day.
Remember when you first started your career? You did the basics like give your business card to the waitress at Denny’s and told her if she ever needed a doctor, lawyer or a new car or what ever your profession was to call you. Then, your life and work got busy and somewhere along the way you began dropping some of the basics. Don’t let work get in the way of incomparable customer service and achieving even greater business success! If you feel out of alignment, go back to the basics. Only this time, knowing what you know and with your experience, you do the basics better. No gimmicks, no tricks, just keeping it simple – like looking both ways before you cross the street.