When I was a graduate student, the Institute had a series of guest lectures intended to enhance and broaden our thinking. Attendance was mandatory.
I can’t recall all the topics, but they ranged from creativity to ethics to building a successful career. It’s this last that I want to share with you.
Dr. Louis T. Rader held a doctorate in electrical engineering and was retired from General Electric. Following his retirement from GE, he taught in the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
His dress was conservative and his manner of speech was direct, and he had what military veterans would call command presence. His no-nonsense demeanor and delivery, however, belied the wit that made his words to us that day so memorable.
He spoke to us for some time about his own experiences as a young manager and then he shared some principles for business and career success he called “Rader’s Rules.” Here, to the best of my memory, is what he offered us:
1. Never run out of money — it’s a quick way to lose confidence.
2. There can be no compromise between a poor player and a great organization.
3. Good calculus won’t cover poor math.
4. If you play games with people, people will play games with you.
5. The sum of all expenses must be less than the sum of all revenues.
6. The man who goes to bed early to save the cost of a candle will wake up the father of twins.
7. It’s hard to lead a large organization from a subordinate position.
8. As long as you remain in neutral, you can only go where you’re pushed.
9. You can’t sell the second if you can’t sell the first.
10. When the quarterback says go around left end, you go around left end.
11. Anybody off the street can run a business at a loss.
12. Statistics are for losers.
13. If you don’t get the facts, the facts will get you.
This is an incomplete listing, but I offer this as food for thought for you. If you are in the launch phase of your business, or are planning to launch, there is great wisdom in these phrases. So much wisdom, in fact, I continue to apply these axioms as I continue to navigate my career decades in.
Please note the theme of integrity that runs through these sayings. You owe it to yourself and your team to view yourself, the company, and your circumstances clearly. As famed stage magician Teller says, “The biggest lie is the one you tell yourself.”
Note also the emphasis on getting the fundamentals down. Your talent may get you into a meeting, but a weak handshake or a lack of eye contact may sink your chances. Or to use another example, you may have gotten the order, but is it profitable?
My personal favorite is rule number 6. Taking shortcuts or falling for the false economy invariably creates unintended consequences that cost more in the long run.
I hope these will stick with you the way they have with me.