Book Summary: Mind Your Own Business

By: Regine P. Azurin

This article is based on the following book:

Mind Your Own Business

A Maverick’s Guide to Business, Leadership and Life

Doubleday & Company, Inc., 2003

ISBN 0-385-50959-6

208 pages

A maverick is an independent person who will not go along with the other members of a group (Oxford ESL Dictionary). This book provides priceless stories and insights from a maverick of the business world; an exemplary business leader who prefers not to follow orthodox beliefs in business, nor be eaten by the hyped up ideas of the present. Instead, he chooses the course of action that is appropriate for the changing times.

The Maverick’s Way: New Old Thing

What is effective? This is the question answered by the maverick. He reconciles the good things from both the Old and New times, and focuses on what is really effective in confronting the challenges of 21st century business dealings.

A maverick thinks outside of the bed, knows that it pays to be daring, does not allow technology to tyrannize, finds strength in diversity, maintains balance and harmony among people, sets leadership by example, has a strong ethical base, and values employees and customers. A maverick knows his customers and believes strongly in his products.

To a maverick, a company is a not just a big candy store. It is a living instrument with living human beings. It should have a HEART.

Keys to Leadership

The leader leads. He exercises critical judgment, which will have a great impact on his people.

The leader defines the company. The leader’s responsibility is to explicitly present and advocate the company’s purposes and goals.

The leader inspires. He gives sense and meaning to the job. He makes his people realize, that beyond profit there is an underlying meaning, value, and deeper reason for the work they do.

The leader should be the evangelist. He should be able to exercise his influence, to sell the values of ethical conduct.

The leader must see the company as a coherent whole. He should be aware of the diversity in the company and bring this together to promote the whole.

The leader must know that there is no better way to create a family in the workplace than to encourage the family at home. Harman International introduced the anti-domestic violence program in the company, which reinforces the idea that the company cares.

The leader should never underestimate the value of disciplined hard work.

The leader empowers subordinates to do their jobs. He should institute programs for the guidance and training of his people. He should always keep the lines of communication open.

The leader promotes closure. He should know the right time to get things done.

The leader knows what he doesn’t know. The leader is not afraid to ask clarifications, if he does not understand a particular subject.

The leader knows the meaning of two minutes. He should respect the time of others and that of his own.

The leader teaches.

Above all, the leader develops others. As Lao Tzu advanced: “the leader having accomplished great things, the people all feel they did it themselves…"

The very best leaders go beyond the mere setting of example. He should be able to cause a leap of imagination and faith in his people.

The leader recognizes that people are often at their very best the moment they have been let go. There are times when an employee doesn’t like the work anymore, or he is unable to appreciate how the whole enterprise works- this is the time to set him free.

A Company Must Be Profitable

1. A solid financial base is fundamental.

2. Debt should not exceed equity. A debt to equity ratio of 1 to 1 or better should be the goal, so that a company’s leader and key executives do not spend all their time on mere survival -paying bills, meeting the payroll, and keeping the banks happy- but moving forward and meeting bigger challenges and doing more visionary work.

3. There should be a regular process for annual strategic planning and budget-planning.

The Fundamentals of Profit and Loss

1. Manage expectations, not the profits. Keep the shareholders informed, to eliminate doubts of manipulating numbers.

2. The Chairman and CEO should be financially literate. They should know what the numbers really mean.

3. Good growth and profitability requires the exercise of critical judgment. The leader should make certain that the budget is one the company can live with.

4. In repurchasing the company’s own stocks, make sure that it will add to the company’s earnings.

5. Look into the availability of funds so that the balance sheet will not be compromised.

Make an Edge in the Business World

1. Writing. It is a unique and powerful skill you can use for clarity and persuasion.

2 Public Speaking and Story-telling. Speak directly, and without notes, to your audience. Individuals respond to a well-told story.

3. Thinking. People do not respect sloppy thinking in a leader. Thoughts should be carefully considered then expressed directly, crisply, and clearly.

About the Book's Author:

Dr. Sidney Harman (‘39), currently chairman of Harman International Industries, Inc., has been active in education, government, and industry. He served for three years as president of Friends World College, a worldwide, experimental Quaker College, and is the founder and an active member of the Program on Technology, Public Policy, and Human Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Dr. Harman is chairman of the Program Committee of the Board of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and a member of the Board of the Carter Center of Emory University. Dr. Harman served as the Deputy Secretary of Commerce of the United States in 1977 and 1978.

A pioneer of the high-fidelity industry, Dr. Harman founded the well-known Harman Kardon, Inc., in 1952. He is widely known for the Quality of Working Life programs he initiated at the company’s plants, especially for the program at Bolivar, Tennessee, which has become a model for such activities in American industry and a principal case study at business schools in the United States and abroad. Dr. Harman has written extensively on productivity, quality of working life, and economic policy, and is co-author, with Daniel Yankelovich, of Starting With the People, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1988.

Dr. Harman has served as a trustee of the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and the National Symphony Orchestra. He is chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of the Public Agenda Foundation; chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Business Executives for National Security; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Council on Competitiveness; and a member of the Board of the Leadership Institute of the University of Southern

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