If you want to grow a company, you must master the Rockefeller Habits

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mastering-the-rockefeller-habitsI wished that I knew about the book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish when I was working on my startup a few years back. There are definitely things that we should not have done during that time. Jamie Lee, the co-founder of Lunch Actually and now Prizle (which I am an investor in both companies), recommended this book to me during one of our lunches. We were discussing on the subject on how to scale a team, and he highlighted how he scaled his startup to a company from the lessons learnt from this book. If you are thinking how to grow a startup from scratch to a proper functioning company, this is a must read book. So, what are the Rockefeller habits that you can use to scale your company?

It may be easy to state the problem for most startups. Typically, there exist three barriers to growth for all startups: (a) the necessity for the executive team to scale them themselves such that they can delegate and predict, (b) handling the complexity of growth by building systems, processes and structures into the company and (c) the urgency to navigate a tough environment where the market dynamics offer an opportunity for growth, leading to a larger marketplace.

What I like about is that the concepts for the book is relatively simple, and the rest of the book is to build up a step by step guide for the user to build his company with the tools provided. Verne Harnish based his book on what he learned from reading Ron Chernow’s “Titan”, a biography of John D. Rockefeller, who built his billion dollars worth empire with a set of leadership and management principles. One has to imagine in the days of Rockefeller, the tools of communication were far limited and the central question is that: how does one able to communicate or collaborate across to ensure that the trains run on time?


Basically, the author distilled it to three underlying habits which he observed are key to the successful management of a business and also provided a series of templates for companies to use:

  • Priorities: For the entire team, what are the objective “Top 5” priorities for the year & quarter and a clear top priority along with an appropriate theme? Does everyone in the organization have a clear set of priorities which aligns with the company’s priorities?
  • Data: Can the organisation collect, collate and measure sufficient data on a daily, weekly & monthly basis to gather insights about how efficient the organization is running or what the customers are demanding in the market? What are the daily and weekly metrics for each and everyone in the team?
  • Rhythm: Does the organization have an effective rhythm of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings (short and sweet ones) to ensure that they are aligned on company’s priorities and drive accountability?

and if you don’t get it, just remember this set of rules in raising children: (a) have a handful of rules, (b) repeat yourself a lot and (c) act consistently with the rules you set. This is followed with a simple underlying strategy: you must identify the choke-point in your business model and industry and then gain control of that choke-point

The best way to use this book is to read it while building the organisation. For example, you write the one page strategic plan for everyone on your team, conveying the long term and short term vision & goals to ensure the team is aligned and communicated well on the objectives. As you move further in the chapters, you set the proper rhythm of the organization by making sure that the meetings are scheduled properly and how the metrics are properly set up within your team for accountability and monitoring the health of the business.

I would recommend this book to startups who have just finished their 100 day demos and on their way to become proper companies. One advice that has often come up for most companies to be successful is to identify what matters most for the company and then focus on that objective, ignoring everything else.

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Bernard Leong

A Pragmatic Idealist

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