Beau Toskich: A guru’s advice

The employees have to become fans to beat the competition

30-01-201208:59by
AN AMERICAN IN ITALY Born in Florida, he studied in San Francisco and got a Master’s degree in Geneva, as well as attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He has written three bestsellers: The Strategy of the Fried Egg, Verbal Drivers and From the Train to the Taxi. He has worked in Italy since the mid Eighties, where he collaborated in the repositioning of several trademarks including that of the BM BeMore notebooks

by Manuela Falchero

A way to meet the crisis? Through team spirit. Beau Toskich, «competitive advertising» guru, suggests his personal recipe to the companies that are having trouble making ends meet in an uncertain economic context. Behind Toskich’s intuition is a simple concept: human capital is what makes the difference.

What do you mean by team spirit?

A company exists to create, communicate and deliver value to its customers. Companies that can do it better than their competitors are able to meet the crisis more effectively.

But how can we put this policy into practice?

By turning our employees into our fans. You see, if they don’t «love» their company they won’t «love» the customers either and certainly won’t produce that memorable service that results in new purchases and positive word-of-mouth publicity. If, however, they are cheering for their company, it will be able to «bury» its competitors. Building team spirit is the way to move and ensure the consequent emotional satisfaction of the clientele. This is the key to overcoming the turbulence companies are encountering on the market. As I stress in the title of a conference I am going to give in March, many companies are up to their neck in troubled waters and in many cases they can’t make it go any lower, but they can raise their head. Team spirit is what enables them to keep their head above water and start breathing.

And just how does a company go about turning its employees into fans?

It is essential to access their optional fuel. I’ll explain: everybody has a fuel tank that consists of a 40-liter chamber of fuel for «I must», and another 40-liter chamber of fuel for «I want to». The idea is to exploit this latter, so that the team gives all its octanes to the company. This happens when you build teamwork; when the boss, who operates on the essential fuel of «I must», turns himself into a coach, capable of accessing that optional fuel of «I want to».

Does it really work in the field?

You bet it does. Just one of many examples is the case of Herbert Kelleher, executive chairman of Southwest Airlines, who has focused his skill on building team spirit through direct contact with the employees at all hierarchical levels, right there on the job. It is not unusual, for instance, to see Kelleher in the hangar, working side by side with the maintenance crews. Team spirit – he admits – is a characteristic that is clearly a trait of people who work for the airline. Others might object that it is just one of those «American fads».

But his airline has managed in just a few years to handle more passengers in the U.S. than giants like Delta Airlines, TWA and American Airlines.
So can we expect that team spirit will be the main subject of your next book?

Exactly. It will be the subject of my fourth book that will be entitled The Power of Team Spirit. That gleam in the eyes of your team just before it buries the competitors. In this book I will describe the cases of nine other managers, in addition to that of the executive chairman of Southwest Airlines, in as many different countries, including Italy, who can be defined as «chief cheerleading officers». Right now, I’m looking for a publisher to bring the book out in Italy. Then the version in English will also arrive, of course.

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