Execution WIll Make Your Company Better

Feb. 1, 2003
While researching this month's cover story on Louisiana Rents, I spent a day and a half riding around south Louisiana with the company's director of operations

While researching this month's cover story on Louisiana Rents, I spent a day and a half riding around south Louisiana with the company's director of operations Donald Charbonnet. Donald took me to four of the company's seven branches and in each branch I had the opportunity to spend time with Louisiana Rents employees, from branch managers to outside sales staff to rental coordinators to shop personnel.

I've visited hundreds of rental centers and I can tell when people are genuinely enthusiastic about their jobs and the companies they work for. It's not something that can be faked.

As I spoke with Louisiana Rents people I was struck by how they seemed to share a common vision. This wasn't communicated through the repetition of slogans or pat phrases that somehow reflect the boss's philosophy. On the contrary, it seemed as though each person was very much an individual, often with their own way of doing things. But I sensed a commitment to a common vision. They shared a commitment to having the best quality equipment, to making sure that the processes in their branches work efficiently and effectively, for making sure orders were processed correctly, for improving the equipment itself so that it does the job properly. I could sense a shared belief in communication with the customer, to bonding with the customer and building a relationship beyond order-taking and invoicing.

In my long conversations with Donald as we drove through south Louisiana between New Orleans, Belle Chasse, Gonzales, Lafayette, Morgan City and back to New Orleans, he mentioned a book he'd recently read called “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.” Now I haven't read this book yet, so I'm not urging you to plunk down $25 to buy it, but one of the things that authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan talk about is that the discipline of execution is understanding how to link together people, strategy and operations, the three core processes of every business.

Bossidy, a well-respected executive with General Electric, Allied Signal and Honeywell, talks about the depth of communication a CEO needs to communicate his vision to his team of people, and the importance of dialogue about strategy and operations. Bossidy maintains that a leader's most important function is to select and appraise people, a task that should not be delegated. Many people might think Bossidy carried this to an extreme, personally making the calls to check references for key hires. In fact, he spent more time on the task of recruiting and hiring than anything else he did. But many executives fail, he points out, because the people they hire don't have the commitment to execute the plans.

So what does Bossidy know? I'd say 31 consecutive quarters of earnings growth of 13 percent or more shows that he must know something.

A Louisiana native who has been in the equipment rental business for 36 years, all but a couple for Louisiana-based companies, Charbonnet obviously spent a lot of his time observing people — people who worked under his supervision and people who worked for competitors. Some executives have a knack for seeing the best in people, for figuring out what their talents are and for putting them in positions that might bring out the best in them. I'd say Charbonnet has that knack. My sense, from my years of observing this industry, is that those rental executives that have created the most successful companies have this knack as well.

Some people are almost innately gifted with the ability to communicate well. Others have to work harder at it. But the ability to understand people, to communicate a vision to them, to work together with them to arrive at a shared vision, to help them to bring out the best in themselves is no small talent but can be cultivated and developed.

Finding the right people and communicating a vision is execution of a business plan in its fullest sense. A lot of rental people are already doing it and a lot are close but need to keep advancing towards that ultimate goal.

Understanding a balance sheet and how to manage rental inventory are important fields of knowledge for a rental executive. But understanding what makes a human being tick and finding the right people might be even more important than knowing the inner components of rental machines. Let's put it this way — one without the other is not enough.