Apparently Jeffrey Fox agrees with Susan Scott (author of Fierce Conversations and then Fierce Leadership) that the word "fierce" has positive as well as negative synonyms, such as robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed, and untamed. It is important to add that, for both Scott and Fox, fierce competitors are highly-principled, play by the rules, welcome challenges, follow what Bill George characterizes as their "True North," embrace opportunities, and consider it a privilege to serve those entrusted to their care, especially customers. According to Fox, fierce organizations are defined by key people - at all levels and in all areas -- who enable their companies to compete fiercely but with principles for sales, profits, market share, and especially talent at a time when competition for them is greater than ever before.
Here are mosaics of brief excerpts to suggest the thrust of Fox's crisp thinking and the flavor of his lively writing style.
On Competitive Companies: "These companies are ethical, honest, compliant with regulations, and model citizens. They are sometimes feared and always watched by their competitors. They are loved by their customers. They are easy to do business with, but they never take it easy...The savvy, smart, well-led companies see bad times as a good time to gain market share, to out-fox the competition...aggressively pursue underserved customers, market to brand-indifferent customers and work mightily to make them brand-loyal, go after other companies' dissatisfied, angry customers, buy under-priced hard assets, build capacity, hire newly available human talent, and acquire product licenses, anxious good suppliers, undermarketed products, new wholesalers and distributors, and core relevant acquisitions."
It is no coincidence that most of the companies that are annually ranked by Fortune magazine among the most admired and best to work for are also among those annually ranked by Fortune among those most profitable and having the greatest cap value.
In several of his previously published books (notably How to Become a Rainmaker and Secrets of Great Rainmakers), Fox duly acknowledges the nature and extent of difficulty that aspiring rainmakers experience when attempting to end a "drought" of sales and profits. Those who aspire to become fierce competitors encounter comparable difficulty. Hence the relevance of Dempsey's observation.
However, Fox, observes, more than courage is required. Those who aspire to be Fierce Competitors must never let anyone else outwork them. "It is noteworthy that he or she who is in the proverbial `right place at the right time' is the hardest worker." They also believe that everyone is a possible customer. "Don't be biased against a possible customer by the way they talk, what they wear, or where they live." Here in Texas, many people "wear a big hat but have no "cattle." Fierce Competitors work hard and smart to know who are the "cattle owners." Then they make the sale and get the business. "Figure out how and when to deliver later. Getting the sale is the hard part." And finally, Fierce Competitors "always answer the phone" whenever it rings and are then well-prepared to provide the information requested or the solution needed.
Fox also has much of great value to say about those who lead Fierce Competitor companies (Pages 9-12, 30, 36, and 44) and also about those who tend to be underappreciated, if appreciated at all: "The `third shift' is a metaphor for those people and those groups of people who toil in relative anonymity in the organization. They may be the workers on the night shift; the scientists in distant labs, behind locked doors. Working on the next breakthroughs; the customer service people dealing with problems and one irate customer after another; the field repair people fixing critical customer machinery on a weekend or holiday; the caregivers that empty bed pans. These people may not be omnipresent, but they are critical to the continuing success of the company. Great managers recognize such people, give them credit, give sincere thank-yous." Whatever the size and nature of an organization may be, it will never have enough people who are not only willing and able but also eager to go "the extra mile" to do whatever must be done...and done right.
As indicated earlier, with all due respect to Fox's previously published books, I think this one is his best, his most important...thus far. I cannot think of a better gift to give to those who will soon graduate from schools, colleges, and universities as well as to those who have only recently embarked upon a career. In fact, I highly recommend this book to all others who share Jeffrey Fox's compelling faith in the power of passionate and principled competition. As his riveting narrative clearly indicates, the most valuable "business principles" are also the most valuable "life principles."