With another graduation season at its end, I recently found myself thinking about the day my nine-year-old daughter will graduate from college and the advice I would want her to have before she stepped into the working world.
While she’s still young and has years of advice still coming from “Dear ‘Ole Dad,” I’m dedicating this post to her and hoping that these thoughts from my personal experience will help others too.
1. Put People First
To me, one of the most important requirements for business and personal success is building strong relationships, both internally with your team and with your customers. As head of General Motors Fleet, I always try to meet with my commercial, government and rental customers face-to-face, even if it means being on the road for much of the year. There is a sense of trust and credibility that is created when a personal connection is established, and you’d be surprised at how much a personal relationship can strengthen a business partnership.
2. Set High and Long-Term Goals and Stay Focused on Them
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of life and not think about what needs to be done for long-term success. Before you know it, a year has gone by and while you may have done well against that year’s objectives, you may have lost sight of where you need to be next year and the year after. When you limit your focus, you miss huge opportunities to grow your business.
It’s important to set periodic goals and revisit them often. At General Motors, we have many objectives that we work hard to reach–daily, monthly, quarterly, annually and even five and ten years down the road.
The only way you can be sure you’re on the path to success is to set your sights on a distant, stretch goal and make incremental strides to get there.
3. Never Give Up Because It’s Never Too Late To Pull Off A Win
I like to use sports analogies when I’m speaking to my team because there are lots of examples showing that team determination and cohesiveness can turn a sure loss into a miraculous win. That can happen in business too, I’ve seen it time and time again. As an example, we’ve set our sights on growing our commercial sales and managed to pull off 31 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Of course, there were times during the last two and one-half years when it didn’t look like we were going to make the numbers, but perseverance and a last minute push paid off and we kept the streak going.
4. Be Honest
My door is always open to those who want to talk or seek advice. And when I’m speaking to the members of my team or our valued customers, I always try to speak candidly and honestly. I know that in doing so, I can expect the same from them in return.
I stick by the saying that “honesty is the best policy.” I truly believe that when you build trust and keep your integrity, you build relationships that benefit everyone.
I am so grateful for all of the partners and mentors I’ve been able to work with throughout the years. I’d never be where I am today without them. That’s why I want to make sure their advice gets shared with the next generation of leaders, and of course, I’m hoping that my daughter is one of them.
Based in Detroit, MI, Ed Peper is Vice President – U.S. Fleet and Commercial Sales for General Motors. His executive career with GM also includes leadership assignments as a Regional Director – and national roles with the Cadillac and Chevrolet brands. Ed has an MBA from the University of Chicago. Follow him on LinkedIn.