When I moved to a head-office in Dayton in 1988, an NCR executive was giving a presentation; he had great slides and an even better delivery. The CEO, Chuck Exley, listened to the entire presentation in his typically gracious, courteous manner. At the conclusion, he nodded and said something brief but profound: “Good story, but it’s hard to look smart with bad numbers.” And as I reflected on it, the presenter, articulate as he was, as good as his slides were, simply had bad numbers.
That comment has always stayed with me. You have to focus on the underlying substance. There’s just no way to disguise poor performance. I’ve tried to follow that advice throughout my career. Deliver good numbers, and you earn the right for people to listen to you.
Idea for Impact: Don’t Succumb to Hype
Marketing and branding have conditioned society to play up—and be attracted to—sizzle over steak. Style over substance.
Sizzle can only get you so far.
Focus on the steak. It is considerate and farsighted and more fulfilling to focus on substantive ideas, products, and presentations.
For sure, sizzle is important. Only when you have a good steak, add some sizzle to promote the bejesus out of whatever it is you have to offer.