All great leaders have failed … more than once. Winston Churchill, General George Patton, Helen Keller, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Warren Buffet. They all wrote about their failures as being critical to their successes. “Failures become victories if they make us wise hearted,” said Helen Keller.
At Eli Global, we’ve failed a lot. We’ve made some awful hires and some terrible investments. In fact, one of our first acquisitions was a newsletter aimed at travel agents, which we bought in the year 2000, the same year Travelocity and Expedia hit it big, making our acquisition nearly obsolete.
Our failures made us who we are. We’ve learned important lessons from each one, including how to hire better, how to survive a recession, and how to perform long-term market research before investing. Our occasional failures have informed our resounding successes. We have failed more than most, and succeeded more than anyone else in our market with a steady 20% growth rate year-over-year for more than 25 years.
One of the most important questions to ask in a leadership interview is “Tell me about your greatest failure.” At Eli Global, anyone who points to a modest failure fails the test. We want to hear about a spectacular disaster that changed the candidate’s life.
When we coach employees, the first question we ask is “Where did you fail this quarter?” The next question is “What did you learn from this failure?” Anyone who can’t point to a personal failure with a related lesson will never succeed.
There are places for those who fear failure, such as law, accounting, medicine and data processing … careers with finite solutions where failure isn’t tolerated. But Eli Global leaders embrace failure as a friend.
Eli Global thinks long-term. We’ve never sold a company, and we don’t plan to do so in the future. Eli Global leaders have a 20-year plan for every company we buy. We also focus on great people. The company works meticulously to find great leaders and excellent employees. With an extreme investment in acquiring talent, we can spend less time managing them. Less micromanagement leads to a more successful, satisfied work force.
Eli Global embraces “and” rather than “or.” We believe that companies can be profitable and growth-oriented, compliant and fearless, customer-focused and employee-centered, and strategic and execution-focused.
Eli Global embraces self-awareness and growth. Companies work and grow best when their members also grow along with them. Eli Global leaders are self-critical, always asking how they can grow to serve their employees and customers more. They seek out opportunities for education and coaching.
Eli Global leaders create leaders. The first focus of an Eli Global leader is to invest in people with great potential. A great leader can point to a trail of successful people behind them, and at Eli Global, that trail is more than 5,000 staff members strong and spans the globe. They are all proud to be successful at what they do — and even more proud of the failures they’ve conquered along the way.