The Wisest Decision J.C. Penney Ever Made

By Sukh Singh, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International

Between 1909 and 1912, James Cash Penney had opened 13 department stores. Today, over 100 years on, there are over 1,000 stores located throughout the US. So what did one of America's best business entrepreneurs say was the wisest decision he ever took? For anyone looking to start a business or work within a team at your organisation, this advice is priceless, yet often hard to implement...

Me, Myself and J.C. Penney... 

Have you ever found that getting everything done in a day can just be so...hard? One of the biggest challenges that business owners share with us in the team, is that they have so much to do, yet just don't know how to get everything done without doing a million different jobs. The thought of getting other people to do those same jobs can often be frightening, because how do you know if someone you hire will get the job done properly in the same way you would?

J.C. Penney knew he could and needed to grow and expand his business far beyond his means. He had the same challenge too. As Dr. Stephen Covey notes in his timeless book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People...

“The late J.C. Penney was quoted as saying that the wisest decision he ever made was to 'let go' after realising that he couldn't do it all by himself any longer. That decision, made long ago, enabled the development and growth of hundreds of stores and thousands of people.”

The Greatest Business Challenge: Empowering Others

Stephen Covey hits home this point even more in one fell swoop...

"[You] can invest one hour of effort and produce one unit of results, assuming no loss of efficiency. A manager on the other hand, can invest one hour of effort and produce 10 or 50 or 100 units through effective delegation."

In other words, we can achieve way, way bigger, better and more effective results by working with others and enabling them to work with us rather than trying to get everything done ourselves. Makes good business sense right? And if entrepreneurs like J.C. Penney, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk can build global businesses that are to this day expanding at a rapid pace, then surely it's possible to find the best people out there to take on those jobs?

The challenge is that in the short term, delegation requires a kind of work that's different to individually 'getting the job done'. It requires empathy and consideration to teach others. That's not instant, and it's not always easy. For someone who just wants the short term results, it's borderline painful! Yet it's absolutely necessary if we want to build incredible teams and businesses - we have to empower others and communicate with others effectively.

In the mean time, here are a few awesome insights from actor Tom Cruise and the New Zealand rugby team on building great teams...

    Building the right team and knowing who to delegate to is a critical turning point for any entrepreneur. It is why we have designed specific assessments and programs to help people do so. If you are interested in learning more, then feel free to get in touch

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