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In The Huddle with Fran Tarkenton

Keep Your Hands in the Soil

In 1986, the Coca-Cola Company, who I worked for early in my career when I was learning about marketing, asked me to be on the very first board of directors for Coca-Cola Enterprises, an independent company that handled the bottling operations for Coca-Cola. It was a great honor, and I was excited about taking on the role. But I soon learned that, as an entrepreneur, being in the board room wasn’t the place for me. When I’m in a business, I love to have my hands in the soil. I want to be fully involved and engaged, working in the business every day, talking to customers, employees, and partners, and really understanding everything that’s going on. Being a board member meant doing none of that. Our job was to meet together for two hours every few months, and rubber stamp the decisions someone else was making.

I eventually resigned from the board. How can you really make informed decisions when you’re not involved in the business every day? The other board members were chairmen of big companies, and were used to this—but I was and am an entrepreneur, and this experience on the board of directors really solidified in my mind the way I want to run (and don’t want to run!) my businesses. I’m personally involved. I’m there every day, and I have my hands in the soil. That’s how Mr. Woodruff built the Coca-Cola Company, it’s how Mr. Sam built Walmart, it’s how all the great entrepreneurs built their businesses, and I want to do it that way, too. It’s the very reason I’m an entrepreneur—because it’s what I love! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Whatever you’re doing, I encourage you to keep your hands in the soil! Stay involved, and be fully engaged. It’s how we can make a real difference.

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Margery Griffith

So right! My father started his own business in 1934 and built up a wonderful company. He later hired my husband to learn the business from the bottom up. He was a mechanical engineer, not a ‘salesman type’ as was my father. Both however, knew the business bottom to top and my husband WAS a good hands on salesman, though my father never admitted that. Dad set himself up in a fancy large office and stuck my husband in a tiny one with a glass wall overlooking the plant (EVEN after he became president). Myhusband came in/out through the plant every day and could see what was going on. We (including ME) knew every employee by name. Later, when my father finally retired and my husband moved into the big office…he quickly lost that valuable personal contact! HE found out luckily, what he’d missed and corrected it in time, but… Read more »

PaulE

Excellent write-up explaining the difference between an entrepreneur and a manager for those out there who were under the false assumption that they were either interchangeable or one in the same.