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Four Lessons From the Co-Founder of OfficeMax [Slide Show]

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120209-1 Intro
As the co-founder of OfficeMax, Michael Feuer learned a thing or two about launching and running a successful company. In The Benevolent Dictator, he serves up an array of advice on empowering your employees, building your business, and outwitting the competition. We can all benefit from lessons he's learned, including the following four.
120209-2. 1. Compete against a competitor's weakness

1. Compete against a competitor's weakness

Don't challenge rivals on their greatest strengths; instead, identify and exploit their Achilles' heel. "Read every word ever published; study their press releases and their ads," he recommends. "Talk to their customers, employees, supporters, and detractors." Then follow that same drill all over again, this time reading between the lines. Don't take everything at face value. It's important to recognize when clever public relations (PR) is steering attention away from weaknesses.

120209-3. 2. Foster an atmosphere of continual reinvention

2. Foster an atmosphere of continual reinvention

Stay in constant motion with a pair of teams—A and B—who have unique mandates. As soon as Team A finishes a project, for instance, Team B begins immediate work on a new-and-improved replacement.

"Members of Team A feel satisfied by their accomplishments and can savor the moment while gaining enthusiasm for the next undertaking," he notes. "Meanwhile, Team B is motivated to top its predecessor with improvements that the first group may not have even envisioned."

120209-4. 3. Manage your prima donnas

3. Manage your prima donnas

Firing underperforming employees, whose delusions of professional grandeur make everyone miserable, is easy. But how do you handle an obnoxiously self-important employee who also happens to deliver amazing results?

"The trick to managing high-maintenance superstars," says Feuer, "is to uncover what makes them tick and figure out how to push the right buttons to keep them on the straight and narrow while getting maximum output from them."

120209-5. 4. Esteem your customers

4. Esteem your customers

Too often, says Feuer, entrepreneurs and executives think of customers as a means to an end rather than the reason a company exists. If that attitude trickles down to your frontline staff, don't be surprised if they start to think the mediocre customer service they provide is more than adequate.

Everyone's priority—from the C-suite to the call center—should be to solve a customer's problem "then and there, with no ifs, ands, or buts."

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Christian Gulliksen is a writer who has authored several of the Get to the Po!nt newsletters for MarketingProfs. A former editor at Robb Report, he has also contributed to Worth, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter.

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