What I’ve learned over twenty years working with some of the best companies in the world is that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to have the biggest impact.
But you do have to be the best prepared.
I learned this lesson when I was 25 or 26 sitting in a room of 15 executives and the CEO of Mohegan Sun, the largest and most successful casino in the country.
We were listening to presentations from 3 different marketing agencies trying to win our multi-million dollar account.
Now I have been very fortunate to work for multiple organizations that allow even lower level employees a voice.
I was in that meeting because my manager and I were designing, building, and writing the brand new website.
After all three presentations were finished, every high level executive weighed in, gave their perspectives, their thoughts. It was pretty clear that they were not fully prepared for the meeting.
But I had read up extensively on every agency who presented. I had read up on our growth goals, our budget, everything I could lay my hands on that might give me a better perspective about this big decision.
When you’re the low man on the totem pole in a meeting, the only way you can make a big impression is by knowing your stuff cold.
And I knew mine. It was evident in my questions during the presentations. It was evident in my thoughts and suggestions after the presentations.
And when it came time to pick the marketing agency, the CMO turned to me and said, “Tony, which agency do you want?”
I told him and that’s the agency he selected right there.
What does any of this have to do with speed reading, you wonder?
Being the most prepared doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It does require you to know the most and understand the most.
I realized early on that most of business is a knowledge game. Too many businesses suffer because they don’t know what they don’t know.
Even I didn’t know what I didn’t know when my first business failed.
So I taught myself to speed read, over 700 words a minute. And then I read every single business book I could.
Literally, I read a book a day for months, starting with the most important authors like Dan Kennedy and Jay Abraham. But I also read philosophy and theology. Anything that gave me more knowledge, perspective, and better critical thinking skills.
Years later, the same skill and the same determination to be the best prepared helped me rise quickly to a position of leadership at ADP and it put me in charge of a major, multi-million dollar acquisition.
So I have one major suggestion for young entrepreneurs: learn how to speed read and then make use of that skill – be the most prepared in the room.
What other skills help you be the most prepared? Share your thoughts in the comments below.