The basics matter

Imagine two people a year out of college. Neither one has many business skills. They don’t know how to design, make, sell, or market products. They don’t know how successful companies operate, and barely understand how their new employer makes money.

Jeremy understands how to communicate, and he takes pride in everything that he does. When he writes an email home to his Dad, he proofs it before hitting “Send.” During his first months in the working world, he took pains to study the format of his company’s emails, reports, and promotions. He learned never to make a claim without citing facts to support that claim. He knows to use the fewest possible words while still justifying his opinions.

Tony is smarter and more ambitious than Jeremy, and he is eager to demonstrate just how bright he is. At every possible moment, he speaks up in meetings and rushes off replies to the hundreds of emails that cross his desk. People are impressed by his raw intelligence, but he already has a reputation as being a bit of a hothead. 75% of the time, his perspective is right, but 25% of the time, he is dead wrong, and in a highly visible manner. His emails are riddled with typos and missing words.

Did I mention that Tony is smarter than Jeremy? It won’t matter. In six months, Tony will be looking for a job, and Jeremy will be enjoying his first promotion. Jeremy understands that he has to get the basics right before he can aspire to higher achievements.