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Steve, I agree completely that "business orientation" (or, as I've heard said elsewhere, "business sense") is that one intangible that takes someone with a particular skill (marketing, engineering, IT) and suddenly makes them infinitely more valuable to the organization. Such people are able to quickly and credibly evaluate ideas in the context of the company's products, markets, customers, and organization and eliminate the 90% that won't work to be able to focus on the 10% that might. It's the person that recognizes that their own ideas or priorities may not jive with what the company needs to do and they can quickly sacrifice their own goals in pursuit of the company's. Of course, they get things wrong same time, but they are usually quicker at sensing when something isn't going right and either kill the activity or project or make course corrections.

It'd be interesting to see a post (here or elsewhere) on how to identify people with this capability. I do believe that some of it comes across on the resume (through an ability to state accomplishments in the context of gains to the company) but perhaps even more so through behavior-based interviewing.

Dean Zatkowsky

I write about organizational culture a lot, and as you observe, it's clear that when leaders put great thought and effort into their hiring process, they don't have to philosophize about culture.

One way to identify talented specialists blessed with business sense is to recognize that these are often bitter, curmudgeonly people who have been abused in their field and labeled as "negative" because they focus more on results than activity. I don't want to generalize from my experience, but simply offer the example: as a marketing executive who believes that everything must show a measurable return on investment, I've been hated and slandered by advertising agencies and by coworkers who clearly got into marketing because they thought it was the easiest way to enter the entertainment industry. They could wow the boss, but seemed to think that generating profits was someone else's job.

One of the great sicknesses in corporate America is selfishness - people managing their careers more than their companies. Talented people with humility aren't usually the best self promoters, so it's up to US to find them.

Steve Roesler

Hello, Dean,

I hope you aren't bitter and curmudgeonly as a result of our own experience, yet I understand what your are saying. I'm thinking right now of a top-notch research director who incurred the wrath of other researchers because he was more "managerial" than "collegial." Actually, he was both. They didn't like the idea that "science" could fall victim to lack of funding (revenues) which, coincidentally, was the result of researchers to focus on products that could be commercialized.

In this instance it would be inaccurate to say that this crew was focused on their personal career path. They weren't. But they were focused on the research itself vs. what the end-user needed and would want to buy. There was a huge bruhaha caused by a corporate survey that showed this director had created "poor morale." Fortunately, after deeper investigation, the truth of the situation emerged. It resulted in a change of hiring, development, and promotional practices. And, the "ogre" Director became a VP.

I'd really like to hear even more of your experiences, since I'm a marketing/PR guy by education and background and have spent a number of years in the entertainment arena. Now there is a culture that could keep you busy writing for a long time.

Thanks, Dean.

Steve Roesler


I think a post on this is in order, because it's what we do and teach.

You are correct about it being easier to spot during the interview vs. on the resume, but every bit of data helps. It ultimately boils down to another selection process: HR screeners and managers who know how to discern the specific orientation as a result of the total interview process.

Now I have to think about the post. . .

Dean Zatkowsky

Thanks, Steve.
Bitterness is too unproductive, so I don't mess with it. "Curmudgeon," however, can be a personal brand attribute, when people know your snarl is driven by the bottom line. I really harp on organizational integration of goals, strategies and tactics to improve the likelihood that, for example, the research scientists' interests are visibly aligned with the organization's. And of course, the baseline goal that should be woven into every coworker's DNA is profit growth.

Part of the problem aligning interests in an organization, according to Kinko's founder Paul Orfalea, are the people he calls "embarrassed capitalists." They don't feel comfortable talking about profits, when they should be EVANGELICAL about the importance of profits. Everything else a company accomplishes, including social good, derives from profitability, but many leaders don't know how to talk about it.

Thanks again, Z

Saleem Qureshi

Very informative article, and excellent job in gathering all the core talents at one place. A recruiters must look on these areas before hiring a talent, but it's wrong to always hire high achievers, may be the talent had not been fully utilized in a right manner..one must look the potential of a talent, that how it can grow, and how it fits in to a job criteria...its not always that a high achiever accurately matches to the criteria.

Steve Roesler

Yo, Z,

OK on the Curmudgeon vs. bitter thing. I get it. Worked with a guy for many years who was "curmudgeonly" about certain standards and it served him well. In fact, he retired and was lauded for "sticking to his guns" when he could have caved in along the way.

The whole "profits are dirty" thing baffled me until I realized that, over the past 40 or so years, we have --through various institutions--allowed the notion of individual rights to somehow become more important than individual responsibility.

Like Paul Orfalea, John Mackey of Whole Foods has consistently presented a rational, well-founded case for how profits can be used for the greater good, which includes everything from employing people to charitable giving.

It is becoming clearer that a generation of people have been indoctrinated to believe that they deserve the golden egg, but the goose should be killed.

I feel a new post coming on. . .

Steve Roesler


You are now moving the conversation into an important area: the idea of "best fit".

Everyone is going to achieve in some setting. The key is to find the best match, which takes honesty and discernment on the parts of the recruiter, the candidate, and the company.

Thanks for the addition.


Steve - your post inspired me to write one of my own discussing "business sense" (i.e., business orientation) and how one might build it. Interested to see if you have any other ideas on how one might grow this talent. http://gregstrosaker.com/2010/02/building-a-better-business-sense/

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