Compass Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance to win one of five free copies of Compass. This post is based on a conversation with my friend, William F. Brandt, about his new book, Compass. It is an invaluable guide for creating and growing exceptional organizations.  


Bill Brandt cofounded American Woodmark with a vision to create an exceptional company. It wasn’t just about being the biggest or making the most profit. His story is about leading in good times and bad times. American Woodmark grew from $35 million in 1980 to over $600 million today. Exceptional organizations give more value than they take. Exceptional organizations are:

  1. Viable – achieving your purpose while acting according to society’s highest values.
  2. Sustainable – remaining viable over time. Prepare for downturns during good times.
  3. Valued – Being number one means owners, employees, clients, and communities receive more benefit from you than from your competitors.

In his book, Compass, Bill sums up the reason for his success: “I do believe that holding fast to our vision and making timely corrections to actions that did not support it were key factors in our success.” 10 lessons learned while creating an exceptional organization:

  1. A difficult time to change an organization is when things are going well.
  2. A leader must have a positive attitude even if not sleeping at night.
  3. It is a leaders responsibility to help employees live through hard times not to protect them from the harshness of reality.
  4. Make sure the employees you hire have the right values.
  5. A vision can take longer to implement than planned.
  6. Have a strong balance sheet and cash flow.
  7. Growing by acquisition is not for every company.
  8. Learn from your mistakes.
  9. Never assume you have all the answers.
  10. Enjoy the journey along the way.

Enjoying the journey is one of my personal favorites. 10 ways to enjoy the journey:

  1. Working longer or harder doesn’t help.
  2. Find interesting things to do in and around the work.
  3. Meet interesting people.
  4. Visit a new destination.
  5. Finish what needs to be finished. But don’t sacrifice what matters.
  6. Experiment with new ways of working.
  7. Find a program that enhances efficiency.
  8. Surround yourself with qualified people.
  9. Delegate as much as possible.
  10. Plan your day.

Bonus: If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. Compass is not only about creating exceptional organizations, but also a valuable reference book with essays on all subjects to challenge the reader’s outlook. Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance to win one of five free copies of Compass. Which of Bill Brandt’s 10 lessons learned resonates with you? Why?

P.S. – Do you need an Outside Director, Advisory Board Member, Trusted Advisor,  or Interim CEO?  Someone who can help you see your business and your goals through “Fresh Eyes.”  Contact me and I will work with you to look at where you want to go and help you find the best way to get there.  Sometimes all it takes is someone with a fresh viewpoint, unencumbered by company politics or culture to help find the right solution.

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Larry Putterman
Board Director | Advisory Board Member

Avoid painful lessons learned. Let me help solve your business problems. A fresh set of eyes can show you a different set of possibilities. Use my experience to save time and money. I have been there and done that. What makes me highly effective is my fresh viewpoint, unencumbered by company politics or culture.


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