To most of us, wealth isn’t exactly synonymous with the values that make a “good person.” By that I mean that many view the rich as stingy, arrogant, greedy, and out of touch with society. That can’t be said for the billionaire founder of Intuit Scott Cook though.
Scott Cook created his own success as an entrepreneur in 1983 when he founded Intuit as a way to help his wife pay the bills. Today, as the executive chairman of a $22 billion dollar dollar company, Intuit runs the personal/professional finance and tax preparation game.
Jason Nazar, founder of Docstoc and a Forbes contributor, recently sold his company to Cook and spent some time to get to know him. In his blog, Nazar details how Cook’s unique character took him by surprise. He had this to say about Cook:
“The most striking aspect about Scott is how humble, considerate, curious and thoughtful he is, while having achieved so much success. He’s the antithesis of every horrible stereotype of the rich. Quite simply, he’s the product of his success, not the victim of it.”
With such an inspiring man at the helm, it’s no surprise that Intuit is ranked eighth on Fortune’s Best Workplace List. While many of us hope to run our own successful companies one day, we still have a lot to learn about the character of being a boss. Here are the qualities that Nazar noted about Scott Cook that everyone in business, rich or poor, should strive to have.
1. Hear EVERYONE out. Cook had given an hour long presentation on leadership and innovation, but it was what he did after that really spoke about his character. According to Nazar, he stayed another hour with the attendees answering literally every question they had until there were none left. When you talk about caring about your customers, are you that dedicated?
2. Have a humble curiosity. Nazar noted that as he was having lunch with Cook, he found himself doing most of the talking; Cook, despite being such an accomplished leader, still maintained an unassuming curiosity and naturally picked his brain. “Curiosity is quite the antidote for condescension.”
3. Ask the questions that help. A productive discussion about goals takes the right questions to really connect. Nazar explained, “Instead of naysaying or telling me how he thought it could be done better, Scott asked (another) simple question: “How do we make that happen?” A question like that moves both people forward and the fact that Cook is a successful billionaire and he is using “we” means that he essentially believes in you.
4. Write that down. All business people are incredibly busy; most people compete for their attention from their phones. Scott Cook is no different, but he got more done through taking notes. As they shared ideas together, “He made introductions to key partners, recorded thoughts I shared on interviewing and leadership, and gave us both a handful of follow-up action items.” Real entrepreneurs and business people talk about it and then do it; in Cook’s case, he handled it immediately.
5. Always be mindful and open about your flaws. During their discussion, Cook asked for ideas on how Intuit could improve as a company. This openness to feedback is a trait that most chief executives don’t bother to think about but it speaks a lot about awareness and an open business culture. “It’s a very rare individual who seeks out critical feedback on the product of their life’s work; someone like that inevitably has flaws, but no blind spots.”
6. Get to know someone intellectually, then personally. Like any executive when they decide on the acquisition of the company, Cook thoroughly looked into Nazar’s background before talking to him. But rather than bringing up personal details, Cook made an effort to first connect intellectually through sharing ideas and opportunities. “I thought that was important for one big reason: people are much more than the product of their experiences, they’re also the potential of their aspirations.”