On April 1 of 2018, everything changed for Paul Heiss.

1: Paul is a successful entrepreneur. He is the founder of IBCC Industries, a metal casting company based in China that employs more than 700 people. “For decades, IBCC Industries has provided value to clients by turning scrap metal into parts for trucks, tractors, and highly engineered mechanical machinery,” write Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy in Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork.

On that day, in “retaliation against taxes approved by President Donald Trump on imported steel and aluminum, China’s Customs Tariff Commission increased the tariff rate on pork products and aluminum scrap by 25 percent,”

This news rocked Paul’s world.  

“Over 60 percent of their clients were based in the United States, and their company, including their three operating factories, were based in Shanghai,” write Dan and Ben. “Overnight their shipping costs skyrocketed. How were they going to get the parts their clients needed back in the United States reasonably?”

Paul’s phone started ringing. IBCC served many of the world’s largest construction equipment manufacturing companies, like Caterpillar. They needed answers quickly so they could remain competitive with other companies based in Europe, Japan, and other parts of the world not impacted by the tariff.

Paul had been thinking about moving his manufacturing to India for several years. “Someday maybe,” he’d thought.  

Suddenly, someday was today. “His clients desperately needed him, and he had to make a move fast,” the authors write.

2: Paul’s first question was: “How do we start manufacturing in India?” But then, inspiration struck. Because he was a member of Dan’s Strategic Coaching program, he stopped himself. “How” was the wrong question to ask. A much better question? “Who can help me start manufacturing in India?”

Paul got to work creating an Impact Filter outlining the talents, skills, and experience his Who would need to take on the newly created role of “country manager.” This person needed to be:

A native Indian experienced and knowledgeable about doing international business. And experienced and knowledgeable about the manufacturing business.

Paul had no operations in India, so he assigned this critical task to a colleague who was well-versed in finding qualified Whos.

Another pressing question was: “Where would we build the manufacturing plants?”

“There were tens of thousands of potential locations throughout India at which to build his manufacturing plants,” Dan and Ben write. “It would take him thousands of hours to filter through the options, and even then, he would have tons of blind spots due to his own ignorance.”

Once again, Paul realized he was asking the wrong question. “He needed a Who, not a How. Time was of the essence, and he was committed to getting the best possible result,” the authors write. “So, he asked a better question: “Who can help us find the right lots on which to build these plants?”

Paul reached out to the Indian consul general, who made an introduction to an industrial development leader in India. This expert “Who” came back with a small list of “best options,” which Paul used to make his final decision.

How long would it have taken Paul to figure this out himself? Likely months or even years. How long did it take by asking Who, not How? Days.  

Next question: “How do I find good suppliers of scrap steel in India?” By now, Paul was becoming an expert. Better question: “Who can supply us with good scrap steel in India?”

Through his network, Paul connected with and hired a retired past president of an Indian supply company. The consultant provided a short list of qualified suppliers. Paul and his team then traveled to the different locations and selected the best supplier.

“All of this allowed [Paul] to move forward aggressively and get operational in a different country fast,” write Dan and Ben. Paul didn’t do all these tasks himself. Instead, he “teamed up with Whos and was operational in India in only five months.  

“This was absurdly, even superhumanly, fast,” the authors write.

Just 18 months after China imposed the tariff, IBCC generated more than 25 percent of total revenue from India.

3: Who Not How is not about obsessing over “the process.” Instead, we allow our “Whos to worry about the How and trust them to achieve the desired result within the designated timeframe,” Dan and Ben recommend. “Don’t micromanage their process. Let them do what they do because they are the experts now, not you.”

“I now realize that my potential is virtually limitless when I focus on Who instead of How,” Paul reflects. “My goals are not constrained by me. There are endless Whos out there and I can add that capability to anything I’m trying to accomplish.”

Paul’s confidence is an example of what Dan Sullivan calls “Freedom of Purpose”: Our purpose and vision expand when we have capable Whos who can take our goals to the next level. The bigger our vision, the more we need Whos and not Hows. And, our vision grows as we get more and better Whos involved.

More tomorrow!


Reflection: When faced with a problem or challenge, do I typically ask “How” or “Who”?

Action: Discuss with a colleague or with my team.

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