February 05, 2021

What Your Business Can Learn From Special Operations’ Success

Written by Mike Sarraille, George Randle and Dr. Josh Cotton

The US Special Operations Forces community is arguably one of the most adaptable, efficient, and effective organizations on the planet today, and it’s because it prioritizes one thing above all else: talent

On the battlefront, the difference between success and failure can mean the difference between life and death. With such high stakes, the Special Operations community has a deep understanding of just how critical your people are. Ultimately, wars are won and lost not by weapons or technology, but by people. 

In business, as in the military, the only competitive advantage you can hope to achieve and maintain is your human capital. Nothing is as important to your company’s success as your people. Not your product. Not your service. Your people.

Your Product is Nothing Without Your People

Blockbuster was once a behemoth but no longer exists. They failed to adapt to the rise of on-demand video, mail-order rental services, and automated kiosks like Redbox. Blockbuster even had a chance to purchase Netflix for $50 million but declined to do so, believing that their business model was sound and there was no need for innovation or change. Now, Blockbuster is a relic of the past, and Netflix is a Fortune 500 company.

Enron was named “America’s Most Innovative Company” by Forbes for six consecutive years.  The service they provided was in high demand, and it seemed they would continue to thrive. Then the company was rocked by scandal due to ethics violations committed by its leaders.

Blockbuster and Enron believed their services and products were enough for them to succeed. People, however, make the choices that drive growth or trigger decline. Blockbuster didn’t have people who could adapt, and Enron had the wrong people in leadership positions making unethical decisions. The fundamental issue was a lack of talent.

Any good business leader will tell you that people are the most important factor in a business. Products and services come and go. If you want long-term, lasting success, you need to select and invest in the right people. The who is almost always more important than the what. It’s not what you sell that determines if your organization will be great; it’s who you have doing it. 

People make the products. People deliver the service. People innovate and adapt. People solve the problems.

Do You Have a Talent Problem?

Despite knowing—or at least saying—that people are important, the vast majority of companies fail to attract and select quality talent. Worse, many of these companies don’t even realize they have a talent problem.

Here are six signs that you have a talent problem:

1. SALES are down or stagnating, which means revenue is suffering.

2. LABOR EFFICIENCY is abysmal, leading to high costs and wasted resources.

3. PROFITS, as a result of signs 1 and 2, aren’t growing fast enough. Or worse, they’re declining.

4. CUSTOMER SATISFACTION is plummeting and resulting in customer and market share loss.

5. EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT/SATISFACTION is declining because no one works as a TEAM. As a result, ATTRITION is rising, and the CULTURE is becoming toxic.

6. INNOVATION is lacking or nonexistent. Individually and organizationally, there is no GROWTH MINDSET.

In the simplest terms, a talent problem leads to underperformance, and just like the military on a battlefield, you can’t afford underperformance. Absent a talent mindset, your company will fail. 

The War for Talent

Whether you realize it or not, you are currently in the middle of a war with your competitors: the war for the best talent. It is the most important war you will fight within your business. And if you want to win, you need to commit to selecting and developing exceptional talent.

If you get the right people, with the right mindset, and foster a culture of leadership, results will follow. Having the right people means greater profits, more satisfied customers, and better opportunities for innovation and growth. It doesn’t mean you won’t encounter problems, but with the right talent, those problems will be solved.

With a focus on people, just like in Special Operations, your business can retake the advantage and win the talent war.

For more advice on building an effective hiring team, you can find The Talent War on Amazon.

Founder, Managing Partner & CEO | Website | + posts

Mike Sarraille is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer and a former enlisted Recon Marine and Scout-Sniper. A graduate of the University of Texas McCombs Business School, he is the founder and CEO of Talent War Group, a specialized executive search firm, and talent advisory that finds high-performing business leaders for senior, executive, or other critical leadership positions. He is co-author of ‘The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent’ and a columnist for Men’s Journal and Men’s Fitness under ‘The Everyday Warrior’ column. He founded and served as a board of directors for the VETTED Foundation, a cutting-edge executive-level transition program.

Mike enlisted in the Marine Corps and later became a Recon Marine and also served as a scout sniper. He was selected for a Marine officer program, but after finishing his bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University, he sought a commission in the Navy to try out for the SEAL Teams.  He is also a recognized keynote speaker and subject matter expert in leadership development, talent acquisition, and talent management.

Managing Partner & Co-Director of Talent Advisory | Website | + posts

George Randle is an experienced talent executive, veteran, coach, mentor, and leader known for selecting, building, and reorganizing teams to reach their full business potential. George has 20+ years of Fortune 100 and Fortune 1000 global Human Resources and Talent Acquisition experience building elite teams. George began his professional life by enlisting in the US Army Reserves.  While serving in the USAR, he received his bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and was commissioned an officer. His career assignments included Berlin, US CENTCOM, and III Corps with deployments to Africa (Somalia and Kenya), Central America, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Following his successful military career, George transitioned to the corporate world, experiencing many of the same challenges the Military and Veterans face today. These challenges along with the recognition that building elite teams are his true passion, George ultimately transitioned to the Human Resources and Talent Acquisition function. He later went on to create one of the largest and most successful Veteran Hiring Programs for a Global Fortune 50 firm. Collectively, the teams George has built have hired over 85,000 professionals, including over 2000 executives. He is also a Hogan (HPI, HDS, and MVPI) Leadership Assessment Certified coach.

George currently resides in Austin, Texas, and is the co-author of the best-selling book, “The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent” and the Host of "The Talent War" Podcast.

Website | + posts

Dr. Josh Cotton is an expert in talent assessment and employee effectiveness. He has designed scientifically valid candidate selection practices for the US Navy SEALs and Fortune 100 companies, and has advised leaders at DuPont, Omnicom, CSX, and Flowserve.

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