By Joe Sweeney
As a business owner and particularly as a journalist who for decades has studied business models—good, bad and indifferent—and a person who has written and edited profiles and features showcasing inordinately successful businesses and entrepreneurs, I believe we have a unique perspective on what—and who—makes organizations successful.
Every Sears usually needs a Roebuck who supports the stronger personality—in this case, it’s the Sears—that drives the growth and success of nearly all businesses and organizations.
Rainmakers differ a bit from Richard Warren Sears but are similar in that they are the larger-than-life producers within their firms. Our definition of Rainmakers includes, regardless of industry or organization, the primary trait of being a major producer, most often including the sale of products and services.
Last year we dedicated Ingram’s Rainmakers front cover feature to some exceptional automotive sales professionals. What we learned was that those gentlemen represented a large percentage, often times the majority, of sales at their dealerships. The irony of these rainmakers is that because of how deeply embedded they were with their organizations, brands they sell and with their compensation structures, they would unlikely be a candidate to consider jumping ship to another enterprise.
Law firms, however, are seeing some of their rainmakers move to other firms more than perhaps ever before. This may be in part to mergers and incompatibility to newly formed law firms. It may also be due to efforts by a law firm to recruit an entire practice area, or at least those producers among them. It’s interesting when Ingram’s hosts our Industry Outlook assemblies to observe interactions among colleagues and alliances that often form after such.
High-level sales performance comes in many forms. It would be interesting to consider administrative rainmaking and who among the area companies and government entities might be excelling in this area.
Take Wyandotte County, for example. And a good example it is: The economic transformation that has taken place since the consolidation of the county and Kansas City, Kan., governments in 1997 has been remarkable. I’m all about private enterprise being a better driver of growth than the public sector, but compare the results in Wyandotte County—
the Kansas Speedway and Village West in particular—
with almost any private development in the region, and you’ll see that the public officials involved, from Carol Marinovich and Dennis Hays to Joe Reardon and his mayoral successor, Mark Holland, and you might say the rain hasn’t subsided since since the late 90s.
Likewise, the Royals and public officials alike had a hand in Kansas City’s selction to host Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in 2012, and the entire metropolitan area reaped the benefits from the national exposure that event brough to Kansas City.
And, just like with private-side rainmakers, nobody bats 1.000, but you have to congratulate Kansas City, Mayor Sly James and his team for their efforts to bring the Republican National Convention in 2016. We didn’t get this one, but we got down to the wire with th national selection committee.
It will also be interesting to see if efforts to land the Super Bowl in cold-market Kansas City will pay off (the Lamar and Clark Hunt factor should great-
ly infuence a favorable outcome).
Regardless of whether they’re for-profit or in public service, rainmakers play a vital function in the economy. They are, really, at the heart of what capitalism is about in Adam Smith’s understanding of it.
By doing well, these outstanding performers do good for the community, and not just by priming an economic pump. I don’t think I know a successful rainmaker who wasn’t deeply engaged in his or her community, whether through board service with non-profits, volunteering extensively with school and church, or assuming leadership roles with organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and naturally within their own industry, including providing pro-bono services.
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