Lesson #5: Build a Strong Team

Reflecting upon his success, Murdoch commented, “I feel proud but it’s been a long and bumpy ride.” It was not a ride that Murdoch took alone. From his early days working on Adelaide’s The News to his current position at the top of the multi-billion dollar News Corp., Murdoch has learned the importance of surrounding himself with qualified people who can help him achieve his goals.

In the hiring process, Murdoch claims that his number one priority is to find people who embody the entrepreneurial spirit. “That’s key to the culture of the company,” he says. “All our division heads are expected to be entrepreneurial and look for opportunities, to take risks.” Without that characteristic, says Murdoch, the company stagnates and cannot keep up with its competitors. “We’re not overlaid with these sort of business-development groups,” he says. “We have one or two people who help trouble-shoot in the finance department, but too often you get a group of very brilliant Harvard MBAs in a company that are set up to study strategy or whatever, and it tends to slow things down.” Murdoch also claims that without this entrepreneurial spirit, decisions tend to get political: people would rather say no than take a risk on something.

Once he has assembled his A-team, Murdoch strives to cultivate company loyalty by assigning significant responsibility to each staff member as well as paying slightly better than the market rate. But, this is not a failsafe solution and Murdoch has lost key team players along the way. “If somebody gets a great opportunity and they’re the No.2 or 3 executive in their division – and they can see it’s going to take a long while to get to the top – it’s inevitable that you lose a few,” he says. “But those are the people you bring back.”

Overall, Murdoch’s strategy has worked – more people are promoted from within his own company than hired from the outside. This not only demonstrates the company loyalty Murdoch’s staff feel towards him, but it also gives Murdoch a significant edge over his competitors in that he knows and trusts everyone in his company from the mailroom on up to the boardroom. “You might say that sometimes we can reach out a bit more, but if you know people, you make fewer mistakes,” he says.

Murdoch’s low staff turnover rate also ensures stability throughout his company. “It’s very difficult to bring in a high-powered executive, a new one,” he says. “Unless they’re just absolutely in the life of that industry, they’re rejected by the system. It’s like a body rejecting an organ – it’s very difficult. You might find a great executive in the textiles business, but it's going to be very, very hard to translate that to what we do.”

One of the great secrets to Murdoch’s success was his ability to do more with others and increase his own value regardless of his own level of authority. He succeeded because he had a team of people around him who also wanted to succeed and together, nothing was going to stop them.

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