Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without


Become Indispensable


Want to take your company to the next level?

Become more competitive?

How about becoming Indispensable to your customers?


INDISPENSABLE is the title of the book by James M. Kerr. Not only did I read this book, but I endorsed it right on the back cover. James M. Kerr is an author, management consultant, and leadership coach specializing in culture, vision, and people strategies. I’ve long followed and read Jim’s columns and other books. Jim and I discussed some of the ideas from his latest book.

Why should every individual and organization seek to be indispensable? And why is this more important than ever?

Please believe that regardless of what your company does or how it does it, there’s another firm right behind it ready to take your spot. Moreover, your competition is not just local businesses. It’s global.

Your customers have choices. If you can’t give them what they want, in the way that they want it, someone else will. It’s just a point and click away. So, you better figure out quickly just how to become indispensable or you just might be replaced.

While my book isn’t about helping a person become indispensable, per se, the same rules apply. Employers are not limited to the talent available in their local markets.

If it did nothing else, the pandemic and business leaders’ responses to it, has proven that knowledge workers can conduct their work remotely at an extremely high-level, with limited disruption. So, if you can’t deliver, finding someone that can isn’t as challenging as it might have been before.


What makes an indispensable company? Would you share an example?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Indispensable” as being absolutely necessary and not subject to being set aside or neglected.

An indispensable company is one that customers can’t live without.

Think Amazon, Apple or Starbucks. Each have loyal customers that can’t imagine bringing their business to any other player in those respective marketplaces.



How do these leaders actively create a culture that supports transformation and change?

As I write in the book:

“If you want to be indispensable, you need the right culture. Period. End of sentence.”



Of course, company culture is influenced by the preferences and leadership style of the senior management team. These preferences and styles are passed down from generation to generation of worker through myth and legend – much like a country’s culture emerges through the stories that its people tell themselves.

To change the narrative of your company, culture must be transformed deliberately and aligned with the rest of the indispensable agenda as laid out in the book.

Specifically, I cover my Culture Reset Methodology™ quite extensively in the book, offering ideas and insights gleaned from the work that I’ve done with companies including General Dynamics, The Home Depot and The Hartford. The intent is to help the reader see the path forward to indispensability.



When you see a “leader” (deliberately in quotes) who is failing and not one to emulate, what are some of the common reasons that they are struggling?

This is such a great question and one we don’t usual tackle in the trade press.

I’m a firm believer that leadership is first, and foremost, about character. Leaders fail, more times than not, because they fall victim to choosing parochial interests over doing what is right. Choose to be decent and pursue the right thing and you will be an effective leader because the people whom you lead will want to do whatever it takes to achieve what you’ve established as the goal.



What tips do you have for the newly minted leader that could help her get off to a great start?

Newly minted managers is a topic that I’ve been blessed to have developed quite a bit of experience addressing through my coaching practice.

I am often asked to coach my client’s highest potential staffers, helping to groom them for more responsibility and leadership opportunities as they arise within the business.

Here is the number one tip that I regularly provide to those I coach:

“Leadership is not a game of perfect.”

You’re going to make mistakes. Take the time to learn from them. Time is on your side. Like any important skill, it takes practice. Give yourself that time.



How do leaders best set the agenda in an inspiring and authentic way?

You have to keep it real!

Be honest, talk straight, be present, and do it like only YOU can do! To try and lead any other way is folly. People see through it and will resent that you’re trying to fool them into believing that you’re something that you’re not. You do you and let me do me.



What are the best ways to sell this agenda?

The agenda laid out in Indispensable is elegant in its simplicity. But, it requires that a leader does a lot of things “right.”

That said, you need a plan for achieving your vision for indispensability. Be sure it includes the definition of the various initiatives required to move the organization from where it is to where it needs to be.

You will not achieve your vision for indispensability without having a plan to get there – construct one and follow it. It’s what I’ve been helping my clients to do for over 30 years!

Any other top-of-mind tips for leaders striving to build an indispensable organization?

Jim KerrLet me offer one more bit of advice:

“Never settle for ‘good enough!’”

Simply put, “good enough” does not make it “right.” In fact, putting the “right” stuff in place is at the heart of the Indispensable Agenda that I share in the book.

To be sure, the leader of an indispensable business knows that their best work is always ahead of them. Lead like you believe that to be true, too, and good things will come your way.

For more information, see INDISPENSABLE: Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without.




Image Credit: Jr Korpa

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