Ram Charan lives nowhere and goes everywhere, consulting for the largest and most powerful companies seven days a week, 365 days a year. Work is all he does, and all he wants to do. But even more than his dedication, it’s his insights that have won him the ear of hundreds of top managers.
Unlike many consultants, who, as the old joke goes, will borrow your watch to tell you what time it is, Charan doesn’t reinforce his clients’ preconceived notions. Rather, he submerges his own ego, asks questions, and ultimately tries to bring the executive to his or her own “aha” moment. Although he has the stocky build and intense gaze of a prizefighter, his voice is low and unthreatening. Says Bossidy, former CEO of AlliedSignal and Honeywell and Charan’s coauthor: “Most [consultants] tell you what you want to hear. He doesn’t, but he does it in a very positive way. He’s not a ranter or a raver, but nonetheless he’s objective and honest.”
He also speaks in the language of a real person, rather than the Harvard-trained academic he is. Indeed, Profitable Growth is written so plainly that the lessons sound almost simplistic: To make your company grow, go for singles and doubles, not home runs; focus on organic growth, not acquisitions; get your customer involved through what’s called “upstream marketing” early in the process. Charan would rather distill a concept to its pure soul and put it into action than coin a lot of useless jargon. “This is nothing earthshaking,” he says. “When I teach, I start with the idea that every person in this classroom takes one idea home to practice. I don’t want to hear people say, ‘That was a great speech. What did he say?’ Conversion of learning into practice is what counts.”