think different (some more)

1st engines:

Cummins had a 55% market share in heavy-duty long-haul trucking and I thought it was too high. “Too high” a market share is unheard of in industry. Cummins could do many things but I didn’t think it would as long as the share was that high. I thought it hypnotic. Specifically, I thought 55%—not in general, but this 55%—meant Cummins wasn’t working for its shareholders but for its customers’ shareholders. That was then.

Today Cummins has a 38% heavy-duty share, 10,000 more employees, a quadrupled stock, smoother earnings, and more revenues and profits than ever in history despite its primary exposure to downturns at a still down time in the economy. It’s due to diversification. Rebranding. It even has a new name—Cummins, vs. Cummins Engine, its name during my employ—in signal to its diversified operations.

Trying other stuff may lead to success at doing it, particularly if you have the stuff it takes to be successful.

Golf.

It’s on the brain and it’s pretty outside. In a Masters way. It began this week in Augusta. A line caught me in a recent New York Times article where a wise elder black caddie commented:

“Even though Tiger has things going on to help minorities and stuff, all of them want to slam dunk and play football.”

True. And some make it. Two from my and a nearby neighborhood (Jermaine O’Neal and Ricky Bell) did well. But I think of the irony: Our neighborhood had been a country club and golf course.

Screenshot:

Ridgewood Country Club, Columbia, South Carolina

Our backyard covered the 18th green of the former Ridgewood Country Club where my dad caddied as a boy. We grew up (me and Ricky Bell) and played amidst its ruins: Thick woods of white pine. Empty ponds. Sterile plains of white sand. Unnaturally dense hills. Drop offs. At one point stepping through woods opened up to a platform with two large empty swimming pools with grasses and skinny trees growing in them. More woods. Then another opening and concrete basketball court with wooden backboards. We knew the topography. We knew the history.

But all while living upon ruins of a golf course nobody thought about golf. Not the minority kids. Something can be in your face and have none of your attention. I’m a daughter of a former caddie and golfer; grew up on an old course in a state and geography known for golf courses; love nature, detail, and athleticism; and am shopping for golf shoes for the first time in life.

Bell and O’Neal are terrible exceptions: Both went pro. Worse, O’Neal went pro from high school. Worse still, it worked. Good luck, golf (tennis, skating, skiing…), winning his attention—or the relevant point, that of an identifying demographic and community.

But more diverse kids should attend to golf—for the joy, discipline, and general opportunistic reason that not everybody else is and even, yes, potential material enrichment. Ideally more will with Woods’ financial and organizational help, this high-profile eve of his potential 2nd coming, and the power of his professional athletic example, decidedly imperfect. Trying to play other sports can lead to success at playing them, particularly if you have the stuff it takes to be successful.

Turning the channel is hard for a big industrial company like Cummins–which managed. It’s arguably less hard for some athletes with the talent to be exceptional in a field with still culturally circumscribed, and, hence, reduced competition. And one whose barrier to entry has been greatly reduced by now—as implied by the caddie—to attention. We think hard on competence but in value creation it’s often, as it was for Cummins, the easiest hole on the course—and turning the channel, the hardest.

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