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a guest blog by Tom Williamson

Vice President of Commercial Operations

Entellus Medical /  Stryker


I don’t quite remember when I really started to notice fortune cookies, but now I am enamored with the seemingly perfectly timed whispers that they provide.

In fact, I now have a collection of two-inch white strips of paper with blue words of wisdom on display in my office.  They represent memories of dinners with my sons where we often try to dig into the meaning of what we’ve just read, and we share a thought, a laugh and always a good time.

The words are also reminders that have helped me guide team communications as well as personal goals and even attitude.  My collection has become, in a strange way, a highlight reel of how a unique company culture can be developed.  I’d like to share three of these fortunes to help give you a better understanding of their power and impact.


1 – ‘Set the right example. It will inspire others.’

The one fortune that started it all.  It is a simple reminder that paying it forward and doing the right thing can have a profound effect on a team, a community, a company!

This is a message I continuously reinforce with my kids, my leadership team and probably most importantly, myself.  As a leader in an organization, especially in today’s world, every thought is scrutinized and put under a microscope.  The idea of this alone causes stress.

The simple remedy – do what’s right!  Your actions will absolutely inspire others and create a chain reaction of positivity.  This simple phrase was a catalyst in transforming a challenged sales team and a divided commercial organization.  Commitment to setting the right example for others inspired change for the better. It became real and palpable overnight.


2 – ‘Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood.’ 

During a recent company turnaround, this fortune gripped me and became somewhat of a personal battle cry.  The turnaround certainly presented challenges along the way and goals, that to this day, still seemed unreachable.  During the dark days of doubt and stress-filled efforts to deliver on a number or when turnover raged and the buy-in was challenged, striving to “understand” the why behind everything provided me crucial clarity.

When I approached challenges with a mindset to truly “understand,” communication became easier and progress was made.  Running a business is scary.  Leading people can be scary.  Fear and stress can be a catalyst for rash and hasty decisions.

My recommendation is to find calm in the process of “understanding.” Asking a question or taking time to inquire about perspective and goals are keys to overcoming fear and supposition. Understanding steadies the ship and helps build trust.  Trust is needed to overcome fear and deliver those ‘unreachable’ results!


3 – ‘You’ll never know what you can do until you try.’

This third fortune was another basic statement that we’ve likely all heard thousands of times.  Its words inspire hope and paint a picture of a future that is better.  Attitude and effort are the two things that are always 100% in our control.

Whether you are a sales rep facing a “tough-to-see” client, a casual runner thinking about a marathon race, or a volunteer tackling public speaking, you will never reap the reward or feel the adrenaline rush of success if you do not “try.”

During the turn-around, our team had a lot of pride in how things were done and had accepted that the market was driving our results.  The simple challenge to think and focus differently was rolled out at a national meeting.  We challenged the team to know no limits!  What is the worst thing that could happen?  Soon, success stories rolled in and the team responded.  The more people “tried,” the higher the bar was raised.  We experienced record setting months and quarters. The impossible became possible all because someone simply gave it a “try.”


Life is short and it is the little things that can make a big difference. I hope that your fortunes empower you to listen to the whispers and challenge you to take positive action. If nothing else, may they bring a smile to your face.

For me, I’ll continue to look forward to each cookie with anticipation of a thought provoking or encouraging message.  At the very least, I know they will provide a fantastic conversation starter…even with an 11 year old.

Author Riverbend

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