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Friday, April 22, 2005

Managing People - Part 1

In my 11 year working career I've been a manager and I've been managed by others. I've learned a great deal about managing people from the following three experiences:
1) Having a really bad manager
2) Having a few really good managers
3) My experience in Sales

Today, I will discuss my experience and lessons learned from having a really bad manager.

My experience with my bad manager was from 1995-1997. I was young at the time 24-26 years old. I won't use the real name of this person so we'll use the name Jane.

I was working in a hotel which was a very hectic environment. There were a few important lessons I learned from this manager which I will share. I will also include some brief examples of these lessons.

Lesson 1: Watch how you speak to people.
It is said that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tonality, and only 7% is the actual words we use. The significance of this is that it's not what we say that is important but how we say it. Though there are many examples I can use from my experience with Jane I will pick one. Like I wrote earlier I was fairly young but I was a manager myself. I was in a situation where there was an emergency and I was called into the hotel at 1AM in the morning. I went to the hotel and did my job and went home around 4am. I wanted to get a few hours of sleep before starting another 12 hour work day so I left a voice mail for Jane and told her what happened. When I arrived back at work at 8AM she called me in the office to discuss the problem. I had scheduled one person for vacation and another person called out sick, creating the emergency. I had expected her to thank me for going above and beyond the call of duty, but instead she lashed out at me for not managing the situation effectively. She said that it was my responsiblity to make sure that I am notified as soon as someone calls out sick to make other arrangements. She was correct in saying that. However, the way she said it you would think that I just commited a terrible crime and should be publicly humiliated. In addition, it was in the presence of two of my peers which made it even worse, but when I mentioned that I came in at 1am and got the job done it was like I was speaking in an alien dialect.
How should she have handled it? I would have said something like this (in a supportive tone of voice)
Barry, I want to thank you for coming in last night and taking care of the problem. It shows a lot of dedication on your part. Let's discuss how we can prevent this from happening again. What do we need to do to make sure that you are notified of any problems right away so that you don't have to come to work in the middle of the night?

Lesson 2: Treat people equally
This may seem obvious enough but we all know that not everybody is treated equally all the time for reasons that may not be intentional. The problem is when it becomes obvious to everyone around you that you are playing favorites.
My experience was at the time of our yearly reviews. I had gotten promoted six months earlier and was given a small $2,000 raise. I was told by Jane at my review that I wouldn't be getting another pay raise because I had gotten one six months earlier at my promotion. I accepted that and it made sense to me. The next day I found out that another colleague of mine who was promoted the same time as me did get a raise. To my fault, I never confronted Jane about this and the experience left me bitter and resentful and turned out to be the last straw that led to me finding a new job.
How should she have handled it? Either give both of us a raise or none of us. If I wasn't getting a raise because of my performance, she should have been honest and it should have been reflected in my review.

Lesson 3: You shouldn't be in the business of managing people if you don't like people.
Seems reasonable but not always the case. Have you ever had a manager that had a really hard time telling someone they did a good job. Jane was like this. When she would say good job it gave you the impression that someone was drilling holes in her teeth at the same time. It pained her to pay someone a compliment.

Lesson 4: Don't retain people if they are unwilling or unable to do the job that is required.
As bad as she was she did have one positive managerial trait. As a manager you are judged by the work your people do and if you have somebody not doing their work it is a bad reflection on you. I had been in this situation a few times where an employee was excessively absent or disappeared on the job and it was making my job almost impossible. After several futile attempts to change their ways Jane basically said you've done what you could, you've given them more than enough chances it's time to terminate their employment. Getting rid of a union employee was a long process, but she took the lead and made all of the right arguments. This was one area where I have to say I did learn a positive lesson.

Next Posting - read what I learned from my good managers

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Lessons Learned from Entrepreneuring

Like many other people who have started their own business, I made many mistakes. Fortunately, I've learned a great deal from those mistakes and those lessons will benefit me in the future. Many more of you may have made similar mistakes or other mistakes that I did not include here. Below is a list of the nine biggest mistakes I made when I started my business. Keep in mind that I had a small budget to start with.

1) Marketing is more expensive than you think.
Whatever you think it will cost to start a successful marketing campaign you'll need to at least triple it. If you are strapped for cash, see lesson number 2.
2) Forget about marketing and focus on generating sales yourself.
Picking up the phone and calling 100 businesses is much less expensive and much more effective in the beginning than generating a marketing campaign and waiting for business to come to you. If you have no or little sales experience, see lesson number 3.
3) Find a really good sales training program that will work for you.
Sales training is not cheap, especially a good trainer. I attended and still am attending Sandler sales training, which I believe is the best training out there. The methodology is the best and the training is lifetime so it is continually reinforced. Here's another tip: don't try and learn how to sell from a book. It's a lot harder than you think.
4) Sales is a lot harder than you think. If you don't think you can do it, or you don't want to do it consider a partner that has had a successful track record of selling.
5) Don't worry about getting everything in place before you start selling.
You need to generate income, that should be your main goal. I waited several months before I started marketing and selling. That was a big mistake. I only had so much time I could go without having any income. All of the little things that needed to be in place are important only after you start making money.
6) Focus on generating income first. Worry about expenses later.
Again your main concern is to generate business. Expenses are important, but no matter how good you are at keeping expenses in line, it won't make a bit of difference in the success of your business if you have no income coming in. I spent too much time focusing on expenses in the beginning and not enough time focusing on generating business.
7) Write a business plan and stick to it.
We've all heard this many times, but it is important. You need to have some focus otherwise it's difficult to get things accomplished. I wrote my business plan and then never looked at it again. To be brutally honest, I couldn't even tell you what I wrote in it.
8) Set realistic goals. I would like to stress realistic. Setting a goal of $1,000,000 of revenue in the first three months of business is probably un-realistic, especially if you are on a shoe string budget. It's ok to dream, but keep your written goals to something that you can realistically attain.
9) Don't start a business based on the earnings potential.
Do something you love to do. This was my biggest mistake. I got into a business because I was enticed by the opportunity to make money. I later found out, success is hard to attain and maintain when you are doing something that you don't enjoy and don't look forward to every day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sales Lessons

I've been attending weekly sales classes for about six months now. Even though the classes are starting to repeat, I still get a lot out of them. I don't necessarily learn something new, but even if it just reinforces something I previously learned or reminds me of something I should be doing, I consider it well worth the time.

My lesson for this week is what are prospects biggest fears. Prospects two biggest fears are 1) you are going to try and close them and 2) they aren't in control. The first fear is obvious. We've all been in positions where we are the prospect and the first thing that comes to our minds is what is this guy going to try and sell me? The second fear of not being in control is common to most of us too. We all want to believe that we are in control of the situation, even if we don't consciously realize it.

We combat these two fears by first telling the prospect that they may not be a fit for our business and that we only work with certain types of individuals or businesses. This eases their fear that you are going to try and close them. The second thing we should do is tell them up front that they can say no and that we would prefer it over an I'll think it over answer or one of its cousins. Once a prospect believes that you are not going to try and close them and that they can say no anytime, it makes them more open to discussing their issues with you and easier for you to determine if their is a fit.

Initial Posting

Welcome! This blog is for the benefit of business people trying to climb the corporate ladder or trying to start their own business.