Archive for people management
We pretend everything’s just fine to our fellow business owners and friends. But the truth is, we all struggle – we’re calm on the surface but paddling like mad below the water.
Each week, payroll’s a gamble because you’re not always sure where the funds are coming from to pay your people. And you have to smile behind that cold sweat, or who’d be interested in working for you or doing business with your company?
You know you’d like to tell your employees, but they don’t really care. It’s not their business. You want to get them to think for themselves, take initiative, and do things that just seem obvious to you.
But you don’t have time to chase them or pursue all the hot new leads that just came in, and you don’t have the money to always do things right. Because if you just had a little more cash, you wouldn’t have to take shortcuts, spend so much valuable time away from your family putting out fires, and making excuses to your clients about your product or service problems.
That’s the story Infusionsoft’s founders recently told, echoed by most small businesses. If you’re a small business that hasn’t struggled, I’d like to talk to you and duplicate your genes. For science, of course.
As for the rest of us, we have to use the tried and true strategies.
You don’t have time to pursue every new lead while also nurturing your existing customers. Really, you have so many systems for your email program, website, customer database, accounting, etc., that you don’t even have an accurate picture of your business.
You’re drowning in a multitude of tools that each solve a specific problem – and they all seem necessary – which means you’re spending time doing stuff unrelated to your passion, the thing that got you into business. You’re not doing what you’re uniquely talented at.
And then you have prospects you have to explain your services over and over again to. If only you could automate that.
Worse, you might be cold calling people or spending money on marketing with hazy ROI. But you have to spend money to make money, right?
I found something last month that solved this problem for our business.
It slices, it dices – and if you act now, you’ll get another set absolutely free. Just pay for additional shipping and handling. Unfortunately, we’re kidding.
I wish there was a one-click solution, but the next best thing does exist. It’s a tool that:
- automatically follows up with interested customers, so you don’t have to.
- builds landing pages on the fly (no programming) that tie to your database.
- keeps track of all your customers in one place across all of your systems – no more disorganization and lost revenue.
- tells you when a prospect is ready to buy, so you don’t waste time chasing butterflies.
- has an integrated email system, so you don’t have to hire a programmer.
- bills your customers automatically each month and even reminds them if their card didn’t go through.
In short, it allows you to be a business owner, not an employee who franatically runs around to put out fires.
I’ve built software systems for 20 years – for companies like American Airlines and Yahoo! – and I’ve managed some of the most complex databases in business. Here’s how this tool makes me feel:
It’s like I just spent three laborious weeks climbing my way to the top of Mount Everest, only to discover there’s a Starbucks right there. And on the other side? Why, a fleet of luxury tourist buses.
Infusionsoft has been the answer to our prayers. I don’t have to chase unmotivated employees that manually put together every proposal, or hunt every (now stale) lead in our system, or fiddle with computer software nonsense.
But, there are a few things you need to do, which is why some people jokingly call this platform ConfusionSoft. Check out this video – you can thank me later!
I’m at 38,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean on my way to Norway, having just finished “Onward” by Howard Schultz. It’s the story of Starbucks’ turnaround from early 2008 to late 2010—the founding CEO coming back to take the reins and revive what the brand is about. You should read it.
That’s what I used to call it—a symbol of American excess for overpriced burnt coffee. If I saw a bum drinking a Starbucks, I wouldn’t tip him, chiding him instead. I saw ordinary iced tea for $8 in a Starbucks in Singapore. Foolish.
Starbucks partners—are you reading this?
This $10 billion global infestation made $1.4 billion in net income across its 16,000 stores, blindly seeking growth. Warned not to, Schultz still threw a $50 million extravaganza in New Orleans just after Katrina, while laying off thousands at the same time.
Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds got into the overpriced coffee game, while Starbucks started selling their version of Egg McMuffins. After seeing Starbucks kiosks in grocery stores, I expected them to soon sell frozen pizza, ice cream, and instant coffee. I was right on two of these three.
THE THIRD PLACE
But then I saw it was more than morning zombies feeding an addiction. When I left Yahoo!, Starbucks became my office– a place to meet business contacts and friends. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the “third place”, it’s not a silver medal, but where you can hang outside of work and home (the first two “places”). Starbucks wanted to be the hub of the community.
You’d gladly pay $7 for a coffee at a Parisian café because what you’re really getting is the entire experience, the beverage being your admission ticket. It’s “where everybody knows your name”—and you can support ethically sourced Fair Trade coffee, healthcare for all, and even $500 cows for women in Rwanda. Their LEED certifications for new stores is not a superficial marketing ploy, but core to their brand.
A brand is the sum a user’s interactions with a company. It’s more than a TV tagline. It’s more than a premium you pay over the generic product, just to support overhead and advertising. It had to be authentic.
And that began with taking care of Starbucks “partners”, what all employees are called. The way you’re treated by a barista is fundamentally different than the typical fast food experience. That’s the competitive advantage—and it’s ultimately found in culture. Some investments:
- Closing all stores one afternoon to provide training on how to properly pull shots– at the cost of millions in lost revenue
- Replacing machines with ones 4 inches shorter so that baristas can make eye contact with customers.
- Encouraging partners to take risks—who would have thought Black Sesame Green Tea Frappuccino would be a hit in China? Or that VIA and K-Cups (instant coffee) wouldn’t tarnish the brand?
- Digital investments in upgraded POS, mystarbucksidea.com, a loyalty program, and a large social media presence—to show they listen and act
REAL VALUES, NOT DILBERT MISSION STATEMENT GENERATORS
Going beyond cheesy motivational posters and putting this into action is what Howard Schultz did at the expense of short-term profitability. Selling stuffed animals at Christmas was their lowest point, in opinion—a departure from core coffee excellence to blindly chasing comps. Maybe he would say it was the breakfast sandwiches—the burnt cheese overwhelming the coffee aromas, which he spent pages obsessing about.
Here are some values that will help all of us guide our businesses, in a way only founders and partners can embody:
- Grow with discipline.
- Balance intuition with rigor.
- Innovate around the one.
- Don’t embrace the status quo.
- Find new ways to see.
- Never expect a silver bullet.
- Get your hands dirty.
- Listen with empathy and overcommunicate with transparency.
- Tell your story, refusing to let others define you.
- Use authentic experiences to inspire.
- Stick to your values, they are your foundation.
- Hold people accountable, but give them the tools to succeed.
- Make the tough choices; it’s how you execute that counts.
- Be decisive in times of crisis.
- Be nimble.
- Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes.
- Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do.
I’m eager to see what Starbucks does in the next stage of their journey. It’s 2013 and their social brand, while large, has several key opportunities to grow:
- Activating word of mouth at scale— Starbucks has XXX reviews on Yelp, XXX reviews on Google, and XXX reviews on Yahoo. What if Starbucks ran campaigns that encouraged user participation, which then would drive more of these? Great SEO value, but reinforcing user loyalty is the real prize.
- True personalization: in the same way you can personalize your Frappucino, can you imagine how amazing it would be if Starbucks could personalize their marketing campaigns? On Facebook, brands can merely bombard users with ads or run ads so relevant they are seen as recommendations from friends.
- Owning the conversation: Whether it is around the winter red cups, summer fun, green energy initiatives, fair trade, or coffee—many people aren’t aware of Starbucks history. For example, did you know Starbucks has a goal to get to a million hours of annual community service? Or that Starbucks spent 20 years doing R&D on instant coffee, start from Don Valencia’s cell preservation science, which later was named VIA (ValencIA)?
I’d liken Howard Schultz to being the Herb Kelleher of the CPG industry– creating demand for something that never existed before and generating magic in making ordinary people feel extraordinary.
This is a guest post by Ali Mostofian of Orange Marketing, who kindly wrote this post after talking on Facebook about his personal experiences relating to the original article, Why you should not help friends
After I saw the blog post by Dennis Yu “Why you should not help friends”, we started a nice conversation on Facebook about how uncomfortable it is to help friends or family. I am not talking about normal things like moving, or relationship problems. I am talking about your own job and profession. I would like to report on some experiences that I have collected in the past few years during my entrepreneurship.
I have been working for about 10 years in online marketing field now. So I have many experiences on building Web pages, SEO, SEM, CRM, and Social Media. This is why many friends, family or even old colleagues often ask me for it, if they want to start their own business. I think this is just normal, that you go to the person who you like or trust, but the problem is the appreciation. In most cases they want high quality service in short time for little to no money.
Here are two stories from me. You will clearly see the difference between doing it for money, or just because you only want help- An ugly thing, unfortunately.
One family member asked me about 3 years ago, if I could build him a web page and help him with SEO, SEM and Social Media Marketing. He is a consultant for insurance on a freelance basis and he just wanted to push his business with recommendations and online marketing, so he came to me with this. This is a job for about 3 to 5 weeks, just because he didn’t even know how to write content for a web page.
I made a price agreement with him, which was 50% below my normal price and from there, the nightmare began: Unreliability, lack of respect, and insolence. The whole thing took almost 6 months. I got my money in three installments, almost 1 year later. I will never do it again…
As we started to work on the project, I thought we would only need a few weeks. I had to setup a domain with emails and I have decided to use WordPress because it’s easy to edit content and it offers lot of possibilities with different plugins, like SEO, SWYN, and many others.
Everything seemed to happen pretty easily, I just needed a cool design. I decided to build one with Artisteer- It’s a really cool theme editor for WordPress, Joomla and other content management systems. I prepared everything and asked him for the contents, but from there, it was a nightmare! I wrote many emails, called him several times, and after about 3 or 4 weeks I got 5 lines for the homepage. After another 3 or 4 months and tons of emails and calls, I got the rest.
The biggest trouble I had with him was that he didn’t take my efforts seriously and didn’t respect the time which I spent on the project. He wanted to have everything just perfect but he was not willing to do what was necessary. He often didn’t answer my calls or emails or he promised me to send me contents but then I got nothing and again no answers to my phone calls or emails or text messages.
He held no meetings but often complained about the results: He doesn’t like the color, The text formatting is not right, and the greatest insolence was his allegations that I made lot of mistakes because he is not at the top of Google’s search results after only few weeks.
I would never ever work with family or friends again!
A very good friend of mine started his own local business about 2 years ago and I saw that he is struggling with the awareness of his brand. He is good at his job and offers nearly perfect customer service. However, all of these don’t help if nobody knows you. As I saw his problems, I decided myself to help him with no charge. Just because we grew up together and I’ve known him for around 20 years, and he would do the same for me.
Because he knows me and trusts me and he knew what he would normally pay for it, he was very grateful and behaved always very respectful and friendly. Of course, he also knew that he had to be thankful for that because he has no right to my help and my knowledge. We have been working for about 18 month together now, as you know, marketing, customer service and management are all ongoing processes.
We always have a great time together and I have also learned a lot of things in this time, which has brought me further in my job. Marketing and management are about people- not technology, that is the best thing I have learned in this time
Here are some questions we had for Ali:
What were the keys for a good relationship?
Honesty, respect and clear goals. Don’t promise anything you are not sure about that you can keep. Always respect other people, their life, their habits, and beliefs. Don’t judge anyone without knowing them and their journey. Be clear in what you want to achieve together. This would prevent lot of misunderstandings. In private as well in business relationships, you have to always follow these three simple rules- In fact, in business life, you should be less emotional.
How about warning signs of trouble?
It varies from case to case. Here you have to be very sensitive and not lose track. It’s all about people and their feelings. If you try to get to know the people with whom you are in any kind of a relationship,then you’ll also notice quickly if they feel unhappy. Then you should react and resolve the problems from the beginning. Working with friends or family is not difficult just because they don’t want to respect you or they aren’t honest or smart enough, rather because they assume to enjoy more privileges and take cooperation as you being friendly, not professional.
Southwest is my airline of choice in the United States because it rewards thos who game the system. Every seat is first class, so they’ll tell you, but really there is only one per plane located next to the over-wing exits. The row ahead has no seat ahead of you.
If you hit Companion Pass, their top tier, you get to choose someone to fly with you for free, even if you’re on a free ticket. It takes 110,000 points in a calendar year to hit this, so if you fly Business Select, which earns 12 points per dollar, you need spend just under $10,000 to hit this level. If you fly a lot of one-way, last minute flights, this isn’t hard.
Never buy round-trip tickets. Better to buy a series of one-way flights. If you need to change something, you don’t have to cancel the whole reservation. Sometimes, Southwest will have 40% and 50% off deals on roundtrip tickets– that’s the only exception.
If you don’t know when you’ll be flying back, book two or three of the options. Maybe one of your meetings is unconfirmed or you just need that flexibility for some reason. Cancel the ones you don’t fly on. I believe they will automatically cancel if you forget, but do it anyway. You save money by booking in advance, of course, and there’s no downside to canceling the unused segments.
Use miles for your friends and colleagues, not yourself. You may find yourself close to A-List or A-List Preferred at the end of the year, wishing that you had used real dollars on your flight segments, instead of real dollars on a colleague and points for yourself.
If the flight is less than 70% full, board last. Yes, when you have status, you get priority boarding. But would you rather choose your seat or choose who sits next to you? I’ve been victim to some 450 pound monsters that sit in the middle seat next to me– so big they spill over into you and need the wretched seat belt extender.
Don’t drink 20 minutes prior to landing. Descending will make that last drink hit you like a full six pack. “Macho” guys will pass out deboarding after just a couple beers. Don’t believe me? Ask a flight attendant. And at altitude, things taste different. People who hate tomato juice will often enjoy it when high (Harrison– not that kind of high), since your taste buds are dulled.
Wifi is free for A List Preferred. But you can also give it out to friends on the flight. I’ve not seen a limit.
Choose related cities to save money and time. Oakland is often cheaper than San Francisco or SJC– plus faster if you’re non-stop into OAK. Same for Newark over LGA or BWI over DCA and IAD. Southwest has been consolidating Airtran’s routes, which will increase prices, but also improve availability. Indianapolis, a 2 hour bus ride, is far cheaper than SDF. If you’re really on a budget, Buffalo is cheaper than Toronto, but you have a 90 min shuttle ride, which can be up to 3 hours with customs delays.
If your flight is canceled or you need to make changes while you’re in the airport, call instead of waiting in line with everyone else. You’ll get a faster response. Sometimes a few minutes is the difference between getting that last seat or being stranded.
Southwest is usually, but not always cheaper. Certainly will be if you book in advance or are hitting popular routes. If you factor in the rewards, no bag fees, no change fees– it’s the best business bargain. I use the FancyHands.com service to search for alternate flights in some situations. Southwest doesn’t do red-eye flights, so if you need to go coast-to-coast on a tight schedule, often JetBlue or Virgin will get you there in style for less. Their snacks are better– no question. But I like to save money.
VC’s and various strategy-minded folks ask me all the time what competitive advantage Blitz has versus a slew of other social analytics vendors. Hey, what if Facebook decides to build a real analytics tool? How about the other players that pop up every day?
Your competitive advantage is the quality of your people. Period.
I heard Bill Gates say that he was ultra picky about hires in the early days of Microsoft. Even if you’re desperately understaffed, don’t make the mistake of letting your standards down, he said. You’ll regret it. “A” people attract “A” people, while “B” people bring in “C” people.
And man have I made that mistake many a time. Might as well have Dave Thomas of Wendy’s descend from the sky to brand “Quality is our Recipe” on my forehead.
You think high dollar pros are expensive? Try the cost of incompetence, when you lose projects, sleep, money, and sanity.
The great tech giants all started with their founders being ruthless about keeping the quality bar high. I witnessed it myself in my days at Yahoo!, until they hit a point where the “C”, “D’ and “F” people snuck in, soon to be followed by what we all know has happened.
I look at the times where I’ve succeeded, and it’s when I’ve had a strong team that I would go to the mat for. And when I’ve failed, which is embarrassingly often, you can trace it back to low quality. The cynical will say that it’s really a management problem– allowing unqualified people to be in positions above their skill or not providing enough supervision. Yet I’ve found that if you have bright, eager folks, you can teach them anything.
Jack Welch, who is arguably the greatest manager to have ever lived, would fire the bottom 20% of his staff every year. In banking or consulting, they call this “up or out”. I felt it to be cruelly unfair, as it causes an adversarial work environment, plus penalizes the great teams. Yet if you believe in statistics, you’ll usually have a normal distribution in any of your classes, so the rule works.
So while you as a company founder or entrepreneur care about your baby more than any employee likely would, consider how to never let in unqualified people in the first place. No matter what they say about their skillset or how motivated they are. You will regret it later.
There are no shortcuts to quality. Do you agree?
And if you have the luxury of choosing who you want to work with, don’t you want to be excited to be around those who make you raise your game? I think it was Perot who said his hiring strategy was to find folks who were smarter than him. Or perhaps you can just hire away people from Google and Apple, like Facebook has done. Let others do the screening for you.
Don’t assume growing is automatically a good thing. Once you get beyond a dozen or so clients, you’ll have to bring on other staff—freelancers and then full-time. Freelancers are usually horribly flaky (which is why they freelance), so you’ll be spending most of your time managing them, instead of doing what you love.
Do you love management? Better get used to it—managing payroll, contracts, accounts receivable, project schedules, hire/fire, and the operations of running a business that has more than one person. Get bigger and you have to deal with a physical office.
Big clients can be big headaches. With a small business client, you have one person to deal with—the business owner. But with a major brand, you have to work through multiple levels of decision makers, a contract process that may take 3 months, and a payment process that can take even longer. It’s sexy to say you have a global brand as a client—make sure you have the resources and stomach to handle it.
As a small agency or freelancer, you can develop closer relationships with clients. You don’t risk having so many clients that you’re working 24-7 to keep up.
Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to manage your very first project. You’ve demonstrated that you’re a good worker bee— you can make campaigns, prepare reports, and do whatever else you’ve been assigned.
But managing a project is a completely different matter. Now, instead of dutifully doing what you’re told, you have to figure out what the client wants, build project plans, coordinate between multiple people, and make sure things happen on time and in the right way. Being new in the position and perhaps even young (which makes it harder), you’re afraid that your co-workers and client might not respect you or that you don’t have authority.
Relax—use these simple techniques and it will be hard to fail.
First, get organized. If you are not organized yourself, there’s no way you can begin to think about tracking all the things that your teammates are doing. Are you using basecamp to track who is doing what? Every task should have a description, be assigned to a person, and have a due date. These 3 items are the building blocks of project management—who is doing it, what they’re doing, when is it due.
Use it for anything you could potentially forget about—people you have to call, stuff you need to read, even personal errands. You don’t need Microsoft Project Central or any fancy software—even the Tasks feature in Gmail is sufficient. Even a simple spiral notebook works just fine.
When you’re organized, you don’t have to worry about that one thing you know you were told a few weeks ago, but lost track of. Terrible feeling to be lost and behind—it’s like drowning. So don’t let yourself get there. Check your email twice per day and quickly take care of things by doing one of the following—do it, delete it, or delegate it.
There’s no other option. Don’t read it and then mark it unread. Don’t skim over things with the thinking that you’ll come back to it later. You gain massive efficiency by taking care of things just once—the first time. Plus, when you take care of things right away, they don’t fester into bigger problems that result in all sorts of drama later.
I can’t tell you how many people I see complain about being busy or having too many emails, when all they’re really doing is just moving sand from one pile to another, getting nothing done.
Second, create a specific statement of the goal. If you’re lucky enough to have just one project to manage, this is easy. The client may want a website to do X in Y amount of time for Z dollars. Then you break down X into minute little measurable tasks that you assign out to people. Perhaps there is a Statement of Work you can reference where most of the work is already done for you.
In either case, you should check back with the client to affirm the requirements, if for no other reason that to show them that you care and to start building a relationship. Many first time project managers fail by hiding from the start, letting their project go down in flames while they bite their lips in silence. Perhaps they are afraid of looking stupid or whatever reason, but the net result of these good intentions is failure, all the same.
Establishing with the client that you are the lead—the person they can go to for anything—is critical to get you off on the right foot. It then takes the burden off your boss, who likely doesn’t want to step in and do your job for you. Your boss is busy doing other things and if they’re a good boss, will only want to step in if you are in trouble.
If the client feels the need to relay requirements or other project communication with your boss, then they are saying you have failed to do your job. So you want to establish the requirements early and make it clear you are responsible.
Third, communicate actively with your project stakeholders. We like to use the RACI model, which stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
You are the R— meaning that you’re Responsible for the project success. Completely.
An Article by Keith Wilcox
When I was in high school, I was a good runner. It wasn’t just in my head either; I won all sorts of fancy awards during my junior and senior years. I was good in college, too, but that’s a different story. I had the one trait that I thought mattered in a runner – natural ability and a high threshold for pain. My coaches, on the other hand, didn’t like me very much. One coach in particular, it seemed at the time, made a special point to thwart my self-imagined rightful place on the team. I never made the varsity team as a freshman despite the fact that I ran varsity times and regularly beat other varsity runners. I thought it was the height of injustice, but in hind sight I can see why I didn’t make it. It had nothing to do with my speed; it was because I rarely practiced and, when I did, I would make a joke out of it and spend my time distracting anybody within range of my shenanigans. It wasn’t clear to me until I got to college that the one trait that really matters in life is passion coupled with a willingness to learn. I eventually did learn my lessons, but it was a tough road. Most people never get it, and it’s one factor that makes hiring new employees a pain and firing them routine.
Get a Job, Keep a Job:
It’s one thing to fake your way through a job interview. It’s an entirely different matter to fake your way through a whole job. Do you know why people spend so much effort complaining about cubicle jobs yet almost no effort in finding alternate employment? It’s because this most common of employee subspecies can easily escape detection as a fraud in its current, and comfortable, habitat. It has the luxury to complain about a job that affords it the ability to hide behind the redundancy of a multi-tiered corporation. Why would it ever risk detection in the big bad world of competition if it’s every need is already being cared for, it’s only sacrifice being freedom? This employee would convulse if it ever had to work for a boss who actually paid attention to how little, if any, daily work gets done.
Keeping a job in which your boss cares about results means that hiding isn’t an option. You’ll have to take some risks; perhaps also, when entrusted with responsibility, you’ll be required to make few command decisions. You’ll fail a few times in the learning process. Bosses tend to be upset when screw up happen, and you might spend some time being upset with each other as a result of mistakes, but don’t worry because the thing a boss, a good boss, really wants to hear is that you’ve learned something by the mistake and are enthusiastic about trying again (it would help of course if the boss also admitted his mistakes, but don’t hold your breath on that). Anybody of reasonable intelligence can keep employment provided he/she actually cares about the job at hand. Working for a boss stinks most of the time because bosses can be assholes with enormous, unwarranted egos. But, here’s the thing about wanting to learn that makes this risk worthwhile for the right person: when the time comes, and you’ve accumulated enough knowledge and experience, you can become your own boss with your own company. Isn’t that a nice little side effect of passion and dedication?
Washouts Like to Complain: Inoculate with Competency
I love to complain when things don’t go my way. I played a bad round of golf? Oh, it was because the grass was a little moist. I fell off my bike? It was clearly that damn rock that jumped out in front of me! I’ve even seen my kid complain about losing a tennis match because his serves didn’t go in. Serves are, incidentally, a prime ingredient in tennis; he could have been more convincing if he’d complained about a bug flying up his nose or something. Sports, academics, or whatever. It doesn’t matter – The fault for failure lies directly at the feet of the one doing the failing notwithstanding external, unpredictable influences. Losing is no great sin. Everybody does it. Making excuses, therefore, is unnecessary as long as you want to get up to try again. My boy’s coach doesn’t want to see sulking or some contorted look of dejection. Buck up, camper! Quit yer bitchin’ and try again! Competency doesn’t come as a natural right or like a union raise. It comes through actively searching for it. Good bosses, coaches and teachers (sometimes one and the same) know that their best students are the ones who want to be in the classroom. They can do without the naysayers or class clowns who do nothing but drag down the beating heart of the organization.