The Super Employee Evolution – Part 3

October 18, 2012 1 comment

the tired employee

Without proper management, the employee has more chance to feel alone and under-appreciated.

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)

Bob had had enough.  Overworked, over-stressed and feeling under-appreciated, he asked his boss for a raise.  He was denied.  Citing a poor economy and everyone having to tighten their belts for a while, he was told that perhaps in the future there would be more funding for pay raises but not right now.  He was told how valuable he was to the team and that his efforts had not gone unnoticed.  He was appreciated.

Management began to see glimpses of the danger they were in and began to search for a replacement for Bob….just in case.  There were many applicants and eager personnel eager to take on the job at hand.  Unfortunately, for Management, however, no one was able to take over the existing system as Bob had personalized it.  All his macros and short cuts to make the system efficient and workable for him were indecipherable for anyone else and no one would be able to come in and take over smoothly.  In fact, Management was shocked to discover they would have to hire 2, 3 or maybe even 4 people just to maintain the status quo.

Meanwhile, after working hard to make up for being short-staffed for three years, Bob was no longer satisfied with Management’s response.  Management was in denial and falsely believed Bob didn’t have any place to go.  However, while the job market was not the lush and fertile field of 2005, it also wasn’t the bleak and barren landscape of 2009 any more.  Companies had begun to hire again, albeit very selectively, and Bob was the ideal candidate for the new market; he could multitask, had middle management experience and was never laid off.

Bob received a very generous offer and tendered his two-week notice at work.  To say Management was surprised is a massive understatement.  Suddenly, they realized their mistake.  They had put all their eggs in a basket named “Bob” and for the first time became fully aware of their folly.  If they didn’t keep Bob on staff, there wouldn’t be anyone left to run the IT department and the firm would come to a grinding halt.  They had an emergency meeting and put a counter offer on the table and presented it to Bob.  Finally in a position of power, Bob agreed to stay but with a much higher salary increase.  Bob had basically asked for more than twice his original salary and an extra week of vacation.

Management had no option but to acquiesce.  They were appalled at the position they found themselves in but saw no alternative.  Bob, on the other hand, was finally happy…still over-worked but for double the money, he no longer dreaded getting up in the morning.

Management began to take a look around the company to see just how vulnerable they were in other departments.  Initially, keeping the teams under-staffed was a good thing because it was more cost-effective and added to the bottom line.  However, they now saw the danger in keeping this as a permanent solution.  Fewer employees were actually expendable than Management had believed and the false power Management had over them was now transparent.  The only solution, much to Management’s chagrin, was to hire and add staffing to key areas within the company to prevent another “Bob” situation from surfacing.

Properly challenging and compensating the employee makes for a happy employee.

Is this the only reason why employment is slowly and steadily rising?  No.  Obviously, there are other factors in place.  There is more faith in the banking system again just as banks have more faith in borrowers now than they did four years ago.  Notoriously foolish practices such as approving mortgages for people who did not have the resources to pay them back have been curtailed just as people are no longer borrowing above their means.  Plus, there are other factors affecting the economy and how companies hired/fired over the past five years that I will not get into here.  Suffice to say, The Super Employee Evolution is one of the unique results of the process.  It didn’t happen for every company, but it did manifest itself enough that the topic came up often in my conversations with recruiters, HR departments and the candidates, themselves.  Additionally, it wasn’t just in IT.  The S.E.E. also grew in Sales, Marketing, HR and any other group that required one person to maintain the day-to-day operations of the department over an extended period.

What’s the lesson learned?  For companies, a short-term reduction in force may be fiscally responsible but the long-term effect of keeping a skeletal staff is not worth the risk.  As for employees, the take away is to continue learning and self-education to ensure survival within the company and in the chosen field.

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)

The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2

October 10, 2012 5 comments

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution Part 1)

Fewer employees means more work for the staff.

Bob was having difficulty keeping up with the tasks he had been recently assigned.  While he was familiar with everything required, Bob was far from being an expert in anything and as a result he had to improvise.  Management had seen fit to give him a new set of responsibilities based upon the fact everything was considered “technology”.  Unfortunately, the truth was far from perception.  Database management is a very different world from network administration.  Being a webmaster doesn’t relate to planning budgets for each aspect of the departments and everyone looks down on the hardware technicians.

In order to survive, Bob began to create shortcuts wherever and whenever he could.  He sorted out the required daily tasks and those that had to be performed on a regular basis whether cyclical or periodic.  He began to create a calendar based upon these needs and in a sense he had to triage the tasks that didn’t have to be looked at every day.   Those, he had concluded, would be addressed if, and only if, there was ever a problem with them.

Management’s relationship with Bob was standoff-ish.  It had to be.  No one left in the company knew enough to question Bob and they had to assume and maintain a position of authority.  They couldn’t, under any circumstances, show that they didn’t know what was going on.  The only contact Bob had with management was when they casually asked him how things were going.  “Fine.” he would always reply.  When there was a problem, there would be a group of people gazing into the “fishbowl” Bob felt he was working in until the issue was resolved.

Business continued in this fashion.  Layoffs eventually eased off and Bob never received any additional help.  Corporate was not happy with the economy but it could have been worse, as was evident by just looking around at the multitude of firms that had shut down.  Business remained stale and Bob continued to survive.

One year later found our friend, Bob, growing tired.  The daily fires needed to be put out were beginning to overwhelm him and he once again asked for some help from management.  He needed to expand the IT team once more and bring some much-needed expertise back in.

Management was not ready to comply.  Businesses had learned the same work was accomplished as before only now they were able to do it with fewer employees.  The lower overhead made owners and shareholders very happy as it made the company more profitable.  What neither Bob nor Management had considered, though, was the unhealthy relationship that had been maturing between them.  Bob needed his job and no matter how difficult it became, he wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize his position.  Jobs were still scarce and he was scared into submission.  What neither of them realized was just how desperately Management needed Bob.  They were both about to find out.

Stay tuned for the 3rd and final part later this week.

(continued on to the The Super Employee Evolution – Part 3)

The Super Employee Evolution – Part 1

October 3, 2012 1 comment

many hats

Employees were demanded to fill many roles.

Companies and employees find themselves in a strange new world of staffing these days.  It’s fair to say no one could have predicted 5 years ago what the hiring landscape would have looked like today.

When companies began laying people off and reducing their staffs numbers, it seemed like the right thing to do.  Revenues had begun to decline and there were ominous signs the economy did not have as solid base as it had seemed.  Production for goods began to decline and inventories from warehouses dwindled.  Suddenly, there were too many people employed to complete less work orders so reduction in forces were inevitable.  Overhead costs went down dramatically and firms’ bottom  everyone not caught in the reduction in forces was forced to pick up the slack for those no longer there.

Businesses were still under the assumption that the economy would return to normal in short order so the easiest way to preserve their methods was to eliminate positions and refill them once they were ready to hire again.  Normally, this is the expected process and in most economic dips no one would have faulted the firms for their actions.  However, 2008 proved extremely unpredictable and employees paid a heavy price for it.

In 2008, just 20 companies laid off over 400,000 employees alone.  In July of that year, the unemployment rate went from a hovering 5.0-5.5% to an alarmingly fast climb that peaked at 10% in October of 2009.  Even now, 34 months since the peak, it is still 2.5 points higher than where it was when the crisis began.

This changed the approach companies had in regards to hiring employees back.  No longer were firms under the illusion this was a recession that had an end date within sight.  Further layoffs were required as companies began to see the current economy as a time to hibernate.  Once flourishing firms now felt the need to operate with the most skeletal staffs possible.  No company wanted to get caught with a full roster and have to explain to investors why they hadn’t cut the force down to save money.  As a result, workers that had been fortunate enough to still have a job were asked once again to do even more than ever to compensate for the depleted departments.

As far as the remaining employees were concerned, they were happy to have jobs and to ensure that they remained employed, purposefully kept a low profile at work.  If they were required to come in earlier, work later and sacrifice weekends, well…they would.  After all, everyone knew multiple people who had been affected by the recession and they could see what life was like for those without work and insurance.  The economy and management forced the remaining employees to adapted and adapt they did.  Workers learned to do all the tasks required to keep the companies running.

Let’s take “Bob”, for example.  Bob was in IT and in charge of database administration for his company.  After the first layoff, he was also tasked with ensuring the firm’s desktops were humming along.  If anything went down with a desktop, Bob fixed it.  Need a new monitor?  Bob’s your man.

During Bob’s tenure at the company, he had also picked up some basic network administration and was able to fill in for people if they were out of the office for whatever reason.  During the layoffs, Bob’s network experience was discovered and he was asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a few courses, (paid for by the company), to ensure they had enough people to take care of the systems.  Of course, he agreed, (IT people love certifications), and within a year, Bob found himself in charge of hardware, database and network administration for the company.

An interesting word began to enter Bob’s vocabulary…customization.  Bob realized customization was the only way he and the company he worked for would survive.

(Continue to The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)

CRM – Critical For A Small Business

August 9, 2012 2 comments

Sales is a very complex process involving relationships between multiple parties to achieve one goal…the sale.  You have to manage the needs of the client with the needs of your firm and always balancing that with the actual capabilities of what you can provide.  It is an ever-changing, dynamic evolution and it is very easy to suddenly realize it has gotten away from you.  At the very least, you need to have a CRM, (Customer Relationship Management), software package you can rely on.

In every case, the CRM will never provide you with all the functionality you desire.  However, it doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  The free models available on the net are quite good.  FreeCRM is a web-based solution.  Being a web-based program it can be accessed by up to 50 users just by opening a browser.  It offers a variety of upgrades from the base model but if you are just starting to explore CRM solutions then the free version is a good place for you to begin. The upgrades relate mostly to support availability, the capability to sync with Outlook and your devices and storage.  However, since it only provides 10MB of storage you may find the need to upgrade in short order.

Sugar CRM is another free crm that is worth taking the time to learn about.  Unlike the web-based FreeCRM, Sugar CRM also gives you the option of storing it on your server.  However, it is much more customizable than FreeCRM.  You will require the help of a programmer with PhP capability to do so but once you have the finished product you won’t be disappointed.  Of course, you can always go with the available modules provided by Sugar.  Upgrading is more expensive than with FreeCRM but it is a more robust system.

There are other systems, of course, and the functionality of the programs expand to include marketing, order processing and forecasting just to name a few.  You can, with some research, find the crm package that best fits your business model.  However, ultimately, it is only as good as the information you put in it.

If you’re a small business or even a one-person shop, CRM will help organize your work and make it seem as if you have more than one employee.  If you have a multi-person sales team, CRM gives you the ability to run your team more efficiently and truly understand the relationships established with your clients and prospects.

The use of the crm has to become an organic aspect of your business and used 100% for what it is intended.  CRM is not just software…it is a process adopted by EVERYONE in the company.  Every employee must understand the significance of the system and why it should be kept up to date.  How do you plan on interacting with your clients and prospects?  Are these the reports to base the health of the firm on?

I will be the first to admit this is a very bird’s-eye view of the process and you will need to do plenty of research so is a waste of all your efforts and time.  Properly vetted, a solid CRM package can help elevate your firm to a level you never thought possible.

Best Excuses For Missing Work.


Faking a physical injury to be excused from work.

Everyone deserves a day off from work.  Without time away from the office, it’s guaranteed the employee’s productivity would drop and in turn it will affect the work environment.  Soon a cascade would begin and all the workers won’t be doing as well as they should have been doing.  However, there are some “workers” that take advantage of the situation.  Rather than get into the cause-and-effect of an employee’s poor attendance, I just want to share some of the more memorable excuses.  Some were funny; some were simply jaw-dropping.  Others, the more legendary ones, became a permanent part of the company’s folklore and culture.

“Joe” called in sick one week.  He had been out a few times before and it wasn’t a surprise when he didn’t show up for work one day.  However, on the 3rd day, Joe came in looking a bit sluggish.  After only 1/2 hour and very little prompting, Joe told us he had been diagnosed with an inverted heart.  We rushed to our desks and the floor grew uncomfortably quiet as everyone hit WebMD, Mayo Clinic and any other medical website that would shed more info on the deformity.  We were in awe as we all came up with the same thing.  Joe was telling the truth, (he had had so many absentee excuses before that we originally doubted him), at least seemingly enough so we weren’t going to question him about it and risk an HR issue.  However, it didn’t take long for him to blunder and get caught.

Joe was a big guy and, in a fit of anger at waiting for the microwave during lunch time, claimed that it was bad for his feet to be waiting on-line for so long due to his heart.  “Because it was upside down”, he claimed, “My feet receive a high pressured amount of blood and would swell up if I remain standing for long.”

Someone not familiar with his story asked him about his heart and he stated the top was pointing south and what should have been at the bottom was pointing north.  There was a stunned silence and then the cafeteria erupted.  We had, since having been told of his condition earlier, obviously become more educated on inverted hearts than he had taken the time to learn himself.  He was called out as a liar and it wasn’t long afterwards that he tripped up enough to be let go management.

There is only room for one at the top of the mountain, though, and the crown belongs to “Dan”.  Over a period of one year, This Guru of Absentia never worked a full 5-day work week.  6 paid holidays, 2 personal days and 2 weeks vacation meant Dan had to come up with 42 unique excuses why he didn’t go to work.  It is a daunting task to come up with that many reasons and keep track of them and occasionally he lost track of them.  He called me once and asked me to tell our manager he had to take his parents to the airport.  Taking a deep breath, I reminded him he had used that excuse three weeks earlier.  I heard a sharp intake and he quickly blurted, “you’re right!  Tell him I have a stomach virus!” and he hung up.

His best, though, was the day he walked in with his right arm in a sling.  He explained he hadn’t been able to come into work the day before because he had dislocated his arm playing darts two nights earlier.  We were stunned. Even for Dan, this was a fantastic excuse.  Obviously, we watched him closely for the rest of the day but Dan sold it.  The grimaces.  The one-handed typing.  Asking for help when his left hand wasn’t enough.

Eventually, however, he messed up.  Two days later he was returning from lunch when I noticed his sling looked differently than it had earlier.  I knew something was up so I simply pointed to it, and he immediately realized what was wrong.  In the fastest of moments, he swung his left arm out of the sling, turned it around and harpooned his right arm through the loop.  Just in time, too, as a crowd of people turned the corner, returning from their lunch break.  He winked at me, mouthed a smirky ‘thank you’ and went back to his desk.

Dan will always be the best I have ever seen.

What’s your favorite story?

10 Tips For A Rookie Salesperson


A successful salesperson pays attention and learns.Every salesperson begins his or her career as a wide-eyed, rookie with daydreams of closing the biggest deal of the firm’s history, shaking hands with the eternally grateful client as his CEO pats him on the back.  Open expense accounts, membership to the local, prestigious country club and a corner office round out the often-dreamed fantasy.  Before you start buying your next suits at Brooks Brothers, however, make a note that there is a loooong way to go before you ever get to the best parking spot in the front.

Here are 10 tips to help you on your way.

1.  Pay attention.  I can’t stress this enough.  Pay attention to everything around you.  Who do your fellow salespeople turn to when there are issues to resolve?  Who is the leader on the floor?  What are the issues people are having?

2.  Watch your schedule.  You should always be the first one in and the last one to leave.  I don’t understand how this is one of the easiest rules to overlook but it is.  When you are new, there is always something to do…trust me.  Review some of the crm features you’re having trouble with.  Set up your calls for the next day.  Finish documenting your clients interactions.

3.  Get to know your clients.  If you are not in the same area and work primarily over the phone, then read their local newspapers online.  Find out what the weather there is like.  How have their teams done this year?  I used to call on south Texas.  I made sure to know what the local football scene was like…when hurricane season would hit the Gulf…what the local schools were receiving grants.  If you are local to your clients, go to chamber meetings and other networking events.  Even better; form a networking group.

4.  Create a schedule for tasks you need to complete every day.  Starting a new career is overwhelming and sometimes things you truly need to concentrate will be overlooked.  Stick to your schedule.  You’re in sales now so prospecting should be at the top of your list.  Do it every day.

5.  Here’s something that has worked well for everyone I know who has tried it.  Ask to speak with your boss every few weeks to ensure you are on the right path.  You don’t want to go too long in the wrong direction and it also lets your supervisor know you are taking your job seriously.

6.  Dress well.  Don’t over dress, but make sure you are respectable.  If the better dressed people on the floor are in shirts and khakis then you do the same.  Make sure your clothes are tucked in, clean, pressed and for pete’s sake…no white socks.

7.  Don’t be afraid to tell a client you don’t know the answer to a question.  Simply say you will find out the answer as soon as possible.  People will respect you for that.  No one likes a fake know-it-all.

8.  Don’t have more than two drinks at any company function.  As good as a salesperson may be, I have seen too many careers cut short because of a loose tongue or because they just looked sloppy and unprofessional in a social setting.  You will never be allowed to represent the company outside the office.

9.  Learn everything about the product you are selling.  You don’t have selling skills yet and you don’t have a client list so product knowledge is your only ace.  As you grow into your new role you won’t seem so one-dimensional but for now, learn it inside and out.

10. Finally, find a mentor.  Ask one of the veterans if it would be okay if you ask questions when you have them.  Most will be okay with it and it is also a good way for you to learn how sales techniques differ from person to person.  All successful salespeople differ from the others and you need to develop your own style.

If you have any other “Must Do” items for a new salesperson, feel free to leave a comment.  I would love to read them.

Entrepreneurship is Like Groundhog Day


When I first went on my own and opened my own consulting practice, there was a perceived glamour of working for myself.  Sure, I knew it was going to be hard work but I also thought of the freedom, the accountability and the level of satisfaction I knew wasn’t available working in a corporate office.  Every day was going to be an adventure as a small business owner.  Every day I was going to feel good about being an entrepreneur.

Nope.

A messy desk is more common to entrepreneurs than not.

The truth didn’t just sneak up on me; it slapped me across the face with a ream of paperwork and receipts.  I quickly discovered I lacked the level of organization required to run a business.  It was a difficult task to learn and I am still very far from mastering it…if ever.  Even the smallest item on my To-Do list took much longer to complete than anticipated and I was quickly running out of time every day.  Soon after having learned a new definition for Organization I quickly learned a new meaning for the word Priority.  I came to term with the simple realization I wasn’t going to be able to finish everything on my own.  The illusion of kicking back with my hands behind my head on my feet on the desk at the end of the day by 4:30 now felt like a dream someone else had told me about in passing.

Slowly, rising out of the depths of the murkiness of sleep deprivation and Panera coffee, I began to notice a pattern.  Items I had crossed off the To-Do list the day before were mysteriously reappearing the following day.  It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I was constantly dogged by the same list of items day after day.  I accepted the fact I would never be rid of these tasks as I had accepted regularly filling up the car or ironing my shirts; I didn’t look forward to it but I knew it had to get done.

However, a few months later, these reoccurring activities seemed to take less time to finish.  What used to take me most of the day I was now able to finish by lunch time.  I was no longer obsessing over the completion of these tasks…it just happened.  I found myself finally addressing the items I thought I was never going to get to and, for the first time, began to cross THEM off the To-Do list.  I began to breathe a little easier.

bill murray

Running a business is like Groundhog Day.

It dawned on me it was just like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.  He experienced the same series of events day after day but was finally able to anticipate them as the movie progressed.  As a result, he dealt with them better and they affected him less and less.  That’s exactly what I was going through with my business.  I was repeating the same tasks every day but I was getting better at them.  As I improved so did my other aspects of my business.  As I improved other aspects of my business, my business improved as a whole.

Running a small business is an ever-evolving process.  What may have seemed daunting at first will become a regular part of your schedule later.  As your efficiency grows you will be able to take a step back and truly see the personality your venture has grown.  I’ve got some advice for you, though.  Remember the dream about setting your own schedule, kicking back and enjoying a daily dose of affirmation?  Put it at the bottom of your To-Do list.

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