A YOUNG MAN IN A BEIJING ELEVATOR

I was in the elevator at the Westin in Beijing the other day and looked over to see this young man standing beside me.

It was clear he was right out of college (or a couple years out), Tumi bag in hand (Excellent choice, mine is 10 years old and still looks new despite 1M miles) and heading out for the day. I had to ask …

He was recruited by Boston Consulting out of University, lives in Shanghai and is working in China.

For the majority of people in this world they don’t achieve their full potential simply because they cannot see what is possible. I did not understand that fully until my mid-20s. The only guidance I was every given is “You must go to University”, nothing else.

So each time, the boundaries would be pushed and it was big, open territory. For many, it is like the elephant and the rope.

As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

Anything is possible. You just have to envision it, build a plan and execute. Failure along the way is inevitable. Nothing worthwhile is easy.

2013 03 25 Elephant safari   _-50

But anything is possible in this world. Our world is flat; video conferencing via Skype, cheap flights to anywhere, Google Translate ….. It gets easier to connect globally every day.

Something our children have learned first hand. It will be interesting to see what they choose to do with that. Hopefully it involves an elevator in China.

I would be interested to hear the stories of others ….

MOTIVATION, DRIVE AND A BOAT

When I was younger with a new family, we tried out something new … a boat. We didn’t go for a small boat, we went for medium sized 28’ boat that you could sleep on. A nice Sea Ray with a significant price tag. In the end, we did it for a couple years and then made a family decision that we enjoyed golf and a nice pool more. But it was a great experience.

What has that got to do with drive and motivation? I was on the phone with my sales manager on the Monday after picking up the boat and he was very excited for me. I found it odd, as he was never the ‘interested in your personal life’ kind of manager. I voiced my question:

Me: “Why are you so excited about our buying a boat?”

Him: “I love to see you with a big new boat, hopefully you will upsize the house too. The bigger your mortgage, the harder you will work and the more you will sell”

Motivation, drive, that thing that pushes us to the next level is impossible to teach, very different for each person and often very personal. Good managers understand that and help it flourish. They also understand how to avoid hiring those without it.

DO IT WELL

In life, people are so preoccupied with moving ahead, getting to the next level that they forget that to get to the next level, you must do your current task/job/role well.

That does not mean that you cannot be vigilant about new opportunities or that next big job. On the contrary, as a personal services corporation , it is good business to always be on the look out. But, if you are new to a role or in the middle of a challenge, it is hard to have your head thinking about the next role while dealing with the present.

My philosophy: Dig in, build a strong foundation, get the machine in the right direction and gaining speed, then stick your head up and look around.

At a high speed, the wind in your face is quite refreshing …..

ARE YOU PREPARED?

Most sales people and managers do not prepare for meetings. Sure, they prepare for that really big presentation, but what about the smaller meetings? Or even a lunch?

One of my first mentors taught me that you always need to be prepared, and that every meeting is important – no matter how long or short. I often run through a quick checklist in my mind before I go into key sales meetings:

1. What is my goal? What is the next step or action that I am seeking in that meeting?

2. What are topics that need to avoid or issues that might be raised? How will I deal with them?

3. I review key data points. At a personal level (Refresh on things that are important to that person or group) and at a business level (Refresh on the dynamics, outstanding issues, etc.)

4. What are my tactics to achieve the goal?

Clients are busy. While they may give you that first cordial meeting – they will not give you a second. They need to move their business forward, and by moving toward a goal in each interaction, both parties benefit and the sales person gains credibility.

BE PREPARED.

BUSY WORK IS NOT SUCCESS

Do you ever come to the end of a day and realize that you have looked at the same email 3 or 4 times and it still sits there? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you get your email down below 100 unread? Are you wasting too much time on internal process? Do you get a sense of accomplishment if you get your internal reports done on time but did not move a single sale forward?

Welcome to the world of ‘busy work’. An old boss of mine described ‘busy work’ as those non-revenue generating activities that reps would cleave to. I have seen many an unsuccessful rep talk about how they respond to email quickly, or are up to date on all of their reports or how they are ‘so busy all the time, lots to do’ – but remain at the bottom of the sales heap.

Why are they at the bottom? Chances are they are busy in the wrong way. What is the right way? It is not doing email, it is meeting customers, driving deals, generating revenue.

Earlier this year I found ‘busy work’ manifesting itself in my email and task list. I would look at the same emails many, many times before actioning them. Outlook was becoming my action item/reminder repository. I was also using Tablet Franklin Covey software, which was becoming problematic. The traditional Covey model of A, B and C was not working for me. My task list was growing, it did not match how I worked and I was getting frustrated.

A friend put me onto Getting Things Done, which he learned from a Microsoft blog. This changed my work life in a few key ways:

1. It made me realize that the source of my stress was that I did not have a trusted repository for the things I needed to do. The hypothesis of the book is that the mind is like RAM (Random Access Memory, on a computer) and that you need to flush that RAM into a trusted repository, which eliminates stress. Otherwise, the mind will just keep working and popping things up such as ‘Close that $5M deal’, ‘call that customer’ or ‘change the oil’ with no end in sight. And as the mind has no ability to remember in priority (i.e. It prioritizes ‘change the oil’ in the same way that it prioritizes ‘get your heart medicine so you don’t die’), the randomness will cause additional stress. So, first step, you need to have a system that you trust so that the mind can rest.

2. It made me realize that email is a source of stress and wasted time. I would look at the same emails over and over, either as reminders or as items that need to be addressed and this was a huge waste of time and it created stress. Every time I looked at Outlook, I was looking at hundreds of undone emails .. that nagged at me.

3. It made me realize that the traditional approach of A,B,C task lists did not work because it did not take into account how I worked. I work in the office, out of the office, on the road. I have email, voicemail and instant messenger as communications models. My tasks are not just work tasks, I need a way to figure out my life inside and outside of work. Last, I live in Outlook. Having a task list outside of Outlook that did not take into account how I work each and every day (Which changes) was not working.

So, while on vacation, I took this book and read it. To me, it made sense. I then implemented it, and since then, my productivity has shot through the roof. And you know what? I have referenced it to 20 or 30 people and I know of many who have come back and told me that it has changed the way that they work.

If you want to be more productive, I highly recommend you read the book and then implement the process (If you use Outlook – you need to buy the add-in also, it is amazing). It had a huge impact on me and thousands of others. It may free up some time so you can go out and see a movie.

ARCHIVE: RAMPING IN A NEW ROLE.

I am going through one of those unbalanced times or ramping periods as part of a new role. Weekly, I take the time to step back, think about my success philosophy and ensure that:
a) My actions are not busy work, that I am moving the big rocks forward.
b) That I am learning, whether it is internal process, team dynamics, operations or customer interactions.
c) That my ramp has a plateau (Time wise) and will re-balance due to an increase in proficiency.
d) My family know how much I love them, as I am seeing them less. This is not an individual’s change, it is a family change. Afterall, everything I do is for the family – without them my career and business success is irrelevant.
After 3 months in my new role, I see the shape of that ramp – and that is a good thing.

MOTIVATION ADVICE. (from the archive)

An executive gave me a great piece of advice the other day, and I think this applies to sales managers and to sales people (actually – employees in general):

When he first started into management – his biggest shock was that not everyone is motivated in the same way. He was motivated by wanting to move up and to take on bigger challenges. But many of his people, who were solid performers, did not want the same thing. Many of his people were happy with their life the way it was, they did not need a promotion, they did not need a change in job role or a big challenging project – they were happy. What motivates people is often different – some people want to climb the corporate ladder, some people are motivated by money, others by family, charity, church and their life outside the office. And that is alright.

Diversity should be cherished. To be effective in sales or management, I believe that you really need to understand what motivates people, and understanding that everyone is different should always be at the forefront of one’s mind.

SUCCESS = 15 (Part 2)

All companies talk about work life balance, but we all know it is a bit of an oxymoron. The company wants you to take the vacation and spend time with your family, but loves the guy who works 75 hours a week, will take that Saturday conference call and gives his life to the company (As evidenced by email activity at 1AM).

I don’t buy it. In fact – when I see someone working really really hard, all the time, I start to wonder about that person’s skill level. What are the compensating for?

Using the Success=15 model, if you do invest the time then the effective person begins building skill. If skill grows over the years to an 8 and the person is still putting in an 8 in time, then one of two things is going to happen:

1. They are going to be **wildly** successful and march up the corporate ranks (Or in the case of sales – make a ton of cash).

2. They are going to burn out and then time & skill plummet.

That being said, the top two alternatives do not represent the majority of cases. In my experience, the person who puts in that ‘8’ in time year in, year out is compensating for a skill level that has plateaued. That plateau in skill can be attributed to many things: not becoming a sales expert or good sales manager, not being able to prioritize work (i.e. spending countless hours doing unproductive work), etc.

So, be wary of the time investment. If you remain at the “8” level, ensure that you are on the path to **wild** success. Ensure that you do not need a reality check around the plateauing of skills (Questions to ask: Is this the right job? Am I doing the right things? Am I productive? What training do I need to get on the right track?) or that you are on the verge of burning out.

Shooting stars go from very bright to black in a shockingly short time.

GOALS AND $100K

When I was a new sales puppy, I read a ton of sales books. Many books suggest that without goals – you will not achieve success.

The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever   seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way and who will be sharing the adventure with them.      Denis Watley

Early in my career, I set upon one goal: To earn enough money so that money was not relevant. I grew up in a family that was always struggling for money. We were well taken care of, but went through some very tough times. To me, my goal was simple: Make enough money so that I don’t have to worry about money – ever.

In the early stages of my career (When I was 24/25) that became a simple goal: break the $100,000 income barrier. To ensure that I understood my goal every single day, I taped a big sheet of paper to my desk with the numbers $100,000 in a big bold font. Every day, I would get up and look at that number, every evening I would close out my work with a final look at that number. Everything I did was focused on that one goal – breaking $100,000.

This had a very concrete impact on my actions: I prioritized, I worked harder, I built a very big pipeline so that if I closed 1 in 3 deals I would make my $100K number.

That year, I made $103,000. The next year, I made $176,000.

That same philosophy can be applied to many things. For example, two years ago I wanted to break 90 as a reasonably new golfer. It was a big psychological barrier and required focus – but I set my sight on the goal and built a plan on how to attain it (practice, reading, lessons, etc.) That year, I broke 90.

I often ask people that one question: What are your goals? If you don’t know your goals, how are you going to figure out what needs to be done to attain them? In the end, it is goals that make the difference, we make our own fate …. The below should say ‘Those with goals get to be an astronaut’.

THE PERSONAL SERVICES CORPORATION

In the latest Fortune (May 16, 2005) they discuss the unfortunate turn of events that 50+ executives face when they are forcefully retired, or fired.

They speak to the way our society is changing. In the past, society viewed older people as wise – experienced and of value (Think of the village elder and the value put on their wisdom in traditional societies). In today’s society, companies are looking at the cost of a seasoned executive, the pace of change (technology change, business change) and wondering – should I hire the older exec or the younger one who will work 7 days a week and is a lower cost?

A short sighted view in my opinion. The topic reminded me of a valuable lesson that I was given early on in my career: the lesson of the personal services corporation. What this article ultimately points to is that corporations don’t care – if the business justifies it, companies will discard at will. Look at IBM this month – bad quarter – 14,000 jobs gone.

Early on in my career I was taught two things:

1. I am a number to a company. I am expendable. If I don’t delivery – I am gone (Especially true in sales).

2. I must look at myself as a personal services corporation. I am selling my services to the company I am working for. As long as both companies are on mutually agreeable terms – the business relationship continues. That being said – if those terms change and one party is not benefiting, the relationship terminates.

For me, this is one of the key learnings of the article. People often mistake the relationships that they have within the office environment as characteristics of the corporation. By understanding that this is a business relationship, one is able to see past personal loyalties and bias, avoid an attitude of “entitlement” and align their personal corporation with the business goals of their client: the company they are working for. That leads to success.

As another boss once said to me: Remember, loyalty to companies died in the 80’s – to a company you are just a number. The only loyalty you should have is to the people that you trust.

BUBBLE GUM FOR THE BRAIN

Ever sit in your car while commuting home, listening to the radio and thinking “My mind is going numb, I am so sick of the radio”. Well, the radio was once described to me as “bubble gum for the brain”. This was when cell phones were still really expensive (so not everyone had one). The time in the car was truly dead time – you could not use the time to return business calls, check voicemail or chat with friends.
I was told – either listen to the radio and melt your brain or do something with that time: so I started listening to sales tapes (I just threw them out finally, I had hundreds). I attribute that attitude to my success and now – it is even easier. You can download books at a fraction of the cost.
I personally subscribe to the following (I have been a member for 2+ years):  www.audible.com
For $14 per month I get 1 book and 1 periodical (I listen to Harvard Business Review) and a free MP3 player (I gave it to my kids – I listen on my tres cool Pocket PC phone).
Bubble gum for the brain or leverage the time to learn? Your choice. PLUS – this way, when I get home and after the kids are in bed, I don’t feel the need to read, I can watch TV …. (LOL)