I spent the weekend in NYC at my cousin’s wedding and while listening to the speeches at the party and the rabbi speak during the service, I thought, “hmmmm – that sounds exactly how I feel when I’m going through the interview process and decide I want to commit myself full time to a business”. Some of you may read that and think, “she’s nuts!” and certainly I’m not one to argue your opinion; but if you break it down as I will below, you’ll see the similarities. Granted, there will still be those of you who think I’m crazy – but in response I would preface with perhaps you’re mistaking “crazy” for “passion”.
So let’s break down a wedding speech. They typically start with the story of how the two have met; and how “they just knew” or “there was chemistry right away”. Any job I have taken, there has been a definitive chemistry felt during the interview process. I only work with / for people who “get it”, “get me”, and vice versa. If a common bond or understanding is not developed with at least one of the Executives in the interview process, I do not continue. This works for ME because I’m a quick rapport builder; if you know yourself and know how quickly you connect with people, use that as a ‘judge’, but in my experience if there is no connection – the job will likely not be for you.
The speeches then talk about “how the relationship has grown” and at my cousin’s wedding, they talked about their relationship growing because “they had the same values; family was of the utmost importance.” Similarly, when you are attempting to build business relationships, especially with your internal team or attempting to evaluate whether a company is the right fit for you, having similar values is important. If, for example, your top priority is ‘family’ and you are in a company culture that does not value family; there is likely going to be a rift at some point. If you value your religion and your company Executives are all agnostic or atheist, it is probably going to cause a problem if you are the one person who wants to take off for every holiday. Values are a hard thing to find out about as the topic can be one that is not “HR Friendly”, but you can usually develop an understanding of the company’s values by reading their mission statements, by asking open ended questions about how the company reacts when put in certain situations, and even by external clues like looking at what’s on the wall in someone’s office. If an Executive has 3 diplomas and all pictures of his family, he probably values education and family; ask about the diplomas and the pictures. Here is where you need to ‘dig’.
The speeches typically end with “how they got engaged” or “how he knew she was ‘the one’” and they tell the story of their engagement. If the couple is ecstatic and happy, you can see it when they tell the story – they are teary, emotional, animated, uncaring if they look ‘cool’ or not, and they have an unmatched excitement that even makes you a bit jealous. When you are given that job offer from the “one” or the “right company”, you feel the same way. Well, at least I do – unbridled emotion and excitement.
You can even take it one step further to the wedding vows. While you certainly can’t use ALL language, anyone who has built a business from scratch with other founders can likely attest to, “In sickness and in health” (work ALL the time), “good times and in bad” (usually there are more bad than good when starting a business), “support your goals” (company vision – enough said), “honor and respect”….I could go on and on.
So, if you are a crazy passionate business person; perhaps you can see the similarities above. Or, of course, it is possible that I’m just crazy, but in the words of Jack Kerouac, ““The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
50% Track Record
50% Relationship Builder / Networker
Is it really so simple?
Under each of these areas are several bullet points / advice on how to mazimize each bullet point; but once you hear my story, I have proved this is the recipe for a thriving ‘restaurant’.
While I was working in the corporate world, I always did projects on the side; pro bono. Sometimes they were internal, sometimes helping partners I was working with (relationship building), but always seeking to build 1) my knowledge base 2) My network. I also always wanted to prove to myself that I couldn’t “only do” what was needed in my day to day jobs; I wanted ‘practice’ with other industries and the experience of working with different executives.
When I left my most recent company (about 5 months ago), I was going to take a few month “break”, as I’ve been working 80 hour weeks for about 8 years now, but didn’t have the chance. As soon as “word got out” that I had left a company, my phone was ringing; my email was flowing. Companies that I had ‘partnered’ with in the past, prior colleagues, they all had projects for me. I certainly wasn’t going to say “no”, but I did need to learn the consultancy market in about 3 days…which of course, I did. I was truthful with the people I called and asked how they ‘normally’ pay consultants. The same 4 or 5 options were out there, so I adopted each to diffferent projects and was on my way. Here is where and how I’ve found success and clientelle – with no direct response or branding marketing. As sad as this is…I haven’t even had time to put together a website. Go figure.
Part One: Track Record
Under this category lies several things that companies love to see.
1. Obviously the successes in each of your positions or endeavors. While this is important to put on your resume or linkedin page, what I’ve found is that my track record of MISTAKES (when speaking to companies) has worked equally as well in my favor. My explanation – “I succeeded in ‘X’, but would not have done so had I not made these mistakes…which I learned from and constantly adopt in my new endeavors”.
2. TYPES of companies worked for:
one suggestion I have for anyone who is entrepreneurial, ambitious in business, and wanting to really learn how to build a company is to work for a start up company. This shows executives at companies several things (dependent on your role and in what type of company). Just to be sure we’re on the same page; when I say, “start up company”, I am referring to a company that is IN THE RED with minimal employees.
First, it shows that you are willing to take RISK. Important for someone hiring a consultant for 2 reasons: 1) The company will not be ‘afraid’ to give you something as a project 2) The company and consultant can create different deal types that puts the onus on the consultant to get work done. It’s allows the consultant to take on a ‘pay per performance’ model, which companies love.
Second, it shows that you have likely worked in an environment where you have had to wear a myriad of professional ‘hats’. For example: while you may have held a “biz dev” role, the likelihood is you also probably had to learn the ‘sales operations’, developed the sales process, the documents, even the ‘creative’ to send out to clients. That is three other skillsets other than biz dev: Operations, BPI, and marketing / creative development.
Third, it shows you are tenacious with a phenomenal work ethic.
Fourth, The “best” type of start up you can work at…one that is “doing something that has never been done before”. If you can work for that company in a managerial role and move up to an executive role while there; AND be there while the company is successful, going from the “red” to a “black” going concern…you’re a golden child.
Another great type of company to work for is one that offers continuing professional and management development courses. While there are some “large” Fortune 100 companies that put you in a position, teach you about that position, and ‘call it a day’; there are others that invest heavily into bettering their employees. You’re looking for a company that seeks promotion from within as well as one that values the education of their employees.
A third company that will help what others view in your ‘track record’ is one that may not be a start up, BUT is constantly building out new smaller businesses, departments, concepts, products, etc. If you can become part of that “new” team, fantastic experience as well.
Start up businesses seem to be the place where most consultants are sought out, so let’s talk about the type of person you have to be to not only enjoy this role, but be successful in it. This takes a particular type of individual, so before you jump on that, let me explain attributes needed. Start ups are NOT for everyone.
1. The vision to identify the “right” start up. Don’t kid yourself; this is a gift and a skill set. As 95% of start up companies fail, you need to learn how to identify the ones that “have a high chance of success based on the market, product or service, and executive team. If any one of these components are not at 100%, your business will fail.
2. The “NO FEAR” attitude. You are going to be placed outside your comfort zone 75% of the time. That’s the FUN of the start up! You cannot be scared to do something you’ve never done before, you cannot be scared to share your opinions even if everyone else is countering it, you cannot be scared to work 100 hours / week, and you certainly cannot be ‘scared’ of success or failure.
3. Passion; you must be passionate about the mission of the company. If you are a person who is typically not ‘emotional’ or does not get “attached” to their job or feel loyalty for their product, service, or team members; this may be a tough transition for you.
To Be Continued This Eve
First rule of business, or specifically – business relationships is; “treat everyone as if they’re your most important client”. I believe it was my old COO who gave me that advice and he had taken it from one of the classic business books, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People“. If you are in business and have not read that; you should.
If you are managing people, relationships, sales and marketing managers, anything that may cause you human interaction at some point; if you follow the principles laid out in this book, you can’t go wrong.
Some people may read this and roll their eyes and say, “BUT I’m the client. They should be kissing my ….”. So let’s look at a couple of simple scenarios.
1. You’re a marketing manager and you’re purchasing ad space on a website. You are on the phone with this site’s biz dev. executive and you love the price as well as the site. The one ‘glitch’ is that because the site is “newer”, there are no real time stats; hence, you are unable to tweak creative or even pull the ad if need be. There are several potential longer term solutions to this, but in the ‘short term’, what do you do? Do you A) Not work with the company B) Tell the Biz Dev exec you “cannot work with them unless you have real time stats” or C) Explain to the biz dev exec. that “you are in a ‘partnership’ together and in order for this to be a “win/win” for both of you; you are accustomed to being able to see your stats and make changes real time.” You then ask, “How are other companies dealing with this” and / or “Do you have any suggestions as to how we can work together to combat this?”.
Most of us will read the line above and say, ‘option C’. However, in the ‘real world’, ads are pulled all the time for lack of reporting. Those selling ad space get yelled at all the time for not giving stats. Is this a business relationship that will continue in a positive manner in the future if we go with option A or B? Definitely not.
2. You are a manager. One of your team members comes to you because they have an issue with another member of the team. What they are ‘complaining’ about, you’ve heard 100 times before. In your head, you’re immediate reaction is: “I don’t have time for this crap”. However, this is one of your top employees. Best way to handle this? Ask questions and find out the root issue. Is this individual complaining because he / she is insecure? Are they in need of some attentions / positive reinforcement? Have they just had a bad day? Take the extra 5 minutes to listen (as you would your most important client). Sometimes all people need to do is ‘vent’. That extra 5 minutes could be a ‘make it / break it’ for that employee.
So, how do you treat everyone as if their your most important client? Well, first you have to ensure you treat your clients well; or that your outlook on how to treat clients is correct. We can boil it down to a two key tactics: 1) Respect 2) Empathy.
In management, the best managers ‘treat people as they would like to be treated’. Cliche? Yes; but also true.
More importantly; be empathetic. Whether it be a vendor, an employee, a colleague, or even your boss coming to you with an issue, don’t snap back a response. Take a step back and put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Try and see the situation as they do before you respond.
If we all just took 10 seconds before responding and we put ourself in another’s shoes; we are empathetic, more likely to be respectful – and this will probably treat the individual as if they’re you’re most important client.