Economy negatively impacts employees and team interactions

February 18, 2009

Working within corporate America is more difficult than ever.  What factors are contributing to this?

Management expectations remain largely unchanged in spite of downsizing, reductions in hours, reduced compensation and bonuses, etc.  People are expected to do more with less and receive less total compensation even though they may be working harder than they ever have in their lives just trying to keep up with demands.

People aren’t getting much if any scope or schedule relief despite these factors.  Somehow, it all needs to get done even when it can’t.

The pressures people are feeling are tremendous.  People across this economy are living with constant uncertainty over whether they will have a job from one week to the next, they know that reorganizations are happening daily and are not sure how they will fare in them, they are seeing what is happening to others who have lost their jobs, and some know they are not in a sound financial position to weather a protracted period of time without having a job.

Add to this stress the fact that many in the high-tech world who are working in the U.S. under H1B work visas could be required to leave the U.S. almost immediately should they lose their jobs and be unable to secure a new one within a few days.  Many of the folks in this situation attended American colleges and universities and have lived in the U.S. for a decade or more.

It’s no wonder we are starting to see unusual behaviors.  I ran into this very situation today.

I’m helping a client with the development and validation of a new capability within an existing business intelligence system.  A meeting scheduled for this afternoon had to be pushed back 48 hours due to a last-minute scheduling problem.  My I.T. counterpart went ballistic over this routine occurrence.

Suddenly, from his perspective, we can’t this project done soon enough (he wants it completed in 2 weeks) and he is citing resource and budget pressures as conspiring against him.  Yet, after 7 months, he delivered a prototype about 3 weeks ago that is giving us wildly incorrect answers.  Does he really think we can go live simply because the clock is ticking and he needs to cross this project off his checklist?  It’s not “good enough” yet.  It’s not even close.

As I thought about this sudden out-of-character behavior of my I.T. counterpart, it dawned on me that this guy may have some bonus tied to this date that he’s never revealed to anyone.  That could certainly contribute to what I see as “bizarre” behavior on his part today.  I know that he and all other employees just missed receiving a mid-year bonus for the first time in many years, so he may be feeling a big financial squeeze–that too could add to the pressure he’s feeling.  It could also be that his boss told him to get this to the finish line now.  Perhaps there is some other issue in his life that I’m not aware of.  It is certainly not comfortable to watch.

What should we do in situation like this?

Take a deep breath and realize that this is an extraordinary time that we live in.   Accept that we often can’t understand what’s causing great upheaval in another person’s life and that this is a good time to reach out to understand how you can be part of this solution. Look for ways to help your colleagues and team be successful and try to be empathetic with each other.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Poor business execution undermines businesses

February 9, 2009

I stumbled across the following sub-head in a Reno Gazette Journal article yesterday:

“Food, service leave a lot to be desired at upstart eatery.”

If I were the owner of this restaurant, I’d feel like I’d just taken a direct hit from a cannon ball.   Besides ambiance, what else is there in a restaurant besides the food and service?

Some friends opened a new restaurant in San Jose, California, and had similar comments in a review of their restaurant.  I felt so bad for them as I knew they worked extremely hard on the menu, suffered months of unanticipated and costly delays in opening due to the permitting processes, etc. The reviewer felt that the chef had toned things down to the point of ruining the authenticity of  the ethnic food they were offering.  And, to add to the misery, the reviewer commented that the service in this fine dining establishment missed the mark as well.  How sad. All their hard work was being undermined by their business execution.

The restaurant business is challenging enough in this economy even with superior business execution.  Mediocrity or even a lower standard of execution is going to cause certain demise of these restaurants unless they can improve their execution quickly.

Poor business execution undermines businesses of all types, not just restaurants.  I encourage business owners to find out what it is like to do business with their own company from the point of view of customers.  What kind of experiences is your business creating across all aspects of your business, from sales to service?  Find out and correct deficiencies.

Complaints should be treasured as they give you the insights you need to take your business to the next level.  If you treat customers with indifference (and, sadly, roughly 70% of customers feel they are treated with complete indifference), you are putting the economic health of your business at risk.  If you fail to meet the most modest of expectations, you are putting the economic health of your business at risk.

At a minimum, I expect good service and good food served at an appropriate temperature.    I really want great service and great food consistent with the restaurant I’m dining at.   What customers want is a great experience, the kind of experience that makes them want to come back again and again and to tell their friends about it.

Are you aware of how well your company is doing meeting customer expectations?  Are you thinking that business is off merely due to economic pressures or could it be something else–your firm is failing to meet even the most modest expectations of your customers?

Business execution is not about doing one thing well and the other things poorly–it is the sum of all the customer touch points that makes customers want to come back again and again.

Dave Gardner

Fear undermining sales execution

February 5, 2009

I’m very concerned about the level of fear in the world and especially how it is impacting people involved in Sales.  The news is filled with little other than news of economic distress, layoffs on a scale not seen in years, war, people arguing in Washington about how to stimulate the economy, etc.  It’s disturbing.  And, the outcome of simply listening to the news is creating more fear.

I’m currently engaged in a project in Silicon Valley with a major high technology company so I’m observing this first-hand.  The fear is certainly palpable in the Sales and Marketing organizations and the executive suite.

Sales organizations are scrambling to do anything and everything they can to meet quota. You can feel fear backing up into the Marketing organizations trying to do so much to be “helpful” to the Sales teams that it makes one wonder whether all the programs represent a bigger distraction to the Sales teams than a help. More programs, more collateral, more communication pieces aren’t always the best answer.

Sales management, Marketing and the executive teams are competing for the attention of the front-line people who generate sales in spite of the fact the overriding concern of their buyers is that no one really wants to buy anything they don’t absolutely have to right now.

What are the answers if you are in Sales?  Tighten up execution which means:

  • Figure out what each customer is really telling you, not what you think they are telling you
  • Remember that people buy based on their own self-interests as well as the interests of their company–don’t forget to pay attention to your buyer’s self-interests
  • Look for ways to improve your personal productivity–a few extra meetings a week could make a huge difference
  • If your competitor is getting the business, ask your customer for insights
  • Plan your sales calls carefully–treasure each opportunity to get in front of a customer or prospect
  • Analyze your past successes and see what patterns emerge that might help you produce success now
  • Some companies may be better candidates than others in this economy–the top tier firms tend to be selective but make the investments they must make
  • Maintain quality relationships with your customers–think of the life time value of the customer, not just the next sale
  • When management starts going nuts, maintain your center about who you are and what your customers can realistically do–don’t buy into quotas that you can’t possibly meet
  • Maintain your perspective–not everything good or bad is about you no matter what you might hear
  • Keep your energy level up

Good selling!

Dave Gardner