Monthly Archives: August 2012

Zen and the art of pep talks

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Zen and the Art of Pep Talks

Being a manager is more than just about showing up for work and assigning work to your various employees and subcontractors. It is more than just checking up on people, and more than just about shaking hands.  Psychology is a huge factor in being a manager, that can not be overlooked.

Working at a large company or tiny company doesn’t always make sense in terms of who does what and why.  In an entrepreneurship, the sole proprieter does all tasks in the business, unless they require some technical expertise in which case he hires an IT firm to help him. In a larger outfit, workers graduate to be managers if they are any good.  In a way this makes sense, because you need to be an expert on the work you do before you can supervise it. But, supervising is a completely different skill set, and they don’t teach this in school.

At school, if you studied business, you might study marketing theory, management techniques, and accounting. But, try out your skills in the real world with real people, and you will quickly realize that you are up against much more than what the text book said. You need to not only manage the actual work people do, but manage their attitudes as well.  What you might not realize, is that if a particular someone has the wrong attitude, your whole department could be doomed!

There are different types of attitude challanges that an employee might have and as a manager, you need to be able to quickly identify what type of psychological roadblocks the employee has, so that you can give them a pep talk that teaches them not only how to get through their roadblock, but how critical it is that they do.  Many employees don’t realize how serious an attitude problem could be.  It can kill a work relationship, and is contagious as well in many cases.

Imagine that in a room, there is one employee who doesn’t like being there and gives dirty looks to everyone.  Let’s assume that the others are not so pleased to be there either. The negativity spreads and circulates around the room — you can’t have that.  The manager can try to give regular pep talks to the most negative employee to get them to be more cheerful.  You could focus on how well that employee is doing, or how exciting the next project down the line is going to be.  Focus on positive things, and the positivity will spread — by definition. If the negative employee is incurable, or too high maintenance (pep talks don’t come cheap these days), then maybe it is time to say good bye.

What if you have a customer service rep who feels helpless even though they are an expert in their field?  This happens all the time!  I have a phone rep who is amazing, but lets customers walk all over him. Then, he gets all bent out of shape after they walked all over him.  I had a long time with him today and explained that he is the king. He has the knowledge, skill and experience, and these other people who are bothering him can barely tie their shoes. I said, “They should treat you with respect otherwise you shouldn’t even waste a nanosecond with them”.  I asked him if a professor, police man, border control agent, or other authority would let a civilian talk to them like customers talk to him — and he thought about it and said, “I guess not”.  Then, I said, “So why do you get upset when these ignorant types start antagonizing you?”.  I told this guy that HE was the authority, and that he sets the terms, and other people have to conform to his standards — or the discussion is over.  After this pep talk (which actually took over an hour in its entirety), my rep had a completely different perspective, and felt 200% better — just like that.

You might have a third type of situation where a good employee is just not giving 100%.  You could compliment this person on what their achievements have been, and what you think they can do next month.  Let them know that a little more effort could change their whole life — and that this is big.  It could mean promotions, more respect, and a completely different life in the future, and all it takes is another perspective, and a little extra effort.  The main ingredients here are enthusiasm, and the fact that the change you are asking for could have such huge results, that people’s whole lives could be permanently changed as a result.

Pep talks are life and death for a manager. If you don’t know how to do this, you need to study this like you study for a mid-term.  In a sense, giving good pep talks is sales work.  You are convincing someone to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise do, and giving them earth-shaking reasons why it is so important to do that thing you are proposing.

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Marketing and Interaction

Categories: Marketing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Interaction as a marketing technique

I wrote a few other blogs about sales. My point was that a good salesperson is an expert at interaction, and warms up to people before trying to twist their arm into a sale.  Also, instead of twisting the person’s arm, he gives compelling reasons to the prospect why they should by his product that makes the prospect want to buy the product on their own without any arm twisting.  Seasoned salespeople often make many sales very naturally without any resistance from the buyer.  But, I am in marketing, not sales, and I am not very knowledgeable about mastering the art of sales.   But, there are many parallels between marketing and sales.  Interaction is the main parallel that I want to bring up.

Selling right away is unattractive

My complaint about many Indian companies is that they try to start selling right away when they talk to you, and don’t get to know you first.  This is exactly the problem with most Indian BPO websites.  They say who they are and what they do, but they don’t get to know you.  Internet technology has changed in the last few years.  It used to be about having “a” site.  People would ask, “Do you have a web site?”. Then, the focus was on having a “nice” web site, and then we evolved to needing SEO optimization to show up on search engines which was very expensive and a nightmare.  Since around 2009, a new trend evolved in the internet, and it will be interesting to see how long this trend stays around, or further evolves.  This new trend is social media which includes facebook, blogs, twitter, linked in, myspace, orkut, etc.

Getting to know your users

A good salesperson gets to know you before trying to sell to you. He learns what makes you tick, and what you do, and what you care about BEFORE trying to sell you anything.  A good website does the same as much as possible. But, HOW is this possible?  Social media is the answer.  There are thousands of websites in any category, but the ones that get more attention are the ones that develop a relationship with the user.  Social media allows you to get to know your users, or allows your users to get to know you.

Blogging helps people know you

If you have a blog, particularly an interesting blog, then thousands or millions of people can get to know you, and read about what you have to say.  They will remember your site’s URL much more if they are a regular on your blog.  They will also be much more likely to spend money on your company if they feel that they know you and like you.  Familiarity sells, and there is no getting around that point — so get people to be familiar with your company by blogging.

Facebook is another way

Many businesses have a profile on Facebook. Whether Facebook is great or not is another question, but the fact remains that hundreds of millions of people worldwide are on this medium.  If you have a profile on facebook and populate it with regular interesting discussion topics or pieces of news, you might attract thousands of people who find you by browsing around. This is a great way to attract new clients!  They might see you on Facebook for two years before contacting you for a sale.  Or, if they are on your prospect list, you might call them, and they will be a lot friendlier to you if they saw you even ONCE on Facebook, even if it is a distant memory from the past.

Develop your presence

So, be a good marketeer, and develop a presence — preferably a good presence.  Be seen by millions of people, and get known. Familiarity makes it ten times easier to sell to someone — their resistance to being sold to by you will be at an all time low if they know you, know of you, or think they know you from some distant memory of brushing past your Facebook profile.  Most Indian companies are not using this technology, but if you want to be successful, you need to learn how to use it.

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The mystery of the Chinese bamboo tree & your business!

Categories: Marketing | Tagged | Leave a comment

The mystery of the Chinese bamboo tree and your business

There is a species of bamboo that grows in China.  You have to water it daily for exactly five years, but nothing happens.  If you miss one day of watering, the tree will never grow according to the legend.  However, at the end of exactly five years (according to the story), this tree will grow ten feet in a day.  According to what I have read on the internet, some species of bamboo can grow up to three feet per day, so this myth I am relating to you is not so far off.  But, how does this relate to your business?

Business is weird and strange.  A smart business person will have his company very streamlined and well organized. He will go to great lengths (or heights) to see that his business is as perfected as possible.  But, sometimes you have to put in many years of hard work before you ever see any remarkable growth.  In internet businesses, it is common to put in three years of hard work before ever turning a profit, or even a revenue. You have to have faith and love for your business, otherwise you don’t have a chance.  But, how does this relate to me?

The story of 123notary

I remember, back in the 1900’s (I am sounding old now), I started, a notary directory. I started it to market my own personal notary services.  I never made any money until 2002 when I made a trickle. But, I kept putting my time and money into that site out of passion and desperation.  Finally all of a sudden in March of 2003, we started making 10x the income just like that!  It is exactly like this crazy bamboo tree myth from China.

The outsourcing blog story

But, I just had another situation like this.  Our Outsourcing blog (the one you are reading), is something that gives me great pleasure to write. I have a passion for taking a look at business from as many interesting perspectives as possible. I wish I could see more perspectives so I could write more. I have been working on this blog for two years, but with minimal traffic.  I realized that the tags for the blog articles had been “hijacked” by wordpress.  It is their right since my blog was hosted with them.  So, I had to spend $1100 to my programmers to reconfigure the blog on my server, so that I could have my own tags. It took a few months because someone quit, and the programming company was behind schedule.  But, eventually the reconfiguring task got done, and it was formatted exactly how I wanted it. The next step was to create some links from to the blog.  About a month after the last of these steps was completed, the blog traffic started really going up.  For two years we got less almost neglegable search engine traffic and not much visitation.  Now, we are getting more than 30 visits per day, and the visitation keeps going up. We might be getting 10,000 visits per month in a few months if I keep adding interesting articles!  Also, the traffic on the outsourcing site has jumped by 20% in the last month as a result of the blog’s new success.  I think that it might keep growing really fast if the blog continues to do well.

Secrecy as a business strategy

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How good is secrecy as a business strategy?

I noticed that many business owners I know are very secretive.  There are many things they can’t tell me, and other things that they won’t disclose until a later date.  Many people think that if you tell them too much, you will expose your business secrets and lose a lot.  Many people think that when you go for a business lunch or coffee that you should keep the conversation very limited and hide a lot of information. One company refused to give me any information as to how they operated and asked me to read their FAQ page which also had very little information.  So, is it good or bad to conceal information?

The Feng Shui School example

My best example of this topic is of my Feng Shui teacher.  This teacher was one of the world’s foremost experts in his field, but also a good businessman.  By the way, The ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui, is a topic I love to write about, and it concerns how your building and natural (or unnatural) environment effect your health, life, and business.  This teacher told us how one of those “other” teachers gave out all of his feng shui secrets in the first two lessons, and nobody came back for the third lesson.  So, my Feng Shui teacher decided to only give out a few secrets per class, and really go into detail about his personal experiences analyzing charts of particular houses and businesses who had particular attributes that corresonded to those particular secrets or shall we say, “rules”. In any case, he devised a system where there was class one weekend per month, and you could keep coming back for two years, and then take the entire seminar series all over again to deepen your knowledge.  His school was booming.  The only flaw in his system was that my questions were not adequately answered, and the solution offered was for me to wait a year and retake the particular class I didn’t understand at great expense.  I said good bye.  This strategy of giving out secrets a little bit at a time is very culturally Chinese — fast enough for some — too slow for many.

Giving secrets as a way of developing trust

The business world revolves around trust — or the lack of it.  People give big money to those they trust, but nobody trusts a stranger or a crook.  Knowledge is hard to find, so people like to associate with those who give them knowledge.  If I want to attract a client, my strategy is to solve their problems, and then I will win them over.  People come to me with a question, and I will try to give them an answer that is much better than they expected.  Then, I invite them to email me if they have any more needs.  People love this, and then are very willing to spend money buying a place on my directory.  So, giving out precious knowledge can get you huge returns and helps build lasting relationships.

Giving out secrets helps — but, how many secrets is the right amount?

If you are too secretive, people might not trust you.  In my experience, companies that have secrets, often are hiding a lot of information. I have never had a good experience with companies or groups that systematically keep me in the dark in regards to critical information.  But, if you give out TOO MUCH valuable information to someone, they could steal your business secrets and use them against you.  In my experience, giving valuable information to others will get YOU ahead as much as it gets the recipient.  Just don’t give them any information which could result in them putting you out of business or directly competing against you.  You always have to keep some of your secrets to yourself no matter how generous you are!

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The concept of lower middle management

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The concept of lower middle management

It is a well known fact that labor in India is plentiful, especially technically accomplished labor. But, with a short supply of qualified management to go around, many companies in India are very disorganized.  If workers are not managed properly, they will submit work as completed when many steps in the work were omitted or done incorrectly. This has been my personal experience. American workers do this too, but not quite to the extent that workers in India do.   In India, the salary for a skilled project manager or middle level manager can be the equivalent of US$40,000 per year, or perhaps 1.5 Lakhs per month in India.  This is roughly 7x the rate that a company would pay for a single experienced call center rep or programmer. My numbers could be off because I have not been in India for a few years, but the numbers are close enough to make my point.

So, there is no solution, right?  Not so.  India has plenty of people who love to nitpick others, and mind other people’s business.  Even those who are not techno-saavy might be qualified to micromanage others if they have good organizational skills.  The older generation in India typically lacks technical skills, but many have good thinking and organizational skills, and would be very qualified with a little training to micromanage workers.  Additionally, this new class of micromanagers that I am proposing might  be able to perform work tasks at even LESS than the cost of the programmers or call center staff members since no technical expertise would be necessary.

The key here is to teach these lower-middle managers how to make check lists of what to check. If a worker has a particular assignment, being able to find the records of what was assigned, when it was to be finished, and what the specifications are would be the first step.  Checking to see that everything had been accomplished to specs would be the next step.  Creating evalutaion statistics and saving them would be the most valuable and final step.  These micromanagers (nagging pests) could revolutionize companies by letting them know who the reliable workers are and who the unreliable ones are.  Score sheets could be assigned to workers each month.  Maybe Praveen might be a 90% accuracy rate for his work and get a promotion while Surrendra might only get a 20% accuracy rate and be fired.

A joke to finish this post!

I’ll send this article with a joke — but, a realistic one.  Ramesh shows up at a job interview to be the “nagging representative” or glorified micromanager — whichever you call it.  The boss reviews Ramesh’s resume, has a brief chat with Ramesh, and is not so impressed. The boss says, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.   The next day Ramesh’s mother shows up and barges into the office.  She has a checklist of all the things her son is good at and she rattles off the checklist.  She then says, “You were supposed to call Ramesh at exacly 1pm IST today, but we never heard from you, how are we supposed to rely on companies like yours?”.

Needless to say, the boss was very impressed with Ramesh’s mother’s organizational skills and thought she would be perfect to manage his workers even though she didn’t know the first thing about programming.  So, the boss said, “You’re hired! Welcome aboard. When can you start?”  The mother said, “Ramesh will be here bright and early tomorrow morning”. The boss said, “No, I can not hire that clown, I am offering YOU a job — you are perfect.. You are organized to a T, and you don’t allow anyone to get away with a single flaw, not even a missed phone call”.

Then Ramesh’s mom Vidhya goes to have chai with the neighbors — Mr. and Mrs. Reddy.  Vidhya said, “I can’t believe I got a job… I am the head nagging agent for Krishnatech Infosoft!”.  Then Mr. Reddy said, “Oh, I am not surprized, you are excellent at nagging”.  Then Mrs. Reddy said, “Prakash, watch your mouth!”.  Then Mr. Reddy said, “Oh sorry, what I meant was that you are very … assertive and punctilious”. Mrs. Reddy responded, “Please forgive Prakash, he has had a few cups of masala chai too many today!”  Vidhya said, “I know people accuse me of nagging too much, but now I can get PAID for nagging — the boss said he needs this type of personality, providing I don’t over do it!”

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