Monthly Archives: July 2013

Synergy & working closely with others

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I love work relationships, particularly if you learn from them. Working with others is very spiritual. There is always some sort of exchange going on. It is more than the money, or even whether you like each other or not. There is learning, and an exchange of consciousness (that’s deep!!!).

I work with a lady who is a great writer. She writes wonderful tweets too. Innovation is her specialty, and she finds the best way of doing just about everything. But, there is more. We work on writing projects together. I am a sloppy writer with endless ideas. She is a refined writer, but lacks the familiarity with my audience. When you put us together, miracles happen. It is a marriage of crowdsourcing skills & writing skills.

Our twitter account hardly ever got retweeted in previous years. We got a handful of retweets per month which is a disaster for an account with 3000 followers. If I had known more about Twitter at the time I would have said, “It’s embarrassing!”. But, due to my interactions with my Twitter specialist (an outsourced social media consultant), and my writing companion who I work with, my tweets got better. I learned the art of writing and refining tweets. I learned the art of narrowing down on what my audience wanted to hear. There are actually about eight types of tweets that my followers like. So, now I just keep giving them what they like, and craft my tweets with much more care, and I get retweeted multiple times per day — every day!

But, the punch line of this blog entry is that the magic happens when we work together. Put us apart and we can both tweet. But, put us together and we refine ideas and come out with far better ideas. In the past we got 5-10 retweets per month. Recently, many of our tweets get 3, 4, or in one case 10 retweets — EACH. Miracles have happened. It is all from finding people you work well with. So, if you sample working with others, and find someone you work well with — that is something valuable. Don’t throw it away!

The lady I worked with noticed that one of my blogs was composed with an endless quantity of aphorisms. I said, “Don’t you mean, Aphor-Americanisms?”

How many salespeople is the perfect number?

Categories: Hiring & Firing, Sales, Semi-Popular | Tagged | Leave a comment

There are so many ways of looking at this issue. I am convinced that there is no right answer. But, I believe that getting closer to the optimal answer lies in stopping thinking of the question in these terms. How many — stop that thought! Each salesperson is a human being, and each human being has unique characteristics. My goal in hiring people is to find people who have unique ways of thinking that can help me find amazing new ways of doing things that will lead to business growth that I never thought was possible. You will not find this amazement if you simply hire a calculated amount of staff who do the same work every day. Don’t stifle the talent of your hired staff — nurture it!

Basically, what many companies don’t get, is that by banging your head against the wall, trying to get sales out of people, you are missing the point. To get ahead, you need to have a goal of adding value to society and NOT selling things. You should be there to EDUCATE your clients, not to sell to them. Guide them to the best choices for them instead of pushing them around. They will like you a lot more in the short run and the long run and trust you much more. Trust translates into sales. In short, you sell without selling which is a Zen principle!

So, what should you look for in your sales force? I have been selling the same products for years, and my sales techniques were mediocre at best. What I learned is that I needed to spend more time listening to my clients. I needed to learn how they think, what mattered to them, and what makes them tick. Everybody is motivated differently. My mistake was simple. I think in a logical way, therefor, when presenting reasons to others, I use logic and assume that that is the ideal way to motivate others. My mistake was that only 1% of Americans are logical, and the rest think emotionally (if at all). My new sales technique is based on listening to my clients and seeing how they typically react which is emotionally, not rationally. So, I tell them stories (true stories without embelleshment) which make them gasp. I even make myself gasp and say, “Oh My God”. I tell them horror stories of dangerous and stupid things that other people did who didn’t educate themselves enough about the business, and I use this to sell courses. We also give mini quizzes over the phone to highlight what our clients don’t know which can hurt them. Now, our sales have tripled. The root of the increase is all about tuning in, not selling.

The question is — can you hire salespeople who are experts at tuning into your clients and finding out what makes them tick? That is how you adapt your sales techniques, and develop better products that are more catered to what your clients really want.

So, stop thinking about how many salespeople you need, and start thinking about how to get salespeople who tune in and give you information you can use in battle! You might want to have extra salespeople around to give yourself plenty of time to feel out the market and gather critical information which could multiply your business by 100x. I kid you not!

(a) The perfect # of salespeople is that there is no perfect #. It is about tuning into your clients.
(b) It doesn’t matter how many salespeople you have — it is about LISTENING to the clients!
(c) I mistakenly thought that Americans thought logically when 99% think emotionally. Highly illogical captain. #sales
(d) Spock hired a salesforce to sell advertising and found that 97.6% of American consumers were highly illogical. #sales
(e) Trust translates into sales. In short, you sell without selling which is a Zen principle!

(f) You annoy by overselling; Gain trust and you’ll find that sales will go through like a hot knife through butter.
(g) Is it the number of salespeople or the character of the salespeople that really matters?
(h) Don’t count the number of salespeople you have, count the number of sales

You might also like:

The power of knowing people for outsourcing

Capitalizing on the shock factor in sales

How to sell like a pro, what exactly do they do?

Thinking big in business

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Do you think big? Do your friends think you think big? Do you think that others think small.

If you are consciously aware of how others think small, then you think bigger than they do.

Most people think small by the way.

Some people talk big, but don’t think big — or, at least are not willing to commit to what it takes to have big results.

There have been studies about people who thought big. There were two people from Israel from similar families, similar neighborhoods. Both went to the same school, and both had almost the same IQ. One became middle class, where the other became a billionaire. What was the difference? One thought big!

When you run a business, there are different things to think about. Who will answer the phone? How will someone answer the phone? How will you answer various types of questions? How will you train people? What type of product or service will you offer? How will you adjust your pricing to meet the neds of the market? If you run a small business, it is actually really difficult to picture running a huge enterprise.

Imagine that your business has you and two others working for you. How do you picture having 200 people running around doing various tasks for you. Can you picture that? I can not. Perhaps if you have two working for you, the next step is to think about having four working for you, and so on. Just think of that next step up the ladder. But, maybe it is good to think about something 100 times as big as what you have. It is a good thinking exercise to expand your horizons.

The secret of success is to be able to think about something that you think is impossible — yet realize that it IS possible.

When I started my first successful business as an adult, I thought it would be a directory for myself and a few others. I never pictured having 10000 clients. But, I heard a little voice inside me saying, “Think big, think big”. So, I decided to get a few hundred clients. I gave them free lisings. Many of those individuals turned out to be clients for more than a decade and pay big bucks now. How did this happen? It started out with me thinking big — and doing lots of hard work!

No matter where you are in your business, it doesn’t matter. We are all somewhere, and we are all evolving (or devolving). Make it a practice to force yourself to picture yourself in a very different bunch of situations. Think about having a business double the size, ten times the size and then one hundred times the size. Think about how you would deal with the issues that arose, and how to deal with the people involved. Think about how little time you would have for nonsense. Think about what you would delegate to others and how you would dictate policies to your managers. It is a lot to think about. Honestly, without really good managers below you, your big thoughts mean very little. So, when you think big, think about big systems that work — and how they work!

Force yourself to think big — and think realistically. But, most of all, you should have the ability to picture a reality happen that is not possible, according to your present thought patterns. That is the biggest skill of all! After all, the way that businesses unfold, and the way the life works is more similar to magic than anything else. So, believe in magic — just try to be realistic about it!!!


A note about myself. I have noticed that I evolved from a child who thought very small. Now that I am older, I see how much bigger I am thinking when I talk to others who think only about pennies. I realize how far I have come, and the change didn’t come overnight by any means. By me realizing how small others think — that proves to me how I am thinking bigger. It seems that most others I know think in a very pedantic and small minded way. I only know a few others that think bigger thoughts — and those are the ones who are succeeding. Therefore — think big!

Mistakes & learning from them

Categories: Management, Popular on Google+, Semi-Popular | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Learning from your mistakes

Do you kick yourself when you make mistakes, or do you regard them as a valuable opportunity to learn? Sometimes the value of what you learned from a mistake can be much greater than the financial damage done by the mistake. But, the value of what you can learn from a mistake is directly tied to how much thought you put into thinking about the mistake, and how you can avoid similar mistakes in the future.

A lot of mistakes that I have made were due to a lack of experience in seeing the signs of people’s behavior. I worked with someone who started out being a little bit sloppy. Since my other programmers were also somewhat sloppy, I felt like I had no choice, but to work with people who were sloppy. But, the sloppiness got much worst over time. The types of errors became more and more serious. It got to the point where we had scheduled a server migration when the site still had bugs in it. Then, after a migration of another site, the logout feature was actually broken for a few days which was a huge security risk. So, what should I learn from all of this? It is difficult to interpret if you start looking at the situation from months back. But, it seems very easy to interpret now.

If you hire someone who starts out doing something sloppy, this is really dangerous. Generally, when you start someone out, you are watching them closely and not giving them critical work. But, after you get comfortable with them, then you are in danger. Comfort is dangerous and the worst mistakes I have made in business were when I got comfortable with someone who I shouldn’t have had. The innocent mistakes on things that didn’t matter — down the road translated into dangerous mistakes that risked the integrity of my data on two occasions down the road. My mistake was that I overlooked an obvious sign.

From now on, when I see behavior which is sloppy, angry, questionable, slow, or unacceptable in any other way, I will stop working with that person if the bad behavior is the norm. I can accept 80% good work/attitude and 20% mediocre work/attitude from someone. But, that is as far as I will compromise. When it becomes 60-40 that doesn’t work. Here’s why. If you get to a point in the project where they make more mistakes than good work — and that ratio continues for more than a month, the staff member will not be able to endure your criticism. So remember, that 60% good work doesn’t cut it, because in a bad month it will become 30% good work which means endless unbearable criticism, and the worker will get fired during the bad month. If you start with 80% good work, then in a bad month, the majority of the work will still be good, and on a good month it will be nearly perfect. If you can find 100%, then take it, but if you are offered 80% — that is not bad.

I worked with someone else who avoided me, and was rarely around to answer calls. Since I knew her for years, she was within my comfort zone. She got worse and worse and my project ended up being the endless project from hell. I learned my lesson.

Don’t hire someone mediocre you are comfortable with — hire someone who will get the job done no matter how hard they are to find!

I learned from my mistakes. I hope you learn from your mistakes too! Remember — it is not bad to make mistakes, it is only bad not to learn from your mistakes. If you are really lucky you will learn from OTHER people’s mistakes!

(1) Failure is more important than #success in terms of what you learn from it.
(2) Do you kick yourself when you make mistakes, or do you regard them as a valuable opportunity to learn?
(3) I made many mistakes in business from not being able to read people’s behavior.
(4) People start off w/their best behavior when you 1st meet them.
If their best behavior is sloppiness, you’re in big trouble!
(5) When you start someone out, give them non-critical tasks & watch them closely

(6) Comfort is the most dangerous feeling you can have in business.
If you are too comfortable with someone, you let down your guard.
(7) If I see behavior which is sloppy, angry, questionable, slow or unacceptable in any way, I will cut my losses.
(8) If someone at an #outsourcing company is avoiding you, avoid them back & find a better

You might also like:

Steve Jobs watched his programmers carefully — so should you!

What are your work standards? When do you fire substandard workers?

Maintaining your calm in a busy world

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We all live in a busy world, but can you maintain your peace, your calm, or your mindfulness? Buddhists spend their life cultivating the meditative quality of mindfulness. This is not a bad quality to have in the workplace. As a manager, you have to deal with dozens of challenging situations per day. You have to step back, and try to not be too emotional, while you sort out problems step by step.

For me, the answer is obvious. If I can’t get away, then I can’t get my mind out of its rut. If you are always in the same environment, you tend to think of the same thoughts. Your mind becomes like a broken record player always repeating the same messages over and over. We are all like this, but each different person has their own broken record. Travel can get you into a new circumstance where you naturally think differently and come back refreshed.

But, what can you do if you can’t travel. You can still use yoga techniques to alter the patterns of your thoughts. Or, you can visit a peaceful park, and smell the flowers, see ducks swimming on a pond, and watch the grass grow for a while. After this calming activity which takes your mind away from your problems, you can go back to your problems, and you might see that you can more easily find effective solutions. Letting the mind rest and rejuvinate makes you more efficient. After the rest, the mind can solve problems much more quickly, and without the emotional baggage that you normally add to business decisions.

Gaining market share or gaining the type of market share

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In my type of business — the directory business — there are many challenges and many things to think about. We need a critical mass, but how much mass is really desireable? How many service providers do we need in a particular area.

I used to try to write blog entries to please the masses. I am realizing that most people just don’t think, and don’t want to. They don’t want to improve or learn much either. They generally refuse to be professional, or reliable as well, although they almost always make it a point to claim to be professional and reliable. What I learned is that having these poor quality people is a liability on a directory, and trying to attract them on Twitter, search engines, blogs, etc., just isn’t a rewarding idea in the long run although I might get some clicks.

So, what does matter? Or, what does matter to me in any case? Quality people matter. The people on our directory who are engaging, interesting, communicative, funny, friendly, and serious about what they do are the type of people that companies want to outsource to. Of course these people are not merely people, they are generally heads of companies. Some are heads of small companies, while others have high positions in very large companies. The point is not how large their organization is, but how desireable they are to talk with and work with.

I think that if I had a much smaller directory, but had these very dynamic types that I described in the last paragraph, that my directory would be a lot better.

Skill level is another factor. I do not do data entry, and can not test them at their skill. I feel that my directory for outsourcing would be a lot better if I could find some metric to test how good various companies are at data entry. First we go through the ones who don’t pick up the phone, and then the ones who answer unprofessionally. But, finally, when we get a manager, we can see if we can get them talking about data entry. My strategy is open ended questions. I’ll leave it up to them. I’ll ask them to tell me as much as they can about the snags in data entry. I’ll just shut up and let them do the talking. If they make it sound intelligent, I’ll assume that they have some good skills and are paying attention. I’ll leave the rest of the metrics to other analytics.

Wish me luck! And — if you are the charismatic leader of a reliable outsourcing company — we want you on our directory. Start with a free listing!

What are your work standards? When do you fire substandard workers?

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Many bosses don’t have exact work standards. That is too bad. I pay commission, so if you make poor commissions, then I know that something is wrong! That is easy! Some jobs are harder to assess than others in terms of performance. As a boss, it is your job to figure out how well your people should be doing at various levels of experience. If they don’t meet the mark, then get rid of them.

If you don’t train people adequately, then it is YOU who is to blame if you have good workers who don’t perform. People need interaction with their managers other than yelling sessions. Your job is to TEACH, not to yell. Yelling comes after a generous period of nurturing where the worker just won’t cooperate no matter what. Honestly, you should fire anyone you have to regularly yell at unless you only have to yell at them about a particular detail.

Yelling is a last recourse. In India people get an ego trip for yelling at their inferiors. The concept of inferiority is huge in India by the way. Sometimes, you can not get good workers, so you have to settle for nitwits who benefit from being yelled at. Choose carefully who you yell at. For some it is actually constructive, and for others, you just upset them!

Hiring people with a good attitude does wonders!

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By hiring people with a great attitude, you not only get a cooperative worker, but there are many other benefits as well. People with good attitudes are easier to teach because they want to learn. Even if they are not that smart, they will cooperate more! Another good factor is that people with a good attitude will be less likely to cheat you in the long run. Remember, that sometimes workers start out good, but cheat you in the long run. Their bad attitude might not surface in terms of cheating right away — these personality traits can be detectable early, but the effects can be dormant for a while!

You need to also consider that someone with a positive attitude is a huge influence on the other workers at your BPO, and also on you. You will be happier, and more positive and harder working if you have good people working for you. It is a win-win situation.

So, pay a little more and hire someone who has the right attitude to make everyone on their team win!

Being LIKED is a huge factor in being an outsourcing manager

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I was reading the Harvard Business Review blog the other day. They divided managers into four quadrants according to how well they were liked and then discussed how their associated teams did. The findings were devastating to managers who were not liked. Managers in the lowest quadrant for likeability had almost no teams who were in the most successful quadrant. However, those teams with the most likeable managers on average performed on a much higher level. The finding was, that the more likeable the manager was, the more successful the team will be on average.

So, how does this apply to managers of business process outsourcing companies? India is where the majority of outsourcing is done these days with the Philippines and China catching up fast. Due to the culture in India: having a management position gives you status in society. It is hard to get a decent marriage without a management position as a matter of fact! The problem is that Indians think too much of their status in society and how to make a show of superiority to their workers. Some outsourcing managers in India are very nice, but many are overburdened and very rough with their workers. According to the likeability study, this is a serious problem.

If a manager of an outsourcing company has 20+ workers under them (often the case in India), and they are unavailable most of the time, and threatening the other part of the time, how will the workers perform? The answer is that there will be many issues due to the lack of guidance and lack of nurturing. My personal experience is that workers need interaction with their managers to keep on track with their work. They need encouragement and praise on a regular basis in the form of feedback. They also need to know what they need to work on and some validation that you think they can really do it (especially when learning a new skill). If you are just unavailable, then you can not give any guidance, feedback, or double checking of work. If you are mean, then workers will have a bad taste in their mouth about work.

In my experience, the minute an outsourcing worker gets a bad taste in their mouth about whomever they work with — they turn off. I am not speaking of every human being in this world, but many people are like this. I have had numerous experiences where I started out with an average relationship with an outsourcing worker (often outsourced from a different company). Work went fine. The minute we had some disagreements, their work became really bad, and stayed bad for the rest of the relationship. They either quit or got fired after a few months.

Since you are almost forced to be likeable as a manager, what do you do when you can’t accept a worker’s work? Some people are just plain sloppy, or give horrible answers to questions. How can you praise such people? You need to give at least five compliments for each criticism to have a good long term relationship in work or friendship. It seems that you need to fire people who you can not be likeable around, otherwise the negative environment can poison your relationship with others!

You are a helpless victim if you hire the wrong company

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There is nothing worse than being a business owner who is helpless. You might be a millionaire or a “crorepati”, but if you hire the wrong people to work for you, you will be as helpless as an elderly person at a nursing home screaming, “Help… help… will somebody help me…?” All the money in the world will not help you get these jerks to deliver on their promises or get their work done on time. As a business owner you need to be smart, otherwise you will be in this helpless situation over and over again. You can fire one company only to get another BPO company that strings you up and dangles you almost exactly like the last one did. They don’t care about long term business, and they hate their clients. How do you protect yourself from bad software companies or bad outsourcing companies?

First of all, it is common for Americans to be mistrustful of companies in other countries. I will tell you from first hand experience that companies abroad are not worse than American companies. Their workers might be smarter or dumber depending on where you go, but the integrity violations are worse on American soil than India. The problem in India is not integrity, it is that they put some incompetent beginner on your project who can barely function, while the American company tries to charge you $60 per hour for a minimum wage employee who is completely unhelpful. Either way you get screwed, but at least in India they get quadruple the amount of work done (in octuple the amount of hours at 25% of the cost per hour — do the math). You will get screwed almost every time unless you know how to shop.

Quick Tips
Does the boss give you a better worker upon your request? If not, fire them.
Is the company willing to do a test project for you? If not, don’t hire them
Does the company bid 10 hours on a 3 hour job? Don’t use them.
Did the company deliver sloppy work on a test project? Don’t use them.

Checking References
Did you check the company’s references online? It is always good to check references, but treat them with a grain of salt (if doing outsourcing, preferably sea salt). I checked one company’s references, and they were good. I read online reviews, and contacted three clients they gave me as references. They checked out well. So, I was safe, right? I asked them to do an estimate for a project that takes American programmers 3 hours, and Indian programmers a little longer (Things in India take longer because they have less experienced programmers allocated to YOUR job. The good ones work at Oracle and Intel in India). This company wanted 10 hours to do a 3 hour job AND charged quadruple per hour. I would have lost my shirt if I had relied solely on reviews. So, check reviews, but don’t rely on them. A review is only a statement from a company’s best client. What you really want to know is how their worst client feels.

The test project idea
You never know who a good company to work with will be. However, there are ways to weed bad companies out to improve your odds of being lynched by bad software companies. Putting them through a test run, or serious of test runs is one way to do it. Remember, companies that have salespeople or programmers that talk well at interviews DON’T DELIVER 80% of the time. Without a test run, you will get only talk, and no verification that they at least CAN deliver when they are trying. It still doesn’t say how they will perform when they stop trying, but at least a test run tells you something.

Being helpless is dangerous
You can lose money if you fire someone in the middle of a project. You can get sued for not paying someone for work they left half done. A bad company can damage your programming or data (and not care even a little bit). They can hurt your feelings, not to mention delay you for months on end without a second thought. Beware. You are dealing with scoundrels out there. Protect yourself.

Small talk, Indians, and attracting US clients

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I remember that a year ago I wrote a blog entry calledAre Indians too uptight in business?

The answer is that they are.
However, I just read an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review blog about American Culture. Since I live in America, I am oblivious to American Culture. It is just around me and I don’t notice it. It just seems “normal”. But, Americans have a culture of making small talk. People are usually informal here. We are not British after all. Other cultures have too many rules for us, and might seem uptight. Even hispanic cultures have too many restrictions about what you can talk about for our standards. Despite how open the Latinos seem, they are quite restricted socially in many ways. Many just clam up when something is wrong, and they refuse to talk about it.

Indians are great at small talk. Wherever I go in India, people like to chat. Kerela and Mumbai are the friendliest places in the country, but even in less friendly places, people still chat and make small talk. So, what is the problem then? Indians are good at small talk, right? Sometimes — only!

Indians are great when you meet them on the street — assuming they can speak English. Okay, they might be great TO YOU if they only speak Marathi with a Thane accent, but to me, they are only great if they speak a language that I also know — at least enough to chat! Indians are fun at parties, unless they are the snobby types. Indians can sometimes be fun to work with too, if they know you a bit. But, when doing business, the best characteristcs of Indian culture get swallowed up by their uptightness.

When doing business, Indians become rigid. Social butterflies suddenly feel awkward when entering the workplace and don’t dare say anything. Information about their company becomes impersonal and is reduced to a list of percentages of various inconsequential statistics which are supposed to make them look business like. To Americans this is distasteful. We don’t want to hear a bunch of empty statistics that can’t be backed up. We don’t like uptight people either. We like Indians when they are NOT trying to be businesslike.

If Indians who catered to American clients were told that they could meet with the Americans, but ONLY if it were off the clock, they would be a different person. They would loosen up. They would unbutton the top button of their shirt. They would sit a little bit more relaxedly. They would become so much more pleasant to be around now that they are not trying to impress upon you how “businesslike” and professional they are. In short, they would suddenly become exactly the type of people that Americans would LOVE to hire — assuming their technical skills were up to par which is another serious issue often lacking in India.

So, when you are talking to American clients, pretend that you are not at work. Pretend you are meeting them for a beer. Of course, while you are discussing the beer, make sure that you can give professional sounding answers to all of their questions without delay, so that they know you are someone hireable. But, be a little bit friendly and casual — and we will like you more — perhaps we will like you a lot!