Business Essentials: Know Your Value!

Know your value The Story

I’d like to share with you a quick story about your business and why you need to know your value.  It is my hope that by reading this, you may be more willing to understand and demand what you are worth.

A colleague and I were sitting down with a potential client not long ago.  This person had heard that we had recently written a book and wanted our help in writing one.  Of course, we are happy to help people to write a book, but we also consider it a service to the client to ensure that what we do is actually going to benefit the client.  In accordance with good practice, we had a long conversation to try and isolate the desired outcomes for the planned book project.

After some discussion, we began to realize that the client has developed a highly specialized skill set in a very close knit industry.  There are generally only a few dozen practitioners of this particular service.  The client’s boss had carefully crafted a set of processes that could be employed for tremendous value in uncommon but critical moments.  The boss was widely known and respected and, consequently, had great demands upon his time.  Our prospective client had approached the boss about capturing these skills in a book.  The boss had indicated that the idea had merit, but indicated that due to the demands on his time, he couldn’t write the book himself, and he challenged our prospective client to write the book.

And that is how we came to have this conversation.  Our client wanted to create a book describing how the firm did what they did.  It was at this point that my colleague and I both started recognizing some real concerns about the business case for the book project.  We found it unwise to provide detailed descriptions of the “secret sauce” of their corporate expertise.  I was trying to draw the client’s attention to the value proposition of book idea.  In any business, it is important to know your value.  But after raising our concerns, our client didn’t seem to understand the basis of our concerns.

Undeterred, I tried to illustrate our concern in the following way:

I asked, “How long has your boss been performing this service?”

“Ten years.”

I then asked for the boss’s hourly rate.

“$175 an hour.”

“So, assuming a conservative workload of 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, we can estimate your boss works at least 2000 hours a year.  He’s been doing this for 10 years and at an hourly rate of $175 an hour, this means that your boss’s experience and expertise could be fairly valued at least $3.5 million dollars—and here you want to give away that much value for the cost of a paperback.

After that comment, our client’s face looked confused—struggling to grasp the significance of the comment.

I continued, “Listen, I think it is a great thing that you want to pass on useful and specialized skills to others in your industry.  It’s obvious that this will benefit them.  All we’re saying that it should work for you, too.  Don’t you think that the value you offer is worth more than the cost of a book?”  We then went on to talk about creating educational content for participants at a more favorable price point.

Takeaway

The point of the lesson is that it is vitally important to appropriately value your offering.  Not only is this a function of one’s realization of the economic value of what you have to offer, but also to have the self-esteem necessary to demand appropriate compensation for that value.

Conquering Procrastination: Nothing’s Going to Change

nothings-going-to-change

The Sign I Keep Above My Desk

This is the sign I keep above my desk in my office. It constantly warns me of the dangers of procrastination.

Many of us want to make a change in our lives.  We want to be more successful, improve our relationships, or go after our dreams.  The terrible truth is that willful change is hard.  It is easy to continue to go about one’s routine.  Routine doesn’t put much stress on your mind.  (If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you have ever found yourself getting out of your car at work and you realize that you don’t remember the drive.)

Procrastination

Many of us struggle with procrastination. The biggest separator between the dreamers and the doers may be how one contends with the challenge of procrastination. Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is just showing up.” It’s absolutely true. The challenge of procrastination is so pervasive that the vast majority of people share it. While your procrastination is certainly a challenge you’ll need to overcome to make a difference, be content in the knowledge that since everyone contends with it and so few transcend it, you will find that if you can clear this hurdle, there are far fewer contenders who remain in the game than you think.

“You can mess around all you want, but nothing’s going to change.” Like everyone, I struggle with procrastination. I’m often tempted to jump on facebook, youtube, or consume internet news. My sign reminds me that every second I do that, I am not doing what will empower me to make my life better.

Empower.

I don’t use that word lightly. If you believe, as I do, that procrastination may be the biggest roadblock to success you can face, then success is simply a choice. It is a choice to do the hard thing when you’re tempted not to.

I challenge you to draw up your own sign to prompt you to nip procrastination in the bud. Put it in a prominent place where you have to see it every day. You owe it to yourself to get off the couch and get about the business of delivering yourself the life you want!

Earn Your Promotion: Guidance on Getting the Job You Want

workplace, team, business meeting

Self promotion in the workplace

I bet you thought I was going to go on and on about social media and bragadocious things you can say about yourself.  HA!  Most people never promote themselves because they cannot!  What do I mean by that?  When was the last time you walked into your boss’ office and said, “See that corner office over there?  I want it.  Give me a promotion!”  Would the boss respond positively or negatively to that?  Who knows?

The usual promotion process is completely different.  You work at your desk or visit your clients in the field, or deliver your products and install them, then go home at the end of the night, only to start over in the morning.  If you do get a promotion, it may be due to someone above you quitting or retiring or (God forbid) getting fired.  The boss looks around and you just happen to be close to what he wants in that position and you get promoted.  Some promotions are proscribed due to length of service.  In rare cases, the boss finds someone he wants to promote, goes to them and tells them what classes to take, how to improve their service, what questions to ask and mentors them into a position.

Getting more pay 

In the sit-coms of the 1960’s and 70’s, one of the plot points in common was going to the boss to ask for a raise.  This plot point was considered good comic material because nearly everyone in the work force could identify with this situation.  They were not asking for promotions because that was a change in the type of work they enjoyed.  They just wanted more money for the work they were already doing.  No one seems to be doing that now.  We seek to get group raises.  We seek to get new benefits as a group.  Imagine everyone in a company going in individually to the HR department and negotiating a new wage and benefit package tailored to individual situations!  “I’ll take a 2% raise if you throw in 20% more in health benefits.”  “I need a 5% raise, my wife is pregnant.”  “I don’t really need a raise, but if you could get me an extra week’s vacation so I can see my kid graduate from Harvard, that would be great!”  If you are doing relatively better work than those of your colleagues, shouldn’t you get relatively more money?  Businesses pay the position, not the worker for the amount of work completed.

That brings up the question, “How do I get more money if everyone in my department gets the same?”  Some companies have a Pay For Performance benefit–a bonus paid for going beyond the expected output.  One business I worked in, this was the case.  They set a standard, and watched as all the workers changed their emphasis to fulfilling the requirement for PFP.  The frustration came in when the company changed the standards and the areas for PFP randomly.  The standard for processing accounts was 350 in a day.  One person did 734.  (The record still stands…)  The company reviewed this process and changed it to require more steps, then they raised the standard to 500 in a day.  Subsequently, no one got the bonus.  Then, ten days later, the PFP was based on the number of phone call clients serviced.  There suddenly was no purpose in processing accounts efficiently and quickly. The focus changed to getting orders quickly and getting off the phone so you could take another call.  The PFP changed again a mere six days later.  In a short time, the workers were ignoring the new PFP emails containing the new standards. The PFP slowly disappeared.

The solution is to get promoted

The way to get more money in a company that pays by position is to change position–go into management, get a promotion.  Most companies, however, do not have a chart that says, “If you do this, this, that, those, this, this and this, you can get promoted to Manager 1st class.”  This is silly.  When you are in elementary school, if you spell your words correctly, do your arithmetic correctly, do 5 book reports, get good scores on your social studies, then you will pass on to the next grade.  It’s true in each school system up through college.  When you are in scouts, if you complete these badge requirements, do this leadership project, and help at least 15 little old ladies across the street, you get promoted.  In sports, if you come to practice every day and do all the required exercises and improve your technique, you get to play varsity.  Of course in every activity, there will be some requirements that need to be met outside of group practices, but generally this is the assumption.

But in the corporate world, if there is no chart, how do you know what to do to get promoted?  Research!  What qualifications are required to get the promotion to the next level?  You can get that by going on line to find out what they are in the company you work for, and for companies in the same type of business. What are the education and experience requirements?  Are there certification tests to be passed?  Are there management positions available?  What qualities do you already have?  Can you develop these qualities, or learn the skills?  Can you join activities or clubs that will develop these skills and qualities?

Ask questions!

Get an appointment with someone in the position you aspire to.  Ask him/her for help!  How did that person get the job?  Was it from an outside company or from school?  Was it from within the company?  What does this position entail?  Is it something you could do?

Get an appointment (or just coffee!) with the supervisor in charge of the department and tell him/her that you are interested in a promotion.  Ask this person, point blank, what you would have to do to get a promotion.  Most importantly, take notes!

Take Steps

Now that you know what it takes, start by finding places to get the skills and qualities you need.  If you need to improve communication skills, for instance, then you should take communications classes.  You could join a speaking club.  You could get self-help books from the library, or you could buy them and place them in a prominent place in your office or work space.  (Hint:  you need to actually read them.)  If you need leadership skills, work with an organization that develops those skills.  Scouts are always looking for more adult participation.  Charitable organizations and churches are places to practice your leadership.  Think about community involvement, classes in management, or just hanging around a really good leader and watching him/her in action.  Check Leadership blogs. https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/solomonsadvisor.wordpress.com is one I read.  There are many others.

In conclusion, if you want that promotion, you need to promote yourself first.  Become the person it takes to fill the role, then improve on that until you are more than what’s required.  Ask what it takes and then do what it takes.

 

 

 

When Things Go Wrong: Five Minutes of Terror

crisis, not, low

crisis

When things go wrong. Five Minutes of Terror.

So I had about 5 minutes of pure terror this morning.

I’ve been seeking to add plugins to the WordPress framework upon which this site has been built. The plugins are intended to make better interaction with social media.

As is often the case with software development, generally, the routines that programmers put together do what they are intended to do internally. Most problems occur when bits of code written by one individual have to play nice with bits of code written by others. That is what happened today.

I added a plugin and immediately got an error.  Nervously, I proceeded to try and deactivate the plugin but found that the plugin had created an internal error. It wasn’t possible to deactivate the plugin. In fact, I couldn’t do anything. I was effectively locked out of my own website.

I’ve found that when you get hit in the gut, it’s important to take a moment, collect your thoughts, and think slow. Work the problem. I went to another computer to ensure it wasn’t something at my end. Sure enough the problem was server side. I then made a cup of coffee. I thought about what I should do. Let’s consider the wisdom of others. Google is your friend in such times. After a minute I learned that perhaps a solution would simply to go into the file structure for the site and change the name of the folder for the offending plugin. That way wordpress couldn’t find it and would hopefully as normal.

One of the virtues of the wordpress platform is it’s modular design. Plugins are self-contained in most cases so changes such as these are of lower risk. I made the change and low and behold… I am now typing this blog post on the site with fully restored access.

Whew!

Lessons Learned

There are several good lessons here.

  1. We remember the importance of good design and the separation of concerns. The more cross connected your structures area, whether that be in design or other organizational systems, the more difficult problem solving is.
  2. We further are reminded that it is at the point of connection when systems are usually most vulnerable. That is true for business units just as it is for coding.
  3. When problems emerge, it is important to stay clear headed and maybe to take a step away for a moment to ready yourself for problem solving.
    Work the problem by diagnosing and isolating the issue through testing. It does no good to randomly try “something” and hope things work out.
  4. Finally, try and tap into that vast reservoir of knowledge, wisdom, and experience that exists in the large community. Know that most people will try to help you if you simply ask.