Last week, I ripped HR a new one.
Yesterday, Laurie Ruettimann reminded me that if you’re going to criticize, you should have a solution ready to go.
She’s right, and I do have a solution. It goes like this:
Find out how your company makes money.
Once a week for the next four weeks, take one of your lunch hours and go talk with people in various parts of your company who can explain to you, in plain English, exactly how raw materials become finished goods (or how ideas become service offerings), and how sales happen, from initial contact to cash in the bank. Take them to lunch. Buy lunch for both of you. Tell them it’s your way of compensating them for answering what you’re certain will be an hour’s worth of rudimentary questions, and for helping you out.
Some topics you might want to ask about:
- Marketing decisions: who are your target markets? Why?
- What’s the plan moving forward?
- How does the company generate prospecting lists?
- How is sales organized?
- Who builds sales demos?
- Incentive programs for customers… and incentive programs for the salespeople… motivate what behaviors?
- Are products discounted?
- Who responds to RFPs? Who finds out about them?
- Invoicing & collections: how quickly do your clients pay?
- How tight are the daily delivery routes?
- How well is the warehouse managed? What does it look like? How disciplined are the workers there?
- What’s the real impact of unionization on the floor workers?
- Real estate: does your company own or lease? Why?
- Who owns purchasing decisions?
- Does the company hedge fuel purchases?
- Major client accounts: how much of the overall revenue do they represent?
- What does the company do with its cash? Does it have a huge checking account? Does it invest in 1-year bonds?
- Who is on the Board of Directors, and why?
- What are the company’s loan obligations? What impact do those obligations have on the firm’s ability to take risks or make investments?
- What new strategic projects are planned for next year?
- What strategic projects are being considered?
- What does top management see as the number one obstacle to growth?
- What do the rank and file see as the number one obstacle to growth?
See where this is going?
Build an understanding of the business. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll automatically become more effective at your job.
And if you lack the curiosity or authenticity to ask these questions and genuinely care about the answer?
Then go back to your desk and take what’s coming to you, even if it’s a great big donkey nugget, because you have no right to complain.
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.