Monthly Archives: February 2015

Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys

For 15 years of my career, I had the tremendous good fortune to work for a brilliant, disciplined and tough businessman. He was the chairman of our parent company in New York. His name was William F. Reilly. He was a self-made man. Harvard MBA, military paratrooper and a corporate executive who rose through the ranks and to the top of several major companies.

Sadly, he is no longer with us but he lives on in spirit, through guiding principles and in the approach to business that he lectured on, cajoled, directed, mandated and taught to so many from his management team.

He had many amazing theories, philosophies and business practices. He was known for certain sayings and business axioms. He had absolutely no tolerance for smoke and mirrors, BS and obfuscation. He could see through it and cut through it all with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel.

When you went into a meeting with Bill, you damn well better know your business inside and out or be prepared to be skewered with questions and follow-up assignments. In fact, working for Bill was like going through an MBA program on steroids with the equivalent of pop quizzes and essays presented at any time.

In my experience his approach to business was insightful, to the point and often brilliant its practicality. He dealt in reality, not pie-in-the-sky theory as contained in so many business books.

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One of his pet business principles related to people. I.e. talent. He would often dig deep into the performance of your managers and their teams. This was the case for business units and brands that were doing well. It was an even deeper dive and grilling when there were business challenges. He wanted to know about the team. He wanted to know if you knew about your team. Were they the right people? Were they in the right job? Were they motivated? And, among many other criteria, were they properly compensated? At least within the scope of similar positions in the industry. Oh, and you were expected to know that answer so one had to stay up-to-speed on all the industry salary surveys and be prepared to benchmark your people against the data.

On the topic of compensation, his theory was “pay peanuts, get monkeys”. To Bill, it was not a badge of honor for a manager to have hired an employee for a bargain. He believed that, within reason and reflective of market dynamics, you had to pay for top talent. When you didn’t, you got what you paid for. If you had a manager who was underperforming and he/she was underpaid, it was you, not that person who was on the hot seat. Essentially, he figured that you had received the performance that you paid for.

Bill’s theory on compensation and talent have resonated with me throughout my career. From time-to-time, I see or hear situations in client businesses that validate Bill’s theory. I readily share it with them. With full attribution, of course.

Note: If you have an interesting and/or educational CEO story of Head Noise caliber, write to me at cbishop@capitusgroup.com. I’d love to speak with you and share your story in my Head Noise blog. You can tell your story either on the record or, without attribution.

Cameron Bishop is a partner with The Capitus Group. The firm provides comprehensive business value enhancement and transition strategy solutions. Partners and Advisory Directors comprise an experienced team of business professionals who have successfully owned, run, grown and sold companies. Capitus utilizes proven value enhancement and risk reduction techniques to enable superior transition options.

 

 

 

 

 

So, There’s a Science to Business Referrals…Who Knew It!?

Spending the better part of a career in an industry that involved managing brands and products and then moving to a service industry—management consulting– is a significant change.

One moves from a business or industry that focuses on creating brands, establishing brand position and then driving home brand awareness to a world that is heavily dependent on a personal brand and the subsequent business referrals created by that personal brand.

As I have discovered, the process and approach in many respects are amazingly different. You yourself become the product and you create your awareness through building relationships.

Early on in my journey along a new career track, I was fortunate (ironically, through a referral) to learn of an innovative business that helps teach professionals the science—yes, science– and the art of developing, managing, reciprocating and respecting the referral-based economy.

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They actually offer a course in this art/science. And, I readily admit it, I was at first skeptical. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I signed up for and took the course presented by SalezWorks. The course is led by Breandan Filbert and Joyce Laymen, two master networkers who refer to themselves as connectors. And that they are.

This course is intensive. It meets once per week for five weeks. Each session is 3.5 to 4 hours. It is interactive, small group in format and follows a strict course outline with a well-prepared and organized workbook. The course is called “9 Steps to Productive Prospecting.”

Plus, there’s homework. Lots of homework. Primarily practical, hands-on versus theoretical.

The end result is a very thought-provoking course with substantial upside. It’s a course that invokes a new and different perspective. There’s something really quite refreshing about that. And, to top it off, the course organizers are very strategic and intentional about the profile and makeup of the class participants. Everyone comes away from the program with valuable new business contacts and friends. Win/win.

6 key things I’ve learned in this course in exchange for my time and the program fee:

  • Even in the referral process, setting goals is imperative.
  • There’s a huge difference between being a business resource and being a referral partner.
  • There are actual mathematic formulas to be used that can quantify the value of referrals, referral sources and, therefore, the amount of time to be devoted to the referral process as part of business development.
  • In identifying a critical referral partner, it is every bit as important that you understand your partner’s business as well as they understand yours.
  • Your partner needs to know exactly what you expect from them and what your primary client/prospect profile looks like.
  • There’s a well-defined system and process for developing and leveraging a referral network.

The knowledge and tactics I gained during this course will have a material effect on how I build my practice.

So much for the iconic saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Note: If you have an interesting and/or educational CEO story of Head Noise caliber, write to me at cbishop@capitusgroup.com. I’d love to speak with you and share your story in my Head Noise blog. You can tell your story either on the record or, without attribution.

Cameron Bishop is a partner with The Capitus Group. The firm provides comprehensive business value enhancement and transition strategy solutions. Partners and Advisory Directors comprise an experienced team of business professionals who have successfully owned, run, grown and sold companies. Capitus utilizes proven value enhancement and risk reduction techniques to enable superior transition options.

The Nigerian Nightmare

No matter how caring or conscientious a company and its employees may be, on occasion most receive some kind of call from an irate or even crazy customer.

Such was the case, or so we first thought, when a call came in that accused us of stealing from a woman in Pennsylvania by writing a bad check.

Thus began our 18 month-long Nigerian nightmare.

Apparently, this woman advertised a couch for sale on Craig’s List. A man in Tennessee contacted her about buying the bed and offered her the asking price. He stated that he would send her a check via overnight UPS mail. She was to deposit the check, retain her share for the price of the couch plus some additional cash for her trouble and then wire the rest to an account that the buyer provided.

After she received the check, followed the instructions and wired on the remaining balance, she learned 3 days later that the check had bounced and she was out a lot of money. About $2,400.

The check? An exact counterfeit duplicate of our company’s check with the exception of one incorrect digit in the account number. Thankfully, our bank caught it and refused payment.

It soon became clear that this was not to be a one-time incident. The calls began to multiply and become angrier. Every victim thought we were to blame. It wasn’t long before the calls over a matter of months were well over 100 and they came from all over the country. Some days there were as many as 5 to 10. As it turns out, there are countless ways to scam gullible people who think they can make an easy buck.

Within days of the beginning of this scam, we engaged the help of local police fraud detectives and contacted county and federal prosecutors as well. The Feds couldn’t offer any help because none of the scam checks were written for more than about $2,600. The federal authorities explained that the scam artists know this and deliberately go for a larger quantity of scam checks with lower amounts to avoid federal level intervention. The county level prosecutor’s office said there was nothing they could do either.

The city police told us this was a classic Nigerian check scam. Based on experience, they know that these scams are impossible to catch or stop. The money that each victim wired away actually went to another victim of the scam. This second victim was lead to believe that they were helping an offshore charity by receiving the wired money, keeping a few hundred dollars as payment for themselves and then wiring the rest of the money to what turns out to be offshore bank accounts, usually in Nigeria.

The fraud detectives explained that in Nigeria, one can actually take a course in how to scam and defraud Americans and that it is considered an honorable profession.

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At one point, we thought we were clever and attempted to identify the scammer’s source location by the UPS account number on the UPS envelope used to send the fraud check to the victim after convincing one victim to send us the UPS envelope. It turns out that the UPS account number used was stolen from a company in New Jersey.

A month or two later, we thought we were again clever by identifying a drop point for one of the checks. We caught an address, searched it via Google Earth and Street View only to see that the address was an abandoned building in a bad neighborhood in The Bronx.

For a year-and-a-half we chased this matter, worked with authorities and put out fires. We addressed every single angry caller and provided them with details of our efforts to stop it. All to avoid some type of social media smear or a trumped up lawsuit that could have severely impacted our company image and reputation.

Every time we thought it had ended, it would again flair up for brief periods and affect victims all over the country. There was no pattern. In fact, after some time, the scammers even stopped using our CFO’s name and signature and started using a variety names as the check signer. All of the other names used to sign the checks were names of our employees and none of them had signing authority.

We ultimately survived the situation. The checks finally stopped and we came away unscathed in social media and no one sued us. But, the price for that diligence did exact a heavy toll on management time and the volume and frequency of our Head Noise.

Note: If you have an interesting and/or educational CEO story of Head Noise caliber, write to me at cbishop@capitusgroup.com. I’d love to speak with you and share your story in my Head Noise blog. You can tell your story either on the record or, without attribution.

Cameron Bishop is a partner with The Capitus Group. The firm provides comprehensive business value enhancement and transition strategy solutions. Partners and Advisory Directors comprise an experienced team of business professionals who have successfully owned, run, grown and sold companies. Capitus utilizes proven value enhancement and risk reduction techniques to enable superior transition options.