Enabling Morons Through My Own Weak Management
Life Lesson: “Control your own destiny or someone else will.” –Jack Welch
**This article was written by author and U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year, Clay Clark. Clay travels the country nationally serving as a Las Vegas Motivational Speaker and business coach.
And so, powered by Redbull and the creativity spawned by Thomas-Edison-esc levels of sleep deprivation, we headed into the 2006 year. (**Fun note – The great inventor Thomas Edison was famous for pulling all-nighters in his never-ending quest to invent things that would greatly impact the lives of consumers. Apparently, he felt that the peak levels of creativity could only be reached once one was under the influence of sleep deprivation). At the time, our office team consisted of BJ Blocker, Andy Simmons, Aaron Smith, Nate Moseley, Keith Banks, DJ Hugo Chavez, Eric Cooper, Roger Thompson, Jason Bailey, Josh Smith, Achilles, and one or two other dudes who I am unintentionally forgetting and who will definitely be offended once it is called to their attention that I forgot their names in this segment.
Each Monday morning this group of “always fun” and “60-percent productive” DJs would arrive at work for the 8:00 a.m. Monday morning meeting with an anticipation or a fear for what the upcoming week had for them. Each Monday, after all the late fees had been assessed (and around 30 percent of the guys paid late fees every Monday), our meeting agenda would consist of:
The Good Wood – This part of the Monday morning meeting was spent discussing any positive things that were happening at DJ Connection at the time, and what practical steps we needed to seize the opportunities presented to us. (Example: DJ Josh would say, “This weekend I worked with Kitty over at the Golf Club of Oklahoma, and she told me that she loves us. She also told me that they are having a membership appreciation party in the spring, and we need to jump on that thing like ‘Apache’” (the Sugar Hill Gang song).
The Abominations – This part of the Monday morning meeting was devoted to an in-depth exploration into what went wrong during the previous week, who was to blame for it, and how we could fix it with practical, applicable steps. This part of our meeting was nearly always devoted to chastising the same people for being late each week and to chewing out the production department for screwing up yet again. Much of this portion of our agenda was also spent exploring who stole someone else’s leads and what we could do to fix it. Generic and weak general comments like, “Hey, I am not wanting to call anyone out here, but someone has been taking my leads” were always available in abundance at these meetings. Then someone would inevitably respond with the,
“I will kick your ass! Don’t accuse me of stealing leads, you bastard.” At this point in time, I was completely oblivious to the fact that the key to reducing this portion of our weekly agenda had nothing to do with increasing my intensity or increasing the volume at which I chastised people who were perpetually late. The key to reducing our weekly abominations was only going to come through reducing the number of underperforming-excuse-giving-morons that we had present at each meeting.
The Motivational Topic – Each week, I would spend hours and hours reading motivational and business-related management books in an attempt to motivate our underperformers. And each week the “motivational topic” would always inspire one underperformer for about a week before they would be up to their underperforming ways again. It was frustrating as hell for me to see grown men desperately searching and yearning for something to inspire and motivate them each week. I read a quote from Zig Ziglar, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing… that’s why we recommend it daily,” and thus I prepared my weekly motivational topics with a sense of religious duty. I felt then, and I still feel now, that a leader’s number-one job is to set the vision and to relentlessly make sure that the organization is always working toward the goals associated with that vision. Essentially, working each week to make sure that the organization was getting closer to the goal instead of further away.
At the time, DJ Connection was averaging around $17,000 to $21,000 per week in sales (which was good); however, this $21,000 per week in sales was divided by Aaron Smith, Nate Moseley, Josh Smith, Achilles, Jason Bailey, Keith Banks, and myself (which was not good). To put this in perspective, each sales guy was averaging a super-weak sauce $3,000 per week in sales. Thus, they were each averaging merely $300 per week in commission payouts. Basically, they were coming to work to have fun, but they were not coming to work to get paid; and because one half of the sales team was making an additional $600.00 per week just DJ-ing on the weekends, some of them were actually content with their underperformance. At the time, the only three guys who were consistently performing at a high level were Nate Moseley, Achilles, and Josh Smith. In my attempt to improve our sales totals and to compensate for everyone else’s lack of performance, I just kept hiring additional quasi-competent people instead of just rewarding the top people and removing all of the bottom people. And with each new hire I brought on, I further de-motivated the top performers because their pie of inbound sales calls was being continually cut into smaller and smaller pieces.
I had not yet read Jack Welch’s philosophy on differentiation. The concept of only hiring “A-player” and “B-player” employees was completely foreign to me at the time, so I just kept trying to fill the gaping holes left by mediocre employees by bringing on additional mediocre employees. It was horrible, but to save you the headache, let me briefly explain the belief system behind Jack Welch and his system of differentiation:
Step 1: Review your employees and determine your TOP 20 percent, YOUR MIDDLE 70 percent, and YOUR BOTTOM 10 percent IN TERMS OF THEIR ACTUAL JOB PERFORMANCE.
Step 2: REWARD YOUR TOP 20 percent by publically praising your “A-players” with bonuses, love, and various other rewards.
Step 3: Manage your middle 70 percent with extreme caution and care as you will quickly find that most of your organization is comprised of this middle 70 percent which Jack calls the “B-players.” Work tirelessly to be candid with your “B-players” about where they stand in your company and what steps they must take to become an “A-player.”
Step 4: (The hard part) YOU MUST REMOVE THE BOTTOM 10 percent OF YOUR STAFF (YOUR “C-PLAYERS”) annually, if not every six months. Essentially this system will allow you to reward your top people and to remove your bottom people, and it works great as long as you are candid with people about where they stand in your company (and that is the hard part). Nobody likes firing anyone (unless you are real sick freak). However, you owe it to yourself, to your organization, and to your customers to mercilessly remove the bottom 10 percent of your team who consistently and knowingly underperforms. But, if it is any consolation to you, if you decide that you simply do not have it in you to fire anyone, just wait a few months and your customers will fire you (thus making it easier on you).
As I look back on it, I think that this time of growth at DJ Connection was the most frustrating for me. I got so tired of dealing with the same weak-alibi-generating-mamma’s-boy-over-coddled-I-need-a-day-off-because-today’s-my-birthday excuses and the same bearers of these alibis each week. It pissed me off knowing that certain people would show up late every day (literally every day) with a new excuse for lateness, while certain people would show up fifteen minutes early every day because it was the right thing to do. It pissed me off that certain people (with biblical-sounding names and self-proclaimed biblical beliefs) thought that there was nothing wrong with smoking pot on a consistent basis. And it really pissed me off that only Eric, Jason and 5 or 6 other people ever showed any signs of productivity. Here I had worked tirelessly for eight years to build a large DJ company, and now that our company was at the peak of its power, its profitability, and its size, I was finding myself hating my job.
Each week I grew more and more jaded by the abominations of the underperformers. And if I weren’t such a management novice at the time, I would have been firing people left and right. Instead I was just growing more and more frustrated while carefully and diligently developing more idiots. Eventually, when the accumulative incompetence had reached an intolerable level, I would generally go off on the worst offender. I would usually list their abominations in a caustic way before firing them. I was known to say things like, “Hey, John, I appreciate you showing up late for the ninth consecutive day. I appreciate you being a slacker, and I appreciate you ruining someone’s event because you were too lazy to do your job. But hey, CONGRATULATIONS! You have been promoted to the weak-sauce boss. So get the hell out of here!”
All in less than six-months time:
Our family vehicle (a green Ford Explorer) had been completely destroyed by a moron with the last name of North who was fond of breaking the handles to both the driver’s side and the passenger-side doors when he was not ripping knobs off of the radio, breaking the windshield, stealing coworkers’ jackets or taking my credit cards.
I had to fine one employee $20 per day (due to his lateness) for 60 percent of his scheduled work days.
Our new riding lawn mowers that we had purchased to mow our five-acre property had been ruined by DJs who we hired to mow our lawn who apparently “were not aware that the mowers could not run over tree stumps.”
DJ Connection began routinely averaging over sixty events per week. My brother-in-law’s referral and former roommate, Lloyd, had entirely destroyed my relationship with five wedding vendors because he used my reputation and his association with me to start a web-development company that he used to con deposits out of unsuspecting business people. Once he had taken their deposits, he would not deliver the products or services all while continually telling them that he was “just running a little behind” and that “he was good for it.” And because I was a super moron, I allowed him to use DJ Connection’s credit card machine to process some of his early fees for a credit-card-processing fee paid to DJ Connection. I had no idea that he was a con artist, and I certainly was unaware that he would skip town and move down to Dallas to avoid the collections calls, the upset vendors, and the ruined relationships. This guy always went to church, my brother-in-law knew him, he went to Oral Roberts University, and thus I thought that he was a good dude. Oh, was I wrong. And thus five wedding vendors assumed that it was I who was charging their cards and not delivering on my promises to them. Long story short . . . I had to pay a ton of money out to wedding vendors whom I never agreed to work with in the first place to repair the relationships, to avoid the appearance of scamming people, and to avoid getting sued.
We had a large and manatee-esc female customer fall down in our house while picking up some CDs, and she attempted to threaten us with a lawsuit if we did not pay her some money “for her injuries.”
I discovered that yet another one of my brother-in-laws referrals and one of our DJs (who had kids and another full-time job) was a full-time drug dealer as well. Firing him was exciting.
I was named as “Oklahoma’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year” by the United States Small Business Administration.
We had one of our former DJs attempt to break in to our DJ office and family home; thus I went to the DJ gun store, bought myself a DJ handgun, and enrolled in a gun class to protect myself from exciting individuals such as this guy.
The aerobic septic system that kept the crap out of our drinking water stopped functioning. Thus, I had the privilege of spending thousands of dollars repairing it.
The daily dramas in the office related to DJs oversleeping, over-drinking, over-pot-smoking, and just being overly moronic grew to Jerry Springer-esc proportions.
I was named by Oklahoma magazine as one of their “Top 40 Under 40.”
As the awards kept rolling in and as the frustrations mounted, Vanessa was now outwardly stating that she, “hated many of the DJs,” and that she couldn’t stand to see them taking their smoke breaks outside of our house anymore. She was tired of their constant dip spitting, their constant lateness, and my constant need to compensate for their lack of effort with additional effort on my part. Vanessa knew that a leader was supposed to always do more than he expected from his people, yet she also knew that a leader had to be tough and willing to fire those that knowingly and consistently unperformed without hesitation. Vanessa was frustrated with the DJs, but I think inside she was honestly more frustrated with me because I was too much of a weak boss to reward our top people and to remove our bottom people with ruthless pragmatics. In fact, I am ashamed to say that I did not literally even know what being pragmatic meant at the time. All I knew was that I was working every night of the week, during every anniversary, during nearly every holiday except for Christmas day, and that my life was being held hostage by a bunch of twenty-year-old men who desperately needed a drill sergeant boss instead of a boss who was overly concerned with “not wanting to offend anyone.” I was seriously one of the weakest bosses in the world. Guys would call in sick, guys would show up late, and I would just try to “talk to them about it.”
Thus, to solve the problems associated with the underperformers I launched us full force into Operation Krispy Kremetm. My logic behind undertaking this big hairy audacious goal was to keep our guys occupied in a campaign that would bring them increased revenue (they were now nearly all making a little over $1,000 per week at the average age of twenty-four-years old). Basically the plan called for our top people to bring donuts to the offices of all of our major referral sources and all of our major clients in an attempt to kick our company sales growth level into a steroid-enhanced mode. And it worked. Each day DJ Connection would spend nearly $50 on donuts, and the bookings just kept pouring in. And the faster the calls came in, the more our systems or lack of systems was tested.
You see, at this point, every call that came in on our (918) 481-2010 number came in on one landline that we called the “money line.” And thus when the money line rang, we knew bookings were awaiting us. During this time, the money line never quit ringing, which kept our DJs engaged, and thus temporarily improved the overall morale and level of productivity from our salespeople. The only problem with this system was that every booking and every appointment that was set had to be manually entered into a day timer (by me for quality control purposes). And after every deposit was paid (now 15-20 every night), every commission check and every email confirmation had to be entered into the system by me.
Thus, I was now starting work at 4:00 a.m. every day and ending work at 7:00 p.m. every day. I was literally killing myself through poor eating habits and sleep deprivation while simultaneously working tirelessly at killing my marriage through neglect (luckily Vanessa is the most tolerant and supportive wife ever). DJ Connection was now at a breaking point because I was at my breaking point. We needed systems that worked without my direct supervision. We needed to break down the DJ Connection workflow into easily duplicable processes that were designed to render an incredible customer service and DJ entertainment experience every time. The only problem was that I did not know what a workflow was, and I did not know that I needed one.
“Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – Thomas Edison
Don’t allow this chapter to become more meaningless and empty than any parenting advice offered by Britney Spears. Thus answer the following self-analyzing questions to make good use out of this chapter.
Who is the weakest manager that you worked for or witnessed?
What makes this manager so weak?
Who is the strongest manager you have ever worked for?
What makes this manager such a strong manager
Are you a weak manager or leader? (I was.)
Make a list of the A, B, and C-players in your organization, class, business, or family (whatever is the most applicable):
Top 20 percent performers:
Middle 70 percent performers
Bottom 10 percent performers:
Are you willing to reward your top people and to get rid of your bottom people to improve your organization?
If you were going to implement the “differentiation” system of management tomorrow, what would be your first step?
Do you have the product or service that you offer (or that you will offer in the future) reduced down to a system of EASILY duplicable processes?
**Tip: “Eat the biggest frog first.” – Brian Tracy (motivational speaker) – Essentially, do the toughest task first; it cuts down on anxiety and limits procrastination.
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