Briefly interrupting the vacation to say this out loud.. half because everyone has been nagging and asking, half because I’m waiting for my laundry cycle to finish. The recent takeovers of LPI and nAble have sent a virtual frenzy of people from other vendors to VCs to “valuation coaches” via email, Facebook, twitter.. everyone wants a piece of Shockey Monkey. And while I appreciate that and it’s a huge compliment, the answer is always the same:
Thank you for your interest, at this moment we are not exploring an exit strategy and we are not seeking additional funding. We are completely focused on building the best product out there and simplifying the way businesses manage daily operations.
This is pretty much the same thing I’ve been saying for over a year now and it’s true.
It doesn’t mean we’re not for sale. Everything is always for sale. It just means that at the present moment I am not open to entertaining any offers or conversations other than partnership / integrations.
It doesn’t mean it won’t be sold some day. It just means that the business and the product roadmap as it currently exists isn’t being executed in order to create a product/service that can be sold independently of ExchangeDefender.
It doesn’t mean I’m not interested. Believe me, I am. If anyone wants to dump 5x annual revenues on me I would welcome it with open arms. Heck, call me and text me the contract and I’ll send it back. Joke aside, the reality is that I did consider selling Shockey Monkey two years ago when we talked to a lot of different folks about it – but since we closed that chapter all of my focus and all of my time and all of my planning and business process/strategy has been dedicated to building a bigger, more sophisticated, more simple and easy to use business management product.
. . .
As for the speculation, I am not sure where it’s coming from but it’s not from here. Yes I know that there is this growing notion that every large business that just acquired a bunch of stuff they don’t know what to do with (but hope will grow them) needs a PSA. Well, there is Autotask, ConnectWise, TigerPaw that could be bought.. and Shockey Monkey isn’t really a PSA. And while I appreciate how some journalists can be naïve enough to think that a PSA is just another lego block you add to your toy chest, it’s really unlike any other technology: It is intertwined with the business operations (people) and management (politics) and process (stubborn tradition) and existing infrastructure (land mines) in a way that can create a nightmare and requires an army of people to effectively deploy, implement, maintain and.. well, that’s why you haven’t seen a big time PSA sold yet.
Now back to the vacation, enjoy the speculation drama.
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The true secret to success is hiding all your failures. But appearance of success pays the bills in the same way that hiding failures makes it seem like they never happened. So this blog, however raw and ugly, is about learning from failures and avoiding them… or as Confucius says:
“The faults of the superior man are like the sun and moon. He has his faults and all men see them.”
This bit of eastern philosophy is not about arrogance.. rather, self motivation. As Confucius saw it, all normal men seek to be better than their present and past self. Man up to your mistakes, apologize for them and move on
So I’m taking some time off
I’ve worked very hard to straighten out the mistakes I’ve made in my professional career. I have built an enormous international business and a management team that can easily run all aspects of the business without me. While we have ways to go to perfection, we are about 90% there and it’s been a long, frustrating, painstaking road. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve worked very hard to fix the mistakes in my personal life. I’ve married well – hey if you can’t be good at least be lucky! I have two wonderful kids that like me and have become little mirrors of me. I have lost the weight – from obese to normal. I have traveled for something other than work. I have picked up some new hobbies, made lots of friends and managed to get some sense of diversification of work, hobbies, fun, social activity and some well rounded activities.
Now I’m taking two weeks by myself
I’m flying to Rome. Heading to Firenze, Bologna, Venice and Milan. Going to enjoy the museums, good food and of course ride it out on a Ducati and a train here and there. Mostly to Paris. For more food, more museums. Then on to London.
I won’t have access to my email. I am not taking my work phone with me. I have transferred literally everything over to my staff and I intend to think about business very, very little.
This is where it gets ugly. Unsuperior.
Frankly, I am tired. Beyond tired really – I’m between lethargic and unable to drag myself up to the level of energy and enthusiasm needed to run the next stage of the evolution of our business. The IT today is much different than it was a year or 15 years ago when I started this journey. I’ve been lucky and I’ve been at the right place at the right time a lot.
I am hoping that taking some time off recharges the batteries and gives me some perspective on how hard I need to work – not how hard the people around me need to work (because honestly, they have knocked out every metric I can measure) – and now it’s on me.
The brave new IT world of apps is here. We have everything we need to rock it: all it needs is a leader.
So folks, see you in a little bit. Peace.
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For as long as I’ve had more than one employee I’ve been accused of the company having bad communication. I .. I not from this country. My english not so good. And while many would probably successfully debate that I’m functionally illiterate using this very blog as evidence, communication in virtually all successful complex companies is terrible.
When your employees tell you that the communication is terrible they aren’t simply saying that they are kept in the dark on what is going on (ala Apple) but also that they don’t understand how certain things are done, why things are the way they are, how to effectively get what they want and so on.
So there you go disaffected employee, you suck at communication as much as your boss does.
Furthermore, people tend to be terrible at reading body language and are always evaluating others through the same way they judge themselves.
When I speak to my Irish partners it is not uncommon to hear things out the other end of the phone that would otherwise constitute drunken abuse if they came from someone in the south. Sticking with Ireland, ffs (for fucks sake) is not nearly as bad as it may otherwise seem. Certain cultures tend to be confrontational. Others tend to be passive. If you try to draw parallels between the way you express yourself and try to read the emotional state of someone else that is exhibiting similar body/posture/temper it’s a recipe for disaster.
For years everyone around me thought that when I got to work all quiet and locked myself in my office with a 12 pack of Diet Coke there were problems at home, losing money in the stock market. And to their defense, every time I did leave my office I probably looked like I was just waiting for someone to say something so I could punch them. Maybe I was so deep in thought that I didn’t hear a comment or a joke or a question and just walked on by.
Truth is, I get quiet when I have something difficult to work on. I haaaaate being busy. A pile of unfinished crap is a mentally draining activity and whether difficult or massive of a problem – I focus by getting quiet and working on the problem. To me that makes perfect sense! To others it seems Vlad is having a bad day. And to be honest, if you’ve worked on an IT problem and didn’t feel like taking it out on the inanimate object you haven’t really dealt with IT problems.
So communication, as far as interoffice stuff goes, for personnel matters – is a waste of time. You will never master it, you will never be able to read it 100% of the time and if you guess incorrectly you are more likely to offend someone than help them.
Communicating Company Activity and Agenda
As incredibly frustrating and difficult it may be to read people.. there is no excuse for having a disciplined communication about company direction, values and business goals. If that is a problem and things happen at seemingly random acts of whim instead of thought out rational (as in: even if the idea is stupid it is explained in a somewhat understandable way)… run.
Discipline with regard to communication is a wave. It starts with the management, hits the employees and bounces back to the management. It bounces back to employees and goes back and forth.
At ExchangeDefender I ask everyone every Monday to send me their weekly agenda: What are you working on (WAYWO), what do you need to get the job done, are you waiting on something and is there anything else we need?
Everyone sends me their agenda and it gets smashed into a single document.
On Tuesday all the VPs get together with me and we go through everything line by line. I do not want it to seem like I know what everyone is working on. Likewise, they all may not know everything that I may know about where the product needs to go based on client feedback and market changes. So we go through it, explain it around back and forth and try to figure out what needs to happen. By Tuesday, everyone knows which resources they are going to get/not get (ie, this will unfortunately get delayed) so they can kind of play the cards that have been dealt to them and not get frustrated.
On Wednesday, I write a long email that explains what is going on so everyone is on the same page. We work like crazy for the next few days.
Next Monday, new wave.
We used to do this in company meetings and while the success of those is somewhat debatable, the hit to productivity was anything but. Having a marketing person sit there and listen to a deeply technical network argument or having support people listen to resource requests for the trade show and the eye test review of collateral was just not the most efficient way to get stuff done. It was also difficult to execute with the remote employees, multiple shifts, holidays and so on.
The discipline with communication is simply that you stick with the process and protocol no matter what. While you will never perfect communication, body language, mood swings, problems at home, problems with coworkers, physical health problems and all the other stuff that affects communication and it’s effectiveness – you will never fail so long as you dedicate yourself to keeping the wave going. Yes it’s imperfect and yes sometimes people will misunderstand or misread an email.. but you don’t manage a business by exception or around the things that have a potential to fail – you run it towards the finish line.
Note: This may not be universally applicable. ExchangeDefender is a technology company and we have a lot of technical and non-technical people, so your mileage may vary if all your employees are the same or you have no diversity in your client base or if it’s a family business or or or. Again, while your mileage may vary the adherence to discipline and process must not.
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I’m going to make this very simple so you don’t have to read a lot to understand what I’m trying to say: If there are things you don’t like about your business they are your fault. Everything else is just you blaming someone else for stuff you should be handling.
Emyth 101. Read it. If you’ve read it, read it again.
Discipline in management, in how your organization lives and breathes, how your team interacts and behaves with everyone inside and out.. has everything to do with how your rules are set, enforced and reviewed. If they aren’t set or if there is any ambiguity whatsoever in how they are followed, enforced and monitored then they may as well not even exist.
A law is only as valid as it’s enforcement.
Write that, bad grammar and all, somewhere you can see it often.
The following is kind of embarrassing
Because Own Web Now Corp operated like this for years. And let me be perfectly honest and up front about the single biggest misconception about shit employees:
It is your responsibility as a manager to make the team you have productive or make adjustments to the team. It is not the employees fault, ever. If you have to fire them or they walk, it’s partially your fault no matter what.
But how do otherwise reasonably intelligent people (or in my case, perhaps the smartest person in the galaxy) make such rookie mistakes, repeatedly?
It’s so easy to be stupid.
Stupid & lazy about solving a problem = deadly combo.
It’s not that I didn’t know – I knew: but I told myself I had bigger problems to deal with than the discipline. Hell, I was at times the least disciplined around and I made it up by working around the clock. So did many, many others.
It’s not that it was easy to ignore – It bothered me but on top of all the other issues I had did I really need to nitpick and cause more discomfort?
It’s not that I had no idea how to fix it – I had no idea where to even start.
I really could go on and on about this. Two facts remain: 1. My fault. 2. I chose not to deal with it. There is no getting away from it all, through every undisciplined flop I made there was the option to address it or focus on our clients. I always chose my clients because I have never been confused about what was the most important thing. Trouble is, you can’t have one without the other.
What finally prompted the change?
Complaints. Whether they were about me or about the others it was clear that the ground was not leveled and it caused people to have hurt feelings or get the impression that they were not important or relevant to the organization. This is the worst damn message you can send to your team.
Antisocial interaction. The culture came to a freeze. Some people sent ugly messages to the corporate listserv. Some people lost hair. Some people got defriended and filtered on Facebook. Folks stopped coming to social events. The whole concept of loyalty completely fell apart and people started getting hurt because when you lack discipline.. it’s always someone else that has it better than you! Even when you’re doing stuff that you shouldn’t.
It eventually got to the point that the primary problem was the lack of discipline to following the rules and procedures we had about ourselves. We’ve always been great at how we conduct business – but we haven’t stuck to how we should treating each other.. and by now you’ve guessed it: the shenanigans started and ended with me.
Discipline is all about doing what you’re supposed to. No matter how much you’d rather not.
1. Starts with you, the business owner.
2. Continues with the managers.
3. Rests with every member of the team.
4. Flows up the organization as well as down.
If you don’t have all four you’re doing it wrong.
You are supposed to set the example – you are supposed to enforce it. If you don’t want to live by the rules you’ve set then how can you expect anyone else to? If you don’t want to have difficult conversations with your employees then who will? Everyone plays by the same book with the same rules and everyone keeps pushing everyone else – or would you rather have them blame one another? Finally, just because the rules are in place doesn’t mean they are good and doesn’t mean they are followed, respected or in the best interest of your organization.
You cannot run a company like a bootcamp. But you also can’t run it as a locker room. Not everyone is a soldier and not everyone is comfortable with towel ass slaps.
So you sit down and you look at your rules. Is it important for the staff to dress a certain way? Is it important for them to be on time? Is the rule you’re about to set something that would be frowned upon by a McDonalds employee? Will anyone follow the rule? Will you?
Review. Consult. Discuss. Explain. Follow. Lead.
Do likewise gents and I promise you two things:
1) Nobody will like it at first. As much as everyone will complain about others getting special treatment, it sucks when you realize you’ve been getting away with stuff you shouldn’t have.
2) Everyone will thrive eventually. Standards, policies, rules.. are all in place to level the playing field. Once the stress of dealing with what everyone else is doing goes away the team will focus on the problems they should be worried about. When those problems are addressed – the stress of the job will go away as well. What happens to a well managed company that has little stress? It thrives.
You have rules and standards and policies when it comes to delivering your services. You are accountable to them to the ridiculous detail and you even take extra caution and go the extra mile.
There is no reason not to treat your team the same. You owe it to them.
That is the core component of discipline: Being driven to always do what you’re supposed to no matter how much you’d rather do something else.
Now I’ve been lucky: I have a great team. You may not be. You have to take care of each other and I am lucky to be in business, with the same people that have been by my side for years, and I’m eternally thankful that I’ve been graced with the opportunity to fix the @#%# I’ve caused. You may not have the same luck so keep in mind that the whole “laser focus” thing can at times leave you with a lot of blind spots.
, IT Business
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I know, I know, everyone wants more details about this. And as happy as I am that everyone loves Vladville I have that job and food thing that keeps on getting in my way every day – so I heard ya (more than a few hundred times over on the discipline posts) and the posts are on their way..
Now I do have something more exciting to discuss… the new version of ExchangeDefender.
And if you happen to be in Phoenix next week for Autotask conference.. I’ll trade you some beer for some advice on what you’d like to see.
Just drop me an email at email@example.com and let’s set some time to sit down.
The upcoming release of ExchangeDefender is quite a bit different from what we’ve done in the past with new releases – adding new feature or two, facelift or different pricing model.
For example, the last update of ExchangeDefender came with a brand new UI and tons of apps that unify how businesses run – with regards to encryption, compliance, etc. We also created a low cost $0.50 version of ExchangeDefender that just does filtering, few days of business continuity archiving – we even made it dead easy to sign up because we feel most of our “competition” is designed for consumers and our partners go after businesses with complex compliance, security and management needs.
The Next Generation
The next generation of ExchangeDefender goes to the core of how businesses operate and what they find to be important. The reason Google killed Postini and the reason you see a widespread downturn in technology spending is because IT demands are no longer centered around fixing any particular problem – instead they are focused on accommodating the changing workplace in which IT department has little control but is simultaneously asked to both secure the whole enterprise and also enable work from any device in any location.
Technology has to keep up pace with it.
So the new version of ExchangeDefender looks a lot more like SBS 2003 than a cloud security product. It looks a lot more like apps and mobile apps and reports tied to those systems – regardless of where they are – and work together seamlessly to enable not just the company but the clients and vendors to collaborate together.
Simply put, we’re integrating a lot of what we’ve built at Shockey Monkey into what we have at ExchangeDefender.
Think email as just another layer in the communication that now includes Twitter and Facebook as well – but done on a mobile device as well as it’s done on a laptop. Think about access controls and reporting on everything that gets touched, when it gets touched with easy transfer of roles and responsibilities.
We got it. We just need help polishing it up Let’s talk.
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If you’re lucky, smart, at the right place at the right time, with the right service, trusted reputation and a solid plan you have a chance of running a good business.
Then things get really hard.
In part due to the burnout.
In part due to the fact that running a great business is at times at odds with what made it a good business in the first place:
In a good business the client is always right and we go above and beyond the call of duty to please everyone even if we have to put in a 30 hour shift. In a great business someone evaluates the cost of doing business and has to balance the incremental cost of making the customer right while making the business profitable – at the risk of putting an employee through a 30 hour shift that would trigger all sorts of compensation, legal, overtime and scheduling issues.
It’s not good, it’s not bad – it’s just business. It’s also a matter of accepting that the ways and means of how you operate a good business are not the same as operations of a great business. You cannot judge one by the standards of the other.
To add to the frustration – you cannot assume the rules, policies and procedures of one success story and apply them to another organization – or you kill everything that makes that organization tick and turn it into a soulless fast food chain.
This is where most businesses I have ever worked with or for have managed to fail or enter a state of perpetual mediocrity.
The transition from good to great is painful and it’s based in one thing above all else: discipline.
As the rules, policies, procedures, processes and stakeholders multiply exponentially.. the discipline to execute them all flawlessly and keep process in check is crucial. But nobody wants to be held accountable.
Discipline is quite simply: dedication to stick to the plan with no excuses.
This is where the common sense of small business grit has to take an abrupt exit: I know how to get a handle of my growing business – I will give raises to everyone and take off for a few months!
Money doesn’t make people work harder. It makes them lazier. It gives them an expendable income that they can spend on fun stuff and afford to take more time away from work. Overtime? Forget about it. Extra projects? Nah, got plans. Can we get this done faster? No, now that I have more riding on the quality of my work I can’t rush stuff and be blamed/fired over it.
Discipline starts at the very top, is implemented all the way down the org chart with the feedback floating all the way up to the top. No, you can’t just decide that you’re going to make someone else do the hard work and promote someone to do the transition for you while you go climb the Himalayas.
You cannot blindly transfer authority and make it someone elses problem.
You cannot take someone elses best practices and hope they “stick” for you.
You cannot implement seemingly random and well intentioned policies and expect them to work.. without modification.. tomorrow.
You cannot expect or demand immediate gratification.
Ultimately, you cannot give up. Going from good to great is a choice between greatness, mediocrity or failure and the only seeming difference lies in the amount of effort you put in to make adjustments in your process.
Now that you know everything you cannot do.. tune in the rest of the week for the things you can do, things that you should do and some hopefully useful tips on how to make it all happen.
, IT Business
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I share a lot of the frustrations that I hear from the partners I talk to on a daily basis.
I move too slow.
Things “that move the needle” are too hard.
I want success immediately.
Now these are not people that are down and out on the street looking for a job.. most have 6-7 figure businesses. Yet, they find the inability to make quick/immediate changes frustrating.
So they seek out seminars and coaches and services and peer groups and..
Eventually come back to the realization that there is no magic secret, that there is no all-knowing wizard of oz.. that there are just people that are great at marketing to the obvious MSP/VAR pain points that.. if they were so amazing in the first place.. would still be in the IT business.
Let that marinade for a minute.
The truth, in which there is no money so nobody will ever blog about it or present it in a keynote, is that business is hard, pain staking, sacrificial and requires long term endurance and strategic planning, process, follow-through and resolve.
But that’s some depressing shit, right? Who wants to work for money, like a sucker, day in and day out, for years?
If that’s how you feel, even for a moment, even in the tiniest bit.. it’s time to call it quits. Seriously.
There is nothing better than business ownership.
There is nothing more liberating or independent or mentally creative that has the potential to yield the same returns – both financial and existential – as working on your dreams daily, monthly, weekly.
And folks – if the prospect of having to struggle for years selling a slightly lower margin product and dealing with more complexity and more demanding client base is a struggle – let that be the most painful thing you have to endure because you will be in business for a long time. If the prospect of having a long term sustainable business is a pain point then light the coal and let me walk all over that shit.
Perspective folks. Perspective.
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Fuck yeah. That’s why the overwhelming majority of the greatest companies are or have been started in America. The British may have started the industrial revolution but we’re the ones that have perfected it and executed the most effective wealth generation in the history.
Now the question is:
As the American companies grow and expand worldwide, should they bring corporate profits back to United States and redistribute them to their US shareholders? Which will then pay at least 15% additional taxes on the dividends they receive.
At what cost to the corporation itself should the profits be taxed again?
This is the question that Apple has been summoned to Washington DC to answer.
While I do not wish to make this a political topic, it should stand as a fact that majority of the tax code that global corporations are “abusing” has been written by the very same representatives and senators that are now crying foul. And as with all things American, most of it has been driven by corruption and lobbyists. While it is what it is, the fact remains that this is the law of the land.
The second fact here is that companies like Apple (and Cisco and many others pushing for profit repatriation / tax holiday) manufacture their gear abroad, sell their gear abroad and pay taxes abroad: they aren’t evading IRS, the profits they make abroad are not taxable by our laws. This isn’t the scumbag tax shelter game (Mitt Romney) where company incorporates in the Caymans and charges licensing fees to all it’s foreign operations to make it seem like it makes no profit in those countries to minimize local tax liabilities. The taxes are already paid where the profits were generated (goods made in China and sold in Italy are taxed in Italy) and the money is free and clear sitting in an Italian bank.
My company, ExchangeDefender, is a global business. We do business around the world and we sell our services around the world.
We are headquartered in State of Florida, United States. Every single penny we make is charged through United States and every bit of profit that we make is taxed here in United States. All our shareholders are Americans and we all pay taxes on the distribution/dividends.
As our operations in Europe and Australia have grown exponentially over the years, it has started to make more sense to start locating people in Australia and United Kingdom and incorporate local subsidiaries there in order to establish local bank accounts, local corporate entities and local network control.
We have had infrastructure abroad for nearly a decade – but we are quickly moving towards having local staff manage the infrastructure, sell and support the services, provide onboarding assistance and so on.
To those of you not big on SAT words: The people that would otherwise be employed in United States managing remote infrastructure and services will now be employed, living and working abroad. And the profits generated by those subsidiaries will stay abroad instead of being deposited into our USA bank accounts.
We already pay taxes abroad – all kinds of taxes – but all our profits come to United States and IRS hits those profits at 35%. I have no beef with the rate or the IRS.
However, ExchangeDefender is a world citizen. If we are taking Australian Dollars from Australian citizens who subscribe to our servers located on Australian soil, managed, supported and sold by Australian citizens and taxed by ATO.. why should those profits come back to United States to be taxed at 35% and then further taxed by it’s shareholders? Just so I can use the proceeds to buy an Italian car?
Our government needs to make an effort to create a way to bring profits generated abroad by foreigners back to United States at a reasonable cost. Since United States government has had nothing to do with the generation of the said profits in the first place, what is a reasonable rate to charge on those profits to have them deposited in US bank accounts and distributed to the shareholders?
Currently it is 35% and it is unhealthy for United States to require that – not because I am cheap – but because it makes more sense to take the profits abroad and invest them abroad where they can generate higher profits. It makes more sense to put the money to work than to cut it in nearly a half and spend here. It guarantees business growth abroad instead of United States. It doesn’t work in vacuum either – every dollar spent generates multiple dollars in economic impact so one job lost here equals to more than one job created abroad.
Over time, this creates countries that will be more successful than United States.
As an American.. and one that is as such by choice.. I feel that our representatives in the government have the responsibility to it’s people to make America more competitive, not less. As a business owner, I have fiduciary responsibility to my shareholders to maximize corporate profits and to my clients to deliver services they want to pay for. The two are not mutually exclusive! We just need the government to close the loopholes and make it less expensive to import profits from other countries into United States.
To put it simply, this is like your bank charging you nearly 50% of your deposit whenever you put money into your account. Would you put it in the bank or keep it in your pocket? In case of Apple, Cisco, Google (and every global business out there) the money is staying in the back pocket instead of being spent in the US economy.
Do the right thing gents. The economic prosperity of United States is literally in your hands.
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In business it’s nice to win big. Doesn’t always happen so when it does – enjoy it.
It’s more important to lose small. And often. So long as you’re learning from it – not that you will ever learn how not to lose (or even how to lose gracefully) but recognizing the factors that contributed to the loss and how to spot them in the future.
Most people have a tendency to win small and lose big. Almost like a blind religious faith – there is a hope that a loser will magically turn into a winner:
Fact is, there is no easy tell if a bad situation will improve or get much worse with time. It’s not up to you: Your choices are binary: Stick with it or cut your losses. In fact, you only have one guaranteed outcome of a bad situation through cutting your losses by making them finite. The other variable outcome is if things change – could be better or could be worse…
So your only choice with clear certainty is to stop being a loser right now
That’s not a fun choice.
Even the most pessimistic people will not quit.
It sucks to lose.
The ego gets in the way of us admitting to ourselves we screwed something up.
And if we went into the decision with the rational thinking.. it’s only a matter of time till our fortunes turn around, right?
How much worse could it get, right?
If you quit now you’d lose – but if you stick with it then it will work out eventually, right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
If you were right, things would have worked out and you wouldn’t be in this predicament. You were wrong, cut your losses and move on.
If things couldn’t get much worse then why did you do this to yourself in the first place? You were wrong, cut your losses and move on.
Even if things work out eventually, there is still a huge possibility that things will get much worse in the meantime. And what about all the time that is passing by with you losing while you could be working on something more productive? You know any Y2K specialists or OEM box builders sitting around waiting for SBS 2013? Nope, they now sell cars and real estate.
If you gotta be wrong, be disciplined about managing your losses and move on to the next thing.
Manage your losses.
Define them up front and evaluate them when you encounter them.
Then choose to move on.
The Art of Failing
Now I have to admit that I do not know the secret of when a fail is a fail: and most of it in my personal experience has been a result of poor planning and misplaced optimism. I’ve definitely made some bad hiring choices but I let the folks linger on payroll for far too long. Ditto on some projects and investments and solutions (remember CloudBlock) and a metric ton of features that went nowhere. I still have a few hundred SecurID tokens sitting somewhere.
Unless you are going to become disciplined, insightful and judicious overnight the game is to document and revisit losses often so you do not keep on putting yourself in losing situations. So that when you inevitably put yourself into a losing situation again you know to get out of it and focus elsewhere.
Most importantly, it’s the courage to admit that you were wrong. Your ego won’t like it.
But as I tell my ego often: You don’t write Corvette & Ducati checks. And if I was such a f’n genius, how did I end up in such a f’d up situation in the first place?
The sound of silence after that conversation is earth shattering. Cause ain’t nobody…
P.S. If you get the reference, congratulations
, IT Business
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For the next few weeks leading up to my vacation I’ll address some business hacks we’ve done at Own Web Now over the years. Some good, some bad. As for any of my employees reading this – get back to work.
Between 2009 and 2010 we hit a growth pain point that was quite literally crushing. We grew more than 10x in a span of a year and no matter how well prepared or experienced you may be… at a 1000% business growth even the smallest of the small issues tend to blow up into absolute cluster@#%s.
We were not lucky enough to be the exception to that rule: Just about the time of ExchangeDefender 5 launch we had issues with billing, support, “growth planning” (if you can even call it that) and on top of working like crazy and constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the game the stress was climbing… constantly.
Somewhere between quitting and working on a time travel machine to find more than 24 hours in the day things had to change. We were either going to have to stop growing or find a way to work without stress.
Now I cannot take the credit for this but the actual solution came from one of my friends and partners (David Wertz, PC Works Plus) who told me about his beer & wing Friday afternoons: Every Friday he would buy wings, beer and throw a party at work… giving staff a chance to connect and chill together.
This is an incredibly important thing for a couple of reasons – giving people time off isn’t going to make them any more productive at work. Forcing them to go through team building exercises on the other hand just gives already jaded people a plausibly deniable way to explain an accidental injury (which is why I will never play paintball). To top it all off, your staff likely had diametrically opposing key performance indicators (they all care about different shit): support is judged on how quickly it addresses support requests but if a sale doesn’t happen because the potential client is asking a highly technical question that only support side can answer then it makes sense to have some flexibility. The best and easiest way to handle this is to just get them all together over some cold beverages and let them figure out what makes them tick.
It’s like DISC, sans the useless bullshit that any 5th grader can game. Jager and Redbull is a great equalizer.
Try it, I guarantee great results or your money back.
Hacking the Hack
Holding forced/paid for social events will get your staff working together in ways that you cannot even imagine.
But you can take it one step further – hold it outside of the business hours.
Wanna know who is going to be there for the company no matter what? Those who hang around even if they are not contractually obligated to.
So if you’re curious if you have a loyal workforce – invite them for drinks after 5PM. Not once or twice – everyone is going to have some kind of a conflict from time to time. Do it for months – you’ll see a pattern of who is a part of your organization just for a paycheck and who actually cares about it and the people that are a part of it.
It goes even beyond that – once people see who is a part of the team (even if they may despise them) it’s hard to hate (or think someone hates you) when you’re lighting up shots with them and going through appetizers.
Furthermore, the people that show up a lot more often will be your feedback to how the company is actually doing and where you have ways to go. You’ll find out more about the challenges they face and since they already clearly care you can throw more on them and delegate the fix for them. People that care tend to do a better job of following through with solutions to difficult problems than the folks who just try to cross problems of the list in an effort to be present 20 or 40 hours of the week.
I’ve read more books than I’d like to admit about managing, motivating and dealing with people – be it regarding performance or “millenials” or lazy or stupid – and I’ve come down to a very simple common undeniable thing: You cannot make people care. All you can do is give them the vision, the means to connect with one another and a path to success. Then it’s up to them.
Now I know there are excuses.. Doesn’t it cost a lot? I don’t have the time? I just don’t like the people I work with! Why do I have to do more than what I already do? Why can’t someone else do it? Hiring new personnel is more expensive than keeping the existing one happy. Time spent with your employees is infinitely more valuable than trying to find the next one – and hate to break it to you but there are as many perfect employees as there are perfect bosses (zero). You have to do more than your bare minimum because without pushing for more you will never advance and get more. And if someone else is supposed to set the example then someone else should actually run the business. Business ownership (and even down to group or team leadership) is a mirror of the person that leads it – so either do it or leave it up to someone else.
In the interest of full disclosure..
Last week we had our last McBeefy.
Well, after years of doing this I have a very good team and a very good idea of who is here for more than a 9-5. So as far as I’m concerned, we have our teams figured out for the next few years. They know each other very well.
As far as a hack or experiment goes, this one has served it’s purpose. It got my business through some ridiculously stressful times, it established long term careers for a lot of my staff and it’s given all of them an insight into how and why we run our business. It’s one thing to say stuff and do it in meetings – and quite another to be able to say the same stuff after flaming Dr Peppers.
There are other little annoyances – such as Orlando office having full 3 shifts and not being able to have everyone out at the same time, people get used to the event and not finding it special enough (to attend consistently) and so on but mostly it’s just the realization that as this company grows both in size and sophistication, the level of networking and communication has to step up as well.
Judging by our employee retention rate (and their subsequent raises), I have to say that it’s worked quite great. It really is the easiest management effort ever – allow people to volunteer to show up at events they don’t have to be at, allow them to take on more work they are actually passionate about and then give them perks and/or raises they are interested in and just let the good times roll.
What is next for how we motivate and drive one another at ExchangeDefender I can’t discuss right now but if you just combine the basic principles behind what makes for driven people and give them the opportunity to prove it. The rest of it will kind of take care of itself.
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