stick to the pitch
Last week, I was contacted by the PR Agency of Mercedes Benz who informed me that they wanted Robin Titus to be their brand ambassador for a new car launch.
Robin Titus is the group sales director at naseba and has worked for me since he was 19 years old.
He is almost 28 now and over the past 9 years has been featured on the front page of a major newspaper, spoke in front of 350+ of the regions top business men including the Chairman and CEO of Qatar Airways, was voted top 100 most influential by one of the middle east’s most popular magazines, travelled to 35 countries, built a gorgeous home for his family, and just bought or is in the process of buying an apartment in Antibes, France….
just to name a few cool achievements.
And I once had dinner with a billionaire client from Norway who told me over dinner that before he became our client he had google’d “Robin Titus” and was impressed with how much Robin has achieved at such an early age. Very cool to know even one of the richest men in Norway google’d Robin Titus.
And now Mercedes Benz wants him to be the brand ambassador and face of a new car launch…
While the film crew was in my office setting up, I asked the producer of the project what made them choose Robin out of all the people in the Middle East – why Robin?
She told me that the promotion is on someone who is young, “driven…” and “focused…” and they heard about Robin and his success, and researched him…
And she told me, “but he is even more focused and driven than I expected.”
Soon Robin will be featured on local and global promotion for a new car launch for Mercedes Benz.
I am proud that the face of naseba and one of our leaders has been chosen for such an honor.
on Oct.10, 2012, under stick to the pitch
I have been in west Africa the past several days … I will do a blog on my travels later this week.
After flying 5 hours over night and not sleeping on the flight … I arrived to Lisbon this morning and the customs line was massive.
I can’t even guess how many people were in the line … apparently, 6 flights from Africa all landed around the same time.
So instead of going to the custom line for “other passports” … where American passport holder go, as do the Senegalese, Nigerians, Cape Verdes, Somalian passport holders go as well
I decided to gamble.
I went to the “European passport” line which was a short walk in a different direction and had very few people in the line.
At the time, I have a 12 hour layover in Lisbon … haven’t slept and was dreaming of going to my hotel to sleep.
So I gambled, and I walked up and gave my American passport …
Instantly, the Portugese man told me I was in the wrong line and I had to go back to the other section, I fumbled around trying to get him to bend the rules, but it didnt work.
My stupid gamble now cost me easy 300 new people in front of me because of the new arrival and the sea of Somalians who were rushing into the line.
To be honest, I seriously considered cutting in front of the entire line … but with a sea of African people in front of me, and me being one of the few white guys, I decided it would be disrespectfully foolish.
Like a marshmellow floating in a pool of very dark chocolate…..I waited
As I stood in a line that I cant exaggerate the length … because it was so incredibly long, I tried to imagine how much time my looking for a short cut (going to the euro passport line) had cost me … easily an hour with the plane which just landed from Somalia … and all the passengers who would have been behind me if I had done what I should have done in the first place.
Dead tired, and irritable with myself … I turned my wait into a mental game and spent the time focusing on imagining I was running … a 2 hour run, instead of standing in line for 2+ hours. And I kept trying to focus on staying positive … looking at the experience as another learning experience (i have learned many times already)
Next time you are thinking about gambling …. and taking a short cut, think of this story.
Today, I looked for a short cut … and my searching for a short cut cost me easily an hour of time, not to mention the hassle of annoying myself and the passport controller.
on Jun.27, 2012, under stick to the pitch
How many of you know your company’s mission statement or the core values of the company where you work?
How many of you implement those values every day?
All of this begins with defining your core values – standards – code of ethics, and then breaking it down to a simple criteria … and ensuring your recruitment and training and on-going training is reflecting those core values.
As your company gets bigger … the harder it is to ensure the entire team has the same values, therefore, it is absolutely vital that the “leadership” layers in the company have them, but more importantly are leading the teams with those values.
How many of you can relate to this…
There is an employee in your company (somehow this person got through HR and has been hired or promoted)
The person shows a spark of promise … could potentially be great, but he or she is just not a perfect fit to your team…
however, you think to yourself that you can “change them” and get the person to believe in the same values as you…
I see leaders/managers too often fall in the trap of compromising their principles, and allow 2nd or 3rd chances ….
Hiring someone or promoting someone who is just not a perfect fit … thinking that maybe we can change them…
Or a top talent in the company who sometimes shows sparks of brilliance …. Is late to work too often, a bit sloppy…
or maybe gets sick on a Friday every so often well – and the leadership tolerates the inconsistency because the employee has “potential.”
But the world is full of people who should be and could be, but aren’t….
From my experience, I can’t remember one time when compromising our core values to accommodate a talented employee … in the long run working out.
In fact, I can name many many examples of massive failure because of we didn’t stick to our values.
How many times have you either recruited or promoted someone just because of “their experience.”
The person has “the experience…” but not necessarily the same values to the rest of the team.
Based on my experience… this compromise comes with a massive cost when they don’t have or believe in the same values …
How often have you compromised your core values – or the company’s core values in the hope that the employee changes and fulfills the expectations you have?
Sometimes – leaders are too optimistic when it comes to judging character – we look too much into the good in people…
What is the cost for compromising your core values …
Let’s say for example, you have a strong core team made up of people who have your values, and are working cohesively, making things happen.
But you bring onto the team a new member who is just a bit different …they have “experience…” but not necessarily the same values as the rest of the team.
Your perfect cohesive team becomes distracted and potentially that one or two employees who dont have the same values will bring the bunch down.
It’s not about the glory of one individual…
It’s about the entire company working together; living the core values of the company – not just leaving them on the “about us” section on the corporate website.
on Jun.26, 2012, under stick to the pitch
When I was 15 years old, I moved to Jacksonville, Florida to swim at the Bolles School.
Up until I moved to Bolles, I was a total loser not just in school and the pool, but also in life….
My new coach, Gregg Troy was incredibly tough.
You could not miss practice.
You couldn’t show up late.
There were no clowns on the team — anyone who was not focused, would not make the cut … not just because the coach would kick he/she off, but the teammates on the team wouldn’t allow it.
Everyone was focused not just in the pool, but also in their personal lives.
I had a fairly successful first year with the team, but it wasn’t until my last two years in high school that it all clicked — in the pool, school and my personal life.
Practice was hell, but I really got into training hard.
We did sets that no other high school team in America could or would do.
The team thrived on working hard together – and no one moaned and complained.
We all had the same goal which was to be the best, not just as individuals, but as a team.
Reflecting back – the secret was obvious: we were led by a great coach (a great leader) who ensured we all had or developed the same core values.
Because we trained so hard – the team became very close and there was a possessiveness of “the team.”
Clowns, mediocre, half assed teammates did not last.
There was strong pride amongst us … we considered ourselves to be the best high school swim team in America.
No one missed work out – but, no one ever wanted to miss workout.
No one was late, but no one wanted to be late – if anything some fought to see who would be the first in the pool.
We were an exclusive team, like an exclusive club ….
And we supported each other from letting anyone or anything bring us down.
My senior year, we were the number one high school swim team in America – and several teammates went on to win Olympic medals at the Barcelona Olympics.
Unquestionably, what made us, “the team” so good was the discipline Coach Troy instilled in us to adhere to the core values of the team.
His discipline created consistency.
Coach Gregg Troy is the current USA Men’s Olympic head swim coach for the upcoming Olympics.
Yesterday, the USA Olympic trials began in Omaha – and the first 4 events were all 4 won by swimmers who swim for Coach Troy – including Ryan Lochte who beat Michael Phelps.
Imagine the impact Coach Troy – this leader has had on 1000′s of people’s lives … indirectly, positively impacting even the lives of his swimmers families and friends.
I can’t imagine my life today had I not had the opportunity to swim for Coach Troy – and I am forever grateful to him.
Coach Gregg Troy doesn’t have a facebook account, he doesn’t have a blog, he hasn’t written any books and I am fairly certain he doesn’t “tweet.”
on May.16, 2011, under stick to the pitch
This blog is motivated by an email I received from an old staff who worked for me in Shanghai back in 1999 … I havent heard from this person since 2000, but his email and his mention of a couple stories in his mail motivated me to post this blog…..because it blends into the theme I have been recently discussing: “the importance of core values.”
When I first opened an office in Shanghai back in 1999 for the previous company I worked…..
I was in the right place at the right time and recruited a couple great sales leaders to help me build an army of successful operations, production and sales people.
The office took off quickly, and within a few months we had 70 mainland Chinese employees making their success happen – even though we had American, Australian, New Zealand, Chinese and British employees, the office had been built by people who all had similar, or the same “core values.”
Within just a few months, the Shanghai office became one of the most consistent, and best performing offices in the company — so the CEO of Asia (based in Sydney) asked me to watch over the Hong Kong office while the General Manager of that office was on a 3 week vacation.
The Hong Kong office averaged less than US$20,000 a week …. I wanted to be the managing director of Greater China, so controlling the HK office was my goal.
As I type, I remember back to that phone call where Simon (the CEO) called me about watching over the office for 3 weeks….
I explained to the CEO of Asia that if my name was going to be associated with the Hong Kong office for 3 weeks, then I had to be able to run the office my style.
He laughingly called me an “arrogant prick” but agreed.
It’s an easy 3 hour flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong…
on the flight, I reviewed the previous 12 months of sales figures for the HK office which also included staffing, recruitment information (where I noticed massive turnover of staff) There was only one person in the office who seemed to have any consistency, a Hong Kongnese sales woman who was also on vacation for the period I would be in the office.
For the 3 weeks I was in Hong Kong, the company put me up in the Mandarin Oriental hotel – a gorgeous 5 star hotel which I completely took for granted. (issues discussed in “ode to Marcus Evans…”)
The memo I received the day before my trip stated there were 20 staff working in the Hong Kong office, 18 of them were in sales.
My first day in the office wasn’t a big surprise — the office was in a gorgeous part of HK, had a view of the harbor, but was messy.
The CEO of Asia knew how competitive I was so he sent a company memo to all the GMs stating that “Scott Ragsdale was running the Hong Kong office for the next 3 weeks.”
As I was walking into the office, a young, good looking British guy was walking out …
I stopped him, and asked where he was going… he told me he had worked for the company for the month, saw no future so had quit the previous week and was just picking up his pay check.
I remember the way the guy spoke to me – looking me directly in the eyes as he spoke.. you could see he had something – a spirit, or a passion, something that not everyone has…
He was dressed very well (I dont mean he was wearing an expensive suit, just very sharp)
I introduced myself, and told him to go back in the office, listen to my morning speech and see if what I had to say was something which might change his mind.
Within a few minutes of the work day beginning, I had a morning meeting with the office to introduce myself.
I also used the meeting to discuss the next 3 weeks…
I explained we would spend the first few hours cleaning the office up, retraining and getting ready for the next 3 weeks…
I set several ridiculously generous incentives for the 3 weeks (I often gave lavish incentives out of my own pocket to make the job more fun – it was my way of investing)
I told the team one of the 3 weeks we would break US$100,000 in business for the week (Simon had challenged me to do this because it was something which had never been achieved before in this small office).
As I was speaking, I saw one of the young men roll his eyes to two girls in the office …. and the girls giggled. (all three were Hong Kongnese)
I terminated all three of them on the spot, in the middle of my meeting …. once they were gone, probably 3 minutes later, I continued the meeting…
I knew the sales figures, thus I knew these nobodies didn’t really exist anyways….two of them had worked for the company for more than 2 years and in those 2 years didn’t do much, definitely, did not add value to the office so I was certain that I had done what was best for both the office and the company.
As I stood there waiting for the 3 to leave the office, the sharp young British man (Adam Fletcher) came up and told me (I can still hear him say) “I’m in.”After my meeting he immediately, started to clean up the mess, and his actions got the rest of the team to start cleaning up the office (you could see (clearly) this guy was a leader)
We spent the first morning cleaning, making the office sharp – and then I retrained the sales team – all at the same time, judging who I believed wanted what I wanted …
After lunch, I terminated 4 more because they showed up 15 minutes late … surely, just to say “fuck you” to me.
… so by 14:00 on the first Monday, I had terminated 7 out of the 20 staff …. In an office that I was just overseeing for 3 weeks.
My CEO (Simon) called me later that day from Sydney telling me how the General Manager of the office (a man in his early 30s from Mumbai) had called him on his mobile from his vacation to say ‘Scott Ragsdale is destroying my office!!!’
The CEO knew me well … and gave me the trust and support I needed and told me “he looked forward to seeing my results.”
The following day, my 2nd day in the office …. I got rid of a few more.
Now the office was down to 8 staff …. 7 of them sales staff. I was convinced that all 7 had the same “core values.”
The office did US$74,000 that first week; US$48,000 the second week and $108,000 the third week.
(I still have the memo from the Chairman and CEO highlighting the success achieved over those 3 weeks)
Upon reflection – my biggest achievement during those 3 weeks was not the 3 weeks of great sales, but more importantly — I saved the company from losing two exceptional talents – one of them being the young British guy and the other a young American woman who both went on to senior management positions in the company. (both were quiting or had quit the company the day I arrived)
The British guy, Adam Fletcher worked with me for several years, and was directly involved with closing and developing several million euro of business during his time with the company.
How could I get that shitty little office to do 3 weeks of big business so quickly??
Because … during the 3 weeks I was in that office – I ensured everyone who was with me had the same core values, or if they didn’t have the same values … at least, I was convinced they wanted to have the same values as me.
It’s something I learned when I was just a sales executive in Tokyo …
At the time, I had no power because I was just a newly hired sales staff, but I saw firsthand how one negative staff – destroyed, or nearly destroyed the bunch.
It was a brilliant management training course – because I saw firsthand how just one negative employee, destroyed the potential success of many – like cancer.
Three years after my Hong Kong adventure, I was based in Europe and was transferred to run the Barcelona office ….Barcelona was a massive office for the company in the number of staff who were in it, but shit figures when it came to business.
My first day in that office I fired at least 15 people, maybe a few more than that – people who came late, left early, or obviously didn’t want what I wanted.
That week, the office had the biggest week it ever had in the 2 years it was open …
(I am sure there are people who still talk about that first week because it was exceptional, like God came down and touched us)
Every manager falls in the trap of wanting to have as many staff as possible to “manage” … but the secret is not the number of staff a manager oversees, but to ensure everyone on the team has the same “core values.”
Much more can be achieved with a small group of people with the same values than can be achieved by a large group of people who have mixed values.
Maybe the best team I ever worked with was TEAM MONACO…
The team was made up of French, Italian, British, and American, but everyone worked together as a team – with the same goal, to be the best ….
From my experience, I dont believe that one can simply blanket the same management style over employees from France, India or China, etc, however, by ensuring the team/office have the same “core values” … the chance for consistency and success is far greater than simply just employing anyone for the job.
I intentionally, do not use examples from naseba to discuss my point in this blog … this is not to say that we are perfect, or that everyone at naseba has the same “core values”
Unfortunately, as we have expanded, senior management (me included) have slipped in regards to sticking/ensuring everyone has the same “core values.”
I am certain this has slowed us down; prevented us from climbing faster and more efficiently – something which is being reviewed and addressed.