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.
on Feb.19, 2011, under other
I read something tonight which pointed out that Joe Dimaggio didn’t stand and admire his own home runs …
unlike the stars of today who must admire their own greatness to ensure they are marketable… so they can make even moore money to buy even more stuff.
I am not sure how many readers are old enough to remember the 70s and 80s …. even part of the 90s … it was a tougher world back then.
Now our leaders are so concerned and focused with being “liked” that they no longer lead …
Na .. maybe I should re-state: now a days, our leaders (esp in the USA) are more concerned with being re-elected than they are on leading…
Sorry. I’m just ranting….
but seriously …. how much further can our world change?
How much softer can we become?
Casual days …
to be continued…
on Feb.05, 2011, under the last days of Rome…
Back in the days of “sir, and ma’m” ….
In May, 1968 more than 11 million people in France protested the government, causing the economy of France to basically stop.
Some reports I have read state that more than 25% of the workforce protested de Gaulle’s conservative government.
What would have happened if the President of the United States at the time had gone on TV telling the world he wanted de Gaulle, (a strategic alley to America) to step down?
President Johnson didn’t get involved.
Ultimately, the protests in France “encouraged” the government to change, but the leader did not immediately, walk away.
This past week, estimated 1 – 2 million people have been/are protesting against Mubarak in Egypt.
Egypt is a country of 80 million people.
Although most readers know this, I will re-point it out anyways: Egypt is America and Israel’s biggest strategic partner in the region. Egypt is probably the only sudo-friend Israel has in the Middle East.
… I think everyone understands whoever Egypt’s democracy elects will not be a friend to Israel, and he (surely) will not be a puppet to the west.
Therefore, I don’t understand the Oprah Winfrey-style of leadership coming from Obama — it’s like he is trying to please everyone; trying to look like a nice guy when he tells the world: “I want to see immediate transition…”
…even my 7 year old daughter understands “immediate transition” in Egypt is impossible, not to mention dangerous for the rest of the world.
Trying to please everyone; trying to be liked by everyone….Oprah Winfrey leadership to be continued tomorrow…
That R.E.M. song is playing in the background…..
on Jan.12, 2011, under make it happen
This is repost from 6 weeks ago
With the risk of coming across boastful….
Yesterday, I was contacted by a leading business media in North America to write an article for them discussing my ideas on what is the best way to become a “thought leader.”
This was in reference to a Harvard Business Review article on “how to become a thought leader in six steps.”
Firstly, I state unequivocally, I am not a “thought leader.”
I don’t pretend to be a “thought leader.”
I am from the old school where there was no such thing as self promoting “thought leaders.”
The world we live in today has become so focused on self promotion, all at the same time craving acceptance from others that selfishness dominates …. pollutes our thought process.
A true “thought leader” does not need to intentionally, market and hustle his/her “thoughts….”
Like a great leader doesn’t need to command people to follow…
Is “leadership” something which can be taught?
Let’s be honest….
Can someone sitting behind a computer in a cushy office at Harvard teach leadership??
No matter how great of a leader the person might be or have been ….can the secrets to their success as a leader be summed up on a blog or in a book?
…Is ”thought leadership” something so simple it can be taught in 6 clear steps on a blog?
In reality …
What works “leading” an American employee does not necessarily work “leading” an employee in China, India, Japan, not to mention, “leading” a woman employee in Saudi Arabia…
Moreover, it can be argued that the abundance of media has created an overflow of information.
We are hammered daily by worthless content trying to sell us short cuts ….
“The secret to becoming the ultimate thought leader in just 6 simple steps…”
In my humble opinion – there are no manuals which one can buy that outline the secrets of how to lead to people….whether leading them in action or in thought.
I’m just searching for John Galt…
on Jan.09, 2011, under searching for John Galt...
“Anytime you quit hearing “sir” and “ma’am”, the end is pretty much in sight.” …. from the book “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy
Last season, a NBA coach who led his team to the playoff’s each year he was the coach; the team went to the finals his 2nd year and he was voted the NBA coach of the year.
Last year, he nearly led his team to the finals again, but lost in the conference finals.
Back in the day of “sir” and “ma’m” a coach like this was celebrated, but not in this world we live in today.
The coach was fired because the star player of the team, someone who was 25 years old didn’t like him.
I am not judging anyone.
I am just wondering when did it all change: when did authority stop having authority?
….I felt like re-mentioning this story which I blogged about in June 010 because it’s sort of along the same theme as todays blog, but not really…
I have great respect for George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees.
Irrespective of what you think about the Yankees … Steinbrenner’s team is unquestionably the most famous, successful and valuable professional sports franchise in the world.
George is well known for enforcing a strict dress code which everyone who plays for or works for him must abide by – including no facial hair, no asshole haircuts and there is no player on the Yankees who is visibly drenched in tattoos.
This dress code and code of ethics is strictly enforced.
If someone doesn’t like it, they play elsewhere.
I won’t waste time discussing (my opinion) on the direct correlation between a strict dress/ethic code to the consistent success of a team or company – I beleive they are linked, but that’s not the point of today’s blog.
When I was a junior in high school….
My high school swim team was at the Florida high school state meet, competing for the state championship (to win the state championship in Florida is a big deal to a high school team)
One of the star swimmers on our team showed up to the meet with a mohawk haircut.
My coach wouldn’t let this guy get on the bus to go to the meet unless he shaved (as the coach called it) his “asshole haircut.”
We relied on this swimmer, Wes… and if Wes refused to shave his mohawk off, he wouldn’t be allowed to swim – and our relay wouldn’t be as strong. Not to mention, Wes was expected to win his two events, thus we needed the points to ensure we won state.
Our coach (who is now the head coach of the USA’s 2012 Olympic swim team) didn’t care – he had a dress code and all swimmers were expected to adhere to this code.
Wes shaved off his mohawk and was allowed to rejoin the team.
Ultimately, he won his 4 events that year and our team won the state championship.
He and the team, we didn’t fight the coaches rules — we thrived because of them.
Yesterday, the “voice of reason” fwd me an article about a 14 year old boy who was recently, kicked off his junior high school basketball team because he refused to cut his hair – apparently, this boy’s hair is too long for the dress code set by the school.
Instead of adhering to the rules set by the school and enforced by the coach.… the kid and his parents are suing the school.
To my absolute disgust, many people are supporting this family; the family will probably win money from the school.
When I was younger, people followed the rules set by the leader, and the rules were not questioned.
But in the world we live in today….
people like this boy and his parents are vigorously, celebrated and supported.
Unquestionably, other coaches and schools around America have had to change their rules and codes of ethic to the “needs” of their athletes and students — just to ensure the coach or the school doesn’t get sued or hassled.
I can only shake my head in disgust…
Where is John Galt?