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Posts Tagged “Albert Schweitzer”

Warren Buffett has stated, “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

My philosophy about hiring employees is this: I don’t want employees at all. What I want is peers with a congruent value system to share a personal and business journey. I want co-workers in a horizontal company who can teach me and make me a better human being and businessman. This means everyone, including the receptionist.

This journey begins with common values, particularly seeking out executive business associates who want their work to give back to the world through service and truth-telling to customers and potential customers. Under that rubric of shared values, I have always wanted to only hire executive colleagues who are better than me at both genuine caring for the client and creating efficacious results, in that order. However, the truth is we are all better and worse than each other in our variegated ways.

To me, the staffing ideal is a company that affords all associates the freedom to maximize their own service instinct and acumen with minimal interference from the big, bad boss (me). I’ve found that this philosophy makes for an enlivened, creative company and a happy business community. It incentivizes and vivifies autonomy as a core value.

Etymologically the term autonomy derives from the Greek word meaning self-governing. To be autonomous means to act in accord with oneself. When we are autonomous we all emanate service and salesmanship infused with energy, integrity, and a personal authenticity that sells at all points of contact with the public and with stakeholders.

Authenticity is compelling. Like the judge who, when asked to define pornography, said, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Customers feel much the same way. They know authenticity when they see it. Stephen Colbert famously calls this quality “truthiness.” I see incentivizing “truthiness” in every associate as a primary leadership imperative. You want to activate truthiness, not just because it is moral, but because it is effective.

Therefore, part of incentivization is hiring people who innately share corporate values so they are always, without thinking, succeeding by propelling a corporate narrative from inside themselves. In my case I have hired educated, value-oriented, experienced people who are adults and self-starters.

Of course, everyone works for money. That has to be fair and appropriate. But I firmly believe that passion and commitment are not fundamentally incentivized by money. They are better motivated by a will to generosity, happiness, and autonomy.

As said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing you will be successful.” (Herman Cain frequently appropriated this quote when he ran for President of the US in 2012.)

Thank you, Albert.

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Last week I posted about my being both awed and a bit unsettled by a conference at The Capital Roundtable.  It is hard to argue the brilliance of top private equity operatives.  As far as I can tell, the PE vocation is populated by nothing but Mensa savants.  Mostly what these analytic glitteratti do is quite beyond my ken, as I reported last week.

Yet there is one area these portfolio managers find perplexing, as far as I can glean it.  That area is sales.

Sales, like entrepreneurship itself, is more of an art than a science.  And private equity portfolio managers don’t believe in art.  They believe in what they can measure.  They believe in quantification.  They believe in neatly tied, tightly controlled bundles of profit.  In most things they are great at unlocking value and in most things they exercise a salubrious effect on companies and the market.  But I understand why sales solutions can elude PE portfolio managers, much more than they do entrepreneurial company builders.

Good salesmen, again like good entrepreneurs, are creatures of individuality, subtlety and nuance.  And they are not molded solely by filthy lucre.  Good ones are intuitive, freedom-loving cowboys.  While a good salesman may be able to “sell ice to an Eskimo,”  but that does not mean he is so cynical he wants to do that or that it makes him happy, fulfilled, or incentivized to do that.

Contrary to popular myth, sales people are not amoral scoundrels and money grubbing rogues like “Blake” (portrayed by Alec Baldwin) in Glengarry Glen Ross or “Roy Walter” (portrayed by Nicholas Cage) in Matchstick Men.  They like being part of something that gives their life and their world meaning.

PE afficionados should note the recent work of happiness researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.  Dunn and Norton (NY Times, Sunday Review, July 8, 2012) have found that additional income buys us little additional happiness once we reach a comfortable living standard.  They quote a Princeton study using Gallup polling data from almost a half million American households that shows that money creates little beneficial effect after reaching the $75,000 mark.

So more monetary or other quantitative incentive is not necessarily the carrot that should be dangled before top salesmen to maintain and increase effort.  What needs to be maintained and augmented when PE managers take over an entrepreneurial venture is a sense of mission and purpose.  That is not an easy thing to sell to a sales staff that knows a portfolio company is probably being groomed for a quick sale.  The ultimate failure of “Chainsaw Al” Dunlop’s abrasive, cynical, short-term management style is surely a cautionary tale for all PE portfolio managers.

Sales has to be approached on the basis of long-term sustainability and corporate mission, not excessive near-term monetary motivation.

Pericles Mazarakis of Thomas H. Lee Parters, who was the Chairman of The Capital Roundtable seminar I attended last week, acknowledged a need for more non-monetary thinking around sales incentivization with a story of an incident he observed at Remington a number of years ago (I am reporting this from memory):  A certain sales director at Remington kept his staff’s efficiency and enthusiasm high, not by monetary carrots or demanding quotas, but by the simple expedient of placing a xeroxed sheet on the desks of salesmen who did well, saying, “Great job!  You are killing it!”  The consulting firm looking at the company found that these cheap xerox sheets were being framed by these salesmen and meant more than any quantitative reward.

There has to be a way to emphasize more the salesman’s need for meaning if PE companies want to maintain and expand sales force efficacy.  That means framing a non-quantitative sense of pride, belonging, and ownership, even with the shortened profitability timeline of PE managers. The Gordian Knot of sales maximization is really not amenable to the rough hewn solution of Alexander the Great. Even from the near term profitability perspective of the PE investor, there really is no quantitative silver bullet because the sales conundrum is the most immutably human of business problems.

PE portfolio managers, or anyone else seeking the silver bullet for successful, engaged sales solutions, long or short-term, might begin with Albert Schweitzer’s words about success.  He said, “Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”  Thank you, Albert.

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To continue from last week–My philosophy about sales employees is this: I don’t want employees at all. What I want is peers with a congruent value system to share a personal and business journey.

For me that journey must begin with common values. I seek out executive sales associates who want their work to give back to the world through service and truth telling to customers and potential customers. Under that rubric of shared values, I try to only hire executive sales colleagues who are better than me at both genuine caring for the client and creating efficacious results, in that order. However, the truth is we are all better and worse than each other in our variegated ways.

So I organize my firm, Corporate Rain International, as a lifestyle firm; as a virtual company that affords all associates the freedom to maximize their own sales instincts and acumen with minimal interference from the big, bad boss (me). Over 17 years I’ve found this philosophy makes for an enlivened company and a happy community. It incentivizes and vivifies autonomy as a core value.

Etymologically, the term autonomy derives from the Greek word meaning self-governing. To be autonomous means to act in accord with oneself. When we are autonomous we all emanate a salesmanship infused with energy, integrity and a personal authenticity that sells.

Authenticity is compelling. Like the judge who, when asked to define pornography, said, “I can’t define it, but I know it when i see it.” Buyers feel much the same way. They know authenticity when they see it. Stephen Colbert famously calls this quality “truthiness,” I see incentivizing “truthiness” in every sales associate of my firm as a primary leadership imperative. You want to activate “truthiness,” not just because it is moral, but because it is effective.

Therefore, part of incentivization is hiring people who share corporate values so they are always, without thinking, succeeding by propelling a truth inside themselves. In my case I hire educated, value-oriented, experienced salespeople who are adults and self-starters and I turn ’em loose within a controlled system. And then I trust in the Lord. The results have generally rewarded my faith.

Of course, everyone works for money. That has to be fair and appropriate. But I firmly believe that passion and commitment are not fundamentally incentivized by money. They are better motivated by a will to happiness and autonomy.

Or, as Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Thank you, Albert.

Comments 12 Comments »

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