To Err is Human — to Really Muck Things Up Takes a CEO, Part Two
Continuing my list from last week, here’s the second part (tips 8-13) of my rules for CEOs to follow to most effectively manage their direct marketing businesses.
8. Don’t be a negative example. Want your employees to underperform? Come to work sporadically, keep unspecified hours, pull up in a ultra high-end foreign luxury car while your employees drive cars with rust holes, and watch what happens. When your employees lack motivation, blame them, not you. But as a wise old boss I had early in my career told me, “The fish stinks from the head!” Get in before your employees, leave later and drive a regular car to the office (leave the bling home).
9. Don’t go crazy on infrastructure. If business is good and you have some extra cash, build an office your friends, family, competition, vendors, bankers and all will envy. I once worked for a B-to-B cataloger/manufacturer that had a huge windfall client sign up with its wholesale division. The company, which was profitable, saw a revenue increase of about 50 percent. It went about buying a building, adding staff, putting in a new database ERP system that only its CIO understood and generally refurnished its entire office. When the client pulled the plug on the product it had custom-built for the cataloger, guess what happened? Eventually the company cracked under its own weight and went under. The moral of the story: Build your infrastructure organically, one piece at a time.
10. Don’t play favorites. Any time you have a boss and two or more employees, office politics exist. So what if your favorite employee hangs on your every word, coos approval when you speak and is your friend inside and outside the office. My choice is the employee who wants to argue, dissent, even kick my butt (and isn’t afraid to say it) any day of the week over my pet employee. These are the people who have the guts to tell you that you’re fiddling while Rome is burning.
11. Listen to your employees. While you’re sitting in your office all day sweating the big, top-line corporate stuff, your employees are on the front lines. See below…
12. Don’t think it’s your company. Yes, you may have started it, but now your employees run it. If you walk out of your big corner office right now and start using the old Tom Peters principle of “management by wandering around,” you’ll gain more perspective on what your business is about, where it’s been and, more importantly, where it’s going. We all know that anyone can be replaced except you. But once you see how little you actually run your company these days, you may be humbled by the perspective that maybe you could take another extended trip to Tibet and the company would actually continue, even flourish.
13. Think you’re in business to … People want to be the boss not to make lots of money (but if done right, you certainly will), not to be respected, not to feel important or even be feared. There are only two real reasons to be in business: to make and sell good products that are useful to your customers and, more importantly, to employ others and contribute a positive working experience. Focus your energies on those two areas and watch your employees be happy, your customers be satisfied and your company grow.
Authors note: If you find yourself angry or upset by my column today, that’s OK. I may have hit a nerve. Feel free to dispute anything I said by commenting below. Oh, and if I know you and have worked for you in some capacity over the years, please know that I am NOT talking about you. Most of what I wrote about happened on multiple occasions in some very diverse companies.
Speak to you next week.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.