During my formative years (also known as my early 20s) I had a marketing internship at a HMO. In the cutthroat world of marketing and sales, long hours were encouraged and vacations were frowned upon. I saw many colleagues trying to climb the corporate ladder by selling their souls to the company. Guess what? It never seemed to pan out; none of those hard workers went on to run the company. Instead they burned out. I sometimes wonder what they sacrificed for the hope of making more or doing better. What did they miss out on during all those late nights and weekends?
When I got my first “big girl job” selling pagers as an outside sales rep, I found there were clear rules in that business: leave your personal life at the door, make your quota, if you’re sick then cover your territory, and if you don’t like it then get out. Every Monday at our weekly meeting, the boss would threaten to fire each of us if we didn’t get our numbers up.
Back then, my workdays ended at 5 pm (or earlier if I could schedule an end-of-day appointment). I did well, and made decent money. It was hard work (with a lot of rejection), but it taught me some great life lessons and some good sales tools. These jobs were just that, jobs, not careers. They certainly didn’t make me happy and, in turn, I wasn’t motivated. Ever get yelled at work? Did it make you work harder? Didn’t think so. But this was the way of business.
Now in my mid-30s, I find the rules of business have changed. This may be due to the fact that I work in a small company, so each person is so much more important. However, the corporate world has also begun to change their tune. More and more studies are popping up connecting happiness and productivity. According to the American Psychological Association, research findings show that people want contentment, love, and happiness derived from meaningful work. That’s a big order! We’re not just giving people a job; we’re giving them a reason for living.
Treat people better and they’ll be better workers. Here are my new rules for our business world:
Don’t be a Robot. In this world of Wal-Marts and corporate giants, where one returns used items with no questions asked, it is easy for the consumer to forget that we (the little guy) are human. Don’t be a robot. Remind people that you’re not corporate, and this will reap many benefits for them (more personalized service, no strict policies, and better people that care more about the solution).
Being human is very “in” these days, just look as some of the big players like Apple. They are this mammoth company trying to appear small and human. What are the first words you see when you buy that brand new MacBook Air? “Designed in California.” They’re trying to be your neighbor, making it seem like they’re smaller (like you’re buying American). You’re seeing this in companies like Toyota too, with large stickers and signs claiming “assembled in Kentucky” (or whichever state they’re assembled in). Other companies have found “human-esque” presence on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook where they invoke conversation. Again, making themselves seem more personal, more human.
It’s All About Balance. In this world where workdays never end at 5 pm, where you always are at the office (or the office is always with you via smart phone, tablets, and laptops), balance between work and life is challenging to find. I’ve found that many clients and fellow AV companies are also using text to communicate. Just this last Sunday I received a long text from a high-end client that their network crashed (it was the FioS router). We made the call at noon on Sunday and walked them through the issue.
What balances the fact that the workday never ends? Vacations. Take them yourself. Encourage your employees to use their days off. Vacations equal healthier people and therefore more productive workers. Find what drives your people (hint: not always money), and make sure they feel their work is valued. Remember, today’s employee isn’t just looking for a job; they’re looking for a good way of life (again, not always about the money). It’s a constant battle, but one we all need to strive for.
Family is No Longer a Dirty Word. How many kids do your employees have? Are they married? Do your kids know your employees? I used to think my kids and my work life should never cross. It wasn’t until I was older (and maybe a bit wiser) that I realized that family isn’t a dirty word. When my employees see me with my kids, they see me as more human (see tip #1: Don’t be a robot). When selling systems, I use my life and kids as examples when talking about “the user experience.” For example, all of my equipment lives in my basement allowing me the peace of mind knowing the kids can’t get to it. I use the same RF remote every day at home that I sell with almost every system.
My family is my life. I would be lying if I pretended that my home life and work life never crossed. They sometimes become so intertwined that I can’t tell where one leaves off and the other begins (see #2: Balance – I’m still trying!) I used to try to ignore their alignment, but now I realize they need to exist in harmony (mostly) for me to truly be a success.
At the end of life no one looks back wishing they had worked more. Yet, work is what we do more than anything else in life. Make it a positive experience, and I guarantee it will be a better place for you, your clients, and your business.
Do you agree? Have the rules of business changed for you?
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.