This is something I really should have known from the start.
I mean, when I look at it now, it is self evident. But I have to admit, I never got my head around it.
I work in automotive. I have for all of my adult life (sorry, Tip Top Tailors and Harvey’s Restaurants ; those were awesome jobs – I liked Harvey’s the best and consequently would probably consider opening my own small fast food joint because of it – but I was just a kid ; my balls hadn’t even dropped yet).
So, in automotive, there are quality problems with parts that could have to do with anything that is outside of a quantative measurement. For example, a part could be out of specification and that is something that can be measured and controlled in the manufacturing process. But, for some parts, for seats for example, some car manufacturers have a BSR defect that requires investigating. BSR stands for ‘Bang, Squeak, Rattle’. Which means that your part could be completely in the specification required, but when it gets into the car, there is a BSR that needs to be tracked down. Think of it as trying to find a cricket by the sound of it’s chirp. It’s about as fun as you think it is.
Funny story about BSR – I heard from someone that a certain automotive manufacturer in the middle north part of Ontario would hire a small person to lay down in the back seat of cars that are test run around the track and their job was to listen for BSRs. That was their full time job. Full time job. To hunt for crickets, essentially.
But, having worked that way all of my life, trying to quantify and control as much as possible in a process, I never considered it as being a similar factor when dealing with people.
The guy – who I’ll call Teddy – who taught me this – or introduced me to it – is so good at it, he didn’t realize how much he did for me until I told him. I might have just revealed myself as being an immature kid who has no idea what I am doing, but fuck it, maybe that’s exactly what I am.
And he taught me the lesson with one story, and let me tell it to you and see if you came out of it the same way I did.
He interviewed a candidate for a sales position. Over the course of the process, he involved every level of management required, right up to the final stages. The candidate presented themselves professionally and, while they did not have the experience required, their personality combined with their education proved to be enough for them to get a chance. They were hired.
On Monday, Teddy is sitting at his desk, signing papers and going about his day, when in walks in a blond bombshell, in a tight sweater and slacks. Teddy nearly fell out of his chair. He talked to her briefly and asked what it is she needed from him.
“Teddy,” she said. “It’s me. Sandy. You hired me on Friday last week, remember?”
Teddy hired a professional who looked and dressed the part, who he intended to mentor and coach and show them how to succeed in sales. He did not hire Barbie.
“Uh, yeah, sure, let me show you to your desk,” he said. Not missing a beat.
He went and spoke to the senior members of the management team and the message generally was, “Holy shit, Teddy, who the fuck did you hire?” And Teddy would answer, “Who did I hire? You were in the fucking room with me. We all made the decision to hire her.” And the support that Teddy got was, “That may be the case, but she works for you now, buddy. Good luck.”
The consensus was that he got duped and had to find a way to handle it without creating a human resources disaster.
Teddy worked with her as intended and coached her and, despite some inevitable challenges that comes with anyone new, she managed her way to be a major part of the sales team. Whereupon everyone else stepped up and started to take notice of her and say how they knew it all along. Teddy, though, stayed the course. He hired Sandy based on her qualifications and everything she had accomplished fell in line with those qualifications, big tits and blonde hair or no big tits and blonde hair.
It came to pass that there was a large, Big Three Automotive account that needed attention but the guy she tried to get in contact with at The Big Three would not return her emails and phonecalls. It proved to be a roadblock that got in the way of her continued to success and she did not know what to do. Teddy knew what to do, and he was very blunt when he told her.
“This guy comes to work every day at 8:30AM and leaves every day at 5:30PM, rain or shine, doesn’t matter. He comes in through the same doors of the same building and has done it for fifteen years. He’s as regular as clockwork. You park yourself in that lobby and the moment you see him, you walk up and give him your pitch.”
“Easy,” Teddy finished.
“I can’t get in the building,” she complained. “There’s security. And approach him? I don’t even know what he looks like.”
“Sandy,” Teddy said. “If you go to that building, wearing what you wore on your first day of work here, trust me. You will get a chance to speak with him.”
“What are you saying?” she said.
Teddy stopped what he was doing and looked up from his paperwork.
“I’m saying is that you aren’t stupid and you knew how to get someone’s attention from the start,” Teddy said. “And you’ve now learned what to do when you get that person’s attention. You can do this.”
She left his office. Next day at 8:00AM she called Teddy.
“Teddy,” she said. “Holy shit! I convinced the security guard to let me into the lobby and I explained to him who it was I had to meet and he promised to point him out to me. I’ve been here since 6:30AM this morning waiting in the lobby for him. The security guard even brought me a coffee!”
Then she stopped for a minute, Teddy told me, as if she was covering the mouthpiece of a phone, “Shit! Teddy, gotta go. The guard just gave me the eye. The guy I want is walking to the elevator!”
She hung up.
Sure as anything, she got the guy’s attention, but Teddy knew this guy was no one’s fool. Sure, he’d listen to her in the lobby and maybe give her his card, but if she was full of shit, he would brush her off and then call Teddy and give him hell for sending a hooker to get a salesman’s job done. That didn’t happen. Within a week, she was in their boardroom, surrounded by program manager’s and engineers, preparing for a round of quotes for business that would find The Big Three saving money and Teddy’s sales team to have the best year of sales that he could remember.
She went on to do a great deal many more things, not the least of which was using those same skills and smarts to turn around her boyfriend’s business and turn it into a profitable little business, from which she took a cut. Teddy never told me if they married, but he did tell me that the business relationship did not go any further until she was assured a cut of the action.
As Teddy tells it, she brings in somewhere between 175K and 225K a year. As he continues to tell it, most of the people that worked for him and listened to him and accepted his critiques, are more or less in the same boat.
I am not one of those people, but I liked Teddy’s story anyway.
Sure, it has an element of sexism involved. A little of the Mad Men Mystique, if you will. You’re seeing Christina Hendrix in your head, only blond hair not auburn. But Teddy showed me where it is natural to judge someone based on what you see, but only for a minute or so, and then you have to be critical of their abilities and ask yourself if they meet the criteria required. And then, when you make a decision based on that critique, work with that. If you make a snap judgement without being critical, don’t cry sour grapes. Control the situation by getting rid of them or making it work with what you’ve got.
Sounds like pretty basic advice. And it is. But I really liked hearing it and I hope you did to.