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.