Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Employee Motivation – It's about winning!

Have you ever hit a game-winning shot, scored the game-winning goal, or converted the game-winning touchdown?

How about setting a new Personal Record for swimming, running, biking, car, quad, or motorcycle racing while taking first place?

It feels good, doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, there are few things in life that will ever rival those feelings of accomplishment and the adrenaline rush that ensues. For the rest of your life, those moments will be remembered and often relived as you just love to tell those stories. Athletics have the power to evoke such an amazing feeling because they bring together a few main things in one place:

  1. Competition – No one is letting you win or succeed. Actually there are plenty of people hoping you fail so that they can win instead.
  2. Recognition – When you have the ball, or the wheel, or are on the track, it’s up to you. All eyes are on you whether it’s because you’re doing well or failing. When you succeed, they’re all cheering for you!
  3. Public Pressure – You are not behind closed doors. As I pointed out in my blog asking Are you putting yourself out there for criticism? public pressure forces us to be good or embarrass ourselves trying.
  4. It’s not easy – By definition, if everyone could (or even wanted to do it) there would be no competition. You worked hard to acquire the skills and talents you have, that brought you to that moment of victory. In other words, you’re doing something you are good at.
  5. Exclusivity – You’re in front. Everyone else is behind you. Only 1 person can be in that position.

So what does that have to do with employee motivation and business building? Everything. If you can understand and appreciate that feeling and those emotions, you understand what motivates people.

Though I used sports as an analogy there are parallels to this feeling of accomplishment throughout our lives. Here are just a few other ones so you can see the universal appeal of accomplishment:

  1. Getting the girl (or guy) – Especially if you had to take a risk to do so by approaching a stranger and your buddies were watching.
  2. Closing the sale – Especially if you’re paid on commission and you’re in competition with either yourself to do better or to be the best in your group.
  3. Buying a house or car or something of great value – Generally this provides a major sense of accomplishment as not everyone has the ability to do this (except for a few years during the mid 2000’s when anyone could get financed).
  4. Winning a competitive bid – You proved that you are the best and it felt good.
  5. Making a profitable stock transaction – You bought low, sold high, beat the market odds and beat all the “experts” while doing it.
  6. Getting recruited – Instead of being “hired”, someone actively and aggressively sought you out because of your talents.

The list can go on and on… My underlying point is simply this – If you, as a leader and manager, can find a way to bring Competition, Recognition, Publicity, Exclusivity and a Challenge to your business, most people will rise to the occasion and LOVE their jobs because of it.

If you can remember back to those 2 hour practices, or twice a day camps in the summer (3 runs/day at cross-country camp), it was not always easy, fun, or painless. As a matter of fact, the majority of the time it wasn’t fun at all. However, human beings are generally willing to sacrifice and struggle through all of those obstacles because the rewards of success, particularly the feelings that come along with it, are worth it.

Again, though I use sports as my analogy, this lesson certainly isn’t limited to the sports arena so don’t let that prevent you from getting the point.

The other day in my office, I started to ask some of my team about their experiences with sports. Even the ones who “sat the bench” understood what I meant by that great feeling of accomplishment at hitting the game-winning home-run. Ironically, the one who admitted to being the bench-warmer instantly latched on to our current inter-office competition. Every day she gets so excited about it she tells me about every single customer she signs up for this program and then “trash-talks” me for not getting as many as her. She’ll even walk into my office to receive a high-five to commemorate her latest score. Talk about fun and excitement at work! What may be most impressive, is that for all intents and purposes, her job is “secretarial.” Something most of us would never consider to be competitive or exciting.

Let’s take this concept one step further. According to Marcus Buckingham in his book “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently,” the primary motivator for most people at their job is not how much they make. The primary reason for someone leaving or staying at a job is their relationship with their direct superior (remember that coach you hated or loved?). Take a moment and recall some of your favorite stories about your life. How many of those were directly related to your income at that time? Even your stories of accomplishment at work are rarely simply “I got a raise.” The accomplishments you made to get that raise are what makes for a great story and the true sense of accomplishment. The raise was simply the reward (i.e. winning the game) for showcasing your talents.

So to take this concept full-circle, compensation should be tied to these competitions and other measures of success. This is why I’m not a fan of an hourly wage. An hourly wage does not incorporate a single one of the 5 items that motivate people to make sacrifices for success. Admittedly, several of my team members are at least partially compensated hourly. The biggest problem with this is obviously that it breeds complacency. Once you’re used to getting that $10/hour, you are no longer motivated to keep working hard to get it. It’s a given; it’s guaranteed; all you have to do is show up.  What kind of motivator is that???

Great coaches, great leaders, and great managers find ways to motivate their team members to do their best by rewarding them for their talents.

To your “motivational” success, Bryan

P.S. Since you’re the coach of your team, make sure your competitions and motivators encourage both individual and team performance. ER9Y2V4W6YK5

Never pay someone an hourly wage!

Particularly if they’re full time. A while back I wrote a blog ranting about how lawyers billing by the hour is not at all customer-focused. What’s even worse is encouraging each lawyer in the firm to meet certain targets for billable hours. How in the world does that encourage them to provide the best service for the customer??? I’m aware that “high-end” accounting firms work the same way so I’m not just picking on lawyers cause I don’t agree with how those accountants bill either.

Now the irony of the situation is, I currently have 5 hourly team members. Not only are they hourly, they also all have overtime available. Let’s think about this for a second, what does paying someone by the hour and more for overtime encourage?

  1. To do as little work as possible to fill up the first 40 hours.
  2. To work as many hours of overtime as possible.

So which one of those is beneficial to the customer? Uh, right, neither. And why in the world would I pay someone by the hour? Well, in my own defense, the pay structure was already setup before I became involved. Ok, since I hate to discuss problems without offering solutions let’s look at some other alternatives.

Before determining any pay structure, you first need to determine what will make that person a profitable part of your team. In other words, determine what Key Performance Indicators are most important for that position and then incentivize ALL of them. No matter if that person is a secretary, accountant, engineer, or middle-manager, if you can’t tie there productivity to some form of revenue generation or cost-cutting, at least make them part of a company-wide profit sharing. Keep in mind, you can always bonus people for showing up on time, not taking sick days, finishing projects on schedule, etc. etc.  So even if they “need” a base salary or hourly wage, a significant portion of their income should still be performance based.

When I determine Key Performance Indicators for a position, I start with what would make that team member provide the absolute best service for the customer while still remaining profitable? In other words, even though the customer would love it, providing free service probably isn’t a great plan.

Let’s look at a few possibilities for service technicians/installers. A few ideas that come to mind as great service are the following:

  1. Fix any problem the first time every time.
  2. Show up on time.
  3. Dress professionally and smell pleasant.
  4. Explain the issues to the customer’s satisfaction.
  5. Bill appropriately for top-quality service.
  6. Exceed the customer’s expectations in some way…

And don’t forget that we have to do all of this and remain profitable.

  1. Pay commission based on the revenue he generates instead of by the hour or salary. This encourages him to not dawdle between appointments since he’s not getting paid for that time. In other words, he’s encouraged to get there on time.
  2. Have him handle call-backs himself (since that won’t generate any revenue) or if another technician needs to correct the problem give them credit for the original revenue generated.
  3. Only pay commission when the customer pays. – If they explain the issues appropriately, smell good, and dress professionally they’re much more likely to pay quickly and hopefully at the time of service. Remember the plumbing company that marketed that “all of our plumbers where belts”?
  4. Drop off a candy bar, have someone follow-up with a phone call after service, or something equally “unique” to exceed their expectations. Be creative. I’m still trying to work this out at my business, but I’ll keep you posted.

In other words, encourage each technician to bring in the maximum amount of revenue each day while not creating many mistakes. Doesn’t that sound a LOT better than paying someone by the hour? Since 2 of my technicians are leaving and the girl in the office will be going full-time this summer, I’ll be sure to let you know how the new incentive program works for us.

Keep in mind, to get everyone on your team to commit to such a program, it’s paramount that you show them that as long as they’re doing their job well, they’ll actually be making more money while working less hours. If they can bring in more revenue in a 40 hour work week then they’ll make more money than if they worked for overtime. As the Team Leader, you need to figure out what revenue they’ll need to bring in each day, the average revenue per service call, and the average # of service calls they can complete each day to determine how much money they will make. If you have a great service tracking software then even figuring out exactly how much the technician would have been paid with the commission-based system over the last year should be a cinch. It’s also important that your Service Leader ensures that your technicians have enough work every day as well as efficient directions to get to each service call. Obviously he should get paid a commission on the total service department revenue as well.

My list of great service is purposefully short. Without a doubt, you and I will come up with lots of additonal items that are important such as minimizing workman’s comp, not wrecking trucks, keeping accurate track of truck inventory, etc. etc. etc. My challenge to you (and myself) is to figure out a way to incentivize every possible positive thing whether its on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

My last thought: Why punish what you don’t want your teammates to do when you can reward what you do want them to do?

To your success, Bryan