“For all the good technical knowledge you have, the fundamentals of business come down to building a relationship between you and other people,” Lee says. “You have to help people very early in their careers, and if you do, they blossom.”
You don’t want your employees to be scared of sales, and they need to feel comfortable talking with the customers about more than just an isolated problem.
“Being a science organization, sales and marketing was probably never high on our list,” Lee says. “It’s an acquired skill, not an innate skill.”
If your technical employees have fun being good scientists and engineers, then you need to find ways for them to have fun working with people, he says. Like anything, if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re more willing to do it.
A culture change is never easy to do, even in an entrepreneurial company like RJ Lee Group because people get used to the systems, their niches and what they’re doing. But Lee says RJ Lee Group is making strives as success breeds success.
- Examine your current customers for patterns.
- Understand the skill set of your employees, in order to add to it.
- More quality touch points will increase opportunities to cross-sell.
The Lee File:
Name: Rich Lee, Ph.D.
Company: RJ Lee Group
Born: Minot, North Dakota
Education: Bachelor of science in physics, University of North Dakota; doctorate in theoretical solid state physics, Colorado State University.
You didn’t get a master’s degree? No. I was a Sputnik baby and I had the opportunity to do an accelerated Ph.D. program. There was a great deal of urgency to get scientists out the door.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first job in high school was digging postholes and riding horses, herding cattle. I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do.
I think growing up in that environment teaches you to be self-sufficient and teaches you to solve problems with what you have on hand, and I don’t think you ever get over that.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received? Focus. Running a business is just like running your life — it’s full of a lot of issues. On any day, if you just solve the problem or address the opportunity at hand, and forget about the rest of world when you do it, you’ll manage very effectively.
If you could go back to when you started RJ Lee Group, what would you tell your younger self? Take nothing for granted, especially the communication with your employees and your customers.
Do you have a favorite recent scientific discovery? Why that one? In the recent era, Steve Jobs’ insight into the connectivity between humans and the computer is something that fascinates me every day. The insight into how the computer is going to be an extension of ourselves, how it’s going to influence the way we do business and influence the way we do life. It’s probably the most profound scientific discovery, in part because it’s not pure science. It’s an understanding of the relationship of science to mankind.