Dustin S. Klein
If you take a close look at the tapestries hanging in the Cleveland Museum of Arts newly renovated armor court, youll notice something fishy.
Four of them are fakesstanding in for the real ones, which were shipped to Belgium early this year for restoration. (The other four were restored while the room was being redone.)
The stand-ins, however, are themselves a work of artdigital art generated by Merrill David Inc. of Cleveland. The museum wanted to make sure there wasnt blank wall space for 18 months, explains Neil Gloger, Merrill David sales manager.
While the fakesranging in size from approximately 10 feet by 13 feet to 14 feet by 22 feetare merely printed, rather than sewn, the detail is so fine that you can distinguish individual stitches.
The computer files used to create them were up to six gigabytes (take your average desktop PC, double the hard-drive capacity, remove all software and data, and you might be able to squeeze in one file), and printing them out took up to 20 hours.
Plenty can go wrong in 20 hours of printing, and on more than one occasion, Gloger says, the staff had to scrap the print run and start over.
The replacement rugs are printed on a special banner fabric developed and donated by Painesvilles Avery Dennison. They wont tear under their own weight, Gloger says, and they present zero diffuse reflection,a fancy way of saying no glare from the armor courts skylights.
We tried them on canvas first, Gloger says. But the glare was terrible.
When it comes to training your work force, either leap in with both feet or dont bother at all. A good training program should have clear objectives about what you want the employees to learn and the full support of management. Otherwise, its doomed from the start, says Judy Opalach, president of Cleveland-based Skill Builders.
Opalach helped set up manufacturer Horsburgh & Scotts employee training program a decade ago. That programs success has made it one of the regional models companies look at when theyre ready to design their own. While Horsburgh & Scott earmarks $45,000 a year for its program, start-ups can cost a bit more. Done right, they can cost as much as $60,000 or $70,000 a year.
But once youre past the sticker shock and realize that a strong program can pay for itself in a year or less, Opalach offers five key steps to getting the optimum training program off the ground.
Theres a lot of fear initially among the workers, explains Opalach, who cut her teeth with Project Learn 15 years ago. Often, theyve got a lot of questions about why the employer is starting a training program, including whether its to weed out the dummies.
To diffuse that situation, she suggests employers be up front with their employees and explain the plans for the program: Describe how it will work and why its needed. She says an all-hands meeting is a good way to broadcast the message.
After that, the person who is setting up and managing the program should meet with employees in small groupswithout other managers presentto alleviate any fears people have about participating in training programs.
Make an assessment
Opalach also uses those small, personal meetings to figure out where people stand in terms of their skill levels and training needs. But, she stresses, its not an intelligence test.
Its a basic assessment for reading, writing and math, and anything else that an employer may choose to have thats significant in the workplace, she says. That could include tasks such as basic blueprint reading or understanding a specific process on a machine. It depends on who the focus for the training is.
Conduct a job-task analysis
In conjunction with the basic assessment, the trainer needs to take an objective look at how employees will use their new skills.
Thats something many employers overlook when theyre developing a training program, warns Hal Miller, president of Solon-based Marplex, which designs training programs for manufacturers.
When an insider decides whats going to be in a training program, theyre putting things in that they think the student needs, Miller says. In order to do it effectively, though, its important for the person developing the training program to go to the students and find out what they really need in order to accomplish the companys objectives.
Opalach suggests first-hand observation. Go in and shadow somebody on the job, she says. Look at all the things that they are doing and what skills are related to each particular job.
For example, consider a task that is usually assumed to be simple and require little instruction: filling out forms. Look at the form and all the different skills it takes to complete it, she says. Reading, the ability to understand abbreviations and acronyms, the ability to write dates numerically, to write comprehensive concise sentences and spell correctly. People dont realize how much goes into every task.
Develop the curriculum
Once youve got a thorough picture of what skills the employees need to learn, the hardest part is developing a curriculum around those skills to meet stated objectives.
Miller says text and illustrations are critical to any training programs success. You have to ask yourself, Does the illustration illustrate what you want it to, and how well do the words explain what the students looking at or what the company needs him or her to learn? he says.
For example, if the goal is to teach an employee how to operate a machine, the text should be written from the employees point of viewnot that of the engineers who designed the equipment. Any diagrams need to be accurate and contain the appropriate level of detail.
What you teach has to apply to the job, adds Opalach. Adults learn best by something thats going to be relevant to them and applicable. If you can apply exactly what you learned, then theres a much greater success rate.
Evaluate the program and make adjustments
Employers generally make one of two mistakes at this point: They either fail to follow up at all, or they try to find the immediate return on investment.
Its not an overnight result, Opalach warns. Education doesnt work like that. Employers need to be aware of that if theyre going to do any kind of measurement of the programs success.
You can turn out a widget in 24 hours or less, but in education, the products going to take a little bit longer because its an intangible.
She suggests employers give any start-up training program one to two years before conducting a formal evaluation of its success. However, thats not to say theres anything wrong with gauging it by talking to supervisors and asking if theyve noticed improvements in performance and confidence among employees.
After the first group has gone through the program is a good time to make adjustments where employees needs arent being met. Says Opalach, Its an evolving process. A good program is always in a constant state of flux.
Employers checklist: Building a training program
Training is often an afterthought in business, relegated to an employees first few hours on the job. If you want to get more from your people, here are five steps to assure the success of a training regimen:
Change is difficult. Whenever you introduce new things to the workplace, expect to meet some level of resistance. If youre up front with employees about the motives behind a new training program, there wont be muffled whispers around the office or on the shop floor.
Assess skill levels.
People dont necessarily start from the same educational baseline. Reading, math and writing levels differ. Adjust your training program so nobody is discriminated againstor left behind. Offer advanced training courses for those who are ahead of the pack and basic courses for those who need an extra push.
Analyze job tasks.
If you dont know the elements of all the skills needed for each job, its difficult to figure out specific training employees need. Dont assume anything.
[Develop a curriculum around real needs.
Be sure that the curriculum chosen fits both your companys objective and the employees needs to do the job effectively. Keep an open mind. Nobody knows their job better than the employees doing it every day.
Continually improve the program.
Dont fall in love with the training programs first incarnation. If it needs changes, make them.
As Dan Conways station wagon rumbled south on I-77, the back end sagged under the weight of the beer, stacked to the roof in cases. His older brother Pat was driving, when the headlights of a car behind them suddenly started to flash.
Their stomachs lurched, even though the absence of red lights told them immediately that it wasnt the law. They drove on, trying to ignore the motorist behind them, but he was both frantic and persistent.
Finally, Pat put on his right blinker and pulled off onto the shoulder. The other driver followed.
The guy gets out of his car and tells us hes been looking for us, Pat says. He says he has a retail store and wants to carry Great Lakes beer. Then he made us follow him back to his store.
Things have changed for the brothersowners of Great Lakes Brewing Co.since that summer night eight years ago. They no longer limit retail sales of their beer to the number of stores they can hit in the family car on the way home after work.
We eventually decided that distribution wasnt our business, Dan says. Brewing is. But at the time, they didnt have a choice. It was always something we knew we were going to do because we couldnt afford distributors. But tactically, we didnt have a clue. We had a small number of accounts on each side of town, so getting the beer to them was a little tricky.
Today, Great Lakes beer is handled by eight different distributors in a region extending from Toledo to Youngstown.
One thing hasnt changed: The increasingly successful beer-brewing duo has continued to operate under the same business plan that set the scene for that odd meeting on the highway in their second year of business.
In fact, the brothers say their careful adherence to that plan is the main reason Great Lakes Brewing has been able to rise above the continuous shakeout that exists among craft brewers everywhere, to join the small handful of stable regional brewers across the United States.
When Cleveland first fell in love with Great Lakes beer, there was only one place to get it: at Great Lakes Brewing Co., the Ohio City restaurant that was the larger and better-known portion of the Conways business.
The restaurant opened in 1988, when the craft beer explosionwhich has since put such names as Anchor Steam and Red Ass Ale on the shelves of the nations better stocked grocery storeswas in its infancy.
Pat and Dan knew that if they tried to push their way into Northeast Ohios bars, restaurants and stores as a start-up brewery, they would fail. Instead they would start with a restaurant to provide three important things: cash, a captive market to buy every pint of beer they could produce and word-of-mouth buzz.
At times, the strategy was hard to swallow. They never wanted to be restaurateurs.
All we knew, Dan says, was that we wanted to be the biggest brewery in the Great Lakes region. We didnt worry about how long it would take to get there. We just wanted to stay focused on slow and steady methodical growth.
But to the people who drank their beer in those first years, Great Lakes represented, more than anything, just another good place to go on Friday night.
It would be a decade before the beer business grew larger than the restaurant.
There was a lot of frustration sticking with the brewpub concept because it is the restaurant business, Pat admits. So many things can go wrong with a restaurant. We went through a lot of pain, but we learned that end of the business.
Last year, as the restaurant hit its 10th anniversary, revenues closed in on $10 millionof which 55 percent came from outside sales of beer. As if to celebrate that milestone, the Conways unveiled a new $6.5 million brewing facility. Located in the old Schlather Brewing Co. building across the street from the main business, the expansion boosts capacity to 30,000 barrels a year.
Great Lakes really began three years before the restaurant openedand just a year after Christian Schmidt, Clevelands last brewery, shut down. At the time, Pat Conway was teaching English to inner city kids in Chicago and Dan was a commercial banker at Huntington National Bank.
For years, the two shared a love for European beersa taste they had acquired while studying abroad during college. Those experiences left lasting impressions, says Pat. Dan and I talked all the time about how we should bring that European beer taste to Cleveland by opening a microbrewery.
Beginning in 1985, they spent two years developing a long-range business plan. While their dreams were big, their wallets werent. Out of necessity, they committed to slow and careful growth. But when they incorporated in 1986, they chose the name because we wanted to set the goal of expanding to the entire region at a later date, Pat says.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. opened in September 1988 on Market Avenue in the depressed Ohio City neighborhood. With four of their own beers on the menu and just two brewing vessels, the Conways juggled to keep their featured product on tap.
Well before opening, the Conways hired Thaine Johnsona former Christian Schmidt brewmasterout of retirement. His job was simple: make good beer.
Johnsons first step was an expedition to find some used brewing equipment. He called the Conways from Colorado, saying he had located the perfect setup.
With the money already allocated, the brothers hopped on a plane, prepared to write a check for the $100,000 asking price. But the evening before they were to sign the deal, the trio met for dinner at a restaurant outside of Boulder. As they discussed the deal over beer, Johnson started to identify things that were less than ideal about the equipment.
After still more beer, they decided to make a swing through Californias microbreweries to see what else might be on the market.
A few days later, on the plane back to Cleveland, a disappointed Johnson told the Conways he didnt like anything hed seen and suggested designing their own plant.
The ideas were scribbled on scrap paper, and when they arrived in Cleveland, Johnson called an old friend from his brewing days to help design the brewery, while the Conways found a manufacturer in Dayton to build it. It ended up costing a little bit more in the end, says Pat. But it was exactly what we needed.
The Great Lakes start-up had been funded with the Conways own money; Pat sold a piece of property he owned in Chicago and Dan liquidated some of his investments. But by 1987, a year before they opened, it became obvious that they would need outside capital. The main problem was scraping together the most basic financial projections.
There werent too many breweries in the nation, Pat says. The ones that were around were closing, not opening. Restaurants were closing, too. So we not only picked two industries that people dont traditionally lend money for, but then we were looking at a location in a depressed part of Cleveland.
The Conways contacted the California breweries theyd visited while looking for equipment. Those owners graciously opened their books to the young entrepreneurs. We poured over tons of projections, says Dan. Those really helped us put some solid figures in writing.
In part because of Dans former ties to Huntington, when the duo approached the bank, they were quickly approved for a $400,000 loan.
By the end of 1989, its first full year of business, Great Lakes produced 750 barrels of beerroughly three hours of worth of production atthe old Christian Schmidt. The Conways delivered beer to three wholesale accountsone each on the Clevelands W est, East and South sides. Total revenue: $1.5 millionmostly food sales.
Theirs was the kind of early success that so often leads to distraction and mistakes. The more aggressively the Conways stuck to their business plan, the better they looked. And the better they looked, the more their phone rang with opportunities that were flattering, enticing and outside of their focus.
Over the years, weve been approached by more people than you can imagine who wanted us to make beer for them and put their label on it, says Dan. Weve always had the resolve to say no. Its just not part of our strategy.
The Conways also were approached to open a second location of their restaurant in Columbus. The idea of rolling out a nationwide brewpub franchise has also been tossed at their feet.
While they believe they now have enough restaurant management savvy to make it work, theyve stuck with a plan that makes them brewers rather than franchisers. They have expanded six times, each effort larger than the one before it. In all cases, the expansion was driven by their plan to build a name brand for their beerrather than the unforeseen opportunity that so many other entrepreneurs would seek.
But even within the constraints of their strategy, the Conways must resist the temptation to grow on a near-daily basis. For example, as their brewing capacity and financial stability increase, the brothers have stuck by their original promise to maintain product quality by only brewing enough beer to meet standing orders.
Store owners who want to stock up on extra Budweiser for the Super Bowl or Memorial Day weekend merely have to wait for the beer truck to arrive, and they can get what they want.
But with Great Lakes, distributors must place advance orders with the brewery. If a customer wants extra, the distributor cant get it.
Theres a reason. To maximize its flavor, the beer isnt pasteurized or infused with preservatives. It has a 90-day shelf life under refrigeration, compared to six months warm for big national brands.
You have to educate them about how to store our beer. Its a quality issue, Dan says. We treat inventory in everyones warehouse as our own.
The distributors hate itbut overlook it because the beer sells well and is in constant demand. Still, they are constantly nagging Great Lakes to change its brewing policy. The Conways, in usual fashion, say thats not in their plan.
Our strategy at every turn addresses quality and customer satisfaction, maintains Pat. Were not Anheuser-Busch or Miller and were not trying to be them.
While the adherence to a pure product doesnt always sit well with distributors, it has impressed the bankers.
It takes a lot of discipline to say no, offers Douglas Wigton, a loan officer at Huntington National Bank.
Huntington has financed several Great Lakes projects, most recently issuing a letter of credit to back $5.7 million in industrial revenue bonds for the latest expansion. Thats one of the things thats given me a lot of confidence in them. People approach them all the time and beg them to expand. And they just dont do it.
Explains Pat, If wed gone and tried to pursue those other plans, it would have taken us away from our focus. We walk away from more business than we would know what to do with. But dont get me wrong, you do get very enamored by the dollars people try to throw at you, so its easy to see why other breweries do it. But when you do a gut check, you find out that what theyre asking us to do doesnt satisfy either our economic intuition or business sense.
Even after building a 10-year track record of level-headed decisions, the Conways protect their business carefully. The most recent expansion included plans for a corporate tasting room overlooking the brewing floor. It would be used for private parties, high-level entertaining and the most important kinds of dealmaking.
But the rooma little bit of easily justified luxury that ought to be due after 10 years of successis now on hold. The production end of the expansion cost more than expected.
Well finish that when our cash flow allows, Pat says, when giving a tour of the roughed-in tasting room. Until then, well take people for tours of the new plant, then bring them back to the restaurant for a tasting.
Two years ago, when we started on this expansion, that was a decision they included in the proposal, says Wigton, their banker. If they had money left over, or if they found it along the way, theyd build the tasting room. But they were adamant about moving it to the next phase of Great Lakes growth if they couldnt afford it. They just dont sway from their plan.
No plan is perfect, and even baby steps occasionally fall in the wrong place. Consider the Conways first effort to upgrade their bottling line in 1990. Until then, Pat says, it was brain damagingly slow. Each bottle would be filled, then handed to the next guy, whod cap it. It took all day to fill 30 cases of beer.
When they started shopping for a bottling line, they didnt find anything for less than $30,000. We didnt want to spend that kind of money, says Dan. But bottling by hand was very time consuming and unprofitable. So we decided to build our own machine.
It took just $10,000 and a few months time to put something together. It took even less timebut more moneyto figure out that the contraption wouldnt work.
We just kept throwing money at it, admits Pat. We shouldnt have done that, but we were trying to grow slow. Finally, we bit the bullet and bought that $30,000 machine.
Theyve since added a faster line, but the homemade machine still has an important job at Great Lakes Brewing: It serves as a reminder of the mistakes the Conway brothers are capable of making.
Its still upstairs in the corporate offices, says Dan, with a potted plant in it.
Last year set an important milestone for Great Lakes Brewing. Not only did the beer business grow larger than the restaurant business, the company entered 1998 with plans to brew about 15,000 barrelsthe top capacity, according to the Institute for Brewing Studies, for a microbrewery.
It completed the year with the ability to brew twice that amount, officially putting it in the industry category of regional brewersa title the Conways will have to be satisfied with unless they can figure out a way to make and sell more than 2 million barrels.
But that, the brothers insist, is not in their plan.
Were convinced this is not a national deal, says Dan. Its a regional one. The Conways define the Great Lakes region as Minnesota to Western New York, and as far south as Cincinnati.
They have plenty of work to do before they cover it all, and if they succeed, it will be one city at a time.
Theyve hired an ad agency to help develop a strategy for making Great Lakes beer a household name in their target markets and theyve started looking for distributors to handle their fresh, chilled beer.
And if their record holds up, they will succeed. Great Lakes will become the best-known, most-purchased craft beer around the Great Lakes.
Its just going to take some time. You can plan on that.
Midland Aluminum Corp. didnt like turning away business and upsetting long-time customers, but the specialty cuts they wanted were putting a strain on the bottom line. It wasnt part of the companys repertoire, explains President Chuck Pariano Jr.
Not only did it cost more to do the work transactions pass through at least five different employees hands but the custom orders created scrap metal, which Midland had nowhere to sell. It wasnt cost efficient to pull one piece of metal out from a 1,000-pound bundle to cut a single six-inch piece, he says.
So it wouldnt lose money, the Cleveland bulk metals distributor had to charge for an entire piece of metal when they requested a custom cut. That didnt sit well with Parianos customers. We were irritating them, he says.
Last year, Pariano decided hed had enough. Rather than continue to upset his customers many of who had been loyal to the company for 30 years Pariano opened a subsidiary, Midland Xpress Metals, to handle customized orders.
The subsidiary also solved a different problem. Explains Kurt Tarkany, manager of Midland Xpress, Wed get calls all day long from people looking for small things, much smaller than wed normally carry. There was no way to justify the cost of pulling a large sheet or pipe of metal from Midlands stock, then cutting it down just to fill a single small order from a new customer.
Midlands problem isnt unique. Many bulk distributors find themselves pigeonholed into servicing just one group of customers. The subsidiary solved that problem as well.
Since Midland buys its aluminum, brass, copper and stainless steel as part of large orders, then sells it as is whatever customers didnt buy was left over as odds and ends in the warehouse. Now, those leftovers become part of Midland Xpress inventory. And the inventory grows regularly.
Tarkany says while Midland Xpress now handles the parent companys special orders, the subsidiarys real focus is on smaller companies, which need only a few metal pipes or bars, and do-it-yourselfers. The odd-sized metal produced from each custom cut finds a home in a different bin in the companys inventory.
Tarkany says Xpress transactions require only one person instead of several departments worth of people.
Its a better use of our resources, he says.
How to reach: Midland Xpress Metals (216) 267-7893
Scott Madzia, manager of corporate accounts for Nextel, demands a lot from his top sales people. Its tough sometimes to manage great sales people, he maintains. Theyre often arrogant and cocky.
It is the attitude of those overachievers, however, that separates them from the ones who struggle to meet their monthly quota.
I treat top performers harder than others because the expectations are higher, Madzia says. Its a pitfall for some managers, though, because other reps see all the attention they get and feel shortchanged.
Madzia is not alone with his dilemma. As any supervisor who manages superstar talent knows, there is a fine line between giving top performers what they need and ignoring the rest of the staff. The last thing you want to do is neglect young sales people who may need, or want, a little extra help to get them over the hump.
The balancing act means ensuring the stars dont rest on past laurels and let their numbers fall.
I dont want my top guys to get comfortable, Madzia says. I want them to keep their edge.
Keeping that edge is what helps drives superior sales numbers month after month, maintains Joe LaGuardia, regional vice president of Ohio Sales for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Fire in the gut is what keeps salespeople in the top 20 percent, he says, referring to the commonly held perception that 20 percent of your sales force produces 80 percent of your revenues. Its like Vince Lombardi said, If youre not fired up with enthusiasm, youll be fired with enthusiasm.
Its why LaGuardia gives his top people as much of his time as they need.
I tell them Im available from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. That way, theyve got my attention if they need it.
LaGuardia combines that access with extensive freedom, letting his most consistent performers make command decisions without micromanaging.
They know what needs to be done without me, he says.
When his input is required, it is usually to land a major account or lend his expertise to a large-scale project.
But not every sales manager subscribes to the let-them-loose-and-see-what-happens theory.
They have to be coachable, says Paul Hanna, president of Meritech Blue. Sales people are not born, they are developed. There is no such thing as a natural born sales person. They have to be trained. Thats not to say they dont start with those talents, but they have to be brought out and developed properly. Im a firm believer of constant training.
At Meritech Blue, sales people even the top ones undergo weekly training sessions to keep them sharp. I preach one thing, says Hanna. A disciplined, well-trained, highly motivated sales force.
Despite any difference in philosophy, the desired result is the same production.
So what happens when your sales people hit upon a formula that works and duplicate it over and over? Madzia says at that point, its important to devise new challenges to keep their competitive spirits active.
Ill challenge my guys to come up with new applications for existing accounts or other ways to improve their numbers, he says.
Another school of thought is to give them more responsibility, such as tutoring other sales people.
Were a team, explains Michael Faix, manager of sales and marketing for Great Lakes Computer Corp. Individual accomplishments are part of a bigger whole. The very best sales people are those who not only meet and exceed individual goals, but also assist others in meeting their goals and improving themselves.
At Sprint PCS, district sales manager Chuck Schiffhauer offers his top sales people the opportunity to get involved in the planning process.
Its motivational, he says. A smart manager knows when to jump in and assist when he sees his top guys eyes starting to wander. Ill get them to start thinking about ideas which can help improve our entire organization.
But no matter what your philosophy for managing top sales people, one constant remains: Do whatever it takes to keep them performing.
Sales is not an easy profession, Schiffhauer says. And you have to treat every person in it differently.
Theres a quote next to Chuck Schiffhauers desk that reads Failure is not an option, and every member of Schiffhauers nine-person sales staff at Sprint PCS is indoctrinated.
When the company launched its Northeast Ohio operations last year, Schiffhauer painstakingly interviewed more than 120 people.
I wanted people with winning attitudes who youd never hear say something wont work, he explains. I probe very carefully when Im interviewing to make sure the person Im getting is whats advertised.
He has developed a carefully crafted set of interview questions, which he uses to build a profile for each prospective hire. The questions cover six areas: work standards, energy, resilience, initiative, change agent and motivational fit. In 15 years of sales management, Schiffhauer has found a common thread among every successful person hes hired through this process: They have blind optimism in their own abilities. There isnt anything that would prevent them from being successful.
And if there is a consensus among other sales managers about the search for the best of the best, its that sifting out the wannabes from the real deal is an art unto itself.
Everyone we interview is sky high, explains Paul Hanna, president of Meritech Blue. He or she tells me they plan to conquer the world. But unfortunately, for some of them, thats the peak of their career the interview.
The interview process is a chess match. On one side, the interviewer tries to discover the prospects true character. On the other, the prospects goal is to land the job no matter what it takes. The best sales people make the right decisions when theyre under pressure, explains David Browning, general manager of CB Richard Ellis. And that includes when Im grilling them in the interview.
Ned Bergen, sales manager for Northcoast Business Systems, looks for the three Ds drive, determination and desire when hes sitting across from a prospective hire.
I want someone who has a pure unwillingness to quit, he says. And they have to be someone who wants to go out and light the world on fire. You can tell from how they carry themselves during the interview what kind of person they are.
And once the decision to hire is made, how long should you wait before demanding results? It depends on the industry ... and your patience.
The first 60 days are critical, says Scott Madzia, corporate accounts manager for Nextel. Some find success fast and then coast. Others struggle out of the gate and never catch up. But the best ones start strong and keep giving you that effort.
For Mari Sloan, vice president of sales for OBM, the timeline calls for six months.
Youll know by then whether theyll ever be a top performer, she says. If you see their results arent improving, then you have to question whether theyre able to handle the job.
At the far end spectrum, Browning says it takes up to five years before you see someone who you know hits the ball out of the park. That, he explains, is a combination of three years to learn the real estate business and another two years to develop consistent superior performance.
Often, top performers sparkle from Day One. For example, after Schiffhauer hired account rep Aaron Gonzales, his sales results grew every month. By Gonzales third month, he set a company record with 203 phones sold. Its an obsession with me, explains Gonzales, who says he once made a pitch while watching a baseball game at Jacobs Field. My wife hates it. Im always looking for opportunities to sell.
Adds Schiffhauer, The sales person who isnt will never succeed.
Every interviewer asks tough questions. But Chuck Schiffhauer at Sprint PCS has made difficult an art form. Here are 10 questions he uses to cull the cream from the top of the candidate barrel:
- n Tell me about the most memorable time when you werent pleased with your own performance. What did you do about it?
- In your current position, how do you define doing a good job? Are you doing a good job? How do you know?
- Tell me about a time when your job demanded extensive effort. How did you handle that demand?
- What job activities do you find require the most energy? What did you do to maintain your energy level?
- Tell me about a time when you were competing with another person and lost. What was the situation? How did you respond?
- What have you done differently from your peers in your organization? Why have you done things differently?
- Have you made any recommendations to your manager recently? Give me an example. What happened to the idea?
- Describe a situation in which you had to adjust quickly to a change in organizational, departmental or team priorities and how that change affected you.
- Discuss a time when you had to meet a deadline while your work was being constantly interrupted. What made this difficult?
- Tell me about a time when your work contained a lot of challenging situations. How satisfied were you with that and why?
A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend who owns a small business to discuss the hot trends in his industry. The conversation shifted to the issue of philanthropy, and for the next half hour, we debated the merits of business leaders getting involved in charitable giving.
My friend explained that he didnt serve on any boards, but his company donates thousands of dollars each year to various organizations. His employees, he added, volunteer their time for worthy causes. They help build houses for Habitat for Humanity, hold food drives for the United Way and dole out meals at area homeless shelters.
What about personal involvement? I asked. Do you donate any of your own time or money to worthy causes?
My friend nodded. He said he was a volunteer for a local nonprofit agency. I asked what motivated him.
Because I strongly believe in what they do. he replied.
His answer made me think about other reasons corporate leaders get involved with charity. Do some do it out the goodness of their hearts? Do any do it to make their companies look good in the eyes of the community?
Lacking an absolute answer, I turned to an expert. My fiancée, Laura, has been a professional fund-raiser for nonprofit agencies for the better part of 10 years. I put the question to her, and she explained that shes found three reasons why CEOs and other business leaders get involved in philanthropy:
- To be good corporate citizens.
- To contribute something back to the community and support the people who support them.
- Because they truly believe in a particular cause.
All sounded like reasonable answers, but being a journalist, I had to explore the subject further. Over the next few days, the issue of corporate philanthropy became a sort of philosophical quest. I was going to determine once and for all why business leaders give back to the communities they live and work in, and I wouldnt rest until I was satisfied with the results.
One colleague suggested I look to Spanish rabbi and philosopher Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) for an answer. Maimonides, he reminded me, developed an eight-rung ladder which ranks the various levels of giving, from the most virtuous to the least virtuous.
The most virtuous, Maimonides espouses, is a gift that prevents another person from becoming poor by providing him with a job or by lending money to help him through a difficult time. At the other end of the spectrum is charity which is given grudgingly.
Interesting, I thought. But still not a complete answer.
Later the same day, I received a letter which contained the results of a survey of business executives on the subject of community involvement. Now we were getting somewhere. According to the Institute for Educational Leadership, here are the five main reasons executives themselves cite:
- Giving something back
They note their obligation to help those who have been left out of societys riches, particularly children.
- Going beyond philanthropy
Direct personal involvement provides more satisfaction, they say. And it provides greater value than simply writing checks.
- Making things work
Giving back provides the opportunity to pass along effective business principles to help rebuild poorly functioning public service systems.
- Its good for business
Improving life for people in low-income neighborhoods is good for business. It results in a better-qualified work force and healthier neighborhoods.
Theres something to be said about believing in and working toward a cause. Your heart is in your work.
I spent the next hour reviewing the survey results and all the notes Id made during my short-lived quest. And heres what Ive learned about the art of giving:
- Dont get involved because you feel obligated; get involved because its what you want to do.
- Choose something about which youre passionate. If you dont care about the cause, its not worth your time or effort.
- Finally, the bottom line is that community involvement is one of those rare decisions that benefits everyone. Nobody loses. And those are, without a doubt, the best and smartest decisions any business leader can make.
Dustin S. Klein (email@example.com) is editor of SBN. He donates his time to serve on the PR committee of Achievement Centers for Children and as editor of The Press Club of Clevelands monthly newsletter, the Byliner.
Downs to the Millennium Bug. The pesky menace that boosted an entire industry has now hit those same people in the pocketbook. IT consultants finished with Y2K compliance jobs are finding themselves with too much time on their hands.
Ups to American Greetings. The $100 million deal with America Online expands the Cleveland card makers Internet presence to AOLs 17 million users. Now you can send your favorite IT consultant a Happy Y2K card.
Downs to RPM, which recently announced its 52nd consecutive year of record earnings. Why a downs? Because that same day, RPM announced a restructuring plan to close 23 facilities and slash 730 jobs nearly 10 percent of its work force. The moves will help RPM in the long run, but it spells the likely end of the companys streak.
Ups to CPAs. A shortage of qualified bean counters puts the entire profession in a great position. Its better to find out now why your accountant isnt returning your calls than it would be as April 15th rolls around.
Ups to Dell and Motorola. They joined a growing list of companies embracing the Linux computer operating system, upping the ante in a challenge to Microsoft dominance. Was that a penguin we saw tossing a rock through Microsofts window?
Ron Weinberg stood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange flanked by his partner, Norm Harbert, and Hawk Corp. executive vice president Jeff Berlin. Part of him waited anxiously for the opening bell to ring and Hawks stock to begin public trading.
When youre on the floor there, theres both a sense of history and destiny, Weinberg says.
But another part of him was simply relieved that the grueling two-week road show leading up to the IPO had reached its climax. The road show is just a brutal exercise, where the underwriters get management out in front of as many people from the brokerage houses as they possible can, he says.
That was May 12, 1998. Weinberg, Harbert and other Hawk execs spent the two preceding weeks telling their stories and explaining long-range strategic plans in the hope that they could convince institutional investors their business was a good investment and that they should buy shares for their clients as part of the public offering.
Hit the road
On a cool spring day in 1998, Ron Weinberg stood in front of 30 European investment bankers in Geneva, Switzerland, presenting a slide show on Hawk that described the companys plans to increase global market share.
I flew over the night before on the Concorde, presented over lunch, then flew back to Boston that night, says Weinberg.
Across the Atlantic, Harbert and Berlin entertained Detroits top investment bankers with a similar presentation.
Ron had the fun part of the job, says Harbert.
Those two trips were pit stops on a road show that took the trio from the East Coast to the Midwest, then to the West Coast, and finally back east for a meeting with premier New York and Boston investment banks.
Part of the excitement, says Weinberg, is just the logistical intensity of it, because youve got a selling team of underwriters who are constantly trying to get the institutions on the phone and book appointments. Youre constantly moving and theyre squeezing in everything they can.
Its been said that the moment your prospectus is printed, the starting gun sounds and its a mad sprint to the IPO finish line.
The most interesting thing in the world of finance is that its really a bit of a rite of passage for managements, says Weinberg. It is physically brutal because youre meeting people day and night. The drama of it is the pace and the intensity. For many management groups, its a very different kind of thing to be traveling around like that and selling yourself. You get very intense questions over and over again.
The daily pace is grueling. Your first appointment may begin at 7 a.m. in front of a group of institutional investors in St. Louis. That same day, says Weinberg, may end with a dinner meeting in Chicago with the fourth group of investors youve seen.
Filling the book
The whole exercise is watching the book, explains Weinberg.
The book is a compilation of how many shares of stock investment houses indicate theyll buy. The goal is to fill the book with two to three times the number of shares of stock your company will issue in its public offering.
After wed visit the institutions, theyd give an indication that they want stock, Weinberg continues. The big buyers would say theyre something like 10 percent buyers, the smaller firms would want less, and the whole time, the brokerage firm is building the book of whats expected to be sold in the IPO.
Setting the price
While the underwriters are building a book, theres a second scenario developing price talk.
The underwriters are saying the stocks going public between $17 and $19 and the institutions are playing a cat-and-mouse game, explains Weinberg. If thats the range the underwriters are saying, the institutions are talking about $16 to $18. Then the underwriters come back and let those big financial buyers know that its a filled book and that they should up their offer because the stocks going to come in around 17 or 18.
But all of this, explains Weinberg, isnt the official pricing. That occurs at the pricing meeting, on the last day before the public offering, when the road show closes.
In the parlance of the old Wall Street days, the underwriters present us with an offer, says Weinberg. They say, We will take your company public at $17, and ask us to sign the documents approving it. But the less formal discussion is when they explain why they can do it for that price; they show us the book, tell us whos talking about the stock and that we should want it to go up a little bit the next day when the stock starts trading publicly.
On the NYSE floor
Two minutes before Hawks stock began public trading, the drama truly began. The specialist on the floor, the person whose job it is to analyze all the orders coming in from different brokers and set a price, was running simulations on a computer.
Based on how it looks, he sets the actual opening price, Weinberg says. He told us that they were opening trading in two minutes at $19. Then he counted down to one minute. Finally, bang, the opening bell went off.
While the event wasnt Weinbergs first time watching one of his companies go public, the feeling was the same.
I was on the floor when we started trading, and it was pure excitement.