Foundational HR

Many years ago, when I was in my first real job, I worked for a pharmaceutical manufacturer. As was becoming the fashion but is now de riguer, employees were required to take training from human resources for employee interaction, needs identification and conflict resolution.

At the time, it consisted of getting a group of employees together to watch a VHS video coupled with an instructor-led discussion of the different scenarios involved and what could have been done better–initially, during and after the interaction.

One of these videos stands out even after all these years. I’ve tried to track it down online, but it has probably been shelved since the fashions were out of date even when I viewed it the first time. The screen resolution was striped and grainy from repeated viewings. What stood out then and still stands out in my mind though was how it addressed what I consider foundational HR issues and things like responsibility to oneself and co-workers.

In the video, a woman sitting at her desk picks up her phone and calls a person in another department. The co-worker is male and works in IT. With few pleasantries, the woman demands help. The co-worker, in return, is short with her. The conversation ends and the woman is upset and escalates to management. Management intervenes and basically coaches the pair on how to play nice.

The group discussion I was involved with focused on characters in the video, Fred* and Velma, and their method of requesting and responding. To make the HR point, the scene and its message were supposed to be cut and dried, so I don’t fault the video or its script writers for  the intended message conveyed. What raised my eyebrows was how the people who viewed the video missed what I considered the Foundational HR flaw.

So, back to the scene: after Velma hangs up the phone (remember, this was before chat and texting), she turns in her chair and complains to her co-worker about Fred. What a miserable SOB he is, etc. The co-worker nods her head sympathetically. The scene cuts to Fred, who has turned to his co-worker and is complaining about Velma wasting his time. Then he states that THIS IS THE SECOND TIME THIS WEEK HE HAS SHOWN HER HOW TO DO THIS.

After this, we, the observers, discussed how Fred and Velma should have handled the conflict. There were a lot of soft suggestions like “use a nicer tone”, and “apologize for behavior”. But something didn’t sit right with me, so I raised my hand and said, “Velma or Fred should have written down the instructions.” The discussion leader eyed me coolly and paused…and then went to another raised hand. Being young I allowed her stare to quell any further pursuit of my observation and we got back to what an SOB Fred was.

This baffled me, as the crux of the problem and what created the conflict was that Velma again needed information which was provided previously provided. The conflict was a result, but not the fundamental issue.

No wonder Fred was upset–he was just berated by someone who demanded help for a task he had already shown them how to do. The video focused on Fred and Velma’s interaction and response and how they should have handled it.

Now a few caveats. I understand the intent of the video was to demonstrate how to communicate with co-workers better. It is important as an adult to communicate our ideas and opinions without devolving into an argument and hurt feelings. People need to treat each other civilly in an office environment (and elsewhere!). And, learning better ways to express anger and frustration and avoid hostilities is important.

Some important information: First, being the monkeys we are, to quell our simian roots we begin training the our control of emotions starting at birth. Many parents call this “manners”. Second, many tasks need more than one walk through before they become fluid. Third, as the little aphorism says, “Your crisis is not my crisis,” so escalating it by screaming, yelling, arm waving, foot stamping, etc. will only make it your crisis with me responding to it with matching anger. Fourth, if the proper foundations were in place, then when this crisis appeared, its escalation would match its criticality–one does not yell “fire” in the movie theater if they see only the glow of a cigarette (not applicable today, but it was many moons ago). And fifth, if Velma had been shown the process earlier, then there should have been some documentation around to jog her memory when she was required to repeat it.

If you are familiar with six sigma and its brethren 5S, then an appendage to the 5S methodology is to incorporate a system to make information available when it is needed: right now, in a week or in a month. What Velma needed was not another explanation–that just pulls Fred away from his work and doesn’t guarantee Velma future issues–but an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), guide, tool or template to follow to get to a point where she can complete the process on her own. If that means further training with Fred, then that needs to be built into a plan. If it means Fred left Velma with instructions or Velma took notes, then that needs to be built into a plan.

So…a few years later, different company, same video, and another instructor led discussion with a different instructor. When it came up as to what Fred and Velma should have done differently, I raised my hand and stated my same premise as before. When the instructor paused with her stare this time (they must be coached this), I continued with my observation that the solution was to make sure either Fred had left enough information with Velma or Velma had enough information from Fred so that both could go on their way and neither would have had to have angry words. Even if planning to meet again at another time for more training was better than demanding someone help you. This time I only got a little sigh from the instructor.

The moral is if you have incorporated a plan, procedure or SOP for foundational activities and information, then you won’t have to deal with Fred and Velma and their bad interaction. You could probably even hire Shaggy and Scooby to do the work for mere snacks because you would have such a great plan in place you could hire just about anyone–even a talking dog–and they could figure out the work because of all your wonderful documentation.

In the end, planning and documenting should be part of any process. When you onboard someone, you have a plan, right? Right?

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

PS The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.

*My apologies to Hanna-Barbera

Smart Sales Operations – Training and Expectations, Part 1

In the past when I’ve seen companies hire employees, there is an expectation from both parties as to what they need or want to hear.

For companies, they want to take the new hire, drop them into their new location and have them begin to sell.

For the employees, they want to have the new company give them direction, resources and maybe even a mentor so that they can get ramped up quickly and begin to sell.

The disconnect is all the communication in between which never happens.

During the interview there is a lot of selling going on. The interviewer is espousing how great the company is, and the interviewee is likewise espousing how great he or she is, and both interviewer and interviewee are engaged in a lively and intricate verbal dance of exposing only the positive while shielding from view any warts. Both want the same thing, to fill the role and be productive.

The issue comes after the new-bee is hired (my spelling on newbie) and what happens post-hire. Previously I’ve written my thoughts for on-boarding, and this described time frame would be in the period right after on-boarding. The honeymoon phase. Salad days, “Young, and fresh, and green.” Most companies take these shiny new hires and then hit them with the fire hose of information, scouring off that sheen of newly minted excitement and beating down the wonder of the new and the can-do. All this occurs under the watchful eye of their new manager. And while taking note of the new hire’s staggering under the fire hose blast of information, there isn’t a reduction to the informational onslaught, nor a catch-up or step back to see how the new hire has fared. For God knows, they have a training schedule…

So let me digress briefly to explain some of my philosophy. First, I was a high school chemistry teacher for a couple of years. One of the things I learned in my education classes was about Jean Piaget. Piaget was one of the first educators to theorize that children go through distinct phases in their cognitive ability. The student’s ability to learn certain types of material was dependent on what phase they were in, and the learner must go through each phase to reach the next (some of this has been proven incorrect in particular circumstances, but bear with me here). When an adolescent graduates from high school, they should be in the final phase of thinking processing and essentially be on their way to adulthood and logical processing. But, in reality, many of them are far from complete in every area and were still developing. They had been able to pass their academic tests and complete the work but that doesn’t mean they were able to truly utilize the information they were given. Second, learning happens over time, and it has been pretty well proven that an iterative, hands on approach will cement the information much more quickly than a one-off lecture (think computer-based training–CBT’s) with no practical follow-on.

I remember reading a study which found that information when first presented is freshest right after the initial presentation, and It’s memory will diminish almost exponentially over time. People remember best and most permanently information at its initial presentation, and strengthen that learning with periodic refreshers.  When they are newly hired, they are most open to new experiences and learning, which in turn lends to their ability to absorb information. But that doesn’t mean this absorption will be permanent.

The new sales hire is learning about so many things: the company culture, the company processes, how to book travel, how to submit expenses, how to work with the company CRM, how to work with their new manager, their co-workers–essentially, the infrastructure of people and process which surrounds them and creates their job: sipping from the fire hose about company processes, front office, back office, healthcare benefits, 401(k)s, on-boarding procedures, etc., in addition to learning about the product they were hired to sell.

That’s right, all this learning and we haven’t even really touched upon them performing the role for which they were hired.

All of these things are going on, and what is management asking for immediately? Their forecast.

What will be this new hire’s success window? Will they be up and running in a day? A week? A month? A year?

Anecdotally, I’ve seen most reps successful after about nine months. At six months they’ve learned enough about company culture and process to get things done, as well as enough about the product or service which they represent to be dangerous, which means they have begun engaging prospects and customers and building a funnel/forecast.

Here what I find most interesting: studies show the average tenure of a technology sales rep is somewhere between 18 and 24 months. Think about that–they only learned about the company and products just shy of a year, and just shy of their second year, they leave. Basically, they have six months of good selling. As I saw pointed out by another blogger, the company is essentially trying to make their money on a rep in six months. Which creates a pressure-cooker situation.

And leads to question: why do they leave? We can spitball tons of anecdotal reasons, and they are numerous, but the biggest one is the rep doesn’t feel they can be successful. How many impediments have been put in place to overcome? If the company is looking at making quota as the only measurement of success, how does that translate as to what the rep sees as success? Especially if the statistic is true that only 58% of reps make quota. If a rep sees a mountain to climb knowing he or she wouldn’t be successful, would you blame them for looking for a new mountain?

So, what is the take away? If the company is going to invest in the rep, then they need to invest in their success. If training is required, it needs to pertinent and poignant. It needs to be applicable and retrievable. It needs to make that new hire into a successful sales rep–not just for the company, but for the rep as well.

Because if the rep is successful, the company will be successful.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

PS The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.

Smart Sales Operations – Target Revenue vs. Quota

Picture this: in the annual shuffle at beginning of the year, territories are assigned, accounts are assigned and quotas are assigned. If one were to watch the man behind the curtain as these machinations were being performed, I’m sure the wizard would look more like a butcher, with his sparkly robes and wild hair replaced with a bloody apron and a dangling cigarette.

Why do I say this? Because many times to the sales rep, coming up with a quota number seems to be an exercise in capriciousness. As an example, I’m reminded of one of my sales positions where I didn’t receive my quota until April. Yes, after the first quarter had already passed! Then, once I had received my number, I was puzzled. How did they arrive at this number based upon the history of previous sales and sales in the territory?

Here is where the magic came in. Using figures published in business journals, Hoovers, D&B, etc. (…some source…), my company would take the target prospect’s annual revenue and estimate the percent of that revenue which would have to be spent on our product category. For instance, if the prospect was $100MM, then 10% or $10MM was going to be spent on IT related purchases. Based upon that, quota would be set at a percentage of this estimate, and this dollar amount was additive to create my total quota.

Seems harmless, right? Well, it’s not, which is why am I mentioning this as a Sales Operation issue. At its best, it is merely hopeful. At its worst, it is inaccurate and misleading–to the company and the rep. Let’s give some examples: a form being printed for a telecom company, and computer equipment purchased by a steel manufacturer. For the first example, while many large companies still have some paper forms, most have been digitized or obsolesced so whatever historic data one is using to arrive at that figure, it is always representative in arrears of actual use. To base the revenue on a declining number will only lead to inaccurate results and the rep’s quota is being based on unachievable numbers. Let’s look at the second example. Does a steel manufacturer buy computer equipment? Yes! But where is the primary investment for the steel manufacturer? In the making of steel! Which means the percent of revenue number used for quota isn’t representative of what the customer is purchasing. Will the steel manufacturer buy computer equipment? Yes, but more than likely on a three-to-five year cycle, not on an annual basis, and it’s computer equipment related purchases will be more along production systems, not desktops.

What quota setting like this creates is false hope for the company. It is akin to looking at all the accounts in a territory and thinking about how many potential customers you have and how much money each one has to spend–kind of a land grab mentality. It doesn’t focus on the actual fact of what, dollar-wise,  has the customer actually purchased in your sales vertical. In my observations, in outside sales the average rep can handle about 50 accounts. Assigning a territory of 3000 accounts with accompanying quota may seem like a favor to the rep, but what it really does is dilute effort. As a corollary which I feel is applicable, there have been psychology studies showing when a consumer has more choices it actually leads to fewer decisions. So when rep has 3000 accounts, it seems as if the world is their oyster, but in reality they will only be able to actually service a fraction of that, and of the fraction serviced, only a fraction of that will be really good customers. For example: There is a Value-Added Reseller (VAR) I’m very familiar with and know they limit their top reps to no more than six accounts. Six! But what is amazing, is the good sales reps are able to generate fantastic amounts of revenue off their six accounts because they are focused on penetrating and selling their entire portfolio of products and services. To counter this observation, I have seen a senior rep working for another VAR who was allowed to cherry picked the top producing accounts from other reps, and had more than 300 accounts in his stable. He mostly sold those accounts renewals, and because he was stretched so thin, these accounts were always being courted by other companies. Last I heard, his methodology was backfiring with the majority of his customers complaining they never saw their rep and going to other companies whose sales reps were more available and paid more attention to them.

So back to quota estimation. Looking at what the territory will potentially produce, how many Fortune 500 accounts it contains, etc. doesn’t shed any light on what the territory will actually do. It comes down to data. If the company is starting in a greenfield territory, some of the planning data and analysis can be helpful, but holding the rep to imaginary numbers is like dividing by zero. In an established territory, looking at historical performance as well as the company target will be more insightful than speculation.

The critical factor in all of this is ramp up time and traction. It has been estimated it takes a technology sales rep 9-18 months to ramp up properly and be running on all cylinders. If the company allows the rep to build their pipeline, get some wins and move towards really owning the territory, then both the rep and the company will have success. If the company saddles the rep with an unrealistic quota and a short ramp, they will be looking for a new rep in short order and be repeating the same cycle of onboarding–which means another unproductive rep (also known as an unprofitable rep).

There are more and more tools coming out every day which help companies automate the establishment of quotas and commission plans but most of these look at sales in the traditional way: set quota high, and only pay well for over achievement. They tend to look at one size fits all, and every territory is the same.

So take a step back when setting quotas and find some real data. Look at the company’s targets through realistic eyes, and then when setting a quota remember if your sales rep is successful, the company will be successful.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.

Smart Sales Operations – Setting Quota


It is a loaded word, with multiple meanings and connotations for the speaker and the listener. It can be a source of frustration, relief or consternation. It can represent a perspective of hope for executives or a perception of sham for sales reps. Quota embodies a notion of achievement for performance, but many times the reward for performance is not well thought out in relation to the effort for achievement.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive talks about the how the quota/performance system is broken. How only in sales can someone work to achieve a goal and be told to achieve more the next time–essentially never getting a rest or recognition for a job completed. And while I have worked for sales companies who have tried to create reasonable quotas, I’ve also worked for companies who used a dart board for quota setting. In Drive many of the reasons for this appearance comes from the arbitrary feeling of quota setting aligning with the seeming capriciousness of company goals. The disconnect of tying these to the rep’s quota creates ensuing chaos. Admittedly, I will be coming back to this topic a lot since sales, quota and operations are tightly tied together, but this is my first swag at it–with a lot of anecdotes to start the ball rolling.

First anecdotal evidence…A friend of mine was hired as a sales representative into a territory where every previous salesperson had foundered and missed the company set goal. And, hand-in-hand with this, each of the previously failed reps ended up having a tenure of just over a year. He found the position because he had worked with the hiring manager years before, and they both agreed it would be a great fit for his skills so they signed him up. Braced with the knowledge of his predecessors and hoping the relationship with his manager would help temper the company’s prior foibles, when it came time to establish quota he figured the company would be reasonable. Nope. The target number came back doubled over previous year’s number; more than twice the revenue the territory had ever produced. In a territory which had struggled to produce $2MM in revenue, they set his plan at $5MM. After he picked his jaw up off the ground he asked why.

“Because we feel the territory can support it.” was the response. Huh?

By setting the my friend’s quota at a ridiculously high number, the company sent two messages without really realizing it. One, start looking for a job because you are going to fail, and two, we aren’t really paying attention to what’s going on inside the territory, only what’s on our spreadsheet of territory revenue estimates. A third possible message was, Oh, and we have to meet Wall Street’s expectations and you’re replaceable, so…here you go.

What this quota lacked was data. It had a lot of speculation and expectation, but up to that point in time, none of the speculation actually was accurate nor was the expectation being achieved.

At another company, quotas were set by looking at the prospective revenue spend of companies. If a prospect was a $100 million dollar company, then based upon “industry norms” it would spend 10% on products sold in the target category, which translated to a potential for $10 million dollar spend. Therefore, the thinking went, this prospect will potentially spend $10MM dollars this year and we should be able to sell them something.

This method is equally flawed, in many ways, and which I’ll expound upon later.

So, how do we start to align commissions with revenues? In my sales operations consulting, I’ve worked with companies who know the amounts of revenues they want to generate, but don’t understand what it might take to achieve–be it through sales efforts, marketing efforts, revenue incentives or commissions accelerators–they start from the wrong side of the equation to add growth. How? They look at the previous years revenues and say, “We want to be 10% bigger next year.” and then figure out how to distribute that burden among its sales people. What they should be doing is looking at it from the other side of the problem, since right now the company doesn’t know how to articulate the direction needed to set the revenues which creates the margin to set reasonable quotas. Meaning, they haven’t looked at their data to see where they should focus.

For example, if I was a $10 million a year company selling services and I was ready to bring on a rep, what would I focus on? On my data! First, I would analyze where my revenue in services was actually coming from as it might surprise you (the “what”). Next, I would analyze who and/or how those services were won (the “why” and the “how”). Was one rep particularly successful? Did the owner do it? Did the sales come through other channels? This matters, because figuring out where the seller is having success can fuel the enablement of methodologies to exploit that capability.

Let’s say it is a small business and the owner is the best sales rep (as is the case many times in small businesses). Making the owner’s abilities reproducible is critical to future growth. So teaching the keys to the owner’s successful selling will be very different than if the owner is looking to exploit a market segment or expand the business outside of its normal bounds. And analyzing the data would reveal this trajectory. From there I would look to see if there is any history or precedence for the sales being won to then calculate what I might expect a new rep to do (e.g. relationships, negotiating, etc.).

Ultimately, the purpose of hiring a new rep is to increase the company’s revenue. Which means the rep’s purpose is to sell and have the rep be successful–and by our current metric this means make quota. If the salesperson is struggling to meet quota, and the analysis hasn’t been done, the company will more than likely be doomed to repeat their sins when it brings on the next rep. When one adds in the cost of on-boarding, training and ramp-up time, it is too significant an investment to then just cut bait . By scrutinizing the needs of the job and really understanding what the expectation is for the salesperson, a quota can be set which allows the rep success and the company success. Some may read this as too indulging, but I would rather plan for success than be in a continuous mode of failure and clean up.

Because if the rep is making money, the company is making money. And that is success.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.

Remote Workers Working Remotely in a Remote Office – Part II

In my first post about working remotely, it focused on what should be happening at the mother ship to ensure the remote worker successfully started in their new position.

But “remote” is a bidirectional communication. The home office needs to communicate and connect to the remote office, but the remote office/worker needs to communicate and feel connected to the home office.

Too many times when a company hires a remote worker, I see an unexpressed conflict. The company hires a remote sales resource under the auspices of growing the company but what they really want is a mercenary. The employee takes the job under the auspices the company wants to grow and that the company will provide support to that end. The company wants someone to go into the territory–independent of company culture and without any supporting company-based background–and begin producing sales. They want the sales rep to “crush the competition” “steal sales away” “bust into the territory” and other pugilistic possibilities. They want for someone to establish a name for the company in that new territory as quickly as possible.

Now I can hear your collective brains buzzing, “What’s wrong with that?” And for both the newly hired and the newly hiring, there is nothing wrong as of yet, except the gap between what’s discussed before hiring and what happens after hiring is like looking into a reflection pool. Not the reflection part so much, but what’s lurking underneath. How deep is that water under the surface? I may see the reflection of the company on top, but is it supported? Is this freshly minted corporate mercenary presenting the best foot forward for what the customer needs–and what the customer expects? How should the remote worker communicate to the mother ship what they are doing? And, if they are doing it correctly and to expected corporate standard.

This goes back to the previous post, but by instilling culture and expectations the company looks to see that message spread from the rep to the customer. And just like parenting, after initial hand holding by the mother ship and then giving progressively more autonomy, the company transfers its corporate image and beliefs, and the remote worker has a better chance of reflecting that image in their local market.

So I said the remote worker should be communicating to the corporate office, but what should they be communicating? Here’s where it gets a little complicated for me to explain, and not sound like I’m completely tap dancing, but the remote worker needs a neutral resource to which they communicate their activity, their efforts and their plan–in short, a mentor. Not their manager, but someone at HQ who knows the systems, understands what the worker is trying to do (in this case, sales) and give them perspective and guidance. This allows a conduit for the remote worker to HQ, as well as a way for corporate culture to be shone back upon our remote newbie. And, we don’t have to use the same mentor all the time and paring only one-to-one, but use more than one mentor and expose our remote guy (or gal) to others in the organization as well.

I’ll probably write about mentors in sales operations at a later date, but there is a reason people need mentors: they don’t come into a position knowing everything. I’ve heard it stated that for experienced hires, companies hire someone with 60% – 80% of the desired skill set expecting to train for the remaining needed skills. That means the new hire is still lacking 20% – 40% of the knowledge needed. So this begs the question, how are you treating your remote employees? Or if you are remote, how are you being treated? Now, reverse the ask on those two questions. Open communication between the remote employee and the company HQ will only make things better. And that, in the end, will bring more sales, and ultimately enable better Sales Operations.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.

Remote Workers Working Remotely in Remote Offices – Part I

Siberia. So Cold. Brrrrr… At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

When I was growing up, I would always hear the threat that if someone in Russia (technically then the U.S.S.R.) did something wrong they would be shipped off to Siberia.

I never quite understood why. When I asked my father, he would say because it was so cold and remote. And like the kid that I was (admit it, that we all were), I didn’t really think about what that meant–until I had to do a little research on it and found out what “cold” and “remote” really were and where Siberia really was.

When someone was sent to Siberia, it was to do two things: Punish them and remove them. The former Soviet Union didn’t dilly dally here, if you were considered a dissident, you were unceremoniously shipped off to the frozen wasteland via a train on a trip which could take up to nine days to get to the destination. Nine days. That certainly was remote. And during winters, the temperature would hover around -35F. Ouch.

So, when one looks at working remotely for a company, is the company punishing the individual? or do they really want them to perform?

As businesses grow, typically they want to expand into territories and grow their footprint. Placing local bodies there is really important, because local resources know local buyers. Kind of like the dictum, “Promote from within the company”* my corollary would be “Hire from within the territory”. As businesses expand they should place people in the territory that are from the territory. It simply gives a leg up to that worker and to that business.

But since every business has a culture, and has people which create that culture, it is really important not to unintentionally ostracize those individuals who can’t participate in the HQ culture. Especially those who work solo and/or remotely. If you want to ensure they are in sync with your company goals and doings, you need to make sure the employee is somehow fed enough culture to feel a little more warm and snuggly.

One of the best ways is to have your remote employee(s) come to the corporate headquarters once or twice a year. Also highly recommended is to have people other than the immediate supervisor come visit them at least once a year. While this may seem expensive, if it increases sales and productivity, then the cost will be offset. In the same vein, if you choose to save the cash, make sure to calculate the cost of onboarding and ramping a new employee.

In my last job working for a Value Added Reseller, initially the company had an all-hands summer meeting and an all-hands winter meeting. While I was working remotely, my management would come down once a year to our satellite office and work from there a couple of days, and I always had a parade of engineers coming through for various projects, even though most of my projects were handled by my local engineer.

Then, the vibe changed and there was no longer a summer meeting. While I wasn’t a fan of spending time going over a pages of company data, the afterhours portion of the meeting connected me to the other sales people in the company, as well as the inside sales people I spent so many hours on the phone with correcting processes, and allowed me to interact with the back office staff whom I spoke to on the phone but rarely face-to-face. It allowed me to see people interact with others, hear snippets of gossip, and feel like I was a contributing cog of the machine. And then, with no corporate meeting, I wasn’t. As new people were brought in for the various back office and inside roles, I had to create new relationships based upon nothing but what I needed.  It took at least twice as long to get into a groove and develop rapport, and even then I found myself going back to those I had worked with originally since I trusted them. And trust with my new people could have similarly achieved with a couple of beers onsite.

Why does this matter? Because people don’t just work for a paycheck. Productivity goes up when people feel they are part of a team or cause. And when people work remotely, they are in their own special bubble. In someways they are insulated from office politics and the day-to-day shuffle which can distract from their job, but they also are blind to corporate decisions, discussions and determinations. They have no say and aren’t asked for one–because no one knows them.

And, like Cheers, in the end what they really want is a place where everybody knows their name.

*We will be covering the topic of Promote from Within in a different post.

Any better ideas for remote workers? I’m always interested in learning.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

PS The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.

Onboarding – Smart Sales Operations

Onboarding is the set of processes companies have in place to bring on new hires. In the computer and networking world, this includes provisioning and access to necessary systems. But there is more than just getting the new hire an e-mail address. For instance, what happens when a new sales rep gets hired? Do you have a rigorous process? or do you wing it?

What happens at your company? And what happened to your new hires in the past? And after reading this, what are your plans for future hires?

Apple is famous for its user friendliness, whether it be hardware or software, and Apple receives praise for the simplicity and functionality of its designs. And because people at Apple think about how something is or will be used, a lot of problems which an end user would potentially have encountered are circumvented. Through use testing, glitches are identified and eliminated. The burrs which would blister the experience are smoothed.

One story I remember* regarding Apple was their packaging strategy for their early systems. When the end user received their new computer and opened the box, Apple led them through it using a string. Yes, a string. Once the lid was open, the top sheet had a string attached to it, and as the user pulled things out of the box, the string connected each piece sequentially so that the owner set up the monitor, the power and the CPU in proper order, and when completed, turned on a fully functioning system. Even if the end user had no idea what each part was or where things went, Apple’s system eliminated the guesswork of putting together the computer.

That string is really a kinesthetic checklist. And I’m a big believer in checklists. If you have the chance, I recommend reading Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. It is a great guide to looking at situations where checklists can be implemented, and in many of Gawande’s examples, save lives.

So back to onboarding. Is there a checklist in place? One which describes the steps which should happen as a person is brought into a company? A series of checklists can and should be in place for all aspects of the new hire process, such as interviewing, first day, first week, first quarter and first year.

For example, interviewing:
Have they filled out an application?
Spoken to the correct people in the area which they will work?
Gotten rubber stamped by the hiring chain of command?
Been tendered an offer letter?
Have they accepted?
Set a start date?

Once they’ve set a start date, does the company have an internal checklist to get things done? Most companies think of obvious things like health benefits and payroll, but what about laptops, cell phones, and business cards? What about training? In our current era of “faster, faster”, many times companies leave out things because they believe it only takes up time, but what they are really doing is increasing the ramp up time.

How? Because they aren’t giving the new hire the tools to be successful internally. What makes someone become part of a company? Is it because they are given an employee ID? Or is it because they interact with HR, engineers, other sales people and admin.

One company where I started many years ago, I sat for three weeks without a working laptop. When I got my laptop I was told to order business cards–and I didn’t know how to do that and no one had taken time to write it down. All processes were tribal knowledge–and I wasn’t part of the tribe quite yet.

Action item for the week: look at your onboarding process and determine if you take a new hire completely through your company’s processes–with no assumptions of “they should know how to do that”–because many won’t.

You don’t want your new hire to be waiting around for three weeks to start becoming one of your team.

*I say remember because I can’t confirm it’s true–please correct me if I’m wrong!

More on onboarding later. Next week we begin Front Office v. Back Office.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

PS The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.