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Friday, July 18, 2008

Looking beyond the obvious

Our business is highly decentralized and most of our employees, including myself, work primarily from our homes. But we have a real office and one employee there, Amanda Arthurs, who is expected to arrive at 8 a.m. and leave at 4 p.m. She oversees the office, answers the phone, moves the paper, and generally keeps everything in order.
When I am in town, I will visit the office for an hour or two each day; sometimes, when circumstances warrent, I'll spend longer there. And when Amanda is away, I'll sit in her desk, fielding the calls and doing a not-terribly-good job of administering things.
(These strategies are appropriate at our business size. Amanda and I both agree that as we grow we will add administrative employees -- in fact, a few years ago before reaching the bottom/turnaround point marked by the beginning of this blog. we had three people working in the office at administrative duties.)
So, yesterday, in the office, Amanda happened to be on the phone when the other line rang. I picked up the call. The person calling wanted to make sure we had a paid subscription renewal in hand. I asked for the information necessary to verify the renewal, then asked a question: "I know this is a little presumptuous, but would your business like to be featured in our publication." This afternoon, I received a call and an answer: "Yes". It is too early to measure the economic impact of this call, but I expect we'll see revenues of between $5,000 and $10,.000 from it.
So, what is the company president doing answering routine clerical calls? . . . Yes, you guessed it, there is serious business to be done when you get down to earth, in connection with your clients, and away from the ivory tower of the so-called executive suite. (Of course, we are also changing policy because of this discovery -- all subscription renewal inquiries will now be forwarded to our advertising sales team for follow up!)
If you are the boss, the owner, the 'big shot', I can tell you right now there is nothing wrong for you to spend some time riding in your company's delivery trucks, or helping your tradespeople on the job. And you will really gain some awareness by sitting for a while at the receptionist's desk, fielding the routine inbound calls. You will also of course win the respect of your employees.
If you are the boss, keep in touch with the real world by doing some real jobs, not just boss things. You'll be much more connected to your business -- and your markets -- and you'll be surprised by the insights you gain.

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