Why I Dyed My Hair Blue, And Other Ways To Run A Company


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Why I Dyed My Hair Blue, And Other Ways To Run A Company

  1. 1. Why I Dyed My Hair Blue, And Other Ways To Run A CompanyWhen I started my company, Journyx, almost 16 years ago, I had no idea what I wasgetting into. I am a programmer and technology geek by nature and I left myprogramming job to start my own company with nothing but an idea and a dream. Backthen, I did not have the experience needed to effectively manage people. I had to learnthese skills through trial and error, and I had to learn them fast in order to keep thecompany going. After all, human resources are a companys most valuable asset. Over the years, I have done every job there is in the company. I’ve been theaccountant, the software developer, the marketing and PR professional, the testingdepartment, integration services, customer technical support and sales. I have lostsleep when we were close to missing payroll, watched as competitors copied oursoftware bit for bit and lied about us to prospects, and then celebrated along with hard-working employees as we achieved success. Here are some of the things I learnedalong the way about managing and motivating employees to reach their highestpotential.Hire DiverseBusinesses today face fierce competition on all sides, regardless of industry. The onlyway to survive in such an environment is to be relentlessly creative. New products,services and ideas are the best way to outshine the competition and win market share.In order to keep creativity alive in a company, you have to surround yourself withdifferent types of people. Forget partnerships, listen to your customers, and hire highschool kids, foreigners, people from other races and religions, and Martians, if you canfind them. Different people bring different perspectives to the table, something you neednot only to succeed, but merely to survive. The truth is that no matter how smart youare, you cannot be as innovative as you need to be if only surrounded by people justlike you.Here in Austin, Texas, we have the luxury of proximity to the University of Texas. Fromthis well of intellect we continually draw for ideas and young energetic labor. It is a wellthat never runs dry. In the past, we have hired interns to work on both marketing andlegal projects, depending on their area of study. Since Journyx is a technology companyand UT has a computer science department, we also hire IT people and developers.Not only do they bring a fresh perspective during their internships, but if they are a good
  2. 2. fit, they can remain with us upon graduation and become a long-term asset to thecompany. If not, they can at least get a letter of recommendation and some real-worldexperience to put on their resumes. It is a win-win situation.When I hire employees, I want to make sure that their performance will be high quality.Ten years ago, I was looking for a Python programmer. Instead of going through arecruiter, I Google-searched and found a programmer who lived literally 2 miles from theoffice. I analyzed his code online and thought he would be a good fit for the company,so I called him and asked if he could come to the office for an interview—immediately.No need to dress up. My Google-searched programmer passed with flying colors byshowing his passion for programming and his ability to take constructive criticism. He’sstill with us today. His work in software got him a job, not a degree (in fact, he doesn’thave one).We have several writers on staff and with these positions, we rely on a writing test tosee if they can write in the style we are looking for. We’ve hired our social mediacoordinator, not by posting on Monster or Craigslist, but by using Twitter as a scout. Indoing so, we could see her already in action- yet another skill test. We also do apsychology test to see if a potential employee will fit in well in our environment.Be FlexibleAnother key to effective resource management is to be flexible about allowingemployees time off for extracurricular activities, such as college or graduate schoolclasses. For example, we have an employee at Journyx who is currently working on herbachelor’s degree in social work, which has nothing to do with her work at Journyx, andwe know that we will lose her upon graduation. Even so, we allow her to take off thetime that she needs to accommodate classes, internships and other requirements. I lookat it this way: she is important to me as a person, not just an employee, and I do notwant to hold back her education even though her career choice has nothing to do withfurthering the interests of Journyx. It’s vital to take a vested interest in not only yourcompany and its profits, but also the people who make up that company.Alternatively, what your employees do outside of work can be directly beneficial for thecompany. For example, my all-star Python programmer has started numerous littlecompanies on the side, which have educated him in user interface. He uses thisknowledge to improve projects at Journyx.Your employees have lives outside of the office, and the more you recognize this and
  3. 3. support them in the things that matter to them, the more loyal and productive they willbe in return.Build People UpI learned a long time ago that I can only be a mentor when I know what I’m talkingabout, which is not everywhere. Having said that, I’m good at lots of things and whenthose things are relevant, I try to step in and help. I’ve found that when I roll my sleevesup and dig in alongside an employee who needs some help, they see that I care aboutthem and in turn, that makes them care more about the company and the job they’redoing.One way I help my employees find their hidden talents is by getting out of their way. Idon’t micro manage. Instead, I notice rare skills and I enable them to take it to the nextlevel. I find that when I stay out of the way and let my staff pursue their interests, theyend up taking on more responsibility. Interns who started out in data entry begin usingtheir writing skills to create original content; sales representatives turn into trainers andget involved in multiple projects; and programmers become team leads inspiring theirstaff with motivational daily meetings and creating a team atmosphere. When anemployee has an idea of how to make the company better, let them run with it. Theresults may surprise you.It’s important to let employees know when they are doing a good job, as well. I like thephrase, "catch people doing something right" because it expresses the best way tomentor. And as the author Napoleon Hill stated, “It is literally true that you can succeedbest and quickest by helping others to succeed.” Encourage people to do more of whattheyre good at. Find their hidden talents. There’s no point in spending lots of time tellingpeople where theyve messed up.Think Outside the BoxOne of the most difficult tasks for a manager is to keep employees motivated, especiallyduring tough times. It can be especially difficult to do this when money is tight andbonuses are not an option. A couple of years ago, I decided to do something creativeand different in order to motivate our sales team. I bet them that they would not exceedtheir quota for Q1 by 33% and promised that if they did, I would dye my hair blue. Well,the sales team did not exceed their quota by 33% - they actually blew the doors off andbeat their numbers by 45%. Since I lost the bet, I held up my end of the bargainand dyed my hair neon blue for a week (My wife has since forbidden me to do thisagain, so I will have to come up with something else next time.) It’s also important to
  4. 4. remember that you can’t take yourself too seriously.I motivate my employees by focusing on the bigger picture of the company. Peopledon’t really stay at a place of employment just for the money. There are many wayssomeone can earn an extra buck in their pocket: why should they stay at yourcompany? If a worthy purpose is identified and acknowledged, employees are muchmore likely to stay with that company and feel happy about their work. People want tobe recognized for the good that they do -- not just in the company, but with thecustomers they serve. It’s not about satisfying an annoying shareholder, it’s aboutworking for a greater cause. At Journyx, I introduce our message of spending timewisely in the first interview. I also bring it up in meetings when the conversation hasfallen in a rut and use it to inspire my staff in large company meetings. I see a positiveattitude change when the conversation turns from how to increase ROI to how can wehelp potential and future customers invest their time wisely and have productive, usefullives. As you can see, there are many ways that managers today can keep employees happyand their performance high. All it takes is a little understanding and the willingness to trynew things. The investment for such initiatives is low, but the return just might surpriseyou.Reference Link: http://www.hr.com/en/app/blog/2012/03/why-i-died-my-hair-blue-and-other-ways-to-run-a-co_gzvbv9px.html