Welcome to Apple

Apple is recognized as one of the world leaders in innovation and bringing consumer products to market with outstanding success. While there are some amazing leaders at the company who are visionaries, including the late Steve Jobs, there is a lot more at play going on. There is a company culture which empowers all of their employees. I received a copy of their “welcome to Apple memo”, which, while short, is amazing powerful. It speaks to the culture of the company, where they encourage their employees with an enhanced sense of purpose.

In the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, which is backed up by several published academic studies, purpose is one of the driving factors of what motivates us in life. There is a shift taking place in workplace as it relates to motivating employees to improve productivity. Our industrial era management thinking says that placing a proverbial carrot (bonus, fear, or other monetary pain/pleasure) was effective when the labor required no cognitive thought (assembly line work), but as the nature of work in the majority of western countries evolve into positions requiring cognitive thought processes, the concept of the carrot provides worse results.

What Pink speaks about, which can be seen at TED, as well as animated at RSA, is that we are motivated by purpose, autonomy and mastery. This welcome memo to all new employees at Apple is an excellent example to reinforcing the culture of purpose.

Interested in learning

Continued from before, it is very important to understand that we are all life long learners. There is always something new to learn, and more to understand. Choosing the right sources for information, including related trade and general business publications, journals, etc., is excellent. Moreover, attending low cost training seminars frequently is great! Try to get to at least 4 per year – once a quarter. Focus on business related topics, and leave your trade related training out of the 4 per year. For example, I spend at least one seminar a year on tax related issues – what’s changed, what can I do better; I also spend at least one on human relations – how to work better with your employees, as well as what do I need to legally understand; I also spend at least one on business growth; leaving one open to whatever strikes me this time around. The first three are essential learning, so you can see how easy it is to go to at least 4 per year.

I would also try to mix up the training between large firms or travelling seminars against smaller firms offering training. Keep an eye on your local Business Journal which often lists low cost (or sometimes free) training seminars.

Invest in your future by growing your business understanding. Also, while you’re there, don’t forget to network – make those future business relationships!

Do you know, or do you think you know?

One of my mentors early on in business tough me this very important question: “do you know, or do you think you know”. The answer to that is key in many areas of business. It is something that you need to constantly be asking of yourself. But today, I’ll brush back on my discussions about building a team of advisers. You need to surround yourself with people who know that they know what they’re doing. How often do we get caught in “not knowing what we didn’t know”. We cannot afford that of our advisers who we are paying (or should be paying) good money for. (On an side, you should be paying your advisers at least twice as much as you are charging our clients!)

Now the big quandary is that you are paying them to know what you don’t, so how do you determine that they know more about something that you don’t know about? Double-talk, sounds like it. So how can you really know this. I was watching a program on PBS the other day about wealth management, it just happened to be on. Some of what they guy had to say made a lot of sense, other parts didn’t. But what I took away was how he addressed this very problem – how do you know your adviser knows his stuff.

The answer is simple, ask plenty of open ended questions and judge how he responds. The content is less valuable then how… For example, what is the most recent law change, that they know of, which affects their role. For example, the case of us choosing an HR attorney (back in 2006), what law has recently changed that affects employer/employee relations. They should be able to name something specific, that they can explain in layman’s terms and note that it was recently (say the last 3 months or so). When I spoke with our attorney recently, I brought up that I noticed that the Court of Appeals of California ruled that employers are not required ensure employees take their breaks, but rather that they are only required to ensure that the break is available and cannot prevent or dissuade them from taking their breaks. This was a landfall ruling for employers. When I brought this up, my attorney mention, that yes, it was a big victory for employers, but it really doesn’t mean a whole lot until it is turned into law, which is what it is in the course of doing right now. You need to have people on your team that are more informed about the current issues than you are.

Another couple of questions to as are:

  • How to you keep yourself up-to-date in your trade?
  • What is the last conference/seminar you attended?
  • When was your last certification/credential/etc?
  • When was the last time you worked with a client with a similar situation as mine? (This would be a great one to ask your medical doctor next time!)
  • What was the last time you turned away a client because their need did not match up with your ability?

Those are challenging questions to ask your advisers — or candidates. They are also challenging questions we need to honestly ask ourselves for our own business.

There is a lot of people who “practice” in their area of employment — do you really want to be “practiced” upon? There is no perfect advisor out there for you, but there are a lot of bad choices. A lot of people who “think” they know what they’re doing. We call those interns, or journeyman, or whatever. There is a place for them, and they may be a part of your team in some areas. But you also need your fair share of experienced people on your team, someone to pickup the slack. A good example may be this…Dancing…

In dancing, there is a leader and a follower — they are typically separated out by gender roles, but not always. My wife and I have very little experience dancing and can fumble through a lot of things, more on my end then hers. We trying a free private ballroom dancing session. It was amazing, when either of us danced with the pro, we did fine. But when we danced with each other it seems to go far worse. We did get through it, but they key was when we were with the pro, one of us knew what was going on. When neither of us had a clue, it fell apart. The same goes for your team. If at least one of you is a pro, they can acknowledge the deficiencies of a team member and help bring them up to speed. But when your team is full of amateurs, you can get into trouble quick. Yes you can fumble through it, but the mistakes may be costly.

Make sure you have more pro’s then amateurs on your team. If you are an amateur at business, then you need to hire a few pros. If you’re a pro, then perhaps an amateur or two may be an acceptable liability for you. But in the beginning, don’t skimp on experience!

Don’t forget the person

This will be a bit different than you first might expect. This is about lessons learned about not forgetting the people in your life…away from the office. As I read more and more about successful people they have managed to hold together their personal lives in various forms, and despite what the media appears to focus on, more successful people are happily married with children, then the multi-marriage-disaster we’ve come to expect.

While growing and forming your business is very, very critical — and is one of those: do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do – sort of things. On the same part, sometimes we “want” to do work, and what we need to do is pour value and significance onto our families and friends. We will all pour so much into the office and our employees, who may betray us at some point — our families are forever, and we need to remember and treat them as such.

For each person, that attention and value can and will be expressed differently. For some it is coming home always at 4pm, for others if was when they got home (whatever hour) they were automatically, fully 100% devoted to their family, virtually ignoring the world; yet others it would take the form of occasional (but frequent) holidays and vacations – or perhaps “weekends with dad”. Whatever form suits you and your family, find it, and then live it — commit to it. Whatever it takes for you, if that is placing it on the calendar, or having your spouse “hound you” or having your secretary keep you on-top. Whatever it takes, it is vital. Your homelife will have a greater impact on your work, far beyond what you could ever imagine.

Time Management

I just completed reviewing How To Manage Your Time and it included a list of great time management tips. All very valuable. What hit me the most was the last one: Closed door / open door. While we all try to keep an open door policy, it is important to have a closed door most of the time, at least physically. That way you can get the work done, and it shows that you are busy, working, being productive. Open the door when it is a good time – perhaps even schedule it (privately) — that is to set some times in your outlook calendar to remind you to open the door, but don’t let anyone know about that schedule, otherwise they’ll begin to count on it. But to make yourself available does not mean that you always need to be available.

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