Getting Ahead Today

Being an entrepreneur and having had employees I have been asked the following question more times than I can remember.  What is the best way to get ahead or get noticed in my company?  There are countless answers to this question and volumes of books have been written on the subject.  Perhaps you have heard some of the ideas from these books, for example: Out work everyone – get to the job prior to your supervisor and stay after they leave, or how about just find a boss who is most likely to retire soon and work with them closely.  You can also use the time tested method of marrying into the family – if may not make Thanksgiving fun, but it sure has a way of moving you to the front of the line! 

While the above ways may have worked for many individuals, I am not a proponent of any of them as an exclusive way of moving up in an organization.  In an individually owned organization or a publicly traded company, it is my opinion that the best way to move up is to tie yourself to the highest visible financial measurement that you can affect.  Having run and owned my own businesses, I always looked for individuals that could affect the company in radical ways and from a very selfish standpoint my pocketbook.  The employees with the greatest impact on those financial measurements were my most valuable, and therefore given more opportunities and responsibilities.  Private and public companies are not separated by this fact – both have similar goals of increasing profits.  

Here are a couple of examples.  In the distribution world sales and gross profits drive a big part of our business.  Additionally any part of working capital, specifically inventory is high on the radar screen as well.  Individuals in a company that can show me how or can perform for me: increasing sales, increasing gross profit, reducing inventory while maintaining customer service levels or increasing inventory turns are going to be at the first ones that I look for when I need them to move up in the company.  Employees sometimes show their ability to perform through asking great questions.  I always enjoy it when a new employee challenges our current system by saying something like “Why are you guys doing it this way, it seems to me that it might be better of doing it this way.

This means tying yourself to a metric and driving hard at that performance level.  Consider the individual that is beginning a career in sales at an entry level.  The ability to work hard and grow sales rapidly or increase margins beyond what is in the market place today gets them noticed.  Noticing that sales professional may lead a manager to begin asking them how they can outperform the market.  And right or wrong many industrial companies hire sales managers from their sales staff and particularly their “A” players.  The same holds true if you begin life in the warehouse.  Being able to understand inventory from a stratification mindset is critical.  While at this time you may not be able to understand fully what an A, B, C or D item is you can have a keen awareness of what is not moving, how items are stored or how most of the damaged items in the warehouse become so.  This leads to solutions and owners, executives and managers want solutions. 

Businesses hire individuals not only to get the job done, but to have more done than can be imagined.  That is truly the power of the human spirit and it fuels our free enterprise system.  Several times in my career I have been approached by individuals that have told me that if I paid them more they would produce more in the company.  That is the direct opposite of what I am talking about.  If I can be of help please call or email.  Remember, business isn’t for the faint of heart – it is hard but rewarding work!  Hard work pays off!

Mitchell Harper