Working in IT can be difficult because your job is to make sure that everything works well all the time. When technology breaks, you are expected to fix it immediately and then answer the question “Why did this happen?” so that you can correct the problem. On days when things do break, I tell my daughter what system broke and give a brief summary of what we did to fix it. Then we talk about her day. What went wrong and what went right with her classes or homework or friends. I always start with what was wrong and then finish with what went right.
This isn’t just a problem for me or just in the IT field. This is a problem for all of us. Stuff breaks or doesn’t work out well and, honestly, we have to deal with it. The question is how do you deal with it? Do you come home angry? Do you yell and scream? Do you leave it at the office? Do you go and hide somewhere while you sulk? None of these are productive.
Below are several steps you can use to deal with the issue and turn it from a bad day into a learning experience.
I was tired, exhausted, and my work still wasn’t done. I was working 80-90 hours per week for months on end without a break. I was angry when I came home from work. I couldn’t find time to take a vacation and I was at my max of earned vacation days. I was ready to quit and move on to the next job. Something had to change and I started searching for answers. I read everything I could find time to read while I searched for a new job. I finally realized that I was the problem. Ouch! That really hurt! I realized that I was my own worst enemy because I kept taking on more work each and every day when I had no more capacity. I put an action plan into place that dropped my hours back to a normal 40-45 hours per week and I was getting everything done that needed to get done.
I want to show you how I did it and how you can put the same action plan into place. I’ll even give you two free videos and an Excel spreadsheet to quickly regain two or more hours back in your day.
Each day you accept new tasks. The key is to understand which tasks you should work on and which tasks you should say No to. If you are like I was, you are probably saying Yes to most things because you feel you have to get it done. The flow of tasks you receive is like a river after a major rain storm. The river of tasks is more than you can handle unless you can slow down the flow of water or tasks. You must start building a dam to block those tasks that you should not be working on.
- Start by evaluating and understanding what tasks you actually work on each day.
- Write down the top 10-20 tasks that you work on daily and throughout your week.
- Estimate how much time it takes to complete each tasks.
- Then spend the next few weeks actually measuring how much time it actually takes you to complete those tasks.
- Get ready to start saying No to those tasks that provide no value.
In my video you will learn when to say Yes and when to say No.
“We need to fire this contractor. They just aren’t working out.” I’m sure that you have heard that at some point and sometimes the performance of the contractor is bad enough that contract termination is the right thing to do. I was talking with an employee in another part of our company recently and this was exactly what he was thinking. When I asked questions about the contractor’s performance he was able to clearly identify failures and many frustration points. On the surface it made sense to terminate the contract. I then asked him if he had clearly laid out what was expected of the contractor. He began to stumble so I asked him to outline the specific requirements he had provided to the contractor. His requirement was “fix any issues that arose .” My honest response back to him was that he had set up his contractor to fail and the failure was his fault. The requirement was so vague that no contractor could ever make him happy. I suggested that he bring in the contractor and hold a quarterly business review (QBR) to identify clear requirements, identify current failures, identify current successes, and establish guidelines for both his team and the contractors teamwith actionable deliverables. Once he held the QBR, the partnership was back on track. The contractor became a one of his best performing contractors for the rest of the year. Before you fire your contractor, establish a QBR with the contractor to review their performance and build a strong partnership. Here are the steps you can follow to make the partnership a great success.
1. Establish a clear set of requirements and deliverables
You would think that this is the easiest part but it isn’t. A combination of assumed expectations and vague requirements will doom you from the start. A great vendor will go out of their way to make sure that they deliver and you are successful. Once you take the time to write down everything that you expect from the relationship then you can define the items your vendor should deliver. In my example, a maintenance vendor was expected to resolve any issue. My friend assumed that they would be onsite within 4 hours for each and every problem. The vendor expected to respond by the next business day which resulted in frustrations for my friend. Write down your expectations and get agreement from your vendor before you sign the contract.
As a teenager I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a gentleman (we will call him Bob) who had taken his oil change business from nothing to a multimillion dollar success. The gentleman started with an old beat up pickup truck and a 55 gallon drum in the back. He traveled to doctor’s offices and sold his services for changing the oil in the doctor’s car right there in the office parking lot. He would put the contact information for the doctor’s office on an index card and file it away by month when the service was performed. Three months later he would pull up the index cards from all his clients in that month and contact them to see if they would like the oil changed in their parking lot again. He moved from doctors to other professionals and then to parking garages. He slowly added more customers, trucks, and employees. Bob’s business revenue exceeded $1 million within two years.
There are several lessons to be learned from Bob.
1. Know your customer’s need
An oil change is a simple task but it takes time to either do it yourself or take your car to someone who can do it for you. Bob realized that doctors don’t have a lot of free time on their hands and they are willing to pay a little extra for the convenience and saved time. Put yourself in your customer’s mind and try to understand what simple item you can provide for them. Don’t assume that you know what they need. Ask them. Develop, train, and ingrain the process of asking customers what they need into every aspect of your service, product, and employees.
I recently visited my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. As I walked in the door, my 78 year old father-in-law called my name with long drawn out “Waayynne”. I knew he needed some help with something technology related. Sure enough he had just bought an Amazon Fire Stick in the hopes of being able to share his computer screen onto a TV. We took a look at the Fire Stick and I set him up with Netflix for watching movies and IOS photo sharing but the device doesn’t work well yet with desktop sharing for a Windows computer. Sigh…. If he had a Mac we could use AppleTV or if he had a Chromebook, he could use Chromecast. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to mirror a Windows screen just yet until MiraCast is ready.
In business we often need good tools at a great price. I’ve included several key solutions for small businesses to consider.
1. Audio Conferencing.
There are several large companies that provide great products that are very stable for large businesses but they still charge by the minute and you need significant volume to lower your price. To get start quickly with audio conferencing you can check out FreeConferenceCall (https://www.freeconferencecall.com/). You can have up to 1,000 participants in a call. You can even share your screen for up to 25 people at once. The catch is that your participants will be paying the long distance charges to join the call instead of using a toll free number.
When you grow large enough to upgrade, there are several companies that offer great services. Check out Intercall, Level3, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Telecom, etc.
Turning a profit in any business is difficult these days. You work hard to drive sales, deliver your product, and keep the customer happy. So why should you give up part of your revenue or profit?
Early in my career I realized that I was giving away a lot my profit because I was being lazy and didn’t even know it. I worked with the sales rep from Cisco and was spending over $1 million a year on their product. The sales rep was always friendly, supportive and willing to help with any problem that I had. He even regularly worked to help identify new ways that I could use the Cisco hardware at the high discount of 40% off list price which was much better than his other customers.
A wise mentor suggested that I should consider issuing a request for proposal (RFP) for the next large purchase and we did. We issued the RFP to three hardware vendors leveraging each vendors top business partners. Cisco still won the business from us but at a nice discount of 60+% off list price. I had been giving money away to Cisco when they were willing to lower their price. Ouch!
Since that day I’ve learned to issue an RFP for all large purchases and came away with these key points each time.
1. Identify the top vendors you want to respond to the RFP. Do your research and identify the best vendors and their partners. Create a short list of companies to receive the RFP. These companies already know each other well and they will respond more aggressively when they realize who they are competing against.