Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Thank You Note That Inspired a Job Offer

             One of my graduate students at the University of North Texas told me that he received a great job offer after he followed a job interview with a  thank you note.

                During our work in the class, we had discussed job searches and the job interview process.  One of the points I made for the class was that in order to be distinctive as a job candidate, the students must always send a thank you to each individual that a candidate encounters during the course of the interviews.

                We had this discussion early in the semester. Then, as the class was beginning to search for jobs when they graduated, I told them the characteristics our firm seeks in a job candidate.  One distinction that identified a real professional from just another individual contributor was receiving athank you note.  This student paid attention to that advice and received a great job offer to begin his post graduate career.

                Certainly this is a tried and true tradition, one I learned about from a colleague who worked as a financial advisor at Edward Jones.  Edward Jones began in rural Missouri, in a small town in the western part of the state.  Mr. Jones, the founder,had the habit of sending every one of the people he met with daily a note for taking the time to visit with him.  This practice became a part of the Edward Jones culture. In the early days of Edward Jones, a broker did not receive an office until he/she had established over 100 new accounts for business.  My colleague was trained in that model, and he wanted to have his own office as soon as possible.  If a new financial advisor sent a note to everyone he or she met, that advisor increased the chances of actually opening a new account, getting an office and a adding an assistant to help with administrative work.

This daily expression of gratitude is a great example of how simple thanks can influence results, every time. Surprise them. Give it a try.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

There Are Many Definitions of Thank You

The November, 2015, issue of the Rotary Magazine]  addressed gratitude when talking about students who sent notes to thank Rotary Clubs for their outreach.  Many Rotary clubs provide dictionaries to elementary school students.  This is a national Rotary program, as is one that distributes new sneakers for second and third graders to help motivate those students to become physically active and involved in the environment.

                In each case, the thank you notes that the children mail  to the clubs are significant and exciting and fun to read their heartfelt comments.

                As a Rotarian, I was involved in the dictionary program for many years.  While the club that I currently belong to supports a school in another way, I will always remember thethe 3rd grade dictionary program; it was fund to watch each child receive a dictionary, followed several weeks later by a thank you note from the class expressing how much they enjoy their new literary tools!

                During another Rotary efforts, I spoke to a junior high class about careers.  Amazingly, these oft-labeled difficult age students pleasantly surprised us all: One month later, the Rotarian in charge of the program presented me with a big envelope of thank you notes. Each class member had written a formal note. To say I was amazed is an understatement! At the end of the day, I was probably more amazed than the class and gratified to know the value of the time spent on the project and that we made a small difference in the lives of these students.       As the Nike slogan says, “Just Do IT.”  Say thanks. Write that note. You will be amazed at the results that you’ll receive.

It’s One Simple Word. So, Why Don’t We Say It?

          The holiday season is over, and we are excited to begin a new year.  Each new year brings fresh ideas and novel concepts, and, along with them, the excitement, joy, and wonderment that the surprise of discovery entails!  These concepts catalize design and construction of new products that are introduced to the marketplace, to yield further  joy as customers experience using something new for 2016.

                However, one important factor that is too often overlooked is theattitude of gratitude. Surprisingly, gratitude is simple and easy to convey, but many individuals fail to share the simple statement,  “Thanks.”

                The ability to say thanks for a great idea, a job well done, help provided, a gift given or a door opened can’t be emphasized too strongly. This is a workplace issue that needs a boost. Research has shown that many employees simply need to be told that they are important, that someone values their contribution to the enterprise to instill happiness and satisfaction.  By telling an employee, co-worker, customer, supplier or other relationship stake holder how you value the contribution of that stake holder, you increase not only their confidence, but your value and the value you place on the relationship.

                And in today’s fast-paced, flat world, relationships are key.  Often, seeing someone face to face begins a process of knowledge and understand that reveals that person’s value proposition. Knowing what they value is imperative in  developing a relationship that will result in a sale, a promotion, or the support that one needs to successfully achieve a personal, professional or project goal.

                One could argue that saying “Thanks” is old fashioned or out of date in today’s digital world.  To that, we say RUBBISH!  Research on millennials indicates that most millennial employees feel very positive about giving recognition for the help and assistance they receive from others. But translating the positive feeling into action takes encouragement and direction.

                Good executives model this all the time. Businesses give long-time clients a tangible form of gratitude each year.  Obviously, if your business fulfilled or provided a multi-million dollar contract for an entity with whom you’d not worked before, such a gift might be substantially more than a box of sweets.  Yet many folks rarely expect anythingother than a simple “Thanks; you helped.” So start there, and make the most of the relationship by tangible and intangible expressions of gratitude.

                And don’t forget to provide positive recognition for individuals who do a good job.  Most of the time, that recognition is a public, verbal thank you; that may be all that is needed and necessary.  But if a team really went out of their way and helped you emerge from a difficult situation, perhaps a gift card or other concrete symbol of gratitude is in order. 
I’ve written frequently about the impact that a hand-written note can have, and I want to close with that to kick of the New Year. On fine paper, a card or letter written in your hand and bearing your signature reinforced and confirms the value of the relationship and the action for which you’re giving thanks, a clear tangible expression and  what that person’s action or thought meant to you.
In every instance, it’s the idea that you took the time and effort to say thank you, to write a note, to purchase a gift or honor an individual’s efforts that counts.  That’s a discovery and often a surprise that everyone appreciates.

“There Are Times When You Do Spook the Herd!”

        A phrase that I use frequently with  career counselling clients entering a new role at a new company is “Don’t Spook the Herd.”  This aphorism helps new employees understand the value of a cultural fit in their new job and learn how to get along with their colleagues in the early stages of their assignment.

         However, there are very clearly times when it’s best to go from don’t to do, when one does need to “Spook the Herd.” A key criterion of that need is when money is involved. 

          The December, 2015, edition of Texas Monthly tells the story of an accountant at Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, and the approximately $18 million that he embezzled.  Sadly, this story is not unique.  Just last week, the Wyoming Fiddlers Association fired their long time secretary for embezzling approximately $10,000 from the organization.  A major automobile dealer former client of ours welcomed a new chief financial officer who immediately discovered that a long-time employee had absconded with nearly $250,000 from the dealership.  A newly-hired church business manager identified a veteran church staff member lifting their own personal offerings from the collection plate each week.  The alleged embezzlers may try to justify their actions as inspired by low pay, jealousy of senior company/organizational officials or having an addiction problem, be it drugs, gambling or some other problem. Does it matter?

            They were part of the herd. In each instance, the president or chief executive officers of the organizations missed what was going on until someone (new) saw the problem and spoke up. The long-time, trusted employee might never be suspected as  involved in such activity.  And that tenured employee frequently the one with institutional knowledge about  financial or accounting questions, the go-to oracle when info is sought.

            Because of the entrenched situation of a perpetrator, many businesses or organizations elect not to prosecute the individual involved, ostensibly for fear of bad publicity or negative public reaction. At the core might be disbelief and dismay at having been had. But as bad the emotions and residuals might feel, , stealing is stealing.  There is no equivocation.

            So when someone through naiveté or with fresh eyes or having the courage to spook the herd and speak up, we are reminded of the importance of paying very close attention and eschewing complacency – always. Keep in mind what you’ll need to do to find out  if your business has such a problem. Know, too, that many most businesses have similar concerns.  Here are two initial steps:
  • Conduct an external audit of company finances.  Yes, this costs money, but having an external audit will identify if your accounting procedures are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.  Many accounting firms that conduct audits will qualify the audit results and state that fraud detection is not part of the audit. Nevertheless,  if found, you will have a problem exposed.
  • Have an uninterested third party, a business consultant or other advisory firm, come in and ask questions of the financial staff.  We like the “Why” question best, when asking about process.
    The “Why” question engenders a series of follow on questions, each digging deeper into the issue.  This technique, used extensively in industrial quality control applications, continues to explore “Why” something happens.  Normally, if there is a financial accounting problem, this technique will identify the issue.  Yes, it’s a tad tedious and burdensome to accomplish. However the end result is either everything is in order and no further inquiry is necessary or a problem has been identified, one that requires further exploration and resolution.
    Openly investigating the finances of any company or organization will always “Spook the Herd.”  And that’s a good thing.  If there are no problems, you can rest assured that your financial systems are in order.  If problems are detected, you can take action to resolve deficiencies in a timely manner.
    Our experience in matters such as these is that people rarely enjoy having their integrity or veracity questioned.  Everyone needs to know that the questions are inquiries only, not accusations or comments impugning an individual’s integrity. All reliable team members should move positively in the same direction toward  ensuring that internal accounting control procedures are working as designed. 
    Why wait for a new hire to shake things up? Why not take a look at all of your accounting and bookkeeping procedures now.  Make sure that you understand what is going on. Know why you use your systems as you do, why you are taking certain actions and the reasoning behind the methodology employed.  Remember, it is YOUR money that is involved.  Don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions.  A little disruption can be valuable, especially the review yields  improper actions.  Better to spook the herd than watch hard-earned revenues disappear through illegal actions you might be able to prevent.