A Manager’s Challenge-Keeping Things Fresh and Exciting !

I think back to my days as a manager in the POS/cash register roll and ribbon business (one division of many in a large direct sales organization) -a business that continually required motivation of the sales troops-and I sometimes reflect on the techniques we employed as managers of our various divisions.

If we were discussing handling a stable of professional athletes. I’d like to believe that -with most of them making salaries of $1-10 million a year- that no motivation would be required. 

Though, I harken back in recent times to a series filmed for HBO called “Arliss-life of the sports super-agent” and beefy contracts with generous signing bonuses were seldom enough.

I recall one hilarious episode featuring a big-name basketball player who absolutely required add-ons like a 8-man hot tub for his new crib, a jewelry allowance for his bling, bling appetite and the use of the owner’s corporate jet to fly his extended family around.

But in my case,it was a different animal when we are discussing young people-most in their early 20’s- making a range of $200-$1000 a week back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. 

The name of the game was sales and grant it;we had a lot of fun,held mostly entertaining and informative morning meetings and afternoon pow-wows and threw a lot of contests and bonus money on the board. But even with all that going on,people get complacent and same-o,same-o becomes the same-o.

I was not your typical sales manager and I prided myself on drafting up creative ways to shake things up . While simultaneously providing some fun and excitement for my people I  stilll wanted to  create  a stronger sense of community. 

It was also a bigger challenge for me than my colleagues who ran the other 8 or 9 direct sales divisions as their people would get all rah-rah’d up in their lengthy morning meetings and then they would be turned loose on the streets,apartment complexes and office stacks for the rest of the day leaving the managers free to interview,shop,conjure up a contest idea,flirt with secretaries,etc.

You get the idea. I,on the other hand, had my people with me all day as our platform was inside sales.So creativity to the “nth” degree was the call of the day often .

Here are just a few of the “ideas” that I came up with and actually executed:

A few may seem off the wall but what the hey…………at the time it seemed like a good idea. Yes,they got results. Good ones.

It was a flat period for our office, which came often in early February.Retail was down and consumers were busy paying off their late December shopping spree frenzies. Yet, the weather was unseasonably beautiful,clear and warm and was going to be so for a good week or more. 

I figured why not use block ‘n tackles and take the desks and chairs right up through the skylights and place them on the roof where we had a magnificent view of the North Shore mountains along the coast of the Burrard Inlet behind the city of Vancouver.

The  staff loved it ,taking in that fine air whilst enjoying the sun in perfect  72 degree weather and sales actually boosted by close to 40%. 

Another time,I closed shop early as I felt we were banging our heads off the wall in the office during a heat wave so I chose an air-conditioned pool hall and we staged an all-afternoon tournament and went out for pizza after at a real,neat vintage parlor. They had a blast and came back the next day or so with a vengeance.

This was a good one. I had them all change caps for one (hot) day and go out on the streets with one member of the other divisions to give them a sense of perspective as to how good they had it. 

After all they received a guaranteed salary in our force and the others were all on pure commission. Wow, did that provide a wake up call and a very sweet result !

My piece de resistance and ,perhaps controversial, was taking them to a 100% nude beach with a great local history near the largest university grounds in all of Canada. 

In retrospect,I was probably the only one who took it all off ( there were 20 or so of us) as I was quite unabashed that way. I was actually the one conducting the meeting. Good thing I was in shape. 

Regardless of the preference of each of our team,they returned back to the office with a lot of energy and now knew to never know what to expect with me at the helm and that kept things interesting to say the least.

To conclude,different types of businesses may require a different scope in approach but the one common denominator is that we are all human regardless of the nature of our daily grind and our personalities. 

Keep things fresh and provocative and odds are you will see less turnstile swinging in your personnel complement and a turbo boost in production not to mention an overall higher morale.

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