One of my first initiatives in my new role is to help the start up scale its business. And specifically, this means growing their sales team so they can sell more contracts, make more money, and become profitable. Sales is a hard role, and it is especially difficult in a small company like a start up with a steep learning curve and small margin for any errors (i.e. wasted capital, i.e. paid salaries to people who don’t deliver value in return). This is something I was vaguely aware of in corporate and took for granted (read: I was let go). In a large corporation, there are many many many workers who just show up to collect a paycheck. They do their job description and whatever else they can minimally get by doing in order to not get fired. Corporations can withstand mediocrity and even the churn. They have whole HR departments that just do paperwork, schedule interviews, and administer payroll.
At this new company, I’ve more or less volunteered to be HR. I knew the basic competencies from my time in corporate to know how to recruit and onboard people; but really, I knew that in order to justify the salary I asked for, I had to do more than the average employee. I am their HR, talent acquisition, sales operations, finance, compliance – person. I pretty much told the founder that I was willing to do anything – I was an athlete.
Sorry, back to my first train of thought – my first initiative to bring on a sales team was to instead create a talent pipeline. I developed a summer internship program for recent college graduates. Knowing the class of 2020 would be hard hit by the pandemic and hiring freezes, here was a young and hungry talent pool with relatively little to no competitors. I did a simple financial comparison and critical thinking around timeline – most sales people fail within 3 months of the ramp cycle, meaning they don’t make enough sales or develop the right behaviors to be successful in returning value to the company for how much they cost as headcount. A 3 month internship-to-hire program with more junior talent would solve that cash burn.
I am also empathetic to young professionals… I was in their shoes not too long ago, and if I wasn’t given the opportunity to develop my professional skill sets in a corporate rotational program, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am very empathetic to young people who want a fighting chance at this thing called life. An opportunity to develop their skill set and build their experience in a relatively safe environment. I have to advocate for this company not to churn and burn new hires. It’s about working with people, and growing with them. People aren’t disposable.
But young people… oh my gosh, I forgot what it was like to be so young. People mature with age. I know I developed a better way to cope with unexpected situations, with failure, with things not going as planned. I think in this pandemic we are all learning how to cope with uncertainty.
The new joiners had a hard time ramping – two quit within the first week and a third was struggling hard. I kept drilling them two core faucets about this summer and this program: we are developing discipline and we are building courage.
You build courage. To face the unknown, to make that cold call and get hung up on, rejected, and face an objection or ridicule or a mean person on the other end of the phone.
I found myself giving pep-talk after pep-talk for five days.
Finally all the words I had to say boiled down to three – discipline to execute.
No matter what hesitation or disappointment you face throughout the day, you are building the discipline to execute. That’s not just this job, but every job. Everything you’re going to do in life and that you have done in life. You are here because you at some point in time had the discipline to execute. You applied for the job, you showed up to the interview, you did the cold call test and memorized the definitions. You did it. But you didn’t come this far to only come this far. Keep going.
To people reading this… that applies to you too. Keep going.
This applies to me too – writing this blog sporadically. Discipline to execute is the difference between those who succeed and those who are only thinking of success.