Apr 21, 2008 • Paul Singh
Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of businesses ranging from the Fortune 500 all the way “down” to small bootstrapped businesses (including my own).
I’ve noticed an inverse relationship between the size of the company and the “interesting-ness” of it’s employees. Simply put: I’ve met the most interesting people at the smallest companies.
“But Paul,” you might say, “everyone is interesting in their own way – what do you really mean?” Often, the only difference between an interesting person and one who does not consider himself interesting is a matter of confidence – and a willingness to share their stories.
Small businesses are a unique place where employees have no choice but to be innovative and highly creative. When you tie those together with confidence and great communication skills, you tend to get the type of people that actively seek out (and share) new experiences – that makes them such interesting people.
When I was working with a large Fortune 500 company last year, the most interesting person I worked with was a horse breeder. Here at PBwiki, a much smaller company by comparison, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a helicopter pilot, influential bloggers, hot sauce aficionados, “hippies” (am I going to get in trouble for saying that?) and ex-librarians – a much wider range of people that all share the common traits above.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, especially those of you working in the “corporate” world. Let me know.
Apr 9, 2008 • Paul Singh
My first job was at a Papa John’s Pizza in northern Virginia. Not only was making pizzas the only employment available to me, it was my favorite food at the time. What better way to make my first few paychecks?
**It’s All About the Process
**On my first day, each new employee would get a manual – a freakin’ MANUAL. This thing contained exact measurements, diagrams, pictures and clear instructions on how to wear your uniform, talk to customers, make the pizza, clean the oven and anything else you can think of. Damn, these guys were killing my individuality – I was about to become Papa John himself.
I quickly ramped up and was able to make pizzas, dispatch drivers and take orders within two weeks. I learned how to have a little fun and make some tips off of customers. I could smell the sauce and tell if it was made properly – I was that good.
**Fair Pay? Eat Your Weight in Pizza
**Did I mention I was paid nearly minimum wage? If I recall it was about $7.00 an hour. I could expect to make good money if I was willing to spend all my non-studying hours there at the store. Don’t get me wrong, it was good money for my first job but definitely an eye-opener.
The food was free – all we could eat.
**Quitters Sometimes Win
**By the end of the summer, I had decided to retire from pizza-making and move on to something else. It was time to move on to non-commission sales at Best Buy. The work was less time consuming and I got paid a little more. I now began learning how to talk to customers and had a tiny bit of free time to plan my next ventures.
What did I learn during my pizza-making days?
- If you can package what you do into a process, you can teach it to others.
- The guy who made the process gets paid a lot while the people performing the process got paid shit.
- It’s important to be looking for the next thing – no job is forever and once you’ve learned everything at your current place, it’s time to move on.
What lessons did you learn in your early jobs?
Mar 28, 2008 • Paul Singh
Many people will tell you that the only way to reach your goals is to get started today. I’m not going to dispute that but I will tell you the secret to actually follow through and reach your goal: find a goal buddy.
What is a goal buddy?
- A goal buddy provides motivation. He or she will help you stay on track as you work towards your goals, give you a hard time when you slack off and praising your continued efforts to do well.
- A goal buddy provides accountability. Being accountable to another person brings out our best efforts. Because we know our goal buddy is concerned about our progress, we’re more concerned. We don’t want to let our goal buddy down.
- A goal buddy increases our determination. Having a goal buddy gives us the staying power we need to accomplish our goals. Achieving goals takes time and continued effort. (After all, they wouldn’t be goals if they didn’t force us to stretch and strive.) But if you don’t have a goal buddy, it’s too easy to shelve the goal, saying, “I’ll work on this later”. Having a goal buddy that we talk to regularly encourages us to make regular and steady progress.
So, here’s what you should do today:
- Brainstorm a list of potential goal buddies. Write down some names of people that you think would like to swap goal buddy services with you. Think of people that you know that have drive, persistence, and who are positive. Avoid picking someone who’s going to go easy on you. Also avoid picking someone that you’ll resent getting on your case such as your mother or spouse. Pick someone that might be a little uncomfortable. Don’t limit yourself to just friends and family. Think also of colleagues. And they don’t have to be located near you. Virtual goal buddies can work fine too. You can also look into mastermind groups, business groups, or activity groups in your area too (such as weight loss groups).
- Select People for Your Shortlist. Take all the people on your list and narrow it down to just a select few (ideally, no more than 5 people). Choose doers and non-complainers. Be ruthless, don’t leave someone on the list simply because you like them.
- Associate Each Person on Your List to your Individual Goals. (You do have your goals written down, don’t you?) Try to match your advisors up with goals they might have some interest in as well – it’s not totally necessary, but it’ll make them more likely to want to help you.
- Contact Each Person on Your List. Ask them if he/she would be willing to commit to being goal buddies with you. This would mean getting together at least weekly either in person or by phone to review each others’ progress on your goals.
- Get Started, Kick Ass and Reach your Goals.
If you have some experience using a goal buddy or being a goal buddy, let me know.
Mar 23, 2008 • Paul Singh
One of the most common questions I get asked is this: “How do you get so much done?”
Friends are looking for my secret formula or the key to my efficiency, but I’m always sorry to tell them I don’t have any secrets. I do the same things that other effective people have done and that this blog will hopefully teach you to do.
Try these tips on for size:
- Ask yourself, “What needs to be done?” Notice that you’re not asking yourself, “what do I want to do?” This is a crucial difference and one that can’t be overlooked. If asked properly, this question will likely have more than one task. Effective people don’t try to tackle multiple things at once, they concentrate on only one task. If you’re one of those people that really likes to multi-task, you’ll pick no more than two tasks. After you’ve finished your task, go back and ask yourself the question once more – never re-use the original list.
- Ask yourself, “What is right in the context of the bigger picture?”As with the first question, this isn’t asking if this is right for you, your investors, your parents, your friends or for anyone else. Of course these stakeholders are important but an effective person knows that if a decision doesn’t work in the bigger picture, it’s not going to work for any of the stakeholders either. Although asking this question doesn’t always guarantee a correct decision, the failure to ask this question will virtually guarantee the wrong decision.
- Develop an action plan. You know that knowledge is useless until it’s been converted into actions. Before you jump into action, make sure you plan the course. Your action plan is a “living document” that will evolve with your successes – it is not to be seen as a straitjacket. Without an action plan, you become the prisoner of events. Remember, ideas don’t count – effective people are doers.
- Take responsibility for your decisions. A decision hasn’t been made until people know about it. It’s your job to set the deadlines, spread the word and be accountable. It’s also important to review decisions periodically – build these into your action plan. This way, a bad decision can be caught before it can cause too much damage.
- Take responsibility for communicating. Effective people make sure that their action plans and needs are understood by those around them. Specifically, this means that you need to share your plans and ask for feedback from your friends, family and peers.
- Focus on opportunities rather than problems. Let’s face it, problem solving has never produced results – it only prevents further damage. Taking advantage of opportunities is the single most effective way to produce results. My advice to you: next time you run across a problem (or even a complaint), quickly brainstorm three potential opportunities and stop there. Now pick one and get started.
- Run effective meetings. The key to running effective meetings is is to decide in advance what kind of meeting it will be. Different kinds of meetings require different methods of preparation and different results. Making sure meetings stay productive requires a good amount of self-discipline. When the meeting’s specific purpose has been accomplished, sum up and adjourn. Remember that any given meeting is either productive or a total waste of time.
Being highly effective is simply a matter of getting the right things done. Effectiveness is a discipline and, like every discipline, can be learned.