Heard at the Diner

By Mike Philie
In April 20, 2016

Last week I was fortunate enough to facilitate our NexGen Leadership group in a Sales Leadership session. Several of our participants are currently in a sales role and could relate to much of what we discussed. The others had to gauge the conversations from the role of a bystander, working in a different department that may or may not come directly into contact with the sales team. These sessions are designed to encourage give and take with group exercises and open discussion and everyone contributed equally.

Youth Movement in our Industry

In the most recent Epicomm State of the Industry report, my friend and colleague Andy Paparozzi listed the biggest opportunities for profitable growth. The list included, “a “youth movement,” particularly in sales but also company-wide, makes the list for more than one-third of all companies surveyed. Owners and executives in all three segments studied are concluding that the new mindsets, models, and approaches essential to sustainable success are best achieved by hiring and training younger people— “new blood has injected energy into our business and made us more open”— than by trying to change entrenched habits of veterans.” This was very evident at the NexGen meeting last week. The discussions highlighted the fact that these folks recognize the opportunity they have and the positive impact they are making on their company.

The Diner

So how do we attract these younger folks to our industry? Several weeks ago I was having breakfast at a popular diner in the college town where my daughter goes to school. It was Sunday and there was a waiting line for all the booths and tables. I found an empty stool at the counter and proceeded to order breakfast and read the paper. I couldn’t help overhear the conversation coming from a few recent grads sitting to my right. They where discussing the jobs they had started, and the experiences they’ve been able to have so far. They spoke of the goals and expectations that had been placed on them in order to be successful – and eligible for a promotion, a bonus or a move to the next phase in their training. With passion and excitement in their voice, they were describing their next 2-3 years of advancement and development within the companies they were with.

What can you do – 3 ideas

The reality is that many small to mid-size businesses don’t have a fully funded training budget to simply hire recent grads and put them through a program with the hopes that they’ll emerge a solid performer in a short period of time. Rather, new hires need to be productive from the start. Using tools such as the Harrison Assessment can also help you determine the best fit for your business. Here are three ideas that might work within your organization.

  • Recruit from one of the several colleges that feature programs in the graphic communications industry. Several of these schools are highlighted in, Your Next Hire: Where is it Coming From?, written by Howard Riell in the April 2016 issue of Epicomm’s Bottom Line magazine. These young graduates have committed themselves to our industry and can make a positive impact on your business in a very short time.
  • Make your business attractive to a young person who is looking to learn, work hard and grow within a business. This could mean creating a series of jobs that could lead them through their first 2-3 years of employment. Make each one a ‘real job’ that allows the person to ‘pay for themselves’ while learning and being challenged. As they progress through these roles, and through their performance evaluations, you’ll both be able to determine their best fit and contribution to your company.
  • Take a hard look at the young people already working in your business. They may be in a production or support role and may or may not have had the opportunity to get a college degree. They may have, though, a passion and interest in this business. Maybe they need a chance to succeed, maybe they need someone to give them a break. What do you get in return? You get someone with a passion for the business, a desire to learn and grow and a young person who you’ll watch take on greater responsibility as they grow. I’m reminded of two of the most successful sales reps I’ve worked with – one started out as the receptionist and the other started out driving a delivery truck. If you have one of these gems in your business, maybe it’s time to give them a shot.

Get your team together and evaluate if these options work for your business. If you’ve come up with something else, I’d love to hear about it. Good luck with this and remember, doing nothing is not an option! Reach me at mphilie@epicomm.org or 201-523-6302.

Mike Philie

Mike works with printing companies that are not satisfied with their sales and business development performance, and are looking to get objective advice and strategic direction on how to improve the results of their business. His engagements can range from providing input on the overall sales strategy to building business development pipelines while training the processes of “selling” in today’s marketplace. Mike quickly establishes himself as a trusted resource and advisor to the owners and senior staff of his client companies through his personal involvement, and very quietly and effectively becomes an extension of their staff.

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