Being a team player is over rated. When you’re being told to “do the right thing” it usually means do what is best for the person making that statement. You hear this all the time from poor managers in Companies and you also hear this from your parents. They mean well. The problem is that many times it ends up hurting you more than helping you. If you create a product for example and you quite literally did all of it, you should not allow other people to take credit for your work. This requires a lot of effort as everyone will want to associate with your product to the point that you’ll be forced to shut people out. Emails stating people didn’t contribute to full on face to face conversations making sure someone doesn’t use your product on their website. Being a team player essentially means underselling yourself which will cost you millions of dollars.
5 Basic Pillars for Getting Credit
1) Performance, Not Sabotage: Before we jump deeper into this topic we’re not saying to go and “hurt people” taking credit for their work. Most people think like this and that’s the exact reason why they are not successful. When we say you shouldn’t be a team player it means that you should take full credit for what you provided and contributed. No overselling, no underselling. The higher you go up the more you’ll be asked to “take one for the team” and give credit to people who don’t do anything. Even if you jump this step and start your own product, people will still attempt to take more credit (claiming for example that their design is the only reason the product is selling well… even if you have A/B testing proving that it wasn’t a meaningful driver of revenue). So before we go further along we’re going to say it twice. Do not go out of your way to screw people. Do not go out of your way to screw anyone. All this does is waste your time, decrease your trust and increase your competition. Nothing beneficial.
2) Associate with Winners: This is what office politics is all about. For anyone in the work force it will resonate loud and clear. Since you want to associate with winners you want to make sure you’re contributing (getting your fair share of credit) and that anyone on your team also appears to be a winner. This is a good way of emphasizing the prior paragraph. It is pretty difficult to scale anything with a single person so the other people you add should be contributing a lot as well (and getting their fair share of credit). The nuance in how you are seen as a leader? You want to be the person who was in charge of making the hire. If you and the person you hire contributed 50/50 on a project… Well, you’ll get the promotion since you figured out who to hire and correctly got him in the right role. He’ll then hire someone to work for him and the scale game begins.
On the business front, assuming that you already moved on from being an employee… The game is associating with growth companies. You do not want to associate your company with a company that is considered “passé” and not up and coming. You want to be tied to the winners (surprise!). This then elevates your profile as people are more attracted to what is new and growing versus a sizable business with flat-lined revenue. We’re not sure why this is the case psychologically as we’d rather have $1M guaranteed for 20 years, than have an asset growing at 100% but generating $50K a year. But. The game is the game.
3) Don’t Fix People: If you have been following our blog for a long time, you notice that as soon as a prior fan turns negative on us (usually their life starts going down the drain) we ignore them. Why? We don’t want to associate with that negative energy. There is a big difference between fans and employees since you should expect ups and downs in performance from an employee but when it comes to customers/viewers you want to have a hard stance of avoiding engagement. This blog is a great example since we do it visibly. As soon as someone gets upset with the blog or is socially inept to the point that they think the blog “changed”… we cut them off and ignore them.
There is a basic psychological reason for this… Customers come and go. Unless you messed up an order (immediately offer something free), it is usually the customer who had their life go in the wrong direction. It’s just a simple trend we’ve noticed. Maybe they are moving in a different direction in life (99.999% of the time it’s down particularly if you’re still going up in a massive way). So. You’re better off searching for people who will like the direction you’re currently going in. In fact… We’d apply this to your regular life as well. Don’t try to make someone like you in general. If someone doesn’t like you there are over 7 billion other people who haven’t met you yet. We’ll go ahead and wager you’ll find too many people within that 7 billion.
4) If It Isn’t Meaningful Don’t Send a Message: One of the most important “business” or even “career” tricks is to avoid sending meaningless messages. Everyone remembers the long email chain that wasted an entire day for some issue that should have been solved in a single one sentence email. This is bad practice not just for your career but your future business as well. If you don’t have anything meaningful to say or add… Don’t say anything at all. This forces you to become a valuable asset as you *must* have something meaningful to contribute at all times. This is also why smart people don’t talk much, they only talk when they have something to actually add.
A good example is when you’re working on a project and you’re asked to “add to the discussion”. Essentially you want to wait until you can add something that will allow the project to make more money or save everyone time. Unless your contribution is going to make your company (or the company you work for) more money or save them time… it won’t be remembered. In addition, if you’re creating a traceable history of value added performance. You can point to the emails you send and won’t have to go through hundreds of useless emails to track down the ones that matter… Since you don’t waste time.
5) Clear Consensus Building: This is a quick last item for people who are still working in careers. We’ve really lost touch with reality in that aspect (having people to report to) but one of the main items to be aware of is consensus building. Even if you do all of the above you can still get killed by not building a “clear consensus”. You don’t waste time, you generate money, you associate with winners, you don’t try to fix broken people and you focus on yourself. Still. You can get burned. Why? Well when you build your consensus of people who approve of you… You’re always going to get a negative from someone. This person is simply someone who dislikes you as a person. If there are 12 people in your group who are important, we can all but guarantee at least 2 of them will never give you approval. So. What you need to do is build a consensus around 10 of the 12 and most importantly the final decision maker (whoever that is… i.e. the most important person). This way when the two people see that all 10 approve of you and the most important guy is signing off, they won’t be able to say anything without looking foolish.
5 Areas Where Things Go Wrong
1) Heavy Hitter Disapproval: This is the only piece that will reference the office environment (many readers still in this part of their career/life cycle). In short, if a person “two rungs” ahead of you dislikes you… You should leave the firm. This is because the credit you receive will be diluted. Why? Well once everyone in a particular group realize the top guy dislikes you, they will downplay all of your contributions. Most people get frustrated and wonder “Hey I did all this and made all this money for the firm why am I getting no credit?”. Well you have your answer. What happens is the rest of the group takes credit for your work and since the last guy in the line does not like you he will believe the consensus that is taking credit for your efforts. This is one of the rare situations where it is almost impossible to fix so you’re better off leaving and putting 10x more effort into your side business.
2) Product Development: This is where it gets real nasty. When you start making your own products and selling them you’re going to get a lot of band-wagon people. Even if you’re outsourcing most of the support work, the outsourcing people will attempt to charge you much more saying their additions represented the actual value. We can’t stress this enough: take control of your ads. We’ve noticed that people attempt to skip the whole copywriting part and outsource it. This almost guarantees their company will be a long-term flop. Why? Well when your support team (outsourced) tries to charge you more… You won’t actually know how much value they were adding. You’re stuck.
The conclusion here? Do your own ad campaign. It doesn’t mean that you need to do all of it, but you need to be in charge of the paid traffic. If you’re in charge of the paid traffic you can test various ads and see if the person “helping you” is really generating a lot of value. If they try to claim that their additions are improving conversion rates by X%… You can test it yourself and see if that is true. 99.99% of the time you’ll find out their full of it. As usual. When this happens you can then ask them to leave or work for the same rate you were paying them since you have proof that the value they add is not a game changer. In a sentence, if you lose control of your paid ads, you’ve lost control of your company.
3) Multiple Products: Eventually you’ll have to hire someone. We know it’s the worst possible process in the world. Would rather pull out your own teeth than work with someone since the chances of picking the correct winner is low. That said, if you’re going to create multiple products the only way to maintain control is by running the ads for both products but having a person in charge of the lower selling SKU. For example, you’ll run the ads for both the cash cow product (75% of revs) and the lower income producing product (25%). This way you’re always in charge of the flow.
To incentivize the person in the lower selling product you can tie his income to revenue/profit growth of the SKU. He will be in charge of doing everything (including the ads) but you’ll be in charge of the running of the ads. This is an important distinction. If you can still test his ideas against your own ad ideas, you’ll see if he’s doing a good job with the product or not. Over time, you want to see the lower income producing product generate 30-35% of the total revenue before you can give him a new product line to run with more monetary opportunity. Again. To incentivize him on the next product you do the same thing and include a guaranteed kicker for the project he already completed ($X for the profit of SKU number 2).
4) Customer Service: Ah yes. The worst part of any business in the world. This is an area where you’re hopefully taking no credit for the work. There is a reason why high-end restaurant servers are typically the most fun people to be around (outside of work). This is because customer service is absolutely awful and you need to have the patience of a monk to be “in the zone” every day. Now what’s the issue here? Most people spend too little on customer service.
Customer service is an area where most people spend little and hire mediocre talent. It’s the reverse. Since you know how awful it is, this means there is usually a lot of value by having higher quality customer service. As a rule of thumb you should pay 2x industry rate for your customer service representatives. This makes your product stand out and the “experience” better for all of them. On top of that you don’t have to worry about it ever again.
There is no real debate that customer service is better at a fancy restaurant than your local Taco Bell. This is due to pay and the experience level of the person. The same goes for any product be it on the internet or brick and mortar. Pay up, get good customer service and reduce those grey hairs (lower stress).
5) Identify Product Holes: This is the last area where you want to be an expert. It unlikely matters for 99% of readers but if you end up going down the multiple SKU business route… you want to make sure there are no product holes. Part of your job in an industry (say clothing) where there are multiple products for the same “issue” is keeping up with the competition. In multiple SKU arenas, there is a solution for everything and you want to stay on top of potential trends where two products merge into one.
This sounds vague so we can point out a specific example here. If you offer computer products you have two options: one with very fast processing and one with slow processing. The most obvious example everyone can relate to is a hard disk drive and a solid state drive. When solid state drives became popular (macbooks) the hard disk drive started to die out. During this transition period, there was a time where hybrid offers were available. Technically this competed with both the slower computers and the faster computers. That said, it was a clear product hole that may impact sales on both sides. The important item? Without a hybrid offering you were not able to tell which product the user was most interested in. Fast forward a decade and practically no one is running around with hard disk drives in their laptops.
Concluding Remarks: There are a few key items: 1) always make sure you’re given full credit, 2) focus on what matters – being in charge of the revenue line, 3) pay up for things that cannot be scaled easily – customer service, 4) focus on product holes and 5) have an extremely clear trail of value addition via emails while associating with winners. We probably missed a few but you’d be surprised at how many people screw this all up. There are thousands (hundreds of thousands) of people who are more talented than people ahead of them “in the game of life” and we’d argue they break something within this post.
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