Let me make a confession.
Despite running a company for 7+ years, handling a marketing team is one part where I have always lacked.
Call it bad luck or my trust issues which for some reason work the opposite of the literal meaning of “trust issues”. The guys who have trust issues do not trust people easily. I, however, trust them too much. (that’s what my better half says). abilities where I trust my team a lot. I have been duped quite a few times by marketing professionals.
Despite all the duping, I have refused to learn anything.
The phrase “once bitten twice shy” is least applicable to me.
Every time we hire a marketing person we end up losing money than making any.
Recently, we were at the receiving end of another same old “cheated by marketing person” story.
Although, we have had our issues with marketing team acting cheeky at times. This incident was the mother of all scams.
Let me give you a little background.
We have been growing at a good pace for last 3-4 years. (Touchwood! Fingers crossed! Arms twisted! And every single superstitious angle possible).
To get our growth on steroids, I decided to hire a “super expensive” marketing person. (to make the reference easier I will refer to him as “The Big Guy”)
The guy we zeroed in on was a known acquaintance for last 5 years. He had led the marketing team of A mid-sized MNC.
During a reshuffle in the organization, he was shifted to Singapore a few years back by his earlier company.
Words like “Singapore” “Business Growth” are too seducing for entrepreneurs like me to resist.
Since we had spoken for a long time, I kind of thought “He is the apt guy to take us to the promised land of “supersonic growth”.
The Big Guy (thou, who shalt not be named!) was offered the position of VP (The same position Mike Pence holds in USA).
We asked him his salary expectation.
He said, “I am fetching X thousand USD in Singapore”.
I asked him his INR salary and he threw a “Y Lakhs” figure salary expectation at me.
The negotiation started.
He finally agrees to come at a salary, which is double the amount of salary I and my partner pick every month. (note : we are bootstrapped. Other than the loans from banks, we have never had a penny air dropped by someone. The family, friends etc have pitched in from time to time but we have returned their money with market interest duly paid from time to time).
The Indian banks make it a point to take back every single penny in form of installments (unsecured business loans) where interest rates are of levels you and me cannot even imagine.
One of the biggest roadblock to putting our company’s growth on steroids was “our lack of connections in market”.
The Big Guy promised us a truckload full of connections. To prove his penetration in the market, he presented us with few glossy names of the corporate world.
He seemed to be deeply connected with the who’s who of corporate.
The Big Guy Joins:
Here comes the showstopper. From day one, the big guy was the center of attraction in the company. He would chide the HR for not keeping tissues in his room. He would scold the peon for not getting less spicy food for him.
The arrival of The Big Guy had suddenly started making everyone uncomfortable.
We are a small company where everyone works with a no fuss attitude.
Within 2 months of joining the company, his list of demands grew at a faster pace than the inflation in market.
Starting from tissues in his room to his petrol bills to be paid in advance. He made sure, our days and nights were spent worrying about his demands than thinking about how the company will grow.
We the tormented, looked to heavens for some miracle.
After 2 months of his joining, I asked him “You had promised to show us results after 6 months and we are already well past 2 months with no real leads to speak of”.
He replied, “Did you check the CRM?”. I said ”No”. He looked at me with disdain.
The arrogance on his face was palpable. He looked at me as someone who does not know A,B,C,D of marketing. Someone, who has become an entrepreneur by mistake.
And to rub it further he said “You are making me uncomfortable by asking me such questions. I have just completed two months. You especially got me from Singapore. You should be pampering me than asking me for targets. Also, I am here to improve company’s processes. I see the company becoming “like my earlier company” in 3 to 4 years”.
Awesome! We now had a plan which included 3 years of his salary and no marketing targets.
From day one, our most expensive hiree focussed on improving the processes of our company.
And then something unthinkable happened.
The big guy was caught duping us with fake bills, fake trips.
I guess we had pampered him too much. He got too comfortable in a world where he becomes our boss by virtue of joining at a higher salary.
The smart ass was sacked last month. He had put wool over our eyes by indulging in activities you and I cannot even think in our wildest of dreams.
The last day of his work, when we confronted him, he ran like a dog with his tail tucked in between his legs.
I did tell him on a parting note “within a short time span you have actually managed to improve our processes”.
From making me realize why I did not stick to the startup hiring tips I shared in my last blog to setting up a list of points which will be applicable to our future joinees, you have ensured our processes are streamlined.
In fact, we now have a list “Not To-Dos” for every entrepreneur.
Here is the list which will be etched in stone for us (the improved processes):
- There is no shortcut to success:
Why on the earth did we hire someone whose salary is double the amount of what company founders pick?
We do not have an angel investor or a VC pumping money to increase our evaluation.
We still do not make millions every month to have spared an amount we paid to the Big Guy.
Well! Like all the business owners who want to see their company growth multi-fold in the shortest time frame possible, we hired a very expensive guy.
He was to be the Oracle who would lead us to the land of riches.
Frankly speaking, we were looking for a shortcut. A steroid which would help us enhance and multiply our growth in the shortest time frame.
After giving an offer to the VP (ex), I spoke to few buddies whose companies are at the same scale as ours.
All of them dissuaded me from taking the decision. They all had tried and failed in past with the shortcut I was about to take.
I guess I was too blinded by the big talks of achieving the most in the least time frame.
Bottom line is, there is no shortcut to success.
- Have well-defined Targets with no scope of lame excuses:
It’s a dog eat dog world. Everything moves on Targets. You miss a target, you are doomed.
Being an Entrepreneur, I can easily count the few targets always hanging around my neck.
The salaries, rent, incentives, bills, etc, etc.
No, imagine the world, where you do not have to pay salaries, rent, bills, etc, etc.
The perfect world of an Entrepreneur.
The fact is they do not even have such world these days. Not even in movies.
So how can you hire someone without targets?
They will tell you, your company is small. The infra is not up to the mark. The brand is not as good as the last brand they worked with, etc, etc.
Don’t fall in the trap.
If required, take them for an office tour. Show them your client list. Make them understand what you do and how you do in the simplest of languages possible, before they decide to join.
It’s just a simple step I am sharing with you. Assholes will still be ass holes.
Don’t expect them to change overnight but it never hurts to take precautions.
I explained every single point to the big guy before he joined us.
Still, we got duped.
Once they are in your company, do not leave any scope for such questions.
Our guy started this crap from day one. We maintained patience till things went out of hand.
Every time there was a goof up, the same old story would start where the blame lied with our company, not with the “Great Employee”.
One of my friends recently told me, he actually went and rented a swanky office because the Sr. marketing guy in his company wanted a better office to get better clients.
He had to go back to his old office after his big guy left.
We were just inches away from doing the same mistake. I would say “we were saved by a whisker”.
After getting sacked these are the guys who will go and post a feedback about our company on the internet cussing us and calling us cheats.
And the next person who wants to join us will believe the B.S posted by them before he/she decided to join us.
So where the hell are we to post our stories?
We cannot go into the arms of the internet and cry a river, posting about how we were screwed by some Mr. X.
Such an unfair world it is for Entrepreneurs.
- Focus on what you do than what your Big Guy wants you to do:
Our company works on open source platform and mobile apps. We also are good with resource augmentation.
Within a month of our VP’s joining, we had done 15 tie-ups with the companies I had never even heard of.
And the tie-ups went on and on till I got tired of the meaning of the word “tie up”.
It was as if I was getting tied up with all the tie-ups.
Every OEM wanted business. They wanted us to meet targets. Imagine, 15 companies giving a target to a company whose marketing team strength barely included 3 guys. (one of whom happens to be, yours truly)
Imagine, 15 companies giving a target to a company whose marketing team strength barely included 3 guys. (one of whom happens to be, yours truly)
From day one, all leads and businesses (sorry. No business. Only the hope of getting business) started coming in the portfolio we had no idea of.
There was a license order of around half a million where we were to get payments after 3 months from end client and had to pay the OEM money as advance. The margin was in 2 to 3%.
Holy shit! I went berserk after listening to his crap lead but as always, I maintained my composure and politely refused to take the order.
Where on the earth was I to get half a million from?
The Big Guy in his anger updated the CRM and updated the order in his target achieved section.
The trend continued. We got more orders or leads. Ultimately, none of them mattered as they were of technologies we had no expertise on.
It was us building our ability along with every lead which came.
We were just trying to put a manhole cover on a cookie jar. The cookie jar had to be closed and since we could not get the right cover to close the glass, we tried every damn cover available in the market.
So one day, we were closing the jar with a manhole cover and the other day, we were closing it with a shit pot cover.
We were “morons at work”.
- Who is the Driver?
I know you egoistic fool, you still call yourself the boss. Even after I educated you with the dark side of entrepreneurship, you still think you are the boss.
Jokes apart! On a serious note (I am clearing my throat. Ahem!).
My dear friend. You have spent the better years of your life struggling to build a company out of nothing.
With no financial help. With all odds stacked against you. With every damn hurdle laid out in front of you.
You managed to build a beautiful business.
You might not be the richest guy in the world but you should be proud of what you have built.
I know, you want to learn every single trick in the world to get better but that does not give anyone a chance to lead you in the wrong direction.
My friends (the entrepreneur buddies) recently confessed to me, their small companies had become all about the expensive marketing guy they hired.
The strategies, meetings everything was lined as per the convenience of the VP level guys they hired.
I do not blame them.
I walked in the same shoes for 3 good months running after leads I had no clue on.
One day I was in one end of the city selling some shit. The other day, I was selling other shit to some other customer.
And i was clueless about all the shit!
I didn’t want to offend the big guy. The purpose was to help him prove his salary. Which meant, us slogging more than him so that his salary could be justified.
So here is a small piece of advice for you. Irrespective of how smart, extraordinary, out of the world your expensive resource is, do not let them drive your organization.
You are the hustler. You are the best marketing guy the company has ever had.
Trust your abilities. Do not let anyone undermine you.
Give the Bug Guys you hire their space but don’t let them sideline you and make you a headless chicken.
You are the Boss. (not the boss they portray as the sick ass bastard in movies but a boss who knows how to lead).
Ask for reports. Keep a close eye on progress. Help your resource but do not let them put wool on your eyes.
Always remember, the temptation of easy money is too good to resist.
No one is immune from the lust of living an easy life, minting easy money and living life at the expense of others.
I know you are the immune mahatma (godman) because you decided to be an Entrepreneur. But your employees? Not all of them think like you.
You will be surprised to hear how we caught hold of our VP’s misadventures.
From day one, the guy did everything I have written till now.
I tolerated the B.S because I was hoping for a miracle (the stupid me).
I started suspecting something foul, when our guy started disappearing for weeks visiting places like Punjab, Jharkhand, Chandigarh, etc.
Every time you would ask him for an update, he would talk in circles.
Since we had promised him a free hand from day one, I did not persist too much with asking for updates.
I was trying to be my elegant best. The cool boss whose employees are his best buddies.
You know what is the biggest problem with lying? You tend to forget the number of lies you have said and they all get bloody mixed up.
In the end, you forget which lie was told when.
So when I asked him to explain his 7 days visit to Punjab to sell some ERP, he got entangled in between his two lies.
For the same visit, there were two companies accompanying him.
My James bond sense (Yeah. A sense very near to the sixth sense but a little smarter than the former) kept telling me something is not right.
And there started the investigation.
We had to connect the dots. From where could I find the exact location of our guy by not offending him? (See. I was still the good guy).
And then came the clue. I was to pay my mobile bill. I was looking at why the mobile company had overcharged me.
And then the Eureka Moment happened.
The bill showed the locations (not exact but the region) during roaming.
Holy shit! I called our admin and asked him to show me all the bills of last 3 months of our superstar.
To my disbelief, our VP was enjoying life in western UP (his native town is in UP) when he was to be visiting Punjab, Jharkhand, Jaipur and what not.
Then I called his buddies to check his alibi. To my surprise, they went with the flow.
They neither denied nor accepted his lies. One of them, a very senior guy in a MNC said “I am not sure. I think he would have made the visit to Aligarh with someone else with the same name in my company”.
He initially lied. Then I persisted and confronted him on call. And from being the confident buddy of our big guy, he turned into a zapped, unsure version of himself.
See. They were all in cahoots screwing all their companies royally. The only difference was, the buddies were screwing fat wealthy companies. Our VP was screwing a company just surviving on 3 meager meals.
I so wanted to write an email to the manager of this guy with content “Hey buddy! How about you check records of your guy? Looks like he is taking your company for a ride. He is a friend of someone who took us for a very expensive ride and he is lying at the drop of a pin. You better check your records before your happiness is screwed too”
Anyways, I am not here to clear shit of others.
The corporate is bad. I was just learning it the hard way.
You know what made things worse than they were till then?
We had empanelled a travel agent in our company, who was a friend of our big guy.
The bills had been reimbursed in past for all the visits done by him.
We had a scammer screwing our trust and us.
We had paid him cash (demonetization had dried up ATMs and he wanted some cash before every non-existent visit of his).
We had paid him money to cover his relocation cost from Singapore to India. I am quite sure even the receipt he submitted of his rent was fake
The guy was unceremoniously sacked the next day. We did give him a chance to explain his position. He did come to office trying to dominate everyone in his inimitable style.
He was the show stopper who never made friends. All he made were enemies who were just waiting for him to make a mistake.
He did not disappoint them.
We had such solid proofs. By the time I reached office to confront him, he had nothing to say.
All he could say was “Do not look at all the proofs they are presenting you. I am very happy with the sales funnel I have built”.
Imagine the audacity? I lost my temper. I shouted back “I don’t care about the business. Why did you cheat us?”
He replied, “If you do not care about the business, what is the point of me talking to you then”.
End of story. He wanted his experience letter. My HR head promised to elaborate all his experience in the letter we would give him.
I vented out all my anger without using the cuss words (the decent me) but I did let him know his place.
We were down by few lakhs and quite a few improved processes.
I repeat my lord. Our Bug Guy always said. “My aim is to improve processes of this company”.
On a parting note, I did tell him. “You were right sir. Your short tenure has literally improved our processes. No one in the company will ever be trusted to work on their own”.
You and your kind have shown us, why they say “Do not “blindly” trust anyone”.
He did write back to us demanding reimbursements, incentives, non-existent salaries, etc, etc.
Some buggers cannot stop trying their luck.
We had to finally send him a documented proof with how much he owes us in terms of unpaid leaves, fake bills, cash amount paid to him, etc, etc to shut his mouth.
End of story!
Didn’t I tell you, I will take you until the end of a gripping real story? I hope you are not disappointed. Are you?how our processes improved with the hiring of the Big Guy?
Wasn’t the story gripping and interesting? The kind of what they write in books like “corporate fraud” blah-2.
I better get back to my work. My partner has been giving me “those” looks since the big guy left. The idea to get the smart ass onboard was mine and now i have the “partner” to answer to.I have too many losses to cover in next few months.
I have too many losses to cover in next few months.
I better get back to work before my partner sacks me from my own company 🙂
Till I write next, Adieu!