I will deliver the goods and answer what all bosses need to hear, but first, let me tell you a real story in my job that led to this post…..
If you have an Issue, Make Sure You Get the Data, the Facts, And Find a Solution
Yesterday I had a scheduled tele-meeting with a fellow manager on our leadership team who manages our data services department. The reason for our meeting was to discuss and to add more data points to my sales and marketing report. The report essentially allows me to model out for the next 12 months what my expected revenue is for our various channels that derive sales for the company. This report allows me to keep a pulse on how each channel is performing and where I am gaining both customers and revenue. A very valuable and insightful report to guide me on where to invest our marketing and sales resources.
As with any report, over time, you start to tweak it so you may glean more insightful data which will allow you to make business decisions based not on guesses, but irrefutable facts, to move the company forward. After about a quarter of getting a good handle and cadence to this revenue report, I realized all I had in this report was the future outlook of the health of our marketing and sales efforts. Although this is important, I also wanted to know two other things: Are we maximizing our revenue with current customers and are we signing customers who produce revenue.
Now, let me back up for a second. In our business, the third party logistics and freight broker business, we don’t make any revenue until our customers ships freight. We provide a technology platform, called a transportation management system, and integrated managed transportation services at a cost of only a margin (which our customers and we agree to via amanagement contract) over and above the freight shipping costs.
Knowing this information, when I talk about how we are maximizing revenue from our current customers, I want to know if customers are shipping the amount we expected them to and I also want to know if there are customers we have contracts in place with but have not yet shipped. I simply took the input field we require from our sales reps when they sign a customer of expected shipments and ran a query in our invoice database of how many actual shipments the customer made. Then, I ran another report that simply told me the date of when the customer signed a contract and if they have shipped yet.
What I found was quite astonishing. I found that in the past year we were over 14,000 shipments UNDER our expectations; that we had 75 “customers” who have not yet shipped but were signed in the last year, and that the average time for a customer to start shipping was more than 90 days. Underwhelming is the real feeling. In fact, when I plugged in the average shipment revenue and multiplied by the 14,000 shipments, our revenue potential was almost HALF A MILLION dollars! Yes…..$500,000 in revenue not realized.
Arm Yourself With Data, Analyze, and Uncover Actionable Insights
So…what was I going to do with my BIG find and realization that we were not maximizing revenue from our current customer base? I mean, we spent ALL this effort, money, and resources to gain leads, go through the sales person, and get a company to make an operational choice to sign a contract with our company. I first needed to understand, what is causing this issue? In my opinion, it was things:
1. Currently the sales rep on boards the customer and integrates them into our system; but clearly our sales reps are good at closing, but they aren’t great at operational integration into our systems. Solution: Hire more Account Managers or someone who would be responsible for integration.
2. We are really bad at or shippers are dishonest about shipment expectations. Solution: Provide resources on how to better predict shipments, but also hand over the account to the Account Manager right away (currently the sales rep manages the account for two years then the account is handed over to the AM) so they can mitigate anything that is under expectations.
I had data. I had solutions. I knew what we needed to do to gain the most revenue we can possible from our resources we are expanding. I knew it would make us more profitable. I knew that it would make us a better company long term and reach our revenue goals sooner and more efficiently. I knew what had to be done, YET, I was scared to tell my boss. WHY?
In that same conversation with my data services manager, I said, “I am afraid to hurt the VP of Development’s feelings. He built this company from the ground up with his co-founder. He built the sales team. He is the pre-eminent sales guy. Won’t this just make him feel like his department is lacking (he also manages our two current Account Managers.” My fellow manager told me, “Adam, what all good bosses need, whether it hurts or not….is THE TRUTH.”
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
― Aldous Huxley
He was right. If I wanted to make an impact, if I wanted to help the company grow, it wasn’t by spending more money and pouring more resources just to grow the 12 month outlook, it was to also recognize the truth of what needs to be done as a business from the data I have available to me so we can make a difference. All I needed to do was talk to my boss and tell him the truth. How can the TRUTH (armed with empirical data) hurt?
In the end, for the betterment of your company (and yourself), you have to say the hard truth. Not all bosses can handle it. But those are the bosses that will impede ultimate success.
When I went and told my boss the truth….he thanked me. He said, “This is what I need. Thank you for the truth.” Now he is on his way to hire more Account Managers, change our process to put in place a more formal on boarding process, and is committed to the mission.
I have a feeling we all get scared to tell the truth in our jobs. To protect our image or protect ourselves from politics or perhaps scared we might get fired. But, I urge you, tell the truth to your boss. Even if they don’t appreciate it now, you will….and one day they will see that truth…either by implementing it, or if they don’t, sitting on the sidelines out of business wishing they would.