Getting Back to Basics – IS NEVER a Bad Idea

Back to basics in 2017

Moving on – and getting back to basics in 2017

So after a few years of using quite a bit of contract help for our daily operations, I pulled the plug on most of it on Dec 1. As it turned out, after pulling the plug on the lower level help, which left just the supervisor. I thought she would have MUCH more time to do what needed to be done and stop having to “babysit” people.

As it turned out, the SUPERVISOR apparently was not doing anything. All the requested tasks and regular items that should have take almost no time were not done at all 🙁  I have to admit though – I was pretty disgusted all the way around for different reasons. Some workers wouldn’t think, some found way too many excuses for not doing things – but the one that hurt most was the supervisor who had managed to pull the wool over my eyes for God only knows HOW long. She had been with me for a couple years. She hadn’t always been shortchanging us, but after a couple years, you trust people. Not sure when she decided that she was just there for the paycheck. Having a trust broken like that is – unforgettable. Maybe forgivable – but never forgettable.

Everyone quotes it, but I’ll quickly hit it so you know what I’m talking about – “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” When doing the same things over and over again lead to no better, yet no worse, results – but NOT the results you WANT – then things must change. And that is what I had been mulling for several months.

While I had great hope when I brought my first contractor on board, I was able to show basic things that enabled that person to do more or less what I needed. And another and another. At some point though, you get to the point where a couple of different things happen:

  1. You need them to think on their own – there is no formulaic process for some aspects for the work we do.
  2. You spend more time managing the people than doing the work that got you where you’re at – and they CANNOT do that same quality of work.

Both of these became issues for me.  In the first case, there are so many ways to boost rankings, build websites, etc. The kicker is each person must play to their strengths. Each person that came on board would be tested to some degree and then job direction would be assigned to them. If they were great at videos, they would do videos for us. If they were good at onsite, they would be onsite people. Knew how to setup directories? They were going to be assigned to that.

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Nothing is EVER Perfect

However, all of these things are fraught with issues. Timing. Can they get to these pieces in a timely fashion? Do you have to lay every little thing out for them to the point you should have done it yourself? Does it actually take you, say, an hour to explain to them the process that only takes 20 minutes? And they don’t remember it – so you have to do it again and again? Or do they look for the formulaic where no formula really exists?  “Well you said that red looks GREAT on our last website!  That’s why I used it.” “Yes, but… That is when we were working with it as a flair color. You’ve made THIS site look like a giant STOP sign…” Or, “Well you liked the article about <whatever>.” “Yes, I did, but this is the 7th one with exactly the same title you’ve tried to put on the same site.” This of course is accompanied with a SMH.

Part of me felt like giving the incoming people access to the proper tools, sharing the knowledge that I had documented over the years both in our private team website and in numerous chats formal and informal, and some occasional “in yer face” daily guidance would make winners out of these people. A lot of what I did, I did without all the spiffy cool tools that I have today – and here I am GIVING them EVERY opportunity to do AWESOME work with the BEST tools. And yet, they failed.

I looked inward for problems – was I giving enough? Is this failure on me? Yes, it is – but not the way you might think. I maybe could have sat on top of these people more, but in doing so, it took away the time I had to actually do the work that got us where we are. As well, it produced no better results than we had before. I tried. That’s not really a win. In the back of my mind always was the “No one really sets out to fail” including employees.

Perhaps I wasn’t giving clear enough directions or enough specifications. And we get to the same issue as above – doing so took away my time – and produced no better results. Problematically, what seemed like it should be learned from the directions were NOT retained. And we were right back to the “I need to spend an hour giving them a step by step” on what will actually only take 20 minutes to do. And since they didn’t seem to retain anything, this turned into an ongoing time suck.

So, that brings me to – is this my failure? Yes. Yes it is. It’s MY failure because it took me so long to recognize it and allow complacency / mediocrity anywhere in the organization. While I was able to buoy things and keep things moving, the hard work that should have been accomplished (that I THOUGHT was being accomplished) was not. I fault myself for actually trusting people to do what they said without checking every little detail.

A few things have become obvious in the last few years since I started using paid help to expand our services.

  1. People unfortunately do not learn, or get good at anything, by osmosis. Surrounding them with the best tools and knowledge does NOT make them better – without #2 below.
  2. DESIRE makes people good at things. When I had NO tools, I was better than most of the people that I have brought on, and ditched, over the years – because I WANT succcess.
  3. Beyond desire, practice makes a huge difference. A lot of things in the Web/SEO world just require doing it. Doing something once is great, but you really don’t build your chops until you’ve done it a few times – a dozen, or as in my case, HUNDREDS LOL.
  4. People don’t aspire to fail, but they will fail to aspire. My vision of success and aspirations are completely different than someone who is only working for an hourly wage.
  5. Finally, don’t entrust decisions to people who will bear no responsibility for the results. I always felt by giving my people some decision-making responsibility they would take ownership of their actions/decisions. Not so much. Having a worker make a poor decision regarding a customer that loses you that customer doesn’t really affect them in my experience as of late. They’re only there for the hourly wage. Well, at least until you fire the lot of them.

Long story short – sometimes you just need to change your approach. I have to chuckle when I hear all the political fights about, “Well in 1998, you voted FOR…”  You know, if you’re NOT growing, and NOT learning, then your opinion DOESN’T change. If you’re like the person I strive to be – always learning and absorbing new relevant information around me – then your opinion SHOULD be changing. Maybe not minute by minute, but the opinions on things in the past SHOULD be occasionally revisited and scrutinized – and many of mine HAVE changed over the years. What did work, now doesn’t. Actions that I took before, I wouldn’t now. What would NOT have been a path before, now IS.

That is called “Growth”

While some of our growth is due to paring down the staff, we are currently expanding our capabilities. I have a great core of people around me at this time that I trust. They think on their own. They make intelligent choices – not always the ones I would make, but they are reasoned decisions. They take responsibility for completing assigned things. But above all, I’m able to focus on the things that I do best – SEO.

Welcome 2017.


Author: Eric Erickson

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