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Movin’ On Up

Business isn’t for the faint of heart.

Being an entrepreneur and having employees, I have been asked the following question more times than I can remember: What is the best way to get ahead or get noticed in my company? There are countless answers to this question. Volumes of books have been written on the subject.

Perhaps you have heard some of the ideas from these books. For example, outwork everyone- get to the job prior to your supervisor and stay after he or she leaves. Or find a boss who is likely to retire soon and work closely with that person. You can also use the time-tested method of marrying into the family. It may not make Thanksgiving fun, but it sure has a way of moving you to the front of the line!

While the above ways may have worked for many individuals, I am not a proponent of any of them as a good way to move up in an organization. In an individually owned organization or a publicly traded company, the best way to move up is to tie yourself to the highest visible financial measurement that you can affect. When running my own businesses I always looked for individuals who could affect the company- and from a very selfish standpoint, my pocketbook- in radical ways. Employees with the greatest impact on those financial measurements were my most valuable, and were therefore given more opportunities and responsibilities. Private and public companies are not separated by this fact because both have similar goals of increasing profits.

Practical Examples
In the distribution world, sales and gross profits drive a big part of the business. Any part of working capital, specifically inventory, is high on the radar screen as well. Individuals in a company who can demonstrate how to increase sales, increase gross profit or reduce inventory while maintaining customer service levels or increasing inventory turns are going to be the first ones managers look to move up in the company.

Employees sometimes show their ability to perform through asking great questions. I always enjoyed it when a new employee challenged our current system by saying something like, “Why are you doing it this way? It seems to me that it might be better to do it this way.”

This means tying yourself to a metric and driving hard at that performance level. Consider the individual who is beginning a sales career at entry level. The ability to work hard and grow sales rapidly or increase margins beyond what is typical in the marketplace gets him or her noticed. Noticing that sales professional may lead a manager to begin asking how the salesperson can outperform the market. Plus, right or wrong, many industrial companies hire sales managers from their sales staff, their “A” players in particular.

The same holds true if you begin life in the warehouse. Being able to understand inventory from a stratification mindset is critical. Even if you don’t fully understand what A, B, C or D items are, you can have a keen awareness of what is not moving, how items are stored or how most of the damaged items in the warehouse become so. This leads to solutions, and owners, executives and managers want solutions.

Businesses hire individuals not only to get the job done, but to have more done that can be imagined. That is truly the power of the human spirit and it fuels our free enterprise system. Several times in my career I have been approached by individuals who have told me that if I paid them more they would produce more in the company. That is the direct opposite of what I am talking about. Remember, business isn’t for the faint of heart- it is hard but rewarding work! Hard work pays off!

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Mitch Harper Meet the Author
Mitch Harper is a senior lecturer for the industrial distribution program at Texas A&M University. A sales veteran with nearly 2 decades of experience, Harper holds a bachelor of science in industrial distribution and a master’s degree in industrial distribution, both from Texas A&M.

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