Where is My Money Going? Into Bad Apples.

From my 5/27/2011 post on YoungEntrepreneur.com

Maintaining an effective and friendly staff is one of the most complicated challenges I’ve encountered as a young entrepreneur. As Chief Operating Officer of AKT Enterprises, I oversee the coordination and collaboration of over sixty employees spread over five departments and three facilities. With an average employee age of twenty-four years old, the company falls victim to the many drawbacks of workplaces consisting of Generation Y employees.

As food for thought, here are a few published common pitfalls of hiring “Millennials,” as they’re called:

  1. Heightened sense of entitlement
  2. Take credit for good outcomes, point the blame for bad
  3. Unrealistic expectations of the common workplace
  4. I’m extremely proud of every single employee at AKT and acknowledge that we didn’t get here without making a few “bad hires” along the way.

The truth is, sometimes it’s more work to try to teach someone how to be a great employee than it is to take a gamble on bringing in someone new and training them up to speed.

Over time, I’ve naturally developed a few common categories for red flag situations. These red flags, more often than not, indicate the need for an immediate firing. Note that these are listed in no particular order, someone can possess more than one of these qualities and, please, forgive the names I chose.

1. The Supposedly-Qualified, Busy Body

When you interviewed this person, you couldn’t have been more excited– a perfect match, right? This person is constantly working hard, putting in extra hours and bringing up countless ideas without being forced to. Their analysis of problems is accurate and their proposed solutions all make sense to you.

This individual is incredible on paper, but you just can’t put your finger on why their magic isn’t working at your company.

The reality is that some people are just full of it. They know what you’re looking for and they know how make it appear that they’ve been working hard–just enough to keep you guessing where the problem in your company is. Trust me, this type of employee may be professional and intelligent, but they cause more problems than they fix.

2. The “Yes” Man (or Woman)

Through my experience, it takes a little while to figure out that you’ve hired a “Yes” man. Once you spend a few sleepless nights trying to pinpoint why certain things just aren’t getting done around the office and you get completely fed up with someone agreeing with you but never following through, you’ll realize you’ve hired one.

There is nothing worse than someone telling you what you want to hear all the time. It accomplishes nothing, unless your goal is to constantly waste time.

3. Captain “Just Enough”

It’s difficult to justify letting one of these people go. Why? Well, they do just enough work to fly under the radar. What most people don’t tell you is that there are more of these in your organization than you even realize.

I recently read a quote somewhere (most likely retweeted by my director of business development) that said most employees will stretch two hours worth of work into an eight hour day out of fear of–get this–looking like they’re slacking!

I am a huge advocate for a positive and effective work culture. Losing red flag employees does more than just save you money and produce better products, it’s a sigh of relief to your other employees.

Of the hundreds of random factoids my father emails me on a regular basis, he sent a gem recently. This one came in at 6AM and said, “Hire slowly, fire quickly.” I forwarded the email to everyone on my executive and admin staff that day. If you happen to realize that you’ve hired an employee that fits one of the types profiled above, I recommend you take that advice.

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Complementary Partnerships

From my 10/5/2010 post on YoungEntrepreneur.com

Who you work with is just as important as the work you do. While many young entrepreneurs fly solo, some of us choose to run our businesses with partners. As the Vice President and COO of AKT Enterprises, I have two primary business partners: Alex Tchekmeian, President and CEO, and Kevin Khandjian, CIO. Originally, our working relationships were not partnerships. My business affiliation with Alex began when he hired me as a freelance web designer. After we officially teamed up, we hired Kevin to program web sites on a freelance basis for us and eventually brought him in as a partner.

Regardless of the origins of a partnership, it’s important that you pay close attention to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. A common misconception among young entrepreneurs is the assumption that equal partner contributions to the company means you all need to do the same amount of the same type of work. In reality, everyone is best suited for specific types of projects and interactions with clients and employees.

Throughout my career, I have started businesses on my own, with others and joined existing businesses. I’ve found that a business partner’s primary purpose can usually be categorized into one of three categories: skill set, connections and experience. The executive team at AKT is a good example of these individual qualities joining together to form solid leadership and management.

1. Skills and Background

AKT’s internal programming department really sets us apart from the competition. We can build systems in-house that would set most companies back hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Kevin’s advanced programming skills and technical background in web-based applications, coupled with my project management experience, help us make very important changes to business processes in many divisions of AKT, including manufacturing, human resources and customer service. These innovations and upgrades to our internal systems not only save money but keep us on the cutting edge of the merchandising and branding industries.

2. Connections and Negotiating

As one of Florida’s most active talent buyers, Alex honed his negotiating skills at the tender age of fourteen. Many of the lifelong contacts he made during this time gave AKT Enterprises the jumpstart it needed when we began to offer design, print and fulfillment services.

I’ve seen businesses with all the money in the world, the perfect image and the most incredible product concepts fail because of poor sales and negotiation strategies. Without a quality salesman (or some dumb luck), your business is most likely dead in the water.

3. Experience and Problem Solving

Those who know me would agree that I’m a pretty negative person—a “glass half empty” sort of guy. It’s in my nature to pick things apart and point out potential flaws and problems. My critical eye, combined with over a decade of marketing experience, has really helped round off the AKT Enterprises executive team by making sure all of our bases are covered.

The many mistakes I have made in my career have taught me to anticipate and address potential problems before they arise. This concept also helps when applied to sales: I can handle a client’s objections before they have a chance to bring them up.

Most successful young entrepreneurs get to where they are by being resourceful, intelligent and clever. My partners and I are no different. Day-to-day business management comes naturally to us, and we take a lot of what we have learned and accomplished for granted. It is important for us to remember that each of our distinct backgrounds make us ideal business partners and allow us to work through many problems as a team. I am very fortunate to have two incredibly compatible business partners–sadly, not everyone is as lucky as I am.

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Don’t Hire Your Friends

From my 8/31/2010 post on Young Entrepreneur.com

Most business advice blogs tend to be full of stale, common sense puffery. My goal, as a guest blogger for Young Entrepreneur, is to apply my knowledge and experiences to the discussion of many business-changing decisions young entrepreneurs make or don’t make. Many of these practices are often considered taboo, but I plan to break them down in a contemporary and honest way.

A typical managerial faux pas (coming in at a close second place to hiring your own family), is employing your friends. I’m sure almost all business owners would agree that hiring your friends only adds unnecessary complications to the already stressful and intricate management process. That being said, I recommend that you do hire your friends–but do so carefully. If you’re going to put your business, employees and customers at risk by hiring a friend, it’s important to understand how a relationship like it can affect all aspects of your business. If you are conscious of the following three factors, you may be able to maintain what I would consider the most acceptable employee-employer relationship you can have with a hired friend.

1. Qualifications

If you’re friends with someone, you should automatically assume that your evaluation of their skills, potential or work ethic is completely biased. I know you think you’re not like anyone else and your friend is the exception to the rule, but you’re not and he or she is not. Once you’ve come to terms with this, you can put yourself in a position to more accurately evaluate their performance and attempt to manage them.

2. Discipline

Punishing employees is hard enough. Reprimanding friends is even more difficult. Young entrepreneurs tend to have young friends–this means immaturity can ruin more than the professional side of your friendship.

3. Respect

Your relationship with your friend will absolutely cause issues in the workplace. Beyond the more straightforward issues you’re bound to experience (such as suspected favoritism and discipline problems), you should be concerned about your friend’s ability to take criticism or advice from you as an employer and not as a friend.

You certainly shouldn’t hire your friends, but I recommend you do, so you learn why you shouldn’t. Understanding why it doesn’t work is far more important to your business than making one or two bad HR decisions. If you’re aware of the associated risks and potential conflicts, you can minimize your exposure to the friend-related problems that every business owner experiences in these situations. I know plenty of business owners who have hired their friends and swear by the process – I consider them lucky and/or oblivious.

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My life as of late, in biz quote form

So, I read this quote in an article that Jeff sent me and I almost started laughing at the accuracy of this:

If you manage a team of 10 people, it’s quite possible to do so with very few mistakes or bad behaviors. If you manage an organization of 1,000 people it is quite impossible. At a certain size, your company will do things that are so bad that you never imagined that you’d be associated with that kind of incompetence. Seeing people fritter away money, waste each other’s time, and do sloppy work can make you feel bad. If you are the CEO, it may well make you sick.

And to rub salt into the wound and make matters worse, it’s your fault.

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YoungEntrepreneur: Guest Blogger

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WINTER PARK, FL — Jared Mendelewicz, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of AKT Enterprises, was invited to become a guest blogger for YoungEntrepreneur.com, one of the largest online forum communities for entrepreneurs worldwide. YoungEntrepreneur.com members are comprised of established and aspiring entrepreneurs who are passionate about economic development and promoting the success of innovative and growth-oriented companies. Mendelewicz will share his unique perspective on many of the trials and tribulations facing young entrepreneurs today. His first post, which highlights the advantages and disadvantages of hiring friends as employees, is featured on the home page: http://bit.ly/cb9DtU

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