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TSA Pre Check & Obamacare

Greetings, I've been doing a lot of road travel lately...the sort where I hit 3 different cities in a day and do it 3 days in a row.  This means one thing...lots of airports...and security lines.  Now about a year ago I joined the Global entry program from Homeland security.  It was quite a process, an on-line questionnaire that took hours to complete.  That was followed by an interview with a Homeland security the FBI background check, finger printing and let's not forget the fee...which if I remember correctly, was a $100.  Now the reason I did this was because I have clients who are outside the borders of the US.  This process allows me to avoid the incredibly long lines at passport control on returning to home.  This was also going to allow me to go through the TSA Pre check lines.  These lines are dedicated lines for pre approved frequent is suppossed to be the same sort of thing as Global Entry.  It was pretty good deal for the pre approved frequent flier who paid the 100 bucks.  So the other day I'm at my home airport, Bradley Field which serves Hartford,  there are 5 security lines plus the  TSA Pre Check line.  The longest line?  TSA Pre Check....How?  I have no idea how, except the 2 people in front of me were a Mom and her 13 year old daughter and the daughter was all excited to be taking her first plane trip.  I don't want to sound like a crumudgeon here, but how does a 13 year old who has never flown get to be a trusted traveller?  And for free?  The couple in front of them were an elderly couple headed to Florida for the next month...they too were not frequent fliers, were not members of frequent fliers, had not gone through a rigorous interview and background check by the FBI and had not paid the money to get this "speedy" pass through security.  This entire process while originally a good idea had morphed into something entirely different... 

Three hours later while leaving the airport in Chicago it hit me that the TSA PreCheck program was a cousin of Obamacare!!  One group pays and the other group doesn't...










Yes, much like Michael Jordan after his hiatus with major league baseball, I am back, though his was via a fax...  Sorry it's been a while, but things have been crazy as I am sure they have been for you. do I get back in the groove and start producing this blog on a regular basis.  I will start with this, I am going to try and post something every two weeks.  I find if I give myself a target, a quota so to speak, I will do this.  

So what's on my mind today? I was going to speak about "giving back" but something occurred recently that I just have to voice my opinion.  It has to do with one of my favorite topics...leadership.   Or in this case, lack of leadership.  I heard yesterday, that one of the big 3 Orthopedic companies made a commission change to the salesforce.  Now this is not earth shattering news, companies make compensation changes all the time.  When I was VP, Sales I made the first compensation change to the company's sales force in 10 years.   It's a very difficult decision.  It is not something you do with a cavalier attitude.  At least I didn't approach it that way.  But that doesn't seem to be the case in this recent situation.  

When I made the commission change, I stood up in front of the salesforce and told them why we were doing the change, how we were going to implement the change and how as the salesrep , you could still continue to make more in the coming year than you had in the previous year.  It was a plan based upon growth.  This recent change was not announced in a similar fashion.  It was done over a conference call, with everyone muted ( some participants say it was pre-recorded).  There was no dialogue, no question and answer standing in front of the team...just a message that you are having a commisssion cut...that the growth commissions are no longer what they message of how you can improve your earnings from one year to the next.  I would struggle to call this activity leadership.

When I made the commission change, I was told by my future Group President, that doing this at the National Sales Meeting was just about the dumbest thing he had ever heard of....maybe so....(we did only grow the business by 20 % during my tenure after the change)..but at least it wasn't a "Chicken S _ _ _ " management move like this one.

My old Group President (and the Chairman of the company)  prided themsleves  and their  teams on being leaders....I believe they were  successful in creating a leadership culture...I'll take being a leader over being a "CS" manager anyday.

Its good to be back....


Ten Things I Think

Having a cup of coffee after a grueling travel schedule and I thought I'd share some travel notes...

1. The best TSA operation in the US is at John Wayne Airport / Orange County.  The people are fast, efficient,friendly and not the least bit bored like so many other places.  You know what I mean.  You either get a group that is so bored they almost fall asleep while going through the motions or you get Attilla the Hun barking out orders about shoes, socks laptops and liquids.  Congrats to the TSA crew at John Wayne, they even got recognized by Homeland Security.  Then again, what would you expect from an airport named John Wayne.

2. I think we need to install dress codes for travelers....I'm tired of seeing sweatpants with PINK written on them.

3. Next time you travel to Europe think Aer Lingus.  I have found the fares to be less expensive than many of the large US or British carriers.  Here's an example...First ' Business class to London Heathrow...British Air, Delta, and Virgin all are betwen $ 5500 and $ 7000.  Aer Lingus?  $ 2600.  You stop in Dublin , change planes and clear customs in Ireland.  Advantage?  much shorter passport lines.

4. My Chicago Cubs officially suck.

5. One of the nicest group of hotel staff is at the Ritz in Philadelphia. I know, I know..

The Ritz!! I was forced to stay there due to weather recently.  While I was only there

for a scant 6 hours, the people were unbelievably nice...beds were comfy too!

  Worth the extra money, especially when it was a bad travel day.

6.  I don't want to get too political here BUT it is time to tell the rest of the world;

we are not your bank, we are not sending you food UNLESS you are a true friend

of the USA.  By my reckoning that leaves the list as follows: England and any country

that is part of the ya Canada, Ireland and Scotland and Australia.

 France?  go pound.  Russia?  The Cold War is no longer freezing, it is just tepid and

Russia is not our friend.

7.  Best National Anthem ever is at the following site by a group known as Madison Rising..

8.  Jim Calhoun retiring from UCONN as coach is a good thing.  Kevin Ollie will be successful.

  He always has been because of his work ethic and never give up attitude.

 Both class acts.

9.  Denver International Airport has some terrific restaurants after security...

favorite is wild grill or something like that in the Southwest terminal.

10.  All of my self-employed cohorts are having good years, yet we don't know why

and are nervous it won't last.  The memory of 2009 is just too fresh.


OK, that is 10 very random thoughts while I've been traveling.


The 8th Place Trophy

OK, I am not exactly certain how to start this because it encompasses so many different areas, so I will just start with this...People want to know what's happened to America in the business world.  How did we go from the leading competitive country in the world to 7th place in 3 years?  As Bill Murray would say, " That's a fact Jack!"  I'm not going political here...its worse than politics.  

 You see somewhere around the mid eighties it became fashionable to give a trophy for just trying...for being part of the team.... for finishing in 8th place.  We all saw it happening...Johnnie got trophy for playing on the soccer team that finished last.  Why?  So his feelings wouldn't get hurt?  So he wouldn't feel bad?  That is crazy... So what has this lead to? It has lead to a workforce that only goes so that never goes beyond what is asked of them.   What I've noticed is that in many of the businesses I work with it has resulted in an attitude of , 'Well I've done my part...shouldn't I be recognized and rewarded for my efforts?"  The answer to this of course, NO!!!  You were hired to do a get paid to do the job.  Like Nike says, Just Do It!  You want more?  Do more...go beyond what is expected...then you will get recognized...then you will get rewarded.  In my world this is called a performance driven culture.

But wait, show me an example of this attitude Rainman.  OK, I will.  Look at the orthopedic / medical device industry.  For over two decades this industry was a driver of growth and it was populated with hard driving individuals where industry average was a synonym for not getting the job done.  I know what you are thinking.... but that was when the demographics favored explosive growth.  Not really, the baby boomers have just started to hit the age where these companies can expect growth from demographics.  NO... my contention is we have leadership that exemplifies the 8th place trophy model.  Its OK to be at market growth.  Its OK to do just what is expected.  Its OK not to strive...It's OK not  to out pace, out work and out perform.  The industry which was once such a performance based culture has been replaced with the mentality that OK is good enough.

The bar for acceptable performance in any sales driven culture is quota.  At quota you have done what is expected.  Exceeding quota gets you a bonus or extra commission or even a promotion ( if you want the cut in pay).  Leaders who expected this performance on a daily basis have  been replaced where exceeding expectations isn't expected.  Sales teams fail to hit targets and it seems OK...they tried but couldn't get it done. Everyone has a "reason"...a.k.a. excuse...let's blame the guy in the territory before me, instead of standing up and  taking responsibility for the performance. Instead of telling the sales teams...get it done or we will find someone who can get it done; the sales leadership gives them a pass.  They tried.  They are a good guy.  They are a good team mate.  They came close.  That's how you go from 1st to 7th in 3 years.  Just make sure you give them a trophy.


Technology vs Salesmenship

I was reading a blog the other day and the author was lamenting how there is nothing new in the spine industry. He went onto say that companies need to get off the schnide and get some new groundbreaking technology to drive the industry.  Now I do not totally disagree with this thought, however, I do believe that when technology slows, whether in this industry or others, the quality of its selling organizations are what drive the business. Those companies that succeed have one thing in common...the sales teams sell.  They do their job. This is an age old debate, salesmanship vs technology,  but one I think that needs revitalization or in the very least re-visiting.

Look at the companies that were built on strong selling organizations.....Stryker and Biomet are two that come to mind for me immediately.  Stryker I know because I worked there and Biomet because it is in their DNA to provide the best individualized attention to the surgeon customer.  Both companies had their share of product innovations, but the sales growth of both companies came from the sales teams...not the technology.  The model at Stryker was simple; you don't have to be the first to market, just be the best when you get there.  And being the best meant having the best trained, most professional selling organization.  You, as a salesperson, were expected to grow faster than the market.  I can not speak for the Biomet group, but I do know that all my competitors did one thing very well...they stayed close to the customer and listened to that customer.  The results were...strong sales performance industry wide.

Now in today's marketplace we are seeing the results of an industry shift of lowering the bar of salesmanship.  Salespeople no longer are trained on the finer points of salesmanship, they are given a power point presentation or a video conference on a new technology and expected to deliver the message as robots.  There is no longer a discussion between the customer and the sales person.  Why?  Because the "corporate" guys decided, somewhere around 2005-2007 that training, education and skill development was no longer needed in the sales environment.  That the knowledge base of battle tested veterans of the sales trenches can/could be replaced a web site, a tweet or God forbid another power point emailed to the rep from the marketing.  This was the infamous, "We are going to change the sales model." The appearance of the Pharma model was / is very attractive to the Medical Device leaders...with their 15 -18 % COS vs the 30+ per cent  in the ortho/spine business.  So if you change the sales model and lower the quality of the salespeople you can bring the COS down to ensure the profit expected.  In real world stuff its called " managing the bottom line."  Lower costs should bring greater margins...makes sense.  The CEO's job is to bring value to the shareholder.

So is it the CEO's fault we as salespeople find ourselves in the predicament?  Yes...and No.  I answer this way because the CEO is only responding to market conditions.  One thing I know about CEO's is that if something or someone brings value, they want to keep that value...even at a higher cost.  So that begs the question..."When did the selling arms of the ortho/spine business stop bringing value?"  My guess is it is somewhere around 2005-2007, when salespeople started the refrain, " I don't have anything new to sell!!"  My competition is smaller and they have the latest, hottest, technology and if I don't have that I can't compete with that.  This is when the salespeople stopped talking to the customer, they stopped asking for the business, they felt they earned the business and shouldn't have to work for it...everyday.  They stopped being a member of the surgeon's team and that is when they stopped bringing value to the customer.  When you stop bringing value to the customer, you stop bring value to the company.  It is the old domino effect. So in a sense, we, the salespeople have done this to ourselves.

But that is not to say, The company ( i.e. The CEO) isn't responsible for this situations too.  With the average ortho/spine company spending between 5 - 8 % on R&D and the average new product rolls out the door every 3 years,  there is less value in this group as well.  So the two pieces go together and the "blame" goes on both sets of shoulders.  The job of the sales force is to sell...especially when R&D is slow in getting new technologies and products to market.  The sales teams have to grow the business with what they have in the bag.  It is your value to the organization.  If all you can do is sell the new technology, then your value is diminished, especially in the eyes of the CEO.  He / she expects you to sell everything the company has to the customer.  Worry about whether you are creating value to your customer and your company.  Let the CEO worry about the R & D guys.

So go out and do your job...sell something.