This post is an excerpt from "Make Your Career Go BOOM! Not Bust: Practical tips to succeed in an ever-changing world," (October 2018) by Michael Ryan. Best-selling business author Ken Blanchard calls it "one of the best self-help books he has ever read." Ryan is an award-winning journalist and business executive who was a vice president at The Arizona Republic. He is president of Ryan Media Consultants, a strategic communications and marketing company.
“A company doesn’t need to love you but it does need to value you.”
That perspective comes from Jim Malvaso, who had an extremely successful career culminating with him being chairman and CEO of Raymond Corp., a leading manufacturer of forklift trucks and pallet jacks, and president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America. He also happens to be my brother-in-law. He sees the relationship between a company and its employees as a partnership.
“It’s not about like or love, it’s a value relationship,” Malvaso said. “All companies, regardless of sectors, invest in assets that they believe will bring value to their customers and owners alike. These may be hard assets, soft assets, intellectual assets or human assets. The latter often times being the most complex, yet most valuable. The underlying strategy is to leverage these assets better than anyone else to yield the most value. The human asset expects and, yes, deserves value in return for their contributions to the company’s success.”
Employees accomplish that by being in sync with the company’s goals.
“Embracing and understanding a company’s strategy and using your talents to help the company achieve that strategy increases your value to the company,” he said. “That is rewarded in many ways, financial, position, title, responsibility, etc. As you enter into a relationship with an employer, look for the mutual opportunities to provide each other value.”
Ultimately, it comes down to how much value you provide the company and how much value the company is providing you.
As many organizations flatten their organizational structures, there will be plenty of opportunities for those who seize them to enhance their value. This often requires taking on more responsibilities or learning additional skills. Being recognized as someone who is flexible and willing to step up when the need arises will enhance your value.
A prime example of that is the newspaper business.
Before, a successful measurement of a reporter was how skilled he or she was at writing for the daily newspaper. With the decline of newspaper readership, that’s no longer the case. A reporter now needs many skills. He or she needs to know how to write for the newspaper’s website, how to take and edit pictures and video, how to generate content and followers for the company’s social media accounts and much more. A reporter who only has skills to write for the daily newspaper is not as valued as before.
The value proposition is changing dramatically in many industries especially because of technology. Look at just some other industries/businesses that have been greatly impacted:
Travel: Before people used to depend on travel agents to book trips. Now many people do it themselves on online Web sites.
Bookstores: Before people used to actually go into physical stores to search for and buy books. Now many people buy books online. Some don’t end up buying physical copies of books but instead buy digital ones they can read on their tablets.
Financial services: Before, people used a broker to buy stocks and bonds. Now many people do their own trading online.
Imagine the disruption that driverless cars and trucks will cause and the people and businesses that will be hugely affected. Your ability to adapt to these changing times is essential because your value to a company today could be far less in the future if your skill sets don’t keep up.
“The more you actually achieve and the more value you provide will help you stand out and be recognized as someone the company will be willing to invest in,” Malvaso said.
He offers these other perspectives:
Control what you can to the utmost for there are many things outside of your control that you will need the time and resources to respond to. Malvaso remembers meeting with his vice president of marketing about the company’s declining market share. The vice president started to complain about the recession that was currently occurring in the nation. He stopped the VP and said, “When you fix the economy, let me know.” The point: the VP had no control over the national economy. The VP did have control over his company’s marketing efforts. For example, was the VP allocating the company’s marketing resources in the most effective way to generate business? Remember: your boss doesn’t want to hear excuses, he or she wants to hear ideas on how you can turn problems into opportunities.
Don’t shy away from setting aggressive but attainable goals in both your personal and professional life. “Setting a high bar and missing it by a little is better than setting a low bar and exceeding it by a lot.” When people set a low bar they often lack incentive to push themselves.
Be willing to take risks but do it smartly. Develop a list of “what ifs” so if one plan doesn’t work out, you have contingency plans in mind. That way you aren’t taking risks haphazardly and you are prepared to adjust course quickly.
Don't subscribe to the “stupid customer theory.” Some sales people and business leaders think they are smarter than the customer. That can often be fatal in landing or keeping customers. Know your customer, whether internal or external. There are often reasons why customers may not embrace a solution that may seem obvious to you. Helping them solve their real problems will enable you to become their most valuable asset that is not on their balance sheet. This is essential to having a long lasting relationship.
He provides this final thought on leadership. “A mark of a good leader is not how well people follow but how many leaders they create.”
Finally, there are two certainties in business:
1. Change will continue at a rapid pace. We are nowhere close to the end of the technological revolution. More and more jobs people used to handle will be taken over by automation. That's why it is so important to keep refining and updating your skills. The person who is responsible for doing that is you. Your company might help you but you better be the one taking the lead.
2. Your success in your career will be an ongoing challenge. The value you bring to the company today could be less in the future if you don't keep up. There are plenty of workers out there who once were at the top of their field who are no longer on top because they didn't stay current and refine their skills. Don't let that happen to you.
In business as in life, it all comes down to the value you bring to the relationship and how much value the relationship brings to you.