Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Help for the lazy drafter - 10 Common Sense Secrets to Success

Secret 1
Balance your life.
Please don’t be such a geek that you never find true Love or have friends. Get another hobby that forces you to go outside of your house. Knowing what you want out of life may help you decide what to do with this non-drafting time. A good exercise I tried myself was this. Imagine you are at your own funeral. Who do you want to be there? Write down their names. What do you want them to say about you? Write that down too. Now do your part to make sure they care enough to go to your funeral and say those things about you.

Secret 2
Pick a hero and dress like them.
I know a few people and I wish I had their success. To some extent you will have to reinvent your self to continue your growth. I started by dressing like the people I look up to. This doesn’t mean I went from jeans to suits in one day. I did stop wearing jeans all together. I did stop wearing a really cool earring that I’ve worn since the 1900’s. One or two people actually mentioned that they noticed the change. Overall I noticed that after some months passed, most people assumed that I have always dressed in this manner. Not just people at my level but people above me. Like it or not, the people that can promote you look for professionalism more than skill set sometimes. If you display both, you will get the promotion. You will grow. I encourage you to not only dress like your hero, but to observe how they grow and get noticed. There’s nothing wrong with picking a mentor and asking them for advice. They don’t even have to know that you consider them a mentor. A mentor can open doors that you could not open alone. Something I have noticed is that people on that plane above you sometime have trouble communicating down. Once you open a dialog with them, they will come to you when they need advice about thing that will affect you. Now you can influence more than you could before. Don’t abuse this influence if you want to continue to grow.

Secret 3
Tell your boss’ that they are dumb.
Chances are you are doing your job because it’s a task that needs to be accomplished and your boss is better suited to doing other tasks. So, if you are the “Subject matter expert” when it comes to CAD or Drafting practices and your boss is asking you to do something you think is wrong or a time waster. Please tell them so. This doesn’t mean say “Boss, you stupid idiot. That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard!” Try being honest, it really is the best policy. “Boss, what you are asking me to do has the following ramifications; I think we are better off doing this other thing.” Did you catch how in the second example I offered a solution along with the concern or problem? This makes for a nice short conversation which boss’ like. “Boss would you like $10 or $20? Gee, employee, I’ll take $20. I’m Glad we talked.” The End.

Secret 4
Quantify your existence.
Make a point out of finding out how much it costs the business to employ you. A good rule of thumb is just double your salary. Hard to believe sometimes, but with insurance and keeping the lights on and the such, for every dollar you get, the company needs to spend another dollar. Now find out how much the company bills you at. The difference is profit for the company. Knowing this information is like knowing how much the car cost the dealer. Chances are you are going to get a better deal with that knowledge.

There is another side to this. Every time I would do something like write a lisp. I would quantify it by showing the return on investment for my boss. “Boss it took me 4 hours to write this lisp. So it cost you 4 hours of production time plus you had to pay me my hourly wage. I can show how this lisp will say 30 seconds every time it is used. Know our processes and the number of employees I can show that you will make you money back in 4 weeks. In addition at the end of this year I will have increased the company’s profits by $40,000. When you go in for your annual review or are asking for a promotion or a raise, be able to say “I made this much money for you this year and I only cost this much is going to make for a much shorter conversation”. I would also follow up with, “These are my goals for next year”. See the up coming secret on goal setting.

Secret 5
Set Goals.
Simple, without a map, you are not going to get too far from home. So think it through, where are you now? Point “A”. Where do you want to be? That’s point B. Setting goals is just connecting the dots. Most everyone will say make your goals attainable and incremental toward your ultimate goal, and I concur.

Secret 6
Pass the monkey.
I learned this in college and I wish someone had pointed this out to me earlier. The “monkey” represents a problem or a task. A good boss will pass the monkey to someone suited to the task or problem so they make better use of their time. That’s delegating. Sounds easy, but it’s hard for some folks when you first try it. You may feel like its cheating, or the person you give the monkey to will get all the credit if it goes well, or maybe you will get all the blame if it goes bad. Let’s look at an example. If the President says he will lower your taxes and it happens, do you think the president is great? Or, do you think the president is lame, because he had an idea to lower taxes and then he had the Congress and Senate work out all the details so he could get the credit? Chances are you wanted lower taxes, the president said he would make it happen. How he did it, you don’t care. Your boss is going to applaud you for getting things done by using every resource you can. If you are doing every thing alone, you’re probably at the bottom of the food chain.

Do watch out for the reverse monkey. This occurs when you attempt to pass the monkey and the intended receiver applies a condition to the passing and returns the monkey. Here is an example.

Boss: “Paul, can you process these TPS reports for me?”

Paul: “You bet. I’ll need the group data. Can you attach them, and I’ll get right on it.”

Let’s check the score. Before Boss had one thing to do that he hoped to pass to Paul, now he has two things and he’s not sure that it won’t be three when he talks to Paul again. Here is an example of the Double monkey reverse.

Boss: “Tina has a copy of that data. Get it from her, and make sure you do it today. I need the reports by Friday and she’s gone tomorrow.”

(In your face Paul. Oh yeah, that ain’t my monkey.) Thought not spoken.

Secret 7
Good boss or Bad boss.
Sometimes it’s all in your attitude. Why would you do some things for one boss but not the other? Could it be as simple as you like the good boss and not the bad boss? I think so. What’s the lesson? One, grow a pair if you want to be a boss yourself, you will not earn respect being willy nilly. Be prepared to do what you believe in and stand by it. Two, don’t be stepping on people while you are at it. You are going to be crappy boss if no one wants to work for you. Lastly, being a boss by my definition not only means being a leader and visionary, but also being a servant. You are there in a large part to ensure the success of those who are working for you. Any boss I have every liked cared about me and my success as much as their own. Something to think about.

Secret 8
Save some money.
This should be obvious, but we don’t always think about it until someone says, “Hey you are paying too much for something.” So, I’m telling you, you are paying too much for something. Everyone else seems too busy to do something about it, maybe you can. This takes me back to Secret 4. The money you saved this year offsets how much you cost the company to have you. Nothing beats telling your boss you made or saved more than you cost. In fact if you don’t, you have to wonder how long you can continue to cost the company. Hear are some typical CAD related places to look.

Cost of paper – get a quote from another supplier, I bet they beat your current price, then tell your current supplier that they better beat the competitor price or you just can’t stay with them.
Plotter costs – Investigate if you are getting the best deal by owning, renting, or out sourcing. Again, pit the plotter sales guys against each other, and make them take you out to lunch.
Software costs – With Autodesk products compare subscription vs. not. Do you have the appropriate number of licenses? You could be carrying more than you need and paying yearly. Do some users have a full license when all they need is LT or DWF Composer. Speak to your reseller, they should help you, and if they can’t call another reseller who will.
Hardware costs – Is there a plan for the upgrade and distribution of computers in your company? Keep current on what you need to do business and what you have. Continually shop for all of your hardware needs, whether you are prepared to buy or not. Two benefits of this are, one, you’ll know a deal when you see it, and two, you’ll find deals that you would not have found if you were not looking.
Procedural costs – Are you doing anything just because that’s the way you have always done it? Chances are it’s a money/time waster.

Secret 9
Learn how to bargain.
You have a value. You should be compensated appropriately for that value. This can happen one of two ways. One, you have the nicest boss in the world who takes care of you like one of his own children. Two, you are able to negotiate a fair compensation.

Bargaining is also important when dealing with vendors, suppliers, and employees.

How do you get the best price for yourself and for your company? I suggest first, be honest and fair. Second do your homework. Know costs and values. Third, stick to your guns. You shouldn’t worry about being friends with your boss, employee, or supplier when negotiating a deal. If it’s fair, you should sleep like a baby at night. The fact is, you will most likely have a better relationship after a tough negotiation than not, and a lot more respect for it.

Secret 10
Steal from the best.
Everything I have ever learned has come from observation. Be observant, especially of successful people, or people you admire. Then steal their ideas. When I worked at a 100 person firm, I researched what the 1000 person firms were doing. Then I applied those ideas to my business. I found out a lot from going to their web sites, and so can you. I established relation ships with consultants and with the competition. I joined any group I could where I could exchange information with people trying to do the same thing as me. Some of my greatest successes came from posting a problem on a user group site. Your boss is counting on you to research best practices, what ever it takes.
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