Thursday, December 20, 2012

WHO Did You Just Send Your Resume To? Are You Sure??

Emily Lewis is a genuine Trade Show Model who wants to get you great deals on designer shoes.  Ummm….no.  Crystal Jennings is a working Hollywood Actress who can guarantee you work if you buy her online training classes.  Nope….  Paula Sharp lost 75 pounds in one month by taking a diet pill which you can get for ¼ the price if you send your credit card info right now.  Calling BS on that one too.

So why do you believe Jenna Johnston when she says she has a great job for you at CES for $400 a day??  Do you KNOW Jenna Johnston?  Probably as much as you know Emily, Crystal or Paula.  If you can see those three are scamming you, why can you not see through Jenna’s bologna?

This is not one of my usual blogs.  This is hardcore.  This is truth.  And this may save your job, ass, or even your life.  Pay attention.

Do you know what email harvesting is?  Companies pay a good sum of money for a grouping of thousands of new emails, especially within a specific demographic.  On a Facebook page with thousands of members who all want to work, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  All someone has to do is pretend to be a recruiter, post some great job and rate that no one can resist, and wait for the emails and resumes to come in.  Next thing you know, you are getting ten times the spam that you are used to, and why?  Because you sent your information to someone when you didn’t know who was on the other end.  It’s a great way to make a few extra hundred bucks in the slow seasons.  All you need is a Facebook page or five, some sappy get-rich-quick story, and people will hand you money.  Oh, and don’t click on that link that Jenna the Recruiter sent you or you will get a virus or get hacked.

If this was a dating site and not a job page, would you send your personal info to some potential mate that you could not find a little background information on?  If he refused to tell you where he lived, or where he worked, but said he was a really nice guy, would you just say, “Well, he said he is nice, so let me just send him everything about myself anyways…”  NO!!  You wouldn’t.  You would delete him from whatever files you had and tell all your girlfriends that he was a psycho.

So why do you do it here on Facebook?  Are you so desperate for work that you are willing to sacrifice your own safety sending out personal and sensitive information to complete strangers—all for the CHANCE to get a gig?  Where the hell is your common sense?

Seriously.  When you send your information to some Yahoo or Gmail address, who are you sending it to, and what are you sending??  Your full name, location, pictures, physical description, and job history.  If your address is on your resume, get if OFF of there right now.  Stop reading this blog, and go fix your resume.  This is dangerous.

Oh, then the “recruiter” might write you back and ask how old you are.  So you give up your birthday.  If she didn’t get your address before, she might send you a generic form, asking you for your address, birthday, Social Security, signature…etc.  Oh, and since many of the young BA’s and TS Models aren’t married yet, your emergency contact is usually your mother.  Pretty easy to find her maiden name.  Bingo.  You just got your identity stolen.

And you had better hope that the only thing the person on the other end of that Gmail wanted to do was steal your identity.  Because now he or she knows where you live, work, your Social Media habits—because you probably added Jenna as a “friend” on Facebook without knowing if she was even a real person—so he or she knows your everyday habits like who you hang out with, where you work out, where you shop, where your family lives, etc.  Jenna might have something else in mind to take from you than your credit.  Jenna might meet you outside your house one night and take your life.

This is worst case scenario, but one that you need to be aware of and have drilled into your head on a regular basis.  If you haven’t been watching the news lately, there are some seriously crazy people out there who will do horrible things to each other for no apparent reason and involve YOU whether you asked for it or not.  So STOP doing things to set yourself up!!  I've been in the middle of one psycho shooting this month, I’m pretty much done for…well…the rest of my life, thankyouverymuch.

OK, the “Mom” part of me is done with the lecture.  Now let’s move to Business Jen.

So let’s say that these people who you are sending your personal information to aren’t psycho killers, identity stealers, crazed exes looking for revenge, etc.  Let’s say they really do work in the Promo Industry.

OK.  Where?  And for whom? 

Anyone who refuses to state who he or she works for has an agenda—one that does not have your best interest at heart. 

Sure, you may get a job, you may make some money, but who was this person really who got your information?  I call them Resume Pimps.  They pose as Recruiters, tell you that they are helping a friend staff a show, or work for an agency, but never tell you who they really work for.  Why?  Because they are getting a cut of your money, just like a pimp.   These Resume Pimps package the girls together and sell it to an agency for a fee—a fee that gets taken out of your pay should you get booked.  If they weren't taking a cut, they would gladly release the name of their employer so that you could verify employment.  Yup.  That’s a pimp. Of course, they might be a real agency trying to land a contract and say that you have worked for them on jobs in the past.  When they can present 25+ of the top talent in the country as their own, chances are they will catch a Client’s eye and possibly get the gig—event though NONE of those 25 have ever worked for the agency.  Doesn't seem fair, does it?

Want to know where your money goes?  Let’s do the math…

Let’s say an agency bills a client $400-$500/day for a Crowd Gatherer.  That’s a pretty fair rate.  So a true agency will take their 20-25% or so cut and you get $300-$400 depending on how much effort that agency had to put into securing the gig.  That is totally fair, and you should expect to pay that much to a good agency who has you working constantly.

Now let’s say that there are several hands in the cookie jar.  Some of the larger corporations out there will hire a “Experiential Marketing” conglomeration to produce their entire event.  They still get billed the $500 per Crowd Gatherer.  EXCEPT…that EM company then hires a Staffing Agency to find CGs for them.  Subtract another 25% because the Staffing Agency has to make their cut right?  We’re down to $280 and change.  Now, Jenna the Pimp—I mean Recruiter—is out there “helping a friend find girls for a gig” who is also going to take another 25% off of your pay for a commission.  Now we’re looking at $210.  Let’s round it off to $200, because it’s a nice, even number.  That’s 60% of the money that the Client paid for you gone already. 

The more fingers that touch your resume, the more money will be taken out of your pay.  And YOU are the one doing the work, while they sit there on their computers and farm out your resume.

Oh, then let’s throw in my favorite:  Well, you are new with our agency, so we start our new employees at $200/day, and after a few shows, you can be making $250!!  Seriously?  My friend is doing the exact same gig as I am, has only done five shows total, but me, with 100 shows on my resume is making less?  For the same job.  For the same Client.  For the same hours.  Sorry.  I don’t think so.  I keep getting flashbacks of fighting for Women’s Rights in the Corporate World and the whole getting paid 72% of what a man makes.  For the same job.  For the same Company.  For the same hours.  Tell me how this is justified again??  And we women are doing it to each other?

If you are OK with 60% of your money going to other people, then by all means, send your resume out to everyone and anyone.  But if you aren’t, then play it smart.

Do some research.  Look up that person’s Facebook page.  Are their “friends” people you know personally, or just other agencies?  If you do have mutual friends, write them and ask for a reference.  If no one that you know personally can verify of this person’s existence, then DO NOT SEND YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION to that person.  And I mean really KNOW, not just are Facebook friends.  From recent personal experience, some of these people are completely psycho and have multiple Facebook accounts even though it is the same person.  It makes Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction look appealing.  Every time I expose one of these frauds, I expect to come home from Vegas and find a bunny on my stove.

Google the agency’s website.  Look for Client Testimonials, not just a page of shows or big names.  Browse through their talent.  If you have been in the Trade Show business for a few years and don’t know anyone on their pages, chances are that company is a fake.  Even I can design a halfway decent website and capture some pictures of good looking people.  If you do know one or two people, write them and ask for a reference.  I make no secret of what agencies are out there that I like working for, and anyone who wants to know what I think just has to ask. 

I know this blog has been a little harsh, but it is so easy to get caught up in Cyberworld and the presumed safety that you are among nothing but friends.  I wish that was so.  You are not.  There are people out there who do not have your best interests in mind, and on one level or another, they will take advantage of you.  But, you can take precautions to protect yourself, and it starts with knowing exactly who is at the other end of an email you send when looking for a job.

Be smart.

Be safe.

Life is Good.  Make the most out of it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Trade Show Season....What's in YOUR Wallet?

It’s Monday morning in San Francisco.  Another Trade Show Season is upon us with the opening of VM World.  For most of us, it’s steady work for the next six months.  For those who are really good, it’s insane, non-stop work until after Easter.  The difference is in how you prepare.

You are good at what you do, but how are you incorporating your Client’s needs into your full presentation?  You need to be the nurturing, care-giving, flat-out ass-saving Knight in Shining Armor whenever and however your Client needs you to be.  You need to prove to your Client that you aren't just a "Booth Babe" but an integral part of the Trade Show Support Staff.  In other words, you have to be able to pick up the ball, should the Client drop it, by foreseeing anything that could be missing or go wrong.


What’s in your wallet? 

A good friend and occasional work associate of mine, Ken Newman wrote a blog about keeping an  Emergency Trade Show Tool Kit with you for each show you work.  As someone who has been a Professional Presenter as well as Producer for umpteen years, he knows his stuff.

And then there are women who do this kind of work.  Not to take anything away from Ken, but let me list what I have in my bag when I go to work.  I guarantee that each item on this list I have needed at least once, and on several occasions I have saved the show because for some reason, I magically produced spot cleaner out of my purse, or a 4G thumb drive, or even a small can of WD-40.

What I have with me when I go to work… 

Simple Cosmetic Stuff:

  • Eyelashes, Eyelash glue and Eyelash comb
  • Tweezers
  • Tampons
  • Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Dental Floss and Dental Pics.  Bring extra clean Dental Pics for the client because they always munch on snacks when doing booth duty and never check their teeth.
  • Small Hand Mirror to make sure that you NEVER have anything in your teeth.  Even if you have a mint, check your teeth.  Consider taping a small locker mirror to the inside of the storage door so you can check yourself throughout the day.
  • Band-Aids
  • Nail glue and nail tips.  
  • Nail file, polish, and polish remover.  NEVER have a bad manicure at a booth.  That is grounds for dismissal.
  • Deodorant
  • Washcloth for deodorant—the first day you will probably have to change into a branded shirt.  Chances are you will get deodorant on the shirt.  Paper towels will leave all kinds of white noodles on your shirt, where a washcloth or small gym towel will not. 
  • Plastic baggie for the wet washcloth.
  • Clean panties.  If you have to ask…
  • Contacts, contact lens solution and drops.  It’s dry as hell on the TS Floor.  You need to be able to see your leads and read their badges from miles away.
  • Anti-bac lotion and spray.  Bath & Body Works has great Anti-bac to keep you moisturized and germ free.  Spray can be found as swag.  Use it on your booth's horizontal surfaces. 
  • Baby powder.  It can get hot as hell on the TS Floor.  Heat rash isn’t pretty and itches.
  • Q-Tips.  Are you presenting?  Well you need to clean your ear before you stick in your earpiece.  And Q-Tips are great for make-up touches in a pinch.
  • Alcohol wipes.  On the ear?  Well, just in case you need to swap something with a fellow presenter, it had better be sterile!!
  • Extra batteries for your ear, extra earpiece just in case, and why not throw the surgical tape in there too so you can keep it in place.  If you are a CG and are able to whip out materials for your presenter that he/she might have forgotten, you are now not only a hero, you are next to god.
  • Cellulite cream—shrinks the arm flab.
  • Prep-H—while you might think it is for the Client, it takes the bags out from underneath the eyes, especially when you have to work the Client Party as well as the show.
  • Hair essentials like hair spray, brush, bobby pins, ponytail holder are given.  Have hair extensions?  Bring an extra clip because if you don’t, yours will break.
  • Humid outside?  Try BIOSILK to calm the frizz and pack a mini-flat iron.

Now that you have yourself prepared, let’s stock your wallet for the things that the Client needs:

  • Airborne, cough drops, throat lozenges, and any other throat medication that will not make you sound like Kathleen Turner by Day Two.  Clients always forget this too, so have plenty in fruity flavors.
  • Chapsticks.  Neutral flavors.  Have about four new and sealed ones in your bag, as your Client will need one because it is so dry.  Be a savior and offer a fresh one, as you know you will pick up five or six more as swag as you are walking around.
  • Scissors
  • Lighter and/or matches.  You better not smoke, but your Client might.
  • Universal tool kit—you can’t carry a Swiss Army Knife on a plane, but little keychain tool kits are TSA friendly.  They have a regular and Phillips Screwdriver as well as a few other tips that make booths go together without having to spend precious time looking for a Freeman Representative.
  • Two jump drives, at least 2G.  Your Client will inevitably forget something like all the literature for you to distribute.  Save the day by jumping in and transferring files to your drive and running to FedEx/Kinko’s to print it out.  The other jump drive has your resume, headshots, and demo reel on it for the booth next door that sees how spectacular you are and wants to hire you for their next show.
  • Pocket spot stain remover.  Eating in the booth is a no-no, but when your Client does it and drips mustard on his white business shirt, you are a hero.
  • Spork or two.  Again, your Client will want to eat in the booth and have a yogurt, and forget the utensils.
  • A list of phone numbers for your favorite local restaurants in the area.  Sure you can Google it.  But it’s easier if you just hand over a list and let the Client pick.  Then make the reservation because you know the staff and get free drinks for your referrals.
  • Corkscrew and bottle opener.  Somehow beer will show up in your booth.  Your Client doesn't have time to find catering to open an import.  Luckily, you have that taken care of.
  • Multiple electrical outlet adapter.  There are never enough electrical outlets for all the phones, laptops, etc.  Turn one plug into four with ease and you will stop pecking-order from establishing in the booth to charge cell phones.

Think you are packed yet?  Nope.  There are a few more:

  • Snacks.  You will get hungry and not have time to get lunch.  Corazonas Oatmeal Squares can fit in your bag, are healthy and tasty, and have a long shelf life.  Oh, and they are cheaper than Cliff Bars and other filler snacks.
  • Business cards—both yours and your agency's card.  Know when to hand out each one.
  • Three pairs of shoes.  One pair to walk to work in, the others are to rotate throughout the show.  You will break the heel in your Jimmy Choo’s half way through your first presentation, so have a back-up.
  • Two umbrellas and disposable ponchos.   During hurricane season your Client probably forgot to pack an umbrella.
  • Pack of tissues or emergency TP.  You will run to the bathroom on your three minute break in between shows and use the stall that has run out of TP.  Murphy’s Law of Trade Shows.
  • Benadryl
  • Safety Pins.  Broken bra straps aren’t fun.
  • Backup pair of earrings.
  • Long sleeved, unbranded black or white t-shirt.  Convention halls are freezing on the first day in the winter, and you need to be warm and happy!
  • Extra socks.  Change them throughout the show.  The dirty ones go in your Ziplock bag.
  • The usual assortment of medications:  Advil, Tylenol, Tums, Pepto, Immodium, Midol, Vitamin C, etc.  Have enough for everyone.
  • Pens in all colors, highlighters, paper clips, and a few stamps.
  • Phone chargers for both iPhones and Androids.  Your Client will forget his in the hotel room, and you will kill your battery using your phone as a hot-spot for the internet for the booth.
  • Any adapters that will convert from PC to Mac and back again.  
  • AA and AAA batteries.  If you have a presenter, you may just have saved his butt too if his back-up died.
  • Dollar bills and quarters for vending machines, tips for errands, etc.  No one ever has smaller than a $20 when the show starts, and someone needs a buck for a soda.

I'm sure the list will get longer as Trade Show Season continues, but I thought I would share some simple essentials that will help YOU be a hero at your booth.  A few saves for your Client, and you have gone from a simple "Booth Babe" to an invaluable part of the Trade Show Support Staff.  You are prepared and you are irreplaceable.  And you have a contract for next year waiting.

Have a fabulous Trade Show Season everyone!  And remember...

Life is Good.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why should I pay you $300 a day when your friend will work for $15/hr?

It's the same old argument, Trade Show after Trade Show.  And I'm finally bent enough to blog about it.

Dear Fellow Co-Workers:

Please STOP doing MY job for $15/hr.  My minimum rate is $300/day to be a Crowd Gatherer, which is approximately $40/hr.  That you are willing to lower not only my standards, but the rest of the Industry's standards to work the SAME job as I do for just over minimum wage is insulting.

True, you might not have the same experience as I do--yet--so you may need to take a job paying $250/day just to get your name out there enough to demand the same pay as I get, but $250/day is three times more than what you are accepting now.  Have some dignity.

Stop it. 

Do you realize how much your booking agency takes from you when you agree to work for $15/hr?  Do the math.  I get $40, you said yes to $15.  They are charging the client the SAME rate.  Do you think you should be the one laughing because you are working and I am not?  NO.  The hiring agency and the client are laughing at YOU because they just got your services for basically nothing.  And now you have to work three times as many days to equal my salary.  So while you are working seven days a week trying to pay your bills, I work three and am putting money in the bank.

You deserve better.  Especially those of you who I refer into this business.

And please don't use the excuse, "I would rather be working for below market rate than not working."  Bullshit. 

  • Would you date a man who beats you or cheats on you just because you don't want to be lonely and dating an abuser is better than not dating?  No.  You would tell that man to get out of your life and come back when he has learned some respect.
  • If a waiter brought your dinner to you in a nice restaurant and it had bugs and hair in it, would you just sit there and eat it?  No.  You would send it back and demand the meal that you are paying for.
  • When you are shoe shopping and like a pair of shoes, do you buy the size 6 that doesn't fit because the store is sold out of your size?  No.  You walk out of the store and go to another that might have the perfect fit.


Let's quickly go over some myths in the business:

  1. It's the slow season, so any work is better than nothing.  No.  There is no "slow season" in marketing.  I am just as busy in January as June.  Be flexible in the jobs you work, and you will always be working.  Note I said the JOBS, not the pay!! 
  2. I'm new in the business so I have to start somewhere.  Wrong.  Would you accept a "regular job" for below minimum wage because you are new?  Nope.  Then don't do it in this business. 
  3. I can work for less than I normally do because they pay in cash right after the gig and it's close to my house.  This one kills me.  A gig is ALWAYS close to SOMEONE'S house, so why are you so special?  And the reason you are paid in cash is so that the company does not have to make a paper trail and report your earnings to the government--saving THEM time and money.  Again, they win and you lose.
You deserve better.  You deserve respect.  And you deserve pay equivalent to your talent.  When you take a job for $15/hr, you tell the world that you have little talent, no respect for yourself, and don't deserve better than what you are getting.

And when it comes time for me to hire you, do you think that I'm going to offer you $300/day when I know I can get you for $15/hr?  Nope.  I might give you $20/hr just so that you feel good about yourself, but I'm still going to be pocketing an extra $100 a day off of your hard work.  And if I can get you to do my job of looking for two other people to work the gig too (because you won't charge me a referral fee), I'll be able to stay home and watch Dr. Phil on TV all day, because you and your friends are making my $300/day rate for me, and I don't have to do a thing.

Think about it.

Here is another good article about why you should just say NO to bad pay:  How To Get Paid What You Are Worth

Life is Good.  At least for me, because I respect myself.  So should you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another GREAT resource for the San Francisco Workforce!!

Hello everyone!  I hope you have all been working just as hard as I have!

I would like to share another valuable resource for all of us based in the Bay Area, and those who travel here for work and pleasure.

I stumbled upon this store today totally by accident.  After two hours of trying on clothes, I left the store with over $2000 of clothing--for less than $300!! 

The store is called A Miner Miracle and is located at 441 Sutter St, between Stockton and Powell.

This store sells designer clothing (think Michael Kors, Via Spiga, Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, London Fog, etc.) for ridiculously low prices.  Everything is new--either used as runway clothing, samples, or photo shoot props.  I even landed a pair of $100 pants that had been slightly altered exactly where I needed them to be--for $10!!!!!!!! 

OK, I bought four pairs of pants and a few skirts.  And some shorts and casual pants.  And a London Fog raincoat.  But who's counting??

But selling me great clothes at great prices isn't all this store does.  As a non-profit organization:

"The purpose of the program is to help disadvantaged people enter the workplace by educating them to present themselves well and with pride. The program -- from providing work-appropriate clothing and grooming services to enhancing presentation skills -- not only improves employment potential but helps build self-esteem."

As far as I'm concerned, this is a win-win.  I am so tired of people looking down upon the disadvantaged and unemployed of my community and neighborhood, shouting the typical, "Get a job, you bum!" when it is obvious that these people would love to work if only they had some job training and a fresh set of clothes to wear to an interview. 

So here is your chance to help.  Buy some clothes at 80% off, and the proceeds help to employ people in the community.

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day...teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.  Same goes for employment.  Give a man a fresh set of clothing to wear to a new job, and he goes off the unemployment line.  And you also get a fresh set of clothing to wear to your next gig!!

A new delivery of Michael Kors clothing is expected in the next 10 days.  I'll be there in two Mondays looking to score some new tops for the Trade Show Floor.

I hope to see you too.

Life is Good.  Especially when you do Good.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Three shows in three cities...

Hello everyone!

Well, it's time for three shows in three different cities.  Wahooooo!

Three days at DAC in SF.

After the close of show, go straight to the airport.

Get on a plane for Orlando at 8PM.

Arrive in Orlando at 7AM and head straight for the Convention Hall.

Work all day.  Meet a friend for dinner.  Sleep.

Work two more days.

At the close of show, go immediately to the airport and fly to San Diego.

Next day begins Cisco Live! working for one of my favorite clients and agencies.  

Fly home on the 15th.


Ever wonder how I find all the shows?  I plan WAY in advance.  You can too!

I found this Trade Show Calendar online and use it to see what shows are where for the next year or two.  Cross reference it with a few BA agencies in my favorite cities and I'm constantly working.

Go ahead... start planning a working vacation!  Maybe we can travel together!

Life is Good!!

Trade Show Calendar

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Not So "Big Easy" (A New Orleans Trade Show Saga)

Question:  What do you do when you show up on Day One of a trade show, and discover that …

1.  The product literature didn’t make it to the show.
2.  The show entrance and your booth are at opposite ends of the building.
3.  There are no dedicated trade show hours ??

Answer:  Whatever you HAVE TO DO!!

You may have been brought in as a "Crowd Gatherer" or "Booth Hostess," but when it comes down to it, you are part of the Marketing Team.  This means you do whatever you have to do to make your show a success, whether you think it's in your job description or not.

So …

What happens when the Client unpacks the shipping boxes an hour before showtime and realizes that THERE IS NO LITERATURE TO HAND OUT??

You ask them to put whatever files they can find on a thumb drive.  You change into your comfy shoes.  You Google the nearest FedEx Kinko’s.  You take their Corporate Credit Card and off you go.  Thirty minutes later you’re back with bags full of pamphlets and flyers.  You put on your heels.  You’re a hero.   Miracle #1.
Then …

What do you do when your booth is in the far corner of the convention hall and no one is coming to visit?

You work your magic !

It's hard to be a Crowd Gatherer for a Presenter when he has no one to PRESENT to.  He may be great at sleight of hand, but without anyone to watch him … who cares?   So you grab an extra deck of cards and go out into the main hallways and tell every attendee you see to "Pick a Card!  Any card!  Take that Magic Card to Booth 1617 and turn it in for a prize!"  Next thing you know, the booth is full of attendees watching the Presentation!  AND, since all the attendees are turning in playing cards for prizes, your client has a pretty good idea who it was that pulled in the crowds.  Miracle #2.

And as if THAT wasn’t enough …

What do you do when the only time the attendees are in the Expo Hall hall is for meals?  To make matters worse, the Caterers, in their infinite wisdom, put a giant curtain in front of your booth, so no one sees you or your presenter.

Step out from behind the curtain.
That booth in the corner is now part of the dining entertainment.  Visit the tables during lunch and welcome the attendees.  Invite them over to your booth for some lunchtime magic.  Tell them that your presenter will teach them a trick and give them a special gift to take home with them.  Miracle #3.

And after this third miracle, you are officially a New Orleans Saint  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Tricks like this (pun intended) will get your booth full of prospects, and get your client to see the value that you bring to their trade show marketing effort.   If your client doesn't get good leads, they’re not likely to come back to this show.  And if they don’t come back to the show … you’re not working for them.

So …

You step up.  You help wherever you can. You do things that might not be part of your job description.  You make problems disappear.  Then, the morning after the show, you get an email thanking you for the great job you did along with a contract for their next three shows.

Life is Good.

Monday, May 14, 2012

How To Be A Better Manager...Part II

Welcome to another Monday!  As you go forth and conquer the Wonderful World of Events and Promotions, be sure and read this week’s tips:

How To Be A Better Manager … Part II

4.  Make sure everyone on your team has taken a break or had lunch before YOU do.

There is no better way to lose your staff’s respect than to get everyone in place for the event, push through the first few hours, tweak, tune, and occasionally terrify your staff and then be the first one to break for lunch.  No.  Don't do this.  If you need a few minutes to use the restroom and glug down an energy drink, tell your staff that you will return in five minutes and then lunches will begin.  And get back in three.  

The following story may help illustrate this point.  (The name has been changed to protect the guilty.)

Several years ago, I worked a promotion for Ralph K. The call time was 7AM.  Ralph showed up at 7:10.  Strike One.  At noon, Ralph decided he was going to take ‘an hour’ for lunch.  Strike Two.  By the time he got back and remembered to start breaking his staff, it was 2:30.  Strike Three.   How much respect do you think Ralph earned that day?  What do you think the chances are that I will work for him again?  And more to the point, what do you think the chances are that I will HIRE him, now that I happen to be running this campaign?   

Cranky employees do not make for a pleasant event.  Try to keep your staff from getting cranky--especially at you!

5.  Do not eat with your staff.


Yes, we all know each other and are probably friends outside the business, but give them a break and don't join them at the lunch table.  They need to be able to relax and get away from you.  They need to talk on the phone, chew gum, smoke, swear, and bitch.  Bitch about the client.  Bitch about how much their feet hurt.  Bitch about the look you gave them when they rolled in barely on time.  It's called a lunch BREAK for a reason, and part of that break is getting away from YOU.  

Unless lunch is being served for the whole staff in a tiny room with one table, you should make arrangements to let them have their space.  And if you must all eat together, don't talk about work.  Nurture them.  Care for them.  Ask them about their families or the next job they have lined up or where they went on vacation.  But NO shop talk!! 

6.  Have an emergency supply kit.
This is one of those things that a new manager might not be able to have, but over time, you will learn what to collect and what to have on hand at all times.  You know you are always bringing home leftover product from events, so put it all in a box and use it to keep your staff happy.  You never know when a granola bar is going to save someone's attitude--and your day!  

Sometimes, you can even ask the client ahead of time for a small amount of petty cash to supply these items.  More times than not they will say yes.  Happy staff = Happy client = Successful campaign = More work.

Some things to keep in your stash are:  

  • Food Items:  Granola bars, power bars, apples, carrots, juice boxes, flavored water, 5-hour Energy drinks, breath mints, chocolate, cheese sticks, cookies and anything else that you have collected from various promotions over the past few months.  Don't tell me you don't have a small arsenal of Nesquick floating around in your stash somewhere!  Festival season is a prime time to stock up!!  

  • Non-Food Items:  Band-aids, pain medication (non-prescription, please), Pepto, Tums or Rolaids, disposable ponchos, extra socks, beanies and gloves, tampons, dental floss, anti-bacterial sanitizer, toilet paper, napkins, chap-stick, sunscreen, and hand lotion.  Again, most of these items can be collected from past events, but some you can supply yourself.

Again, a story will illustrate how important this can be:

Last year, I was managing Team Awesome at an outdoor auto drive test event.  Anyone who has ever worked one of these knows exactly how grueling it can be.  I really needed my staff to step up and knock it out of the park.  This was a big client and I didn’t want this to be the first, and LAST time we worked together.

So I had a little meeting with my staff, and I laid it out for them.

"We have two options to make this event the best campaign ever and get rehired.  I can be a complete terror and micro-manage you into doing what I need you to do …. or I can bribe you." 

With that, I opened up my stash of goodies and watched their eyes open as wide as children on Christmas morning.  Suffice it to say, Team Awesome kicked ass!

And all it cost me was $5.65.  (Which I wrote off on my taxes.)

That’s all for this week … Tune in next Monday for Part III in an ever-growing series.  Feel free to add your own comments or suggestions.  You never know what might show up on my next blog!

Monday, May 7, 2012

How to be a Better Manager

Over the past several years that I have worked in promotions, I have probably read no less than 50 manuals, orientation letters, training guides, and blogs, written by agencies and staffing companies.  They all seemed to focus on one thing:  How to be a better employee.  While I appreciate the advice, I believe that a good team is as much the responsibility of the manager as it is the staff.  Good leadership is reflected in good employees.  And I’m sorry to say, the opposite is also true.  With that, I present this …

How To Be A Better Manager

***Part One in a Series of Three...or Four...or however many I feel like writing.  After all, this is MY blog...***

1.  Set rules and enforce them.  

My rules are very simple, easy to understand, and never change.  People who work for me can recite them ... in their sleep:
  1. Be on Time
  2. Be in Uniform
  3. Never, EVER be on your Cell Phone.

Simple, right?  Easy to follow?  You would be amazed.

I have something of a reputation.  I tend to fire someone on the first day of a promotion.  Why?  Well, usually because one or more of the above rules were not followed.  

As a manager, you have to draw your line in the sand.  Define what it takes to keep the job.  Define what it takes to lose it.  And don’t be afraid to fire someone who doesn't follow those rules.  Believe me, the rest of the staff will pay attention. You will have their respect -- and the respect of your client.

This is a job not a party.  Those who are here to work should not have to tolerate people who are not.  Show up late, dress sloppily, spend your time yapping on the phone or Facebooking?  Buh-Bye.

Last year, I managed the Docents program at Cisco Live!  On the first day of the assignment, my employer (and mentor) Dan Smith, was conducting a facilities tour.  A young woman directly in front of me was on her smartphone.  I happened to glance at the screen and when I discovered what she was up to, I politely suggested that perhaps she not be on Craigslist, looking for other jobs while working this one. She looked at me as if I had just asked her to turn off her mother's life support system!

She did not make it through the program.

OK, we got the nasty one out of the way.  The rest are easy.

2.  Beat your staff to work, dress better than your staff, and never, ever be seen on your cell phone.

What, you think the rules you set for your team don't apply to you?  Not only must you do as you say, you must do it BETTER than anyone on your staff.  Give them an example to strive for.

When I work conventions on the Event Staff side, I am at work at least 30 minutes before my staff.  Sometimes this means I'm in at 5:15 AM.  I get to have my coffee, relax, assess what challenges I might have for the day and deal with them.  I have plenty of time to pow-wow with my boss (who is usually at work 30 minutes before I am) and get ready to receive my staff with a well-prepared agenda and a smile.  

Too much of our business is done on-the-fly and at the last possible minute.  Why not avoid adding to this stressful situation by being early and prepared.  I learned this lesson by watching Susan Sperry of CSS run her shows.  For starters, she is ALWAYS there before I am and ready to prep me for the day.  (I actually think she sleeps at the convention hall.  I kept looking for her little Japanese roll-away mat, but then just decided that she probably doesn’t sleep at all.)  Susan is a woman I have never seen thrown off guard or unprepared for anything. 

Always make sure you are the last of your staff to leave the event.  You are accountable for your staff's actions as well as any material lent to them by the client, so make sure your staff gets out the door or off-site before you go home.  You don't want staff lingering and getting into trouble.  And trust me, you don't want an iPad going missing on your watch.

If you don't dress better than your staff, then how can you ask them to improve the way they present themselves?  Tuck in your shirt and wear a belt.  Have clean shoes, smooth hair, polished make-up and conservative jewelry.  Tuck a small mirror in your bag to discretely check if you have food in your teeth.  And under no circumstances have a bad manicure with partially chipped nail-polish!  That's just icky.  It shows that you don’t care about yourself.  If you don't care about your appearance, then how can you possibly care enough about your staff to make them successful?  Image is EVERYTHING in this business.

If you must be on your phone for work, let your staff know this during the Pre-Event Meeting or training.  When you were a BA, did you watch your manager text and Facebook continuously?  How did that make you feel after you were told NOT to?  If constant communication is a necessity for your job, consider Nextel radios or a separate business phone provided by the client.  Trust me, it helps!!

3.  Be respectful of your staff.

I can't stress this enough.  We are people.  You don't like to be treated like shit by your boss, do you?  Well your staff does not like to be treated like shit by you.  

We are all individuals with different needs, different morals and values and different personalities.  Respect that.  Anticipate your staff's needs before they do, and let them know that you care.

I'll give you an example of what I say in my Pre-Event Meeting (That's the second time I've mentioned a Pre-Event Meeting, think it's important??):

"I know we all have separate lives outside this particular job.  Some of us have families, some of us have kids, some of us have pets, and some of us have other things that we need to pay attention to because they are important.  I will make a promise to you right here and right now that I will do my best to respect you and your values and do whatever is in my power to make sure you get your needs met.  But I cannot meet your needs unless you communicate them to me in advance.

If you have a family that you need to check in with every day at 3:00, let me know in the morning, and I will make every effort to get you off the floor to check in.  If you have dietary restrictions such as Diabetes or Hypoglycemia and have to have a shot or a pill or a snack, let me know and I will find someone to cover you so you can attend to your medical needs.  If you have a religious or culturally specific task that you must perform, let me know and I will do my best to accommodate you.  It might not happen right away, but I promise you that if you work with me and you trust me, I will do my best to make it happen.  But that involves us all respecting each other and being honest with each other.  If you don't work with me on your needs and I see you sneaking off every few minutes to talk on the phone, check your email, sneak a snack or whatever it is you feel you need to do, I will assume that you don't care about your position and will find a permanent replacement."

I make that promise and I stick to it.  I've had staff come to me in the morning and ask me if it is OK for them to make a call at 3:15 to have a five-minute interview.  Of course.  I've had staff ask me if they can take their lunch at a certain time so they can be on a training call for another promo.  Of course.  I've had staff ask me if they can take a quick break so that they can say hello to their kids who are stopping by the Convention Center in a half hour.  Duh!!  Of course.  Those who show me this kind of respect are those who are on my speed dial for future work.

Be honest with your staff, communicate openly with them, and you will be a much better manager.  Why?  Because your staff will TRUST you.   Then, when your client walks up to you in a panic and asks, "Where is Dave?  I thought he was stationed at the front door?"  You can calmly reply, "Dave is on a scheduled break right now and will be back in exactly ten minutes.  Until then, Diane is staffing the position."  Suddenly, your client is happy.  And happy with YOU.  They are free to go away and put out someone else’s fire.  You have proven to your client and to your staff that you know what you are doing.  You are in control.

Life is good.