“Hangonhangon, HOLD UP!” came the bark on the other end of the phone.
I stopped reading my script mid-sentence and waited nervously.
I’d never met the man I was talking to, he was hundreds of miles away from where I sat in my cubicle, and there was no chance of him coming through the phone to get me, but I felt my teeth start chattering anyway.
Can’t you just let me get through this, so I can move on to the next call?
“Young lady – what do you all do there exactly?”
Um… Come again?
“You see, you called me,” he continued, “and you claim, that I called you, and that I was interested in… whatever-it-is-that-you-all-do. And I’m just wondering – what do you do, that I was so interested in a week ago? ‘Cause I sure don’t remember.”
Well, ah – shoot.
My phone cord was already a jumble of knots from the hours I spent twirling it hopelessly, and now I felt my free hand twisting the biggest tangle into a rock.
I searched my brain frantically.
“Sir, uh – we’re a company that, um – can help you with – the business you might, ah, be thinking about, or possibly ready to ah –"
He interrupted me again, and there was no way to miss the sarcasm in his voice.
“Yes, well, that’s nice. And while you certainly seem like a capable company, and I’m sure you would be able to ‘help me’, as you say – I’d really appreciate it if you’d remove my name from your list, and kindly stop calling.”
He hung up, and I quickly marked him as a Do Not Call.
You know, the thing about that guy, is that he had called expressing interest.
Part of the reason our call went south, is that I waited a week to call him back. The biggest reason, I think though, is that I failed to properly answer a basic – and crucial – question.
I failed at that question for years actually; in so many jobs I had. And it stunted my growth.
So today, let’s talk about a question you might be asking:
What’s the fastest, most-effective way to qualify for a promotion?
If you want to start climbing your company’s ladder, what’s the first thing you need to do?
What do you think?
Be the best at your job?
Be your boss’s favorite?
Prove your dedication to the company?
Nope. Nope, nope.
Here it is, and I’m going to put it in bold, so there’s no way to miss it:
You need to become an expert on your company’s strategic financial goals and desired direction, and how you can help it achieve those.
Yep. That’s Number 1.
Are you ready to become an expert? It takes learning your company.
Here we go:
HOW DID YOUR COMPANY GET ITS START?
Knowing this can help you understand where the people who started it have come from, and what they’ve come through.
It can help you know how the company has evolved, which can give you clues about the direction it’s going to continue in, or move into.
Sometimes the story of the beginning is actually inspiring. And sometimes it’s boring. But no matter what – you want to know it.
So look at the company’s website, and find the story, if you haven’t had a reason to read it until now. There might also be books written about it, or about its founders. There could be online articles, or videos. You could ask someone you work with (who would know the real story).
You aren’t digging for dirt. You aren’t looking for gossip, or scandals, or bad reviews. Do your best to find actual, factual material about the start of it all, and then dig in.
WHAT DOES THE COMPANY DO FOR ITS CUSTOMERS?
Here’s that riddle I struggled with during my awful phone call.
And even though we could all shake our heads and wonder how I could be so clueless - it’s easy to get little parts of this wrong, or only know as much as it feels like we need to know, for our position and the amount of time we’ve been in it.
But you want to know the answer to this in detail.
Know the target market. Know what you’re selling – and what you aren’t.
If you work at a flower shop – don’t get asked whether you sell daffodils and have to comb the flower pots in desperation.
If you work at a glass company – don’t get asked whether you replace car windshields and search the sky for help with the answer.
You can find it on the website, in flyers, in brochures, in training materials you were given way-back-when. Ask people who would definitely know, if there’s something you aren’t sure about.
Know what your company does for its customers.
KNOW HOW THE COMPANY WORKS
This doesn’t mean you need to learn how to work every moving part; it means you want to learn what those parts are.
What are your coworkers’ job descriptions? What’s your boss’s?
When a new contract is signed, or a new order placed, what’s the process from start to finish?
What do you all do in-house, and what do you hire other companies for?
Sometimes this stuff takes more digging and asking around, but do your best to understand it all as soon as you can.
WHERE IS THE COMPANY GOING / WHERE DO THE COMPANY OWNERS WANT IT TO GO?
And this is the finale.
THIS is what all your other research leads up to.
You’re using your job to reach your own goals, but the way to use your job to the fullest is to understand your company’s goals.
What does it want?
Pour over the mission statement. Dig up any past emails and memos about company objectives, direction, and focus.
Pay attention in meetings so you can learn about new developments, and goals.
If your company’s vision seems unclear, talk to someone who would know what it is – like your boss - and ask that person to break it down for you.
You want specifics. And they might not all be obvious, or easy to find, or shared with everyone.
Maybe there’s a new market to branch into. Or a new product or service to offer. A new development to make a breakthrough with. An additional location to open. A specific amount of sales to hit each quarter – or a specific amount of a certain kind of sales to hit. Or a certain percentage of profits to make for the year.
You want to know.
And you want to get to where you can recognize opportunities and bring them to the attention of decision-makers.
And where you are making appropriate recommendations.
Where you are delivering work and results that are clearly in line with company objectives.
And where you can help others to understand the bigger picture and direction.
And I don’t care what your current position is – you can do that stuff. You can be that person. From your current position.
Are you ready to get started? Let’s recap what you’re going to learn:
HOW YOUR COMPANY GOT ITS START
WHAT YOUR COMPANY DOES FOR ITS CUSTOMERS
HOW THE COMPANY WORKS
WHERE THE COMPANY IS GOING / WHAT THE GOALS ARE FOR WHERE IT’S GOING
And you’re going to use everything you learn, to start helping your company make progress towards its goals from your current position.
You’re going to demonstrate from your current position, that you understand the grand plan and that you are able to drive it forward.
That’s the best way to qualify for a promotion.
Yes, of course you need to be dependable, and do a quality job, and respect the rules and all of that.
But those things probably won’t help you climb if you’re missing this one.
This is the Number 1 way to prove you’re ready to move up.