S2 E94 — Sustained Growth: Slicing Turnover and Grooming Experts

We cut the time in half, identified the regional gurus who made sense out of clunky technology, turned them into trainers and mentors, and switched face-to-face time from classroom to practice session.

“5”  Steve Greene, 34; Steve Guttenberg, 61; Stephen King,72:Study past successes and failures for the keys to victory. To skip the research phase of a project is to waste time, as there is no use in repeating what didn’t work before.” Virgo

Hi and welcome to Sunday’s Episode 94 in Season 2 of  “My Pandemic Year Natural Experiment” on this 9th day of August in the summer of 2020.  

“The Tau of Steves: What You Don’t Know Could Fill a Book”

Table of Contents

Season One and Two are a two-year examination of how bits of wisdom changed during the “normal” pre-pandemic and then in this unfolding pandemic year.

Previously in Season Two, the Pandemic Year

S2 E93Who It Takes to Keep Growth at It’s Peak; S2 E92Herding Cats Towards a Tornado; S2 E91How to Master Rapid Growth Without Gifting Your Competitors

Related from Season One, the Normal Year

S1 E94Wasn’t There a Movie about the Tau of Steve?; S1 E93Why is it easier to Hate than to Love the other Half?; S1 E92Shh … Secrets Husbands Keep to Ourselves; S1 E91If that, then this … ? The daily double?


This is a continuation of “Volume Two Manuscript — WorkFit” a work-in-progress.

In previous episodes we described Start Up, Emerging Growth, Rapid Growth and Sustained Growth stages.  But, each with the emphasis on how a specific stage provides another better fit opportunity for one or more of 16 Talent Profiles.

110 Analytical Specialists in the Sustained Growth Stage

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

Let’s explore what it’s like behind the scenes working in a Sustained Growth company.  We’ll break it down into two parts. 

Part One describes the trials and tribulations working in an electronic distribution company.  Our next episode focuses on the growing pains and challenges of a disk-drive technology company in Part Two. Both in their own unique ways recruited Analytical Specialists to join their talent cultures.

Third Growth Stage for 110 Analytical Specialists

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

Part One

12. Director Electronics Distribution Company 

Professionalize to Stabilize 

They were described as a Wild West sales organization in their early days — as in anything goes as long as you get the sale.  

They grew from a local to a regional player during their emerging and rapid growth stages across the Western United States with ambitions to grow nationally and then internationally.

International Aspirations

They ran into complications with the technology required to translate currencies for product ordering.  Instead the acquirer from Europe already had systems in place. 

I seriously misjudged the “technology” component, because I discovered after the first 90-days it was less about innovating and more about sales.

Maturing Business Model 

Sure they valued affiliation and speed, but they really weren’t creating new knowledge in the sense I craved.  

Their business model placed them in the middle of technology manufacturers which needed to extend their sales volume and technology companies which sourced components from manufacturers that would work,  could be trusted, and then could be bought in volume to match expected market explosions.

As a middle player, they needed to “lock up” exclusive franchise agreements with the best known manufacturers while at the same time add to their capabilities with ties to second tier manufacturers which specialized in emerging new technologies.

Keeping a Pulse on Emerging Markets

It took resourceful 105 EEMA Marketing Athletes in technical sales capacities to meet with their customer technology companies (often Paradoxy-Morons) and offer technology support, feasibility assessments and establish sales distribution channels. 

They provided the missing marketing infrastructure working directly with their (potential) customer’s  103 PMCI Commercial Innovators with limited resources.

It was their job to intimately understand new disruptive innovations of their customers and propose how to take them to market in a way that leapfrogs established industry leaders.  Or, they establish new markets.

Pinch Points

The pinch points showed up between inside and outside sales efforts. In isolated sales offices throughout the region inside sales people fielded calls from customers, from their own technical sales people and from clients wanting to know prices, terms, discounts, availability for parts and components.  

The answers remained buried in manufacturers manuals.  And, of course SKUs didn’t match and the technology conversion hadn’t made things better and easier.  In fact inside sales people turned over at an alarming pace.

Consequences of Not Mastering Growth Crises

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

From High Turnover to Time to Mastery

My initial success happened when my team streamlined what had been a two week training conference for all new hires.

Wyle planned to grow in a cutthroat industry.  

When you’re on the hook to orient new internal sales and external sales people, you need to reference how great the opportunity is now and will be or else you experience high turnover rates.  

Which is what they already had.  If you fly in new hires from the field offices, pay for their hotel and food, while they endure the blah blah blah of their new company’s history over the course of two weeks, the costs keep climbing when those new hires figure enough out to say adios.  

But, that wasn’t the half of it.

We cut the time in half, identified the regional gurus who made sense out of clunky technology, turned them into trainers and mentors, and switched face-to-face time from classroom to practice session.

Experts in the Field, But Not at Each Office

We cut down the two week orientation process in half, we put a lot of nice-to-know stuff online, and focused on practice — sales calls, how to use the computer system, where to find tips and tricks, and we identified the best people in the field offices who knew how to get things done.  They taught and they became ongoing mentors.  

It was so successful that we created a problem when people, who had been hired a year ago, said they didn’t know the stuff the rookies had just learned.  And the mentors loved the recognition.

Professionalizing Human Resources with Specialists

The Vice President of Human Resources, my boss,  and I held several meetings once I signed on. He introduced the other HR people in compensation, recruiting and general administration.  He told me about where the regional offices were located.  How the distribution company operated.  

Kind of the typical onboarding stuff you’d expect.  

But not the one key bit of information — the strategy going forward.  I always determine how much leeway I have when I’m brought in to start up another training and organizational development department.

Neither the CEO nor the Chief Operating Officer told him.  They said he didn’t need to know.  Which meant, the whole Human Resources function he headed up was only transactional.

Closely Held Plans

Wyle planned to not only expand from the western region to become a national player, they figured if they represent the Motorolas and the Intels and all the tech manufacturers who need to grow their sale efforts, why not represent them in Europe?  

But two things operating in the background accounted for their top secret strategy.

The first turned out to be sad.  Our CEO suffered from a moderate form of multiple sclerosis and his symptoms started to show.  

The second resulted in attempts to acquire a European distribution company who also exclusively represented the Motorolas and Intels and all the tech manufacturers on their continent.

Instead we were acquired by Rabb Karcher — the European distributor. It boiled down to technology.  Rabb Karcher solved the language problems and the currency problems and operated at a much higher, what I would call organizational intelligence level.  

They mastered all the challenges Wyle hadn’t as they tried to grow nationally.  Rabb Karcher already had and they operated cross-borders.  So they were able to describe a more compelling case to the manufactures that both companies represented.

After the CEO Stepped Down

Karcher did have a much smaller distribution company with limited “manufacturing franchises” in the US.  It was located in San Diego.

The president moved into our Irvine headquarters.  To tell you the truth I thought he was better than the old regime — younger, and he had survived Raab Karcher’s management pressures in the US.  

Oh, and the inside sales and outside sales representatives loved the fact that he came up through the sales organization.

Sales Suffered from Delayed Marketing Communications

Wyle’s marketing function didn’t inform sales of their discounted offerings.  If they did, it was an afterthought.  

Let’s say one of your current or potential customers — an engineering company — operated at an accelerated pace and needed parts like yesterday.

Their purchasing rep gives you a call.  And, they tell you the specifications they need.  Normally, you’d compare potential manufacturers you represent to give them the best deal, then you give them the quote. 

And they tell you that couldn’t be accurate, because they heard you were running a special price that you didn’t know about.

Corporate Communications 

Even before the acquisition in the rapid growth period people in the field felt under trained and out of the loop.

The COO did the “Joe Show” on video and sent it to the regional offices. I brought in crazy creative Dave, from my Unisys days, who had been consulting in corporate communications.  

We expanded the content to include people we asked the offices to identify for the next edition and we highlighted some of the mentors.  So both things reinforced each other.

Recruiting Overlooked Sales Engineers

The joke told internally was “How do you tell who’s an engineer at a party?  They’re the ones looking at their shoes.  How do you tell who’s the sales engineer? They’re looking at your shoes.”

Let me set the scene — we, mostly they, interviewed successful sales engineers and discovered they weren’t the best and brightest of their classes in engineering schools.

So they were overlooked when all the other recruiters came on campus.  

Actually the campaign focused on socially-adept engineering students.  If they were in a fraternity or sorority, that was good.  If they happened to be the rush chair person that was better.  We simply invited them for pizza and beer when the recruiting team hit campus.  The team passed out a comic-graphic filled story about Wyle and why they could shine as a sales engineer.

We learned  they just had to know enough technical jargon to nod and turn the closing back to the sales people.

The graphic comic didn’t sit well with Wyle’s top dogs, and by then I could see the merger writing on the wall.  In fact, I always wished I recorded the announcement from the CEO circulated over group voicemail.

He announced the Rabb Karcher acquisition and his plans to step down, but also insisted it was all in Wyle’s best interests and nobody would be laid off.

Yeah, right.

Next up, Part Two when I describe how the heavy resistance to transitioning to continuous improvement with its emphasis on statistics was a lot tougher sale than I imagined.


Growth Stage Key Success Factor Leading to a Crisis New Success Key
Start Up Loosen  Leadership Tighten
Emerging Tighten Functional Loosen
Rapid Loosen  Autonomy Tighten
Sustained Tighten Repetition Loosen

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020


“4”  Steve Zahn, 51:When you are doing it your way, unselfconsciously and unapologetically yourself, you have no competition. No one can be you better than you can be you. Scorpio

I’m pretty sure this is the definition of being in the flow — peak performing as an athlete or musician or in any creative endeavor.

Random ones that make me want change my sign. 

“4”  Steve Howey, 42:You’ll find yourself mentally weaving an alternate version of things. Not all fantasy is escape. Sometimes it’s a creative way of understanding reality.” Cancer

My mind houses a flaw which causes me to search for the pun in what I read and a humorous alternative of what just came out in conversation.

“3”  Steve Carrell, 57; Steve Martin, 74; Steve Wozniak, 69: The guitarist can’t play with silk gloves on. Friction is what vibrates those strings. Don’t be afraid to dig into life with your nails. This day is waiting for you to give it a rhythm and sound.” Leo

Sure.  Friction and vibration.  Rhythm and sound, hmm … let me incubate for awhile on this TauBit of Wisdom.

“5”  Steve Greene, 34; Steve Guttenberg, 61; Stephen King,72:Study past successes and failures for the keys to victory. To skip the research phase of a project is to waste time, as there is no use in repeating what didn’t work before.” Virgo

Here’s my twist — do the 180 degree opposite as you pass through organizational growth transitions. 

“4”  Steve Kerr, 54:You were not born with a serene air of confidence, rather the aura is well-earned through the extensive planning and preparation you do long before the moment of truth is upon you.” Libra

Thanks for noticing.  Every time I scheduled a workshop to teach Executive MBA students, I finalized my materials days ahead of time, and practiced and practiced and practiced at least 5 times.  What I noticed was how easy it became to add nuance and humor throughout my delivery.

“3”  Steve Harvey, 62:People become associated with that of which they speak. You are drawn to intriguing facts, stories of warmth and kindness and descriptions of beauty. No wonder people feel elevated around you.”  Capricorn

Sure, that’s me alright. But during this pandemic can I really stake this claim for today?

“4”  Steve Jobs, (1955 – 2011): You’ll absorb some enthusiasm as you find yourself with bright, curious and passionate people. What you may not realize is how much you are rubbing off on them, too, in a very positive way.” Pisces

Maybe not today, but I’m reminded of positions and consulting assignments during which I had to pinch myself, because how wonderful it was to “play” with others.

What’s Going On

Literally Bottled and Set Adrift from KnowWhere Atoll 

    • @knowlabs followers of one or more of my 35 digital magazines organically grew from 4636 to 4733.




    • Saw the movie, didn’t realize that one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly — his detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch book series and Amazon Prime series — also wrote, “The Lincoln Lawyer” which I just finished. Gotta tell you I can’t not see his lead character (Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother) as anyone else but Matthew McConaughey. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by: Holiday Mathis – Creators Syndicate


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