Up Your Business - July - 2016

Payoffs: Everybody Wants One

Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about real business and life challenges.

At this year’s Powertrain Expo, I’m presenting a workshop entitled Pea Soup: The Cure for Entrepreneurial Split Personality Disorder. I’ve compiled some practical tools to conquer the two-hat challenge that I wrote about in the May 2016 issue. These tools will help you take your company exactly where you want it to go. You’ll learn the secrets for managing things and leading people.

This month’s article discusses another P-word: Payoffs. Payoff is a key ingredient in the “Pea Soup” recipe for entrepreneurial leadership. While the term payoff can have negative connotations and conjures up feelings of underworld connections or bribes, its meaning for this article is broader and more honorable.

Does Everyone Really Want a Payoff?

Yes, everyone really wants a payoff. And I’d go as far as saying everyone needs a payoff. But payoff means different things to different people and under different circumstances. Let’s look at some examples.

The word payoff immediately elicits thoughts of money, and yes, money is the most common form of payoff: Paychecks, bonuses, prizes, profits, etc., are all types of financial payoffs. But there are many other forms of payoffs. Let’s look at just three examples.

  1. Psychic income is the good feeling you get when you do an outstanding job. It’s generally accompanied by some form of external acknowledgement or praise, but it can simply be the internal satisfaction that comes from a job well done… self praise, so to speak.
  2. Positive strokes are another form of payoff. Similar to psychic income, these are the praises, awards (not rewards), and public appreciation you get. Positive strokes can come from your employer, your customers, your employees, your peers, your industry, your community, and so on. It’s not unusual for someone to work harder and perform better in pursuit of positive stokes than for a bonus or bigger paycheck. Be generous with showing appreciation and giving praise.
  3. Another form of payoff comes when we celebrate the achievement of a goal. This is hopefully a shared celebration with all the participants involved in reaching the goal. It’s important to include everyone involved whenever it’s appropriate. For example, if you’re celebrating the completion of the construction and grand opening of a new facility, it’s appropriate to include stakeholders, team members, suppliers, customers, contractor(s), lender(s), community, etc.

But if you’re celebrating the accomplishment of a sales, production, or profit goal, it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate to include customers or others who aren’t intimately involved in, or directly benefiting from, the internal financial affairs of the business itself.

Radio Station WIIFM

WIIFM is an acronym for the question, “What’s in it for me?” Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, you’re motivated by the answer to this question. It doesn’t matter what fuels your passion and lights your fire; even the most noble of pursuits has a payoff. Benevolence provides a psychic payoff. Even martyrdom has a payoff or there’d be no martyrs. Everyone does whatever they do for a payoff of some kind.

In my previous article, Let’s Go Fishing, I suggested that your passion influences your vision for the future and ultimately shapes your purpose. I also proposed that you can enroll members of your team in sharing your passion by directly or indirectly aligning their passions with yours. If you missed that article, go back and read it in connection with this one.

It’s ideal to achieve alignment of passion, vision, and purpose, but, in the real world, there are going to be times and circumstances in which you’ll need to enlist others to accomplish objectives that aren’t related in any way to their personal passions. In those instances, you need to answer their WIIFM question. And to do that, you’ll need to figure out which form of payoff is important to them.

Similar to finding their passions, it requires the investment of time to build relationships with them. The amount of time can vary, but if you just pause and reflect on things you already know about them, you’ll often figure it out.

Sometimes it’s difficult to start a conversation about feelings and values. So, in no particular order, here are some conversation starters to help guide you to the answer to WIIFM for them. For legal reasons, unless they bring it up, don’t discuss religious or political interests.

  • I just wanted to sit down and talk to you about a couple of things. Don’t worry, nothing’s wrong; I just want to get a better idea about how we might make your job more satisfying for you.
  • What do you like best about working here?
  • What’s one thing that would make your job more (satisfying, fulfilling, fun…)?
  • This might sound like a crazy question, but besides getting a paycheck, is there any other reason you choose to work with our company?
  • What types of things do you like to do outside of work… you know: evenings, weekends, and holidays? Which of these is your favorite?
  • What types of family activities do you like to do?
  • Are you involved in any groups, clubs, or ____?
  • Is there anything we could do that would have a positive impact on your life outside of work?

By the way, you can use this same process to find the hot buttons with suppliers, bankers, customers, community agencies, wholesale accounts, shops that refer or sublet jobs to you, and anyone else you want to enlist to help achieve your goal. They all want and need payoffs, too.

Once you’ve determined the type of payoff that’ll most likely fit the bill, take some time to think it through and put together a clear proposal that details expectations, objectives, and, specifically, what the payoff is for them.

Now put on your leadership hat and sell the plan to them. It’s normally best to start off with what’s in it for them and work your way back to what you want to accomplish and why it’s important to you to accomplish it. Remember, unlike in Let’s Go Fishing, this is for people who don’t or aren’t likely to share your passion. In this case, the payoff replaces shared passion, and, in essence, the payoff becomes your mutually shared passion.

Some Real World Examples

A general repair shop owner recently shared this unique situation with me: He had a friend who retired from a successful career as an airline pilot. Prior to becoming a pilot, he graduated with a degree in automotive engineering and had been a motorhead since he was a teenager.

The fellow asked if he could work at the shop as a diagnostic specialist. But he didn’t want to get paid. In fact, he told the shop owner that if he paid him, he wouldn’t cash the paychecks. He just wanted to do what he loved: diagnosing car problems.

They ultimately agreed to an arrangement that provided free car service and repairs for life in lieu of pay. I don’t know all the other details, so don’t ask me how they worked around the regulatory issues. The point is, for the retired pilot, his payoff was simply being able to pursue his passion.

Another example is with older adults who’ve retired or been forced to retire early and want to supplement their incomes by doing something that doesn’t include the phrase “welcome to Walmart.”

Currently, an individual drawing Social Security earlier than full retirement age can only earn $15,720 per year without being penalized. This is just $7.56 an hour over a 40-hour week. But you can juggle hours and hourly pay to come up with an arrangement that keeps them under the $15,720 annual cap.

Others in similar circumstances might be interested in having access to health insurance benefits, because they don’t get Medicare until they’re 65.

We found that these types of individuals worked well in positions not directly related to production functions. For instance, at one point, we had a bookkeeper, a porter, and an outside salesperson on our payroll for the then-prevailing Social Security maximum. They were thrilled to have their respective positions, and they were actually more reliable than others who’d held the jobs before them. They were also great team players and terrific sources of wisdom and suggestions from their experiences.

Obviously I’m not suggesting you staff your entire shop with this strategy. My point is that each of these folks needed a payoff other than a big paycheck, and mutually rewarding employment arrangements were achieved.

Your Business Needs A Payoff, Too.

What’s in it for the business? Can a business be successful if payoff is what drives it? In light of my openly customer-centric business philosophy, my answer may surprise you: Yes; absolutely!

Just like people, businesses need a payoff. But remember, just like individuals, the payoff for your company comes in different forms. And while a company can’t stay in business without paying its bills and making a profit, there are other forms of payoff that are only possible as a result of operating profitably: supporting causes, giving scholarships, providing security for your team members, and more.

Without profit, psychic income isn’t possible to sustain. But profit isn’t a dirty word. It doesn’t mean the company isn’t customer centric. It’s been proven time and again that customer-centric companies are more profitable. That’s because profit is the natural consequence of putting people first. Hmmm — people — another P word for our Pea Soup recipe… imagine that! When you think about it, without people, we can’t make the soup and there’d be nobody to enjoy it.

In conclusion, I believe it’s always best to build a team that shares your passion, vision, and purpose by aligning their passions with the needs of the business. But, when that isn’t a good fit for one or more of your team members, don’t give up on them: Just tap into what’s important to them and give it to them as their payoff. Seems like it’s good to pay off people, doesn’t it?

Your Payoff

Would you like to learn more ways to use passion and payoff to influence and lead people to accomplish your goals? You can learn that and a whole lot more by attending this year’s Powertrain Expo over the last weekend in October. Your payoff is waiting for you to claim, plus you get to spend Halloween in Las Vegas… does it get any better than that?

I hope to see you there.