About Joel Quass

I started out a child just like everybody else. I did chores around the house, I mowed the lawn for my Mom and Dad and I enjoyed going to school (most of the time). At age 8 I started delivering a weekly newspaper and when I was 10, began caddying at a local golf course. I made $4 for carrying someone's clubs around the golf course, plus they would buy me a soda and a Snickers bar after the first nine holes. What a great job! Through high school I worked pumping gas and doing construction jobs. After high school I took a year off from school and managed a gas station and lived on the sailboat I purchased. The following spring I took the money I saved and sailed solo for 3 months up and down the inter-coastal waterway. I sold the boat that August and started college. I worked my way through college as the Assistant Manager and Projectionist at Cinema City Theaters in Tabb, Va. and later held paid positions in Student Government at Christopher Newport College, now CNU. One of my professors, Dr. Webb, made it possible for me to teach beginning sailing as an adjunct professor while attending college. Another great job! I have owned 5 businesses including being a professional chimney sweep. My brother Brian and I owned Quassword Cards TM, The Crossword Puzzle Greeting Card. We sold over 10,000 greeting cards in hospital gift shops around the country and were featured in the Spilsbury Puzzle Companies 1995 Holiday Gift Catalogue. My billing company in Lakewood, NJ. while not as successful, did generate some income, with only minimal expenses, over its short life. In Williamsburg, Virginia, I bought a vending business and built it from $90,000 in gross sales to over $250,000 when I sold the business two years later. I have had the good fortune to have also worked for several great companies including the now de-funct Best Products Co. Inc. The senior managers of that company, just as with my current employer, put a big emphasis on teaching. 15 years ago I put down the first notes for what would eventually become Good Management Is Not Firefighting. A year ago, I dusted off all the little pieces of paper, the notes I had been putting into my "Book Folder", and I began to write. The result has taken my career in a new direction and allows me to give back to others and to teach, just as so many took the time to teach me as I was growing up. My motto is "I love getting up in the morning, because I learn something new every day." I hope you will find useful information in my work. If you do, please share it with others.

Posts by Joel Quass:

What’s a good manager worth? 2

As a manager, what are you worth?

Much has been written about the value of CEOs. Companies justify huge bonuses and compensation packages to keep top talent from moving on. But what about middle management, department managers, shift managers? How can their worth be measured?

The National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper written by Edward P Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw and Christopher T. Stanton . It is titled The Value of Bosses. What I found exciting is they looked at value from a productivity standpoint.  There were three conclusions:

  1. The choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. The average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker
  2. A boss’s primary activity is teaching skills that persist.
  3. Efficient assignment allocates the better bosses to the better workers because good bosses increase the productivity of high quality workers by more than that of low quality workers.

Simply put, you can get more out of your better workers when they are led by a better boss. Better bosses teach. Better bosses inspire.

Better bosses make their employees more efficient. Michael Quinlan as President of McDonald’s Corporation said that “one of the most important aspects of his job-and one at which he spends approximately one-third of his time-was cutting red tape.

Productivity is a wonderful measure of worth. As a manager, you create value for your team (and for yourself) when productivity increases. Every one of us as managers should look at the value we are currently providing and make sure we are doing the things that will continue to show our worth as boss.

Don’t Practice Helicopter Leadership 0

“Whether you’re going to be a head coach, a leader of the team or the father of your own household, it is not about being friends; it is about actually being a leader.”

Phil Simms

What a great reminder of how a leader must act.

The article was featured in today’s Harvard Business Review. It was written by William Rhoden of the New York Times. Make sure you take a look as you decide how you will lead today.

Is Your Business an Elephant Graveyard? 1

If you ever watched Animal Kingdom on Sunday nights, you know all about elephants. The show opens with our host standing in the grasslands of Africa, wearing a Pith Helmet and carrying binoculars. As we peer through the bush we spot a huge male pachyderm. He’s 12 tons and has tusks the size of a play yard jungle gym. Our announcer says “Here we see an aging male elephant, once the dominant male, now heading slowing towards the elephant graveyard” And off he’d go, never to be seen again by the herd.

According to legend elephants seem to know when their time is up. They leave their group and head to the elephant graveyard. Human organizations exhibit the same traits.

All businesses have those employees that aren’t going to be promoted. They are in the last position they will have with the company and they know it. Yet, most still do a good job, are excited about coming to work and they add value. Then there are the elephants.

They will migrate to a certain position and settle in. They are there to live out their remaining days. Yet unlike the elephants in the wild, these have chosen your business as their final resting place. They are not giving 100%, they are not adding value, and they are not moving the organization forward.    

Now think about what you expect from your employees? Are your expectations different for elephants? “Oh, that’s just the way Roger is”. Or “I can’t believe Christine said that to the client, but then she’s always like that”.

As managers, we must recognize the elephants in our midst. We must steer them clear of the elephant graveyard and get them back to being a contributing member of the group. Not doing so creates a serious drag on moral, productivity and distracts those who do care. Real elephants know their time is up and leave the community. Your elephant wants more time without the responsibility that goes with it.

Take a look around. You may be surprised how many elephants you have. If you find yourself saying “That’s just the way Roger is”, then you might be allowing an elephant to turn your business into a graveyard.

 

The Three C’s of Interviews – Two land the interview, the third lands the job 5

Has this ever happened to you? You hear about a job and review the posting. The job description reads just like your resume. You have done everything that the company is looking for. Your references and your on-line presence confirm you are that person. You apply and get a call for an interview. The job seems destined to be yours! But something goes a little sideways during the actual interview and two weeks later you learn they hired someone else. What happened?

Employers really are only looking for three things.  The first two are what get you into their office for the interview. The third is what actually gets you the job. 

The Three C’s of Interviews are:

  1. Capability
  2. Character
  3. Compatibility

First, they want to know if you can do the job. Some major employers now use keyword software to sift through on-line applications looking for specific skills. Make sure you read the posting completely and include references to the exact skills being advertised.

Second, employers want someone they can trust.  Be sure to coach your references so they know what position you are applying for. Remind them of specific projects that you were involved in so they have a positive story to tell about your abilities. And review your on-line presence. Know what an employer will see when they Google your name.

The third C is the hardest to measure. Before the interview make sure you have done your homework about the company, the industry and the major players in the organization. As you enter the building, the office or the conference room, you must be observant. Look at the posters and pictures on the walls. How are the employees interacting? Are there clues you can pick up about the culture?

Years ago I had an interview for a management position.  The Executive I was to speak with was seated at his desk. Behind him was a huge photo of a sailboat. I was the Commodore of our sailing team in college and had lived on a sailboat for a year between high school and college. It was very easy to find a mutual interest that showed the interviewer I was compatible. Conversely, at another company the poster behind the interviewer said “we are going to have a sales contest, the winner gets to keep their job”. That was a very different kind of interview.

In the end, you can feel pretty confident that you have gotten past the first two C’s when they call you for an interview. Your job during the interview is to make them “C” you fitting in. Do that and you will be sitting in a new hire orientation for your new job.

The 9 Hour, 12 minute and 36 second challenge 1

How do you spend your workday? On average, a full-time American worker spends 9 hours, 12 minutes and 36 seconds working and commuting. Do you enjoy what you do? Can you honestly say “I can’t believe they are paying me to do this?

I spent a summer during college working for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. My job was to collect water samples in the Chesapeake Bay. I would tow an 18 foot Grady-White motor boat with twin Mercury outboards to different rivers that feed into the Bay. I would then follow the incoming tide, stopping to take water samples at designated intervals. One overcast day I saw two water spouts dancing around the mouth of the York River. I saw magnificent sunrises, sunsets and met interesting people at every marina I stopped at. “I couldn’t believe they were paying me to do what I would have done for free”.

Ok, you’ve got me. Having a summer job and “working for a living” is not the same thing. But, the closer you can get to that feeling, the more satisfaction you will get from your 9 hours, 12 minutes and 36 seconds.

Five Reasons To Go After Your Goals 3

“Just keep moving forward and don’t give a sh#$ about what anybody thinks. Do what you have to do for you.”
Johnny Depp

The passing of Labor days means the summer is over and it’s time to get down to work. With only 119 days left between now and the end of the year, what do you want to accomplish?

Do you want to find a new job? Maybe you just want to find a job. Do you want a promotion, a raise? At home are you looking for a deeper relationship with your significant other? Whatever your goal, use today as a launching point.

Here are five things to keep in mind when pursing your goal:

  1. You must write it down. If you can’t see it, feel it and read it out loud, you’ll have a hard time achieving it.
  2. You must make it very specific. The more detail you can give your goal, the more attainable it will be.
  3. You must make it realistic. Most of us would like to earn a million dollars a year and having that as a goal would be exciting. But is it realistic for where you are right now?
  4. You must believe in your goal. Johnny Depp’s quote reminds us to do what we believe is right, not what others think is best for us.
  5. You must take action towards your goal. Napoleon Hill said a goal without action is just a dream.  You must take steps every single day towards your goal.

As sad as it maybe to see summer end, it opens new doors for us. Decide what your major focus, your goal will be for the fall and go after it with everything you’ve got. You’ll be surprised where you will be at year’s end.

Where did everybody go? 5

Labor Day Holiday

The last week of “summer” is usually marked by a lack of productivity. As the Labor Day sales ads hit the airwaves, people who have not taken a vacation jump ship and head for the beach.  Many have already taken this week off, knowing that their plates will be full after Labor Day.

There are many signs that this week is not about work. On a Macro-scale, volume on the NYSE drops significantly. This year is no exception. On a micro-scale, many of my Facebook friends are posting vacation pictures. Re-tweets to my Twitter posts are down this week. On LinkedIn, there are very few new connection updates being posted. Traffic to my blog is down for the first time this year.

I have not joined the ranks of the vacationers yet. But I hear the weekend calling and I will soon yield to its call. If you don’t hear from me until Tuesday, you will know why.

Enjoy the holiday!

Four ways a new job is like Back-to-School 0

Back to school cartoon

Going back-to-school is a lot like starting a new job

When you begin a new job, it’s a clean slate. Just like the first day of a new school year, everything is before you. The opportunities are endless. Then comes:

  1. The first pop quiz (A question from your boss about how you would handle something)
  2. The first written test ( You must write the proposal to land  the Attwood Sewing Machine account)
  3. The first report card (Your 90 day review can be nerve-wracking even if you know you’re doing a good job)
  4. Parent/Teacher Night ( Ok, your job won’t have that, but you may be invited to social functions that your significant other is expected to attend)

Have a plan for your new job, set your own expectations. You will be better prepared for the first pop quiz and everything that follows.

Parents? Back to School List? Here Are Four Things College Freshman Need Most 1

So you’ve bought the clothes, the sheets (custom length so you can’t buy them off the rack), the college required laptop and the meal plan. You’ve packed change for laundry, filled out the dorm surprise package card from the university and made your hotel reservations for the big trip out to drop your freshman off. All set, right?

Here are four additional things you should put on your student’s “back to school” list:

  1. Remind them to follow the rules. If a class starts at 10am, the professor expects them to be there at 10am. It is now their responsibility, not yours, to get up in time to get to class.
  2. Remind them to break the rules. Buckminster Fuller had a quote about how one sometimes must create a new paradigm if the old one doesn’t work. Then there’s “Girls who behave rarely make history”.
  3. Take notes, write things down. College will be different from high school. Let me say that again, college will be different from high school. If the expectations are not clear ahead of time, it could be Thanksgiving before your student knows there’s a building on campus full of books; insiders call it “the Library”. Mid-terms for freshman can be a real wake-up call.
  4. Expect to learn – College is a huge emotional undertaking. Not having clear expectations about the outcome cheats the student of opportunities to make connections that are meaningful. As early as elementary school, when my kids went out the door to school I’d remind them to “get their money’s worth” and to “make sure they teach you something”.

As you send your kids off, please add these reminders to the list. If your student really applies all four, she or he will get so much more out of their college experience. And in four years, you can proudly display your Parent of a University Graduate Coffee Mug.

Why I say The Boss Is Not Dead 1

“The Boss” is not dead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boss Is Dead, Long Live the Boss

Knowledge@Wharton casts a questioning eye at the hype surrounding bossless offices. On the one hand, says Wharton professor Adam Cobb, hierarchy-free environments are “a very democratic way of thinking about work…Everyone takes part in the decisions.” More so, “the people doing the actual work probably have a better sense of how to get it done than their bosses do.”

On the other hand, an office with no boss or manager overseeing, the workflow can be disastrous. Cobb cites an academic paper that examined a small company whose owners let the employees take the reins. “Over time, the workers became more oppressed than when the bosses were there. Everyone became a monitor, constantly checking up on their fellow employees, even setting up a board to track what time people came into work and when they left.”

At a minimum, Cobb says, bosses do provide one valuable attribute: “They are a common enemy. Workers know the opposition. When employees become self-managed, it’s hard to tell if you are all working together, or if everyone is working against you.”

Having been in management for over 35 years, I never thought of myself as the enemy. My job has always been to support those that work for me, making sure they have the tools they need to do their job effectively. My job largely revolves around teaching. Employees become better when they understand the why behind what they do. Once that’s clear, they can offer innovation that increases productivity.

Sure, over the years I have had employees write one or two things about me on the bathroom stalls, but that just told me my specific message was getting across. I believe almost every employee wants to do the right thing. I must help those that do not understand what is expected to  see clearly what they need to do. If I do my job by teaching, coaching and following up with the employee, then I have given them the tools to be successful. The responsibility is theirs and the consequences to them are based on their decisions and their actions.

Several months ago, I wrote a blog post titled Ladder vs. Jungle Gym – Is there room for a leader anymore? As the author above points out, “with no boss or manager overseeing, the workflow can be disastrous”. Who takes responsibility for the direction of the project? Who takes the responsibility when things go wrong? To me, a bossless office sounds like a committee.

A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour. ~Elbert Hubbard

The Boss is dead? I strongly believe otherwise. Management and Labor have a common link and that is the work to be done. Someone must do the work and someone must make sure it is done correctly.

It is always my employee’s who succeed when the work is done correctly. It is always me that accepts responsibility when the work is not correct. My role as a manager makes their role as a worker possible, but more important, because there are workers, I have a job.