By Prof. Vicente Falconi, FALCONI’s Founding Partner
In the early 70’s, I went to Goiás and took advantage of a weekend to visit a childhood friend who lived in a small town in the countryside. He was an engineer for a company and lived in a wonderful house on an eight thousand square meter plot of land. In addition to the house, the company gave him two maids and a gardener, and they were responsible for all the maintenance. Water, electricity and the telephone were free. They had an excellent school for the kids and a wonderful club that resembled those seen in movies that show the clubs that were built for the English in their colonies. It was enough to make anyone envious. There could be no better company to work for!
About 5 or 6 years ago, I met this friend again in the middle of Avenida Afonso Pena, in Belo Horizonte. After the initial greetings, comments about gray hair (we are now both well over 60) and exchanges of news about families and old comrades, he got straight to the point: “Old friend, you’re going to have to get me a job!” During that time getting a job was “mission impossible”. I mentioned these challenges to him, but he insisted, invoking our old friendship. I asked him what he had learned in his life. Do you speak other languages? No. Do you have experience in sales? No. Do you have basic computer skills? No. It was a series of No’s. He had worked for twenty-eight years at the same table and in the same chair. His company went bankrupt, as was expected, because a company only reflects its adaptation to the world through the preparation and performance of its employees.
I went home impressed by this fact, but to be honest I soon forgot about the problem because my mind was full of other problems. The following Saturday morning, I was in my kitchen at home having breakfast when the phone rang. It was him: “Did you manage to find a job for me?” I answered with the truth: “I have not even touched on the subject, my friend.” Then he startled me with his answer: “You’d better hurry, because I’m having a hard time feeding my family.” I had to sit down to finish the conversation because I was “shaken up” (how could a person at this stage of his life be in this situation?). Well, today he’s a stockman for a friend of ours, and according to this friend, a lousy stockman.
Life does not wait for anyone. In today’s world, having diploma no longer guarantees a good life. Changes happen very fast and therefore learning must be continuous. Every day that is lost is irretrievable. Each one of us must stay up-to-date daily and try to keep in-shape according to the demands of the market as if we were going to “lose our job” tomorrow.
Every year, a national magazine promotes a contest entitled “The best company to work for”. I’m curious to check the balance sheet of some of them; they are not always cases of financial success. Most of them make a profit, but destroy value.
So I ask myself: “What is a good company to work for?” I am convinced that it is one that challenges the employees at all times, one that has “World Class” results. When a person is challenged to achieve results that have never been achieved before, they seek the necessary knowledge from books, technical articles, courses, help from consultants, visits to other companies, etc. They seek this knowledge and end up acquiring the skills needed for every situation; this is what keeps them capable to deal with and up to date with the market. This is what the Japanese call “The Concept of Growth of the Human Being”. A good company, like a good school, must be one that is “strict” and where the professors demand a lot. At the beginning everyone complains, but in the long-run everyone is grateful. My life experience has shown me that a “good” company is not always the best place to work. In fact, everyone should be “uncomfortable” with the difficult goals to achieve each year. This is the great driving force of true learning. I do not know of any learning process that is not a painful process.
Managing effectively means achieving goals (or solving problems, which is the same!). The goals set should be difficult enough to cause discomfort, but at the same time they should be feasible. We have to always compare ourselves to the best in the world and the argument should always be this: “If someone has already gotten there, why can we not get there and eventually surpass it?” We have to have a mindset and attitude of excellence. This good management leads to employee growth, as everyone has to “suffer” to learn what is needed so that results can be achieved.
The other day, in a specialized national magazine, there was an article about a great Brazilian company and its work methods. This company demands a lot from its employees and maintains a very cheerful, laid back but at the same time very competitive environment with overwhelming goals. The company provides all the necessary resources to achieve these goals, pays bonuses to the top performers as well as offering stock options. The employees of this company are constantly sought after by other companies, because the market knows that these people are “beasts”, they have absorbed a culture of constant dissatisfaction and know how to transform this into results. Employees who stay in the company for a long time retire set for life. Those who do not adapt to the pace leave. The company is a champion in achieving results, has one of the highest value-added rates in the market, its shares are highly sought-after on global stock exchanges and it has become a great multinational corporation, a true source of pride for the country. In my opinion “this” is a good company to work for.
Which company would you prefer for you or for your children?
Published on Jan. 10, 2017, on LinkedIn Pulse.