This week, I answer questions from Wilhelm, who is squeamish about naming his company, Finola, who has a temp employee she can fire who can’t get the job done, and Brandon, revisiting a question about his doubts on his path through business he posed in Episode #10.
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Question #1: It has taken five years, but I have finally gathered enough equipment to run a full-service machine shop. I’m ready to turn my expensive hobby into a real small-business. Only, I am scared about what to name it. It would be simple to call it ‘Wilhelm’s Machine Shop,’ but I am afraid that would be too boring, but choosing the wrong name will tank the business before it even gets off the ground. Am I paranoid? How can I come up with a great name for my business? (Wilhelm)
Answer: Maybe you are paranoid. Maybe you are not. But choosing a good name is an integral part of the business launching process, without so much of the fear factor that seems to have you stuck. ‘Wilhelm’s Machine Shop’ is an excellent name to go with, as it describes what the business does and who probably owns it. You can do a lot worse. But if you think the name is not right–too bland, too boring, too whatever–you can call yourself whatever you want, assuming it is not the name of some other company. It can even be offensive and hard to comprehend, though it shouldn’t be. Its legal as long as it is not a blatant ripoff or meant to confuse your company with another then it is technically okay. However, just take some time to brainstorm plenty of different names, then do a Google search of your list to see what is already taken, both locally and nationally. Go with the name you resonate with most because you’ve got to love it if you are going to be ‘it.’ But it should be easy to recognize, spell, and remember. Do a trademark search then buy a relevant domain name. Then take a deep breath, and learn to live with the name.
Question #2: I work as the project manager for a small PR company in a mid-sized town. The company has a great reputation, so we have plenty of clients that use us, and plenty of up-and-coming talent that want to have our company’s name on their resumes. But we have a problem with a ‘millennial’ administrative assistant hired in by the owner. She is ‘family,’ and should only be in place for six months to cover for a worker on extended leave, but I can’t trust her to do her work by established company regulations. It is disrupting the workflow of the agency, but the family is proud to have her working in the business. That forces a shuffle of people working to compensate later in the process to deal with her early mistakes. She can’t be fired, and I’m too frustrated to mentor her to greatness, or at least adequacy. What do I do? (Finola)
Answer: Is your problem she can’t be fired, or you’re too frustrated to mentor her? I know both are serious conditions to your problem, so I am going to address them both, nut as two separate issues. Starting with your desire not to work with her where she is. If she really can’t be moved, you will need to remove yourself from any direct reporting role, assuming that is what she is for you. If she is not, despite you want to keep the ship upright, she not actually your problem, so vent your frustration to them and let them handle her, and keep them accountable to the rest of the team. If she is your direct report, like it or not, you’ve got to find some way to motivate her to do things the right way, let the chaos of her doing it the wrong way go on for the short period of time, or ship her to another role that puts her out of your direct responsibility. Now let’s use that to transition to the fact with she can’t be fired. Well, what if she could be fired from doing the job she was placed in? What if she could be moved to a department where she could do less damage? I’m not sure what part of the process she actually assists in, but it’s possible that she’s just not a good fit for that job, and can do a lot better working through another. Offering up a tour of the workstations to see if there is a better fit, and hopefully, a better personality fit with another employee. Find that spot, place her there, and find a way to get the admin work done by splitting work with whoever you have left or hit up the boss for a real temp. You might be surprised how happy the bosses will be to pay for another temp as long as their family member is doing a great job by whatever standard they have in their mind.
A Question Revisited: I’m a recent MBA grad who feels like I was sold a bill of goods when I chose the path of business and another one with the business I chose to work for. I have this expensive advanced degree that I need money to pay off, but the work I was given versus the work I was promised is mediocre. There is little movement within the firm, even though it bills internationally. The people at the top are doing great, but what I didn’t know going in was the bulk of the people in the middle stay in the middle for the duration of their careers, and the turnover at the entry level (where I am ) is brutal. There is no shot at a fast track here, and the slow and steady route might as well be torture. But if I stick around, because of the entry level turnover, I am almost guaranteed a spot stuck in the middle. I don’t know what my prospects would be if I jump ship, but I don’t see the potential I envisioned in staying here. Should I make a break for it, or hunker down and see what I can make of it here? (Brandon, Episode 9)
Answer: I was able to reach out to Brandon a few weeks ago, so I have an update on his story coming up. But let me revisit the question with a slightly modified answer. ‘How Useful Is An MBA’ comes pretty quickly in Google autocomplete. The top response is a selection from investopedia.com dated Aug 2, 2016, that reads, “An MBA is only worth the expense, time and effort when the graduate plans to work in a business-related field, in management, or as a company founder. For those working in other industries, unless they are in management or leadership roles, an MBA may not be useful. Moreover, not all MBA degrees are created equal.” I can attest to that, as I state in the show’s open I have an MBA, and its direct worth to my business has been, meh. The work I put in to earn it reinforced many of the thought and procedures I had for higher business functions. But for the most part, it is just a very expensive piece of paper that shows I can work through case studies and theories, which I already enjoyed doing before shelling out the cash for that very expensive piece of paper. Often, it is not the degree that gives worth, but the ‘brand’ where it originates, that being the name of the school, and the caliber of contacts you get from going through a cohort at a particular school at a specific time. In fact, the start of my MBA was pushed back until enough people were signed up to survive the 18 months of work, from 3 to 12. And that made a big difference in my pursuit, but there were no super corporate connections made from my endeavor, the real worth in my opinion for the MBA. So when I talked to Brandon, I found that the piece of paper worked to get the job he was pursuing, even if it was far from a dream, but the connection worked–for him. Two guys in his cohort had similar backgrounds, and they instantly clicked personality wise. Together, they are pursuing a side project while all are working their not so great jobs, so bills get paid. So for him, it was a pretty expensive networking exercise and test of his partners all wrapped up in one. Not necessarily the best use of time and money resources, but it is a common find from MBA candidates.