Forget the hazmat suit. Just read these tips. Image courtesy of Tri-County Health Department, Englewood, CO.




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Karen Hochman, founder of THE NIBBLE™, has been a manager at Fortune 500 companies, mid-cap companies, small cap companies
and start-ups.



June 2005

Home / Manufacturers & Retailers


Rules of Company Survival

10 Tips That Can Make or Break You



In this era of mergers, downsizing, and rightsizing, the biggest names in the business may be gone next year. Combined with a scary paradigm shift—the wholesale transfer offshore of professional and executive jobs, following the manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the last 20+ years—it’s a wake-up call to many people who have enjoyed the American good life. More diligence is required to keep enjoying it.

While this is a huge subject to tackle, here our objective is to offer a checklist for how each of us can approach our Whether you work for a large corporation or a Mom & Pop, there’s a lot you can do to ensure both your company’s survival and your own future. Here, a combination of observations and “survival tips.”

Your Company


Understand Why You Are There. The company does not exist to support your lifestyle, help develop your career, or provide you with an stimulating learning experience and the opportunity to meet people. No one is owed a job or a paycheck.

  • The only reason a company exists is to make money for its owners, and at a certain rate of return that convinces them to keep the doors open rather than do something else with their time and money. If in the process it gives you a position with everything mentioned in the first sentence, consider yourself lucky indeed.
  • No matter what your position, you should always be thinking: How can we sell more? How can we serve our customers better? How can our processes be better? What can we do different and better than our competitors? What can we do to increase efficiency and/or save money?



Put The Company First. Pursuant to #1 above, your day should be spent focusing on doing your job as best it can be done, for all the hours you are paid to do it. If you need to read your home e-mail account or make non-business calls on company premises, do it during scheduled breaks, before the official work day starts and after it ends.

  • Not only does this keep you focused on what you’re paid to do; but people who are seen doing personal business at their desks, no matter how good their work is, telegraph that they are not dedicated to their work. You are entitled to a personal life—just not during business hours. That’s why one is called work time and one is called personal time.



Respect Every Position on the Team. While some positions are more easily filled than others, everyone’s job is important: from the person who delivers mail to the senior vice president. If they were not doing their jobs well, it would impact your own efficiency and effectiveness.



Your Supervisor


Chain of Command. Companies are like the army, in that your boss is your superior officer. Don’t go over the head of your superior or around him/her to get things done or pitch an idea: this is insubordination. Corporations are serious about respecting chain of command, and they have invested in your boss the authority over your unit.

  • If you have a boss who is difficult, unreasonable, incompetent—and there are many—you are in a tough situation. Read up on the topic: there’s a lot of advice out there. You’ll learn to appreciate when you have a boss who is reasonable and competent, even if he/she isn’t perfect.



Managing Up . There is only one person in the company you need to please: your supervisor. He or she, not the CEO, will write your performance appraisal, approve your salary increase, and hopefully give you a job reference two jobs from now (and for many jobs after that—what seems to be a sayonara parting when you move to your next job can turn out to be important career capital).

  • The only reason your job exists is to help your boss achieve his/her goals. He/she is responsible to make the numbers or other goals of the unit: his/her job is on the line to deliver. Your boss has decided that your position, and you in particular, are needed to achieve achieve those goals. If you are not sufficiently helpful, if you don’t make your boss’s life easier, he/she can decide that neither your position nor you are the right solution to get the work done.
  • It often doesn’t matter how popular you are with others, including senior executives, if your boss does not have a high opinion of you and your work. In some cases, another executive you have developed a relationship with may be able to offer you a job in his/her unit; but don’t count on it.



Your Work Ethic


Take Responsibility. You may not have authority for everything, but you have responsibility for everything. Whether or not it falls within your bailiwick, remember points #1 and 2, at the top. A chain, or company, is only as strong as its weakest link.

  • Inform your supervisor whenever you see something that is wrong, needs to be done, is a potential problem, or is a potential opportunity.
  • In fact, if your company has a bonus plan, a profit sharing plan, and/or you own stock, you should want to do whatever you can to maximize corporate earnings so that there’s more in the pot to share with you.



Be Proactive. The other side of the responsibility coin is taking initiative when nothing has been asked of you. Some people are idea people; others see things that need to be done and get them done. Just do it, suggest it, and bring it up again later if you think it’s important but people weren’t responsive the first time. Sometimes people are too busy with other things to appreciate or act on a good idea.

  • If you don’t have a weekly staff meeting, be sure to sit down with your boss once a month to discuss ideas and opportunities. It would be proactive of you to suggest a staff meeting for that very purpose!



Accept Responsibility. If you make an error or omission, admit to it. Everyone makes them: the only thing anyone expects is for you to fix it, learn from it, and hopefully not do it again.

  • Trying to shirk your mistake or your contribution to a problem via denial, pointing fingers, taking the “it’s not my job” approach, or doing anything other than acting like a responsible professional will kill your credibility with your supervisors faster than just about anything.



Don’t Gossip or Snoop. As much fun as it seems, especially as relief in a stressful work environment, no good comes of gossiping; and harm may come to you as a result. Today’s gossip spreader can just as easily be tomorrow’s gossip victim. It’s destructive to morale and workplace satisfaction. Do you want a part in that?

  • Don’t ever discuss personal salaries—yours or anyone else’s—or other confidential information. People doing the same job earn different amounts: it’s not unfair, it’s a fact of life. It has nothing to do with who works harder or does a better job, but how much someone was earning in a prior job and other factors like education and years of experience.
  • What the higher-paid person is earning today versus the lower-paid person has zero bearing on, or relationship to, who will be more successful in the company or in his/her career. Plus...more than a few people will inflate their compensation, and cause others great angst for nothing.



Communicate Often and Fully. You may be rushed, but don’t assume people will understand fragments of thoughts you send them via e-mail, voicemail, or Post-It®. Be explicit all the time and you will prevent both work mistakes and misunderstandings with colleagues.

  • Don’t let an uncomfortable work environment or annoying colleagues fester and impede your job satisfaction and productivity. If it’s a loud colleague, start with a soft approach, e.g., “You may not realize how sound carries over the dividers, but I thought you might want to know that everyone can hear your personal conversations.” If it’s something more challenging, or a physically uncomfortable work situation, speak with your supervisor. He or she should try to ameliorate the situation.
  • If you feel you have been slighted or overlooked by management—an assignment, promotion, office, or assistant you think should have gone to you was given to someone else—speak to your supervisor. There may be a good reason, it may be an oversight; and at any rate, you have an opportunity to explain your merit (and be sure there is quantifiable merit) and understand what you might expect down the road.



Remember that while you see things from your point-of-view, see them also from your supervisor’s and the CEO’s. Is the company riding a wave of success or is your lunch being eaten by the competition? While it’s easier to work at the former, the latter presents challenges that can be faced and conquered by a good team, working in tandem toward a common goal. If you’re part of that team, you can expect your share of the reward when the goal is achieved. Take a page from the book of Darwin: work hard, work smart, and both you and your company will not just survive but thrive.






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