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Treff LaPlante

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Management Characteristics That Enabled 2009 To Be The Best Year

Technology and Management

I'm pleased to report that several of our customers have told me that 2009 was their best year ever. In fact, as a percentage of our customer base, the number of customers reporting a strong 2009 is probably very far ahead of the market in general. Here's the contrarian statement, though: Despite the apparent causality, I don't attribute that success to WorkXpress platform as a service (PaaS).

Rather, I think there are some common characteristics that managers who purchased WorkXpress tend to embody. I believe those characteristics lead them to make hundreds of decisions each week which, taken collectively, have led their businesses to record years in the worst of times.

I believe an analysis of the typical WorkXpress customer is illuminating in that it sheds light on characteristics we all should strive to possess: the characteristics of a successful modern manager.

First, some background:

  • Customer A is a light-manufacturer who builds each new project to specification. Much of its work involves complex bills of materials, lengthy sales cycles, multinational sourcing and much more. At the time it came on board with us, more than four years ago, it was complaining of general disorganization in various aspects of its sales and project-management processes. Since that time, it has completely automated most of its internal processes.
  • Customer B produces textiles. Because this customer's products are well-defined, its automation focus was strictly on sales. A couple of years ago, it developed tools that integrated telephony, e-mail, custom quoting and productivity reporting to make the job of its sales person as fast and efficient as possible. It uses automated workflow to ensure that the sales discipline desired by management is adhered to by even the newest employees. The next step is to extend its customer-relationship management tool to encompass manufacturing, purchasing and delivery.
  • Customer C manages personnel at hundreds of events each week throughout North America. The operational processes that lead to sourcing people throughout North America have been very labor intensive and riddled with human error and inefficiency. In the past year, this customer has implemented tools to automate much of these human processes, and is continuing to automate new aspects of business each month.

Now, back to those characteristics of the successful modern manager:

  1. They aren't afraid of technology. This doesn't mean they are in any way technology wizards - quite the opposite, in some cases. What it does mean is they are constantly scanning the technology landscape for new things that could help them.
  2. They are willing to be early adopters. This is different than No. 1 - it's more difficult. It's also where many of the real opportunities lie. If a manager is willing to adopt technologies still considered "on the fringe" by the mainstream, then they are taking a chance to gain a true competitive advantage that few others will have.
  3. They value automating everything - and increasing their payroll at the same time. These customers all have stated in some fashion that their goal to software automate every process, every piece of data and every nook or cranny of their business. And despite automating everything they possibly can, not a single one of them has reduced their payroll. In fact, in almost all cases, payroll has gone up.
  4. They embrace change. For these managers, change, whether internal or external, is an opportunity, not a setback. They seem to be constantly looking for opportunities to change or improve because these are the places where they will gain strides against their competition.
  5. They view change as a journey, not a destination.

A comfort with technology, I believe, is a key characteristic that ties together these highly successful modern managers. When they aren't personally very good with technology, they have at least one staff member who is. But they do strive to understand its benefits at a conceptual level, and believe in its ability to further their business to the point of investing resources into it. They don't view technology implementation as an end-goal, but rather as a constantly evolving journey. They set goals to make their company more technological then their competitors, and sell that advantage to their customers.

And apparently, their customers are responding in spades. Who would have thought 2009 would be the best year ever?

This was originally posted on the Central Penn Business Journal Gadget Cube.

More Stories By Treff LaPlante

Treff LaPlante has been involved with technology for nearly 20 years. At WorkXpress, he passionately drives the vision of making customized enterprise software easy, fast, and affordable.

Prior to joining WorkXpress, Treff was director of operations for eBay's HomesDirect. While there, he created strategic relationships with Fortune 500 companies and national broker networks and began his foray into the development of flexible workflow software technologies. He served on the management team that sold HomesDirect to eBay.

During his time at Vivendi-Universal Interactive, Treff was director of strategy. In addition to M&A activities, Treff broadly applied quantitative management principles to sales, marketing, and product line functions. Treff served as the point person for the management team that sold Cendant Software to Vivendi-Universal. Earlier positions included product management and national sales trainer for Energy Design Systems, an engineering software company. Treff began his professional career as a metals trader for Randall Trading Corp, a commodities firm that specialized in bartering and transporting various metals and coal from the then-dissolving Soviet Union.

Treff received his MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University.