Over the years, I’ve helped a number of companies successfully improve their sales compensation operations. I don’t know whether that type of work has spilled into my personal life or if I’m successful in this work because of my natural thought processes. Whichever came first, I now consider many things in everyday life in operational terms.
For example, I was recently painting some rooms in my house, and the entire process reminded me of what successful sales compensation administration entails. Here are four takeaways from my weekend work that you can apply to sales compensation administration:
- Get the tools ready. Painting a room involves getting all of the appropriate supplies: paint, brushes, rollers, trays, tape and drop cloths. These are the tools that I need to be successful. In sales compensation, your tools would typically be the sales performance management software for helping with the calculation and reporting, as well as plan design documents and your business rules.
- Prepare. I lightly sanded the walls, wiped them down, taped around doors, windows and the ceiling, and then laid down drop cloths. Preparation is as important as the actual painting. It ensures that you can paint quickly and efficiently. In the past, I’ve just started painting and had to repeatedly pause to clean up the paint drops on the floor, slow down around corners to avoid painting over something, etc. Similarly, sales comp operations function much more smoothly if you spend time preparing: Create standard operating procedures, think through how your processes will work and create operational calendars. This is the implementation of whatever solution you’re putting in place, yet I’ve seen many companies falter in the operations because of poor choices during the implementation stage.
- Focus on efficiency. Painting has a technique. A friend who stopped by told me that I should paint in a “W” shape to help spread the paint without leaving roller marks and to maximize coverage as quickly as possible. Sales comp operations have a similar objective: to complete the administration as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. Quality is paramount, but it would be easier (not necessarily easy) to deliver high quality if we had all the time in the world. Unfortunately, we have payroll due dates and pressure to get people their performance information and payouts as quickly as possible.
- Adapt on the fly. If something isn’t working while painting, you have to be prepared to adapt. In my case, I noticed that the roller was hitting a part of the ceiling that wasn’t protected by tape. I quickly laid down another line of tape that allowed me to paint right up to the ceiling. This is the equivalent of updating your system configuration and rules between plan periods (or even in the middle of the plan period) to include contests, tweak the plans or adjust reporting. Companies often must do this quickly because they still need to “keep the lights on.” Regular operations don’t stop because we’re making improvements to the system.
In all, operations—within which I include the process of making improvements to ongoing repeated processes—are all around us. Every time we do something with a recurring frequency, we have an opportunity to set up our processes to make our work faster and of higher quality.
I noticed it with painting. What recurring tasks in everyday life have you “operationalized”?