Make sure the right person is assigned to the right task:
You have to know what each person’s strengths are and make sure you take advantage of that innate ability they have. In 2011 I had made my top performer the training manager. Oh boy, was that a mistake. It took a few months to realize just because someone is good at something does not make them a great teacher. We had retention issues from the get-go and the people that passed our training were performing worse then the previous trainer I had. This was a big lesson I learned because not only did I lose the previous trainer I had but I also lost my top performer because he thought it was a demotion to go back on the phones, which is where he performed at his best.
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mo Amin.
Mo Amin is the CEO of Exclusive Calls, a telemarketing call center used by hundreds of companies from mom and pop startups to Fortune 500 companies. A first generation immigrant from Iran, Mo was an entrepreneur at a young age and understood the value of hardwork. A graduate of UCI and an extensive background in sales thereafter, Mo came across a unique opportunity in 2008 and ended up buying a failing call center with the hopes of turning it around. But he did more than just turn the business around, Mo decided to re-look at the process of recruiting and hiring. Deep diving into the process of training and managing, he created an extensive system that allows companies access to fully trained and managed appointment setters that work exclusively for their sales team. In essence, he reinvented the art of cold calling, creating a competitive but healthy atmosphere for smart, driven and outgoing people to succeed.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am a first generation American, my family immigrated to the US from Iran looking for a better life. In Iran my father was a successful businessman running a printing house that he built from the ground up but he gave it all up to bring his family to America. Because we left everything behind, funds were tight growing up and at an early age I became an entrepreneur. My first memory of starting to work was when I wanted a pair of Jordan sneakers and decided I had to do whatever I needed to earn enough money to purchase them. I started a lemonade stand, washed cars etc. By 15 I was working various jobs in order to pay for a car that I desperately wanted. In my early twenties, I attended UCI, the first in my family to go to university and when I graduated I started working in sales and continued to side hustle selling phones. I worked my way up and found myself the VP of Business Development for a small start up that sold dialer technology to businesses that had inhouse appointment setters and or small centers. The number one reason for clients to cancel the service was because our clients would either fire their internal appointment setting staff or the appointment setters would disappear, and they did not want to pay a monthly fee for a system they were not going to be using since they did not have a staff member to use it. One of our earliest customers hadn’t paid their bill for several months and it was someone that I had enrolled when I was a salesperson. in my attempt to try to reach this individual I got rerouted to the actual call center where a lovely young gal answered the phone and told me how the owner of the company had disappeared and she ended up putting the leaf the loans and everything for the business under her own nam. She unfortunately was in a substantial amount of debt with the contracts under her name. In that moment I made a decision because in my gut I felt like it was an opportunity to not only help her out but to be able to fill in the gap of all the customers for the company I was working for, that were canceling their dialer subscription, because they lost a staff member. This is how Exclusive Calls got started.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In 2011 when I was going through the hardest time of my life and lost everything, my parents also ended up having to claim bankruptcy and moved back to Iran with nothing. On an international flight, I picked up a book in the airport called No Excuses by Brian Tracyand obsessively got into the idea of goal making. I made some big audacious goals on that flight including buying my parents a house, a car and everything big they lost during the recession + to buy myself a home as well as a vacation home and to have at least one fortune 500 client at the call center. 2 years later, I had bought my parents a house and a car and shortly after was able to fulfill all the other goals as well. I am a big believer in goal setting and it all started on that flight 9 years ago!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I would have to say that a hard mistake I made early on was hiring a childhood friend that was in a bad financial situation and I wanted to help him out. Soon after, I realized that he was actually trying to take business from me. What’s funny about it is that he had done something similar a few years earlier and I should have seen it coming. It’s not that hiring friends is always a bad idea, but hiring friends and family often allows you to overlook flaws or lead with your heart rather than your head and in business you always have to keep your head in charge.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?
I totally agree with that. When I look back on my own career path and think about what I was unhappy about in past jobs, it was that I was unhappy about the lack of recognition and respect I was getting from my managers. A lack of appreciation and recognition is so often the reason that employees leave. At Exclusive Calls we keep an open line of communication so that everyone feels they can bring ideas to the table, talk about frustrations and how to make the workplace better. I think treating everyone like a partner is important, because without my staff, there is no company. I don’t ever want to be a dictator and I think that is how we not only retain our employees, but our employees actively recruit their friends and family. Truly caring about your employees will get them to work the hardest and put their whole effort into the job because it feels good to be recognized and appreciated.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
While we have over 300 employees, we break everyone into teams of a maximum of 16 members. Anymore than that and people start to just feel like numbers and like they don’t have a voice or their work doesn’t matter. In these carefully curated teams we can communicate better and create a motivating energy. We also use alot of technology to ensure that everyone is in sync and can easily communicate with each other, their clients and find information fast and efficiently. Lastly, we make sure that everyone knows what they should be focusing on so we don’t have people overlapping roles and wasting time. Everyone wants to feel in charge of their own tasks, so by mapping out what each person’s tasks and role is, we allow them to take control and that breeds confidence and motivation!
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
1. Make sure the right person is assigned to the right task:
You have to know what each person’s strengths are and make sure you take advantage of that innate ability they have. In 2011 I had made my top performer the training manager. Oh boy, was that a mistake. It took a few months to realize just because someone is good at something does not make them a great teacher. We had retention issues from the get-go and the people that passed our training were performing worse then the previous trainer I had. This was a big lesson I learned because not only did I lose the previous trainer I had but I also lost my top performer because he thought it was a demotion to go back on the phones, which is where he performed at his best. I eventually promoted one of our team members who I realized that team members were reaching out to with questions and she really had the talent to teach.
2. Be specific with your hiring manager and HR in what type of culture and organization we want to build:
I believe a company is only as good as the people that work for it. I don’t think everyone should be the same but I do believe that the people you hire are not looking to just get a paycheck but rather be part of something bigger. When you hire people who live life with the cup half full then they will always be able to find the positive in every negative situation. By making sure your HR knows the type of people you are looking to have as a part of the company then managing is easier. I put a majority of my organization’s success because we hire slow but we fire quickly, the best part is we don’t ever have to fire anyone because our HR and hiring team there have time to really get to know the person beyond a resume and a couple of interviews. We try to learn about them and how they live life and what they do to see who they are outside of work. In the beginning when I was doing the hiring , I hired quickly because I needed staff, however my company was not growing at that time because of this. We had an unhappy environment with lots of negative energy and that led to unhappy customers that would cancel.
3. Be open to feedback
Without creating a space where everyone’s thoughts and opinions matter you end up having staff that can start becoming demotivated because they feel like they can’t make a difference. When your team knows that what they say matters and there is a possibility that they can make a change to the company to make the company better they will feel a part of the company’s DNA. Every Friday we have feedback day and we have our team leaders ask their team about any ideas of how to make anything better. Majority of our changes in the company have come from the bottom up.
4. Set Clear Goals and Timelines
Don’t be passive aggressive, don’t assume. Always set clear goals and timelines, in writing. This way there is absolutely no way that anyone can get confused or say “ I thought you meant …” My company really started growing in 2016 when I started implementing this with my team. I contribute this as one of the reasons Exclusive Calls had a big spurt of growth starting in 2016. What I have learned throughout the years of building this business is that two people can have a conversation but both people might be assuming something slightly different. When both parties write out what the clear goals and timelines are for each project it brings the percentage of error below 1%.
5. Be happy, be excited about life and work and make sure your energy is felt by your team
Energy is everything. Your team will feel your energy and will replicate your energy so it is extremely important to be in a positive state of mind when talking to your team. Having a routine, whatever it might be, from jumping jacks, to saying affirmation aloud to get yourself in the right mindset is a must. We all have met people that we gravitate towards and people that we can’t wait to get out of their presence. Being that person that people want to gravitate towards is who you want to be and you will influence your team to be that way with their team. Become the fuel of energy for your team so when you feel like it’s running low you fill them back up. We used to have office politics years ago and honestly office politics can cause a lot of drama. People have to talk about something, it’s the way people bond, but ever since we have created a space for always finding the positive in every situation the office politics is dead. Good energy makes everyone want to do better and help each other out.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Make sure you hire the right person for the right position and make sure that the person coming in fits the company culture. When you have a good team that is excited to be there and managed well, they will thrive and therefore your company will thrive. Also, look out for star players that want to go above and beyond and reward them for a job well done, whether it be a bonus, a day off or a chance at a position they have been wanting. Keeping enthusiastic great employees is the name of the game!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If i could personally inspire a movement, it would be to say hello to strangers and be kind. Everyday when I wake up, I think about everything I am grateful for in my life even if it’s just that I’m alive. Everyday you are alive, you have an opportunity to recreate yourself and change your life. I have been very low in my life and when people are kind, smile and say hello it can change your mood and in the right moment it can change your trajectory.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
So I created this quote, but it’s basically a mashup of motivational books I have read over the years —
“No Excuses, if you’re going to do something, whatever that may be, give it your all, where your focus goes energy flows”
When I was on the verge of bankruptcy and in massive debt, I was desperate and looking at jobs in the newspaper and they were low tier and only paid $8-$9/hour and my Dad sat me down and told me that I was young and smart and needed to try to get my call center business up and running and put my all into it. That first motivational book I bought in the airport all those years ago called No Excuses rang so true to not only what my dad said but to how I wanted to start living my life. I decided from that point on that whatever I do, I am going to give 100%- whether it’s my relationship, my job, a hobby- I don’t want to do anything unless I give it my all. That mentality is what got me to where I am today and it is that same quote or mantra if you will that I continue to live by.