EWYK​ – The Antidote to Avoid The Entitlement Culture Then And Now

EWYK - The Antidote to Avoid the Entitlement Culture Then and Now - Charles Wang

It was 1994. I was employed, but unhappy with my inside sales job at a small technology company in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sitting in my parents’ house one day, I noticed a job opening in the paper at Computer Associates (CA); a company founded and led by the notorious Charles Wang. Without knowing anything, I spruced up my CV to look like I had enterprise experience (which I didn’t), and then used a fax machine to apply.

I got lucky. A woman named Jocelyn Farina who headed up the sales region asked me in for an interview. It didn’t take long for her to realize I didn’t really have a clue what CA did, let alone, have the kind of experience they wanted. Our exchange, however, gave me the opportunity to listen. Just as I was getting very excited about the opportunity, she pulled a halt to the interview with the usual, “don’t call us, we’ll call you”; adding in, “we have several candidates in the lobby with way more experience.” $#&@! – I was about to lose my only chance. I responded without thinking, “ Jocelyn those other candidates have been doing the wrong things for 20 years. Let me get prepared, and then present a proper proposal on what I can do for you.”

She reluctantly agreed (possibly to get me out of her office) and set up a second meeting with her boss, David Schwickerath who worked for legend Joe Sexton. That same day, my father—and hero—sat with me while we researched everything there was to know about Charles Wang and what he was trying to do with CA.

The presentation I built with my Dad’s help was focused on the concept of a NO Entitlement Sales Culture. It was based on the Chinese immigrant experience Wang knew so well, arriving in Long Island N.Y. with nothing and starting a company out of his garage—an experience Wang used to build the culture of hard work and high risk at CA.

I pitched that proposal to Jocelyn and Dave, and I got the job—which launched a successful career at CA Technologies that lasted 18 dramatic years! I called it Eat What You Kill. (EWYK).

THE ANTI-ENTITLEMENT CULTURE

Wang wasn’t right about a lot of things, but he hit the nail on the head when it came to the pervasive anti-entitlement in today’s culture. With a deeply engrained ethic of work hard, hit hard and win at whatever costs, Wang clearly knew how to build a high-performance sales culture (and at the same time, make bags of cash for the company).

When I first made that pitch, I realized what the Eat What You Kill (EWLK) mentality can bring to other like-minded salespeople and leaders working in this most competitive of sales environments—enterprise software. My career selling and leading sales teams around the world for global software giants such as OpenText, BMC Software and Micro Focus now spans 30 years (and counting). EWYK continues to speak to the core of the many lessons I’ve learned and taught to sales teams. Expect nothing, appreciate anything, make it happen. (BTW: many of the world’s best CRO’s and CEO’s came from this CA background.)

WINNER TAKE ALL

The culture built by Wang at CA was all about winner take all, loser gets nothing. You only got paid and credit for what you earned. The reality that some would win, and others would lose was always there. In my early days at CA, I remember sitting in my cubical thinking that if my neighbor didn’t make it, then perhaps I could take his stapler (I know —sad but true). There was no participation trophy; no person was paid handsomely if they came in fifth place. The salaries were intentionally ridiculously low (I was paid $20K base but the upside was unlimited). At the end of the year, you were either awarded with an extravagant Club trip with lots of cash; or you were out.

WHY SO RUTHLESS?

Why so ruthless? The software industry is not for the faint of heart. It is the most competitive industry in the world. Market dominance and high margins generate huge cash flows. As a result, performing people are paid in a way that other industries can’t—that is, unless you miss your quotas. Company leaders know that if they don’t perform, they get acquired—and if they do perform—they become the one doing the acquiring. I referred to this as competing for pink slips of companies.

THE CUSTOMER IS FRONT AND CENTER

EWYK also instructs us to keep the customer front and center. This means less internal meetings. We may laugh now, but Charles used to mandate “NO Email during selling hours,” and he shut off Email! In addition, he emphasized to keep it simple and that sales use less complicated tools, common sense processes and way more hard work. Charles reminded us of this one day when he advised, “donuts in the data center at 6 am and listening to customers issues was more important than attending a multi-day TAS training session.” From these early encounters, I designed what I call the 10, 4, 2, 1, my personal activity tracker to make sure that I am always out in front. (Stay tuned to a future post.)

MERITOCRACY BASED CULTURE

EWYK builds a culture of corporate athletes—those who accept both the risk and reward that comes with making lifestyle altering money. They trade off insane hours with insane rewards like club trips with spouses to Bora Bora. They accept that in a meritocracy, the best ideas and the best people win, even when it means putting the whole team on view to measure the success and set quotas. This also explains why we find ex-athletes and ex-military love the software business and perform well in this type of sales culture. These are vital attributes for becoming a high performing culture at a time when the concept eludes so many companies and their leaders.

EWYK IN PERSPECTIVE

Is EWYK alone enough? No way. It’s just the beginning, but it’s the attitude and attitude is everything. I’m not quite manic about this as I sound. EWYK needs to be integrated with strategic thinking, learning how to scale, modern selling motions, value selling, overall vision—attributes associated with good judgement, diversity, respect, self-awareness, and thoughtful decision making; It’s always a balancing act between how far you push in one direction (I call it half monk – half hit man)—the right balance of results in the ultimate leadership mentality, and the most elusive of concepts—the high performing culture.

So, I ask, in all of our different current selling environments, how do you feel about this strategy? Do your people eat what they kill?

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