I love it when I find things to write about in the most unlikely places. Last Friday it was in the Chicago Tribune sports section where I was looking at every obscure story possible so I didn’t have to read about the Heat winning the NBA championship. I am a fan of the underdog. Take a look at this story and guess what I am going to dwell on.
The story talks about a 65 year old basketball coach, Jerry Wainwright, who lands a job helping out a much younger head coach, Buzz Williams, at Marquette University. The story describes how this is life changing and perhaps life saving in so many ways for Wainwright. How he got the job is what impresses me the most. When Williams was just starting out he sent letters to a number of senior coaches asking for their advice. Wainwright simply wrote back.
Perhaps the biggest break I ever got in my career was when I was promoted from being a hospital representative to a district manager at a pretty young age. I was not looking for and in fact had never asked to be promoted. During new DM training in the home office the VP of Sales took me aside and told me I owed somebody a tremendous amount for what they did for me. Somebody convinced the VP to take a chance. When I asked who it was the VP smiled and said that was my problem and he didn’t think I would ever find out. He did say it was nobody even geographically close to where I worked. To this day I am not 100% sure, but I do have a theory.
The lesson I was fortunate to learn early in my career was that you never know who notices you and who discusses your career with those who matter. The scary thing is that this is not always limited to the positives. That is why I entitled this piece “Your Personal Brand” as it is critical to always be trying to solidify your professional image so that even the most distant and seemingly unimportant people recognize and know what you are about. As marketing experts, I don’t need to go through all the obvious steps of branding, but I think it would be a worthwhile exercise to analyze the similarities between branding for your products and what you do for yourself.
Being a little compulsive, one of the things I always did was return phone calls and emails on a daily basis. I hated the fact that I was leaving somebody hanging even if they just wanted to say hello or offer me an idea for my brand. One of the interesting things about the industry today is that the higher somebody is in an organization the more likely they are to return your calls or emails. Getting a CEO, president or VP of Marketing to call you back is not that difficult. Getting a PM to do this is a lot tougher. I wonder if those that are higher up the organization got there because they demonstrated certain skills such as follow up and caring about people or perhaps it is because they recognized how much outsiders impacted their careers.
People around the industry love to talk and that talk usually turns to people. The interesting thing is that usually this talk is about those that are stars or who stand out. Agency owners love to point out those that are working well with their people. Vendors love to comment on those who make their job look easy and who are obviously ready for promotions. People like to pass along the good stories about who is helping who and who works on what outside cause. People talk about the talent in our industry like they talk about up and coming baseball players. The worst thing for people is when nobody knows who they are and they are not a part of any conversations. You see, unlike baseball players, there are no statistics in our industry and getting known takes a little effort.
One of the things I like to tell rising stars is to build a group of people outside their company that they can turn to for help and advice. Some would call this your personal board of directors but I am thinking more like your “knights of the round table” as that signals a greater sense of mission and loyalty. These are the senior leaders you would be able to call on to get quick action and advice should, or more likely when, the need arises. There are certain times in everyone’s career when you need to seek the wisest counsel and best help possible and it is good to have people to go to.
The pharmaceutical industry is truly a community of professionals and the longer you are here the more evident this becomes, Just like Wainwright helped Williams and Williams helped Wainwright the same happens every day with drug folks as well. Look around and see if I am not right, then start helping others. It’s the best part of what we do.