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Managing Through Adversity: Navigating Change, and How to Be a Better Manager

Posted February 15, 2023
Managing Through Adversity: Navigating Change, and How to Be a Better Manager

Rene Zamora, President, Author, and Fractional Sales Management Consultant joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Rene shares his experiences navigating 6 ownership changes in 7 years, how he saw his struggles reflected in his team, and his 5 core practices of sales management.

Rene is a man who likes life. He explains part of that is because he has been on a pretty “cool” direction with his business as a sales manager. Rene and his team focus on fractional sales management, working with small business sales teams. He has also authored a book about what he and his associates do. Rene asserts he has grown past being a solopreneur into someone more focused on his business, himself, his wife, and his kids. At the start of this chat, Rene discussed his experiences in the corporate world before he embraced freelancing including going through six ownership changes in seven years.

Tell me about your last corporate job before going out on your own. I heard you say 6 ownership changes in 7 years. That would make a lot of people uneasy. What made you stick around?

“Before I started consulting, I was in sales management in the wireless mobile industry. That was way before there were 3, 4, or 5 giants that control the market. Back then, there were a lot of rural communities that had their own companies. I decided to move from California to Oregon to join Cellular One, McCall Communications. Then, within a month or so, we got bought by AT&T, and then within a couple of years, we spun off AT&T and a private ownership took it back over. So I went from this big company to a giant company and then to a small company. Then within another year or two, we were sold to another local company. People were just acquiring and emerging back then because they knew they wanted to get to where they’re today. Everyone’s making a few coins. Some big coins with every transaction. But in the meantime, there I was with my manager and my team and we learned. I learned that every owner isn’t the same. In a seven-year period, six different ownership changes from corporate to small to medium-size, local across the United States. It wasn’t a plan. We just lived it and got through it.”

Rene explained why he chose to stick around.

“I don’t think it was much of a choice. My family was young. I had to since I was the main breadwinner. So you got to keep working. I had moved from the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, to a tiny community in Oregon. It wasn’t like just throwing your resume out there and you will get another great job. My life kind of kept me there. Yet, it wasn’t hard to kind of hang in there. 

“The other reason, the main reason was my manager was staying and he was our leader. He managed a couple of territories. Then, through every acquisition, he gained more responsibilities than when we went to the small company. He was the top cheese. Then he got acquired and he stayed. He stayed as our leader.  Our leader was stable and he was a good person, Donnie Castleman. He would go to battle for us, for what we needed.  He shielded us from the stuff we didn’t really need to get into. He would also share a little bit with us. We felt like we were all part of it. But we could count on our leader to get us what we needed. He would do the best he could and be honest with us, be upfront with us, and encourage us to just carry on. So it’s cool.”

Did you see a lot of your struggles navigating change reflected in your team or did you see different manifestations?

Rene talked at length about the impact of his struggles navigating change on his team.

“I think that at every level if you’re a leader, every company doesn’t make the perfect decisions or decisions that employees like. I haven’t been to any company that makes all the ones I would make. Therefore, we are always going to be frustrated a little bit. At every level of employment, every level of the organization, there are going to be things you enjoy and those you don’t. I’m trying to get to that. Just being open and honest. 

“The one owner that I had the most respect for was a venture capital ownership group. They came into our office and met everyone and said, hey, we are your new owners. You guys have done a great job. That’s why we invested in you and we are a venture capital firm. We have a goal of where we want you guys to be. Then we are going to sell you. They were just upfront. They might not have said it bluntly, but they were upfront with us. That was their play in this marketplace and they managed us accordingly. We got managed in numbers. I got to learn what east coast quarterly meetings were about. That was a cool and uncomfortable experience.

“What I have learned really well is you better know your business. Know why you did something. Know why you didn’t. And anything you say in there, any promises you make, you better keep them or know why you didn’t. Therefore, that was good from a business standpoint. To get that type of accountability. But the reason I respected them was that they were honest with us. Many of the other owners told us the things we wanted to hear. Hey, we bought you because you know the people. Why would we change that? And then in a few months, there are changes and cultural changes. I don’t know what their motives were. Some of these owners never bought someone like us before. So they didn’t know what the heck they were doing.

“Just in general, when I look at it now as I’ve evolved through my career they were communicating out of fear. They didn’t want us to leave. They didn’t want us to think the wrong thing. Well, guess what? We are adults. We chose to work at your company. We could choose to leave anytime we want. If you treat me like an adult, I will probably act more like an adult. That is a big thing I have tried to carry on in how I manage people.”

In your book, you cover the 5 core principles you used to become a better manager. Let’s talk about each of them, starting with belief in people. How does that core practice benefit someone who is also juggling a bad quarter or major leadership change?

Rene gave an overview of the 5 core practices he has come up with, given all the changes he has endured, particularly, what to do and what not to do.

“The practices apply to all management levels. But when I defined these for myself or discovered what I was doing, I’d say was when I was writing my book, Part-Time Sales Management. The book’s written for small business owners who are leading a company or a sales team:

  1. I had to believe in my people. That’s what Donnie used to do for us. He believed in us. We knew he did. Therefore, that’s core. If you don’t believe in your people, well fix yourself or fix them. However, it is not going to work. Figure out what the problem is and take care of that.
  2. The next thing is clear expectations just like I said with that ownership group. They said, hey look, this is what you can expect from us. We are going to work hard. We are going to build it here. Then you can expect new ownership soon. So clear expectations. But from a management standpoint, the question is what’s my job? What do you expect of me? How do I know I’m doing a good job? Then, also have clear expectations of what should I expect from my manager. As a manager, take the lead in that. This is what you could expect from me. This is how I will support you. This is how you can come to me. You don’t need to come to me for this. Get those communications clear. So people aren’t just running in for the wrong reasons.
  3. Third piece is accountability and I call it creating an environment. Accountability, not holding people accountable, but creating an environment where people hold each other accountable. Everybody to each other, from a meeting to results and so on.
  4. The next thing is having consistent meetings. When you schedule weekly meetings, keep those meetings at the worst. Reschedule them. If you can’t lead them, have someone else lead them. Don’t cancel them just because the leader isn’t there. They’re really important since if you do good meetings, people will want to come to them and they will because they know they’re going to be heard and issues will get solved. So that’s big.
  5. Then the fifth one is to have conversations with people. Conversations that let people know that you care about them. I don’t just squeeze them in. if you don’t have time now, schedule time. Do have time. Listen. Sit down. Put your phone away. Get off your email and have a conversation. Because if your people are coming to you, it’s usually because they need to be heard about something. So open up your ears and start listening.”

For more expert interviews and advice, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.