ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | JOHN OBERG
Q&A WITH JOHN OBERG
Q: Tell us a little bit how you got started with the company.
- My mom wanted me to get a job between my freshman and sophomore years at college.
- There was a newspaper with all these classified ads. There was one big ad that stuck out. It looked lucrative. I went to the interview.
- I was super-impressed by the quality of the product. I just wanted an opportunity to be successful. I remember how excited I was when I was offered the position.
Q: What are some of the experiences you had that stand out from those early days?
- I remember one time we had this weekend contest about a certain number of orders the manager wanted to see people turn over the weekend.
- It was pretty big, unreasonable number of orders, like 15 or 16 orders in a 2-3 day period. I went out and worked my tail off, and I hit the number.
- It got me thinking differently what I was able to accomplish.
- Attitude is a huge part of what Cutco taught me. It really stuck with me.
- How you think determines a lot of your life. And also how you act is another.
Q: What are the most enduring lessons you learned during your time in Cutco that you still share to others up to today?
- There was a whole bunch of things while I was a rep, and there was a whole different series of things I learned when I got to be a manager.
- Both were just invaluable sets of tools I took on professionally for the rest of my career.
- As a rep, I remember sitting down and putting my calendar together and really thinking of how to work through a week.
- Learning about personal productivity, getting things done.
- All that really went back to my manager teaching me in the training series how to think through my workweek. How to balance my school and work. How to enjoy downtime.
- That was a real big one for me, understanding the value of time.
Q: How about manager lessons?
- I learned a lot about being able to influence people.
- I learned the difference between managing, coaching, training and mentoring someone.
- With Cutco as a manager, you really get the opportunity to do them all.
- Some of the best training I received happened at Cutco.
- It’s interesting to see how deliberate and helpful the coaching at Cutco is even today.
Q: I’d love to hear more about some of the things learned, the experiences you had that were transformational with Cutco that have stuck with you up to now.
- I remember a letter from a rep when I was branch manager.
- She had a knee injury and she had a real lack of confidence to come back.
- We had this conversation about believing in yourself and being able to do it.
- After the summer, she left the organization.
- I got this note 6-8 months later about the conversation of how she believed in herself because I believed in her., and it changed her way of thinking.
- It took her into a much better course for her college career.
Q: You got to work with P.J Potter in New Mexico for a while?
- My 3rd year at college, I transferred to the University of New Mexico and was there for a couple of months.
- J Potter had this amazing impact on me. He taught me about the business.
- He was the first guy to introduce me all the way into the management part of the business.
Q: Your path with Cutco took you all across the country?
- It did. When P.J moved to Austin, Texas, I went there for a semester.
- I then went back to New Mexico and opened a branch. I stayed there for a few years.
- Amar Dave asked me to move to Jacksonville, Florida.
- I was then promoted into a DM slot in Kentucky and had responsibility for Kentucky and Tennessee.
Q: How about after you left Cutco? Where did the path take you at first?
- I went back to New Mexico. I was going to get an MBA.
- I had some interesting opportunities to work with one of the top researchers in management technology.
- He introduced me to consulting inside nuclear labs. I really got to learn more on the operation side of business.
- I was working with many companies as a student consultant.
- We then started a company that did credit card transactions. It was super-cool!
Q: How did this lead you to where you’re today?
- I went to work for a small private equity firm.
- After I helped that company get turned around, I was introduced to someone who was doing training in boutique management consulting.
- I was really focused on people, on executive teams and revenue generation.
- I helped companies of all sizes from some of the biggest financial institutions, the US Military, all the way down to companies that were just starting up.
- I helped a couple of hundred companies with various issues like executive leadership and revenue.
- After doing this for 9 or so years, I opened up my shop in 2017.
- We focus on advisory services, investment for my own investments and incubation.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the advisory services you’re offering now?
- We take on a number of limited clients every year who need help in the performance of their organizations.
- Generally, I get involved where performance challenges relate back to people problems.
Q: I’d love for you to unpack that a little more and tell us some specific examples of things you teach as you work with people.
- I’ve being invited to organizations where partnerships aren’t going very well and its hurting them in their day to day business because they aren’t aligned with what they want done.
- We help everyone get aligned.
- We help the put a management system in place to really move their organizations forward.
Q: What are some of the specific challenges you see that some of the organizations you’re coaching have and help them overcome?
- In most cases, I start with leadership and management and make sure people are managing and leading well.
- There are 3 important things a leader needs to do in an organization; provide clarity, execute, and create sustainability in the organization.
- In almost all cases, we find out they’re missing out in one of those 3 areas and we start there.
Q: Are there very common problems you see from company to company that you know a lot of business people should be looking out for right now?
- Often times, managers aren’t giving a clear message about what’s important to them on a regular and consistent basis.
- Going back to Cutco, one of the things Cutco had for as long as I was in the company was a fantastic management system, top to bottom.
- Those are things not every company is clear about.
- The damaging effect of not having those basic things in place is hard to navigate.
Q: What other elements of Cutco management system do you feel stand out and everyone can be implementing to have a successful team?
- One of the great things about Cutco is its meeting rhythms.
- They have a really clear meeting rhythms that I would say are a best practice for sales organizations.
Q: You referenced weekly/monthly close-outs. At Cutco, we’ll typically spend time with a rep at the end of the week, just reviewing their previous week’s work, helping them with their goals for the next week, keeping people on track. How do you see that implemented in some of the companies you advise?
- We talk about metrics all the time.
- Many companies don’t have metrics that are clear particularly when they are starting up or moving very quickly.
- They don’t have the instrumentation available.
- Having instrumentation is important. Having consistent vocabulary around what a number means is super-important.
Q: I know relationships is one of the signature concepts you promote. Let’s talk about that. Tell us what you think is important here.
- We talk a lot about skillsets, mindsets, work ethic and utilization of resources.
- You can have somebody that has those 4 things, but if there’s a bad relationship, it crushes someone’s performance.
- People need to know not just the relationships they have for one another, but how they operate matters.
Q: How do you advise leaders to learn to interact with their people when the leader is frustrated?
- I think it’s a pretty simple concept.
- When you are a manager, you are there to help the other person get their needs met.
- You aren’t there to get your own personal needs met.
Q: Could you unpack that a little bit more?
- If you and I are working together, and let’s say I’m your manager, my job isn’t to come in and get my needs met about my personal or professional day.
- My job in our relationship is to make sure you have what you need to be effective.
Q: What if you are working with someone who’s your manager, but you don’t like the way that they are managing you? What advice do you have for people in such a situation?
- You’ve got to be really smart how you manage up.
- That means in some cases, you choose to say something and in others, you choose not to.
Q: What other insights would you have on developing better professional relationships that you find are compelling?
- The most important thing is to understand what builds a relationship.
- Every relationship stands on a foundation of responsibility and accountability.
- If I can’t trust you to do what you say you’ll do, it will be really hard for me to build a relationship on top of that.
- Once you have that foundation, those base layers, there are 4 skillsets to build relationships: appropriate self-disclosure, trustworthiness, acceptance, and seeing others in their best light all the time.
Q: How do you rectify accepting people the way they are when your vision of how they could be on your team is much larger?
- People control 2 things; their thoughts and their actions.
- I could tell you that I see you as bigger than you are, but if you don’t believe that, you won’t act that way.
- What I need to do is decide I will invest in our relationship and ask permission to influence you.
Q: I want to ask about 2020. It’s been a crazy year for a lot of people and I am wondering what opportunities have shown up for you this year?
- I feel blessed and fortunate to have some really great opportunities this year.
- For me, I always want to grow and learn.
- I ask everyone in my family and around me to help me grow.
- This year I asked myself, if I’d be coached by me, what would be the things I would challenge myself to do?
- As a result of this introspection, I decided I wanted to go back to school and get a doctorate. I’m now in my 2ndsemester, learning about how to impact people.
Q: I’d love to give you an opportunity to share any advice you feel you would like to share to impart upon the Cutco audience.
- Pay closer attention to all the lessons and keep a log to write down all life lessons learnt along the way.
Q: Any last bit of advice you’d have for people currently working in the company at leadership roles?
- Offer people a bigger perspective.
- If they say no, support them along that path.
- I think empathy and really listening helps to do management stuff better.
- Cool to hear John’s lessons from being a rep and manager with Cutco-Vector.
- The idea of making a schedule and balancing activities so you aren’t drifting from one activity to the next, but really thinking about your calendar.
- The concept of influence he learned as a manager. Coaching people, problem-solving and innovation.
- He said influencing requires permission. John also said a manager is there to help others get their needs met.
- He talked about metrics and meeting rhythms he learned in Cutco that could be applied to any other business.
- I also loved what he talked about keeping a log or journal of all life lessons you learn.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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