Courtesy of Gary Brose
Given his decades of experiences running multiple businesses, it’s not surprising that Gary Brose
had penned a few tomes about the ins and outs of running an organization. But the fact that his latest offering comes in the form of a novel is intriguing. His long road to writing Express Exec is sure to deliver what it promises — “a novel approach to outrunning the pace of change.”
Brose’s professional journey started in Seattle in the 1970s. After working at FedEx for five years, he had amassed a deep knowledge of experience managing terminals in different cities. He soon found owners of a Seattle-based business who wanted out. After multiple rounds of negotiations, Brose bought the company and turned it into the largest messenger service in Washington state.
Although he stayed mostly in the transportation industry, Brose has “dabbled” in over 20 other business over the years. As he explained in a recent interview, the wide range of organizations included “computer games company (an early version of fantasy football prior to the internet), two office supply companies, a road emergency service, two freight forwarders, an indoor amusement park and a consulting firm. I also purchased and absorbed about a dozen other delivery companies. Some of my forays into non-transportation industries failed, but I learned a great deal. Along the way though, the consulting firm and amusement park were big winners and earned back far more than I lost when something didn't go right.”
Throughout the process, Brose realized that managing people was the key to everything. “If you could find the right people, and put them in the right spots, you would do well,” he noted. “The key was consistent and nurturing management and creating incentives that aligned their personal goals with the business goals. Then, I became convinced, that all I had to do was look around for a void in the marketplace and come up with a plan to fill it.”
Brose decided to share his wealth of knowledge as a manger in his first book, Bonus Your Way to Profits. His goal was to, “walk the reader through the process of how to conceive of the bonus plan and build it, step by step, so that their very first attempt will be a three-way win.
He described the book saying, “I spent 25 years in constant trial and error attempting to develop a bonus plan that would be a three-way win: The employees needed to be incentivized properly and rewarded fairly; the company needed to gain back a value equal to or greater than the cost of the bonuses; and the customer (don't forget them) needed to see an improvement in the product or service they were paying for. Most of the plans I developed did not do all three.”
He continued, “But after trying and failing repeatedly for all those years, I finally stumbled upon a plan that worked. I studied and identified the reasons why and come up with the Eight Essential Elements of a quality bonus program. Once I did that, I thought I could write it down and save others decades of costly trial and error (not that anyone else would be that stubborn and pig-headed to try for that long). Anyway, I enjoyed that book and it made all those failed attempts somehow seem worth it.”
He followed that up with his second book, The Ultimate Motivated Employee. As Browse recounted, “I realized I had a wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn't and also about what key management techniques work best. You can't just design a good bonus program and expect all your problems are solved. You still have to be a caring and genuine person who gains the trust of others and you have to know how to show it. The Ultimate Motivated Employee was written more as a primer for new managers (or old ones who want to change) such as business majors at college that are heading into the real world. Learning how to manage people so that they are happy on their jobs and productive as well is, I believe, a far more important management skill than all the others combined.”
For his most recent work, Brose decided to share his expertise in the form of a novel. He explained the choice, saying, “I've written 17 novels under a pen name and I really enjoy telling a good story and not only do I enjoy writing stories more than business books but I am trying to reach managers in any way I can.”
His process for writing a more traditional business how-to led him to choose a more creative approach to penning Express Exec. “I outlined my book and started writing it like a normal ‘Step one, two and three book’ but it was dry and boring,” Brose conceded. “So I decided to do something completely different. For millennia, people have learned by listening and reading stories. It's a very effective way to teach, so I wrote Express Exec as a novel.”
Courtesy of Gary Brose
The main message in Express Exec is about how to establish trust with the employees and build a team that embraces change. That requires a lot of communication and meetings with the employees and I wanted the readers to feel like they were experiencing those meetings themselves. I wanted the reader to relate to the fear, the angst, the dread that the typical hourly employee feels when confronted with change. By experiencing it vicariously through the protagonist's eyes, managers can get a better idea how to do it themselves when the time comes.”
As for his motivation for penning the novel, Brose revealed, “I wrote Express Exec because I was seeing too many small and medium-size businesses abdicating their greatest edge over big business. Smaller businesses have a super advantage in that they can act faster and create change far more quickly than large corporations. But many business owners and managers are overwhelmed by the pace of change and are struggling just to keep up with it. I wanted to show them how I've learned to make rapid change in business.
“The biggest problem, of course, is that everyone hates change and they are resistant to helping management make it happen,” Broseadded. “Business owners or department managers cannot do it all themselves. It takes a whole team of people. So, the question becomes, how do you get the employees on board and working with you to create that change?”
He hopes that readers take away an important message from the book, “that change is inevitable and will only be coming at us faster and faster in the future. To survive, you must build a nimble organization that understands that and is dedicated to making the necessary adjustments. Those who ignore it or fight it will pass by the wayside.”
There’s obviously a lot to learn from a deep dive into all of Brose’s work but he was kind enough to share his top three tips for motivating employees:
1) Develop strong listening skills. Half of management is knowing when to shut up and let others talk. This is so important, I actually did a series of five different videos explaining how to listen properly. You'd think it is easy, but if it were, the world would be full of great listeners. It's not.
2) Recognize good work and reward it properly. Too often managers are busy looking for things people do wrong so they can critique them or retrain them. Far better to find someone doing something right and catch them at it — then praise them in front of others. Incredibly powerful.
3) Be the servant. Don't be the boss. Your function is to provide the employees with the proper workplace, training, and guidance so they can excel at their jobs. If they need more tools to do so, your role is to provide them for them. Be a facilitator, not a dictator.
To find out more about Gary Brose and his books, visit his official website.