The Perfect Manager of an Environmental Services Company in Asia

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The Asia Environmental Daily

By:  Scott Garner  |  Beijing, China January 30, 2018 

This third article is part of a four-article series on 1) What it is like to work in environmental services, 2) Finding your dream job in environmental services, 3) The “Perfect Manager” in an environmental services company, and finally 4) The core skills every manager needs to manage a company in environmental services.

I recently received an email from a young student pursuing her MBA in Bhubaneswar, India.  While she is very passionate about the environment and having a career in environmental services, she is concerned that having a purely business background, and not having a chemical or mechanical engineering degree, will prevent her from reaching the upper levels of management in an environmental services company. 

As discussed in a previous article, there is no “perfect” job candidate.  Therefore, there really is no “perfect” General Manager or President in an environmental services company.  Something will always be missing.  But that should not stop you.  But let’s start our discussion with the “perfect” ideal manager in environmental services to show the many and diverse skills and experiences you should be accumulating early in your career.  While her example will be an almost impossibly high hurdle for you to reach, she will show us the direction you should be going and will serve us later in a discussion about the core skills all managers need to be successful in their careers. 

Our “ideal” manager is Parika, a smart girl from India, who will one day become a leader in the environmental services industry.

High School

When Parika was a high school student, she was not only a good student, she also held a part-time job in fast food, retail, or some other customer facing industry, after school.  While she did earn side money in her retail jobs, the most important thing she gained was a life-long appreciation for customer service and the importance the customer is for any business.

University

While at university, Parika does a dual-degree in engineering and accounting, graduating with high marks.  When she graduates, not only will she be a competent engineer, she will understand how to read and interpret financial statements, and be able to prepare a basic budget.  But Parika is not just a scholar, she finds time to be active in many student organizations, becoming a leader in some of them, gaining her first experiences in leadership.  

During her summers, to help pay for university, she works in a factory or manufacturing setting, which not only allows her to pay her tuition, it gives her an appreciation for the manufacturing process, how materials flow through a company and are turned into a finished product.  More importantly, Parika will be managing these people some day and it gives her a sense of humility and an insight into the daily work life of workers she will someday manage.

1st Job after University 

Parika graduates and accepts a job as a junior engineer in the field of her specialization.  She spends six years honing her engineering skills and expertise in her industry.  But Parika is more than an engineer.  She is a future manager.  She doesn’t just focus on her job and doing the minimum to get by.  She is constantly asking for more work, gaining more experience and expertise. 

In addition to her daily engineering work, she asks to be assigned to sales-support, where she gains an understanding of sales, how a sales team operates, what types of support they need from headquarters to be successful.  She gains an appreciation for how fundamentally important sales is to an organization. 

But Parika doesn’t stop there.  She also volunteers for the company’s “outreach” programs, where she volunteers for various company sponsored causes and gains public speaking abilities she never knew she had.  At this point in her career, not only is she a competent engineer, she has an appreciation for sales activities, has honed her political skills (every company has internal politics), and she has learned how to be leader and an effective public speaker.

Parika has everything a leading MBA program is looking for.  Years of work experience, volunteer activities, public speaking abilities, a diverse set of skills ranging from engineering, accounting, sales, customer service, leadership in both student and work activities.  On top of that, she has a passion for the environment.  In her essays to leading MBA programs, she discusses the critical role that business plays in cleaning up the environment and mitigating climate change.  She is well on her way to becoming a leader in a large company focusing on environmental services.

MBA School

During MBA school, Parika focuses on Marketing.  Already an engineer with a dual degree in accounting, she focuses on the area she lacks expertise and wants to fill in that hole. 

While at MBA school, she earns stellar grades in Marketing Management, Brand Management, Business to Business Marketing.  While not in class, she again volunteers in student organizations, gaining yet more experience in leadership.  As a seasoned professional, she reads as many newspapers and academic journals as possible, to understand what is going on in the wider business world around her.  Even though moving into “management,” she stays current on her field of engineering, as well as daily business news, both in her home country and internationally.  She is now becoming a well-rounded professional that understands how the various pieces of a company work together, she understands the global nature of business. 

During Parika’s 1st year in MBA school, she applies for and is offered an internship in a leading company in environmental services.  She is such a stellar worker, that at the end of her MBA summer internship, they make her a final offer to join the company upon her graduation.  She accepts, and during her 2nd year of MBA school, she doesn’t need to worry about recruiting or employment, she already has a job offer.  She happily focuses on her studies, making life-long friendships, and gaining as much knowledge as possible for her future career.         

Post MBA Employment

Parika is already a superstar at this point in her career, even though she may not realize it.  But she doesn’t slow down.  With an MBA and being approximately 30 years old, Parika is now firmly “management.”  With all of her diverse skills and experience, she assumes her new role as Business Development Manager.  This role will utilize all of the diverse skills she has accumulated over her career.  Although she is an engineer by training, and she is proud of her engineering background, this is no longer her role.  She is a now a business manager, whose job it is to drive business growth. 

She now focuses on market research reports, sales numbers, and the financial performance of her business unit.  She manages a staff and it is her job to get them to perform at their best.  As an engineer, her role was to solve engineering problems.  Now, Parika’s job is to manage people, and she needs to manage people with diverse backgrounds, diverse temperaments, resolving all of the interpersonal problems and conflicts that inevitably come up in any workplace.  Parika is no longer judged on the quality of her engineering.  She is judged on the performance of her business unit. 

If she interprets the marketing information correctly, makes the right business decisions, and follows her budget, the business does well.  If she interprets the numbers incorrectly, makes the wrong decisions, cannot stick to her budget, cannot manage her team well, the business unit suffers.  One of the key difference between her previous career as an engineer and her current role as a manager is in “people management.” 

As a manager, she cannot do everything herself, she has to rely on the people below her to help her achieve the goals of the business unit.  She will have to direct and channel their activities, mentoring and coaching them when needed.  She will need to hire good people and fire those who are not an asset to the team.  It is her job to make sure the team runs like a well oiled machine, accomplishing its tasks.  And at the end of the day, the success or failure of the business unit lies with Parika.  Managers do not have the luxury of pointing their fingers at their subordinates when things go badly.  Ultimately, a manager bears full responsibility for the success or failure of their business unit.

But Parika is a superstar.  She’s always been a super star and we will continue to follow her example. 

Parika did everything right.  She has experience in customer service, engineering, accounting, sales, marketing and management.  She knows how to prepare a budget and she knows how to stick to a budget.  She can read financial statements and knows how to interpret them.  She knows how to manage her team effectively, knowing when to micro manage and when to rely on her team members expertise.  As a sales manager, she knows the importance of “making the sale” but her engineering background lets her know when her sales team is making promises that are impossible to keep.  She knows that broken promises directly impact customer satisfaction and future sales.  She knows the importance of understanding “office politics” but not getting too involved, and certainly not spreading gossip.  She understands her business, but she also keeps current on the daily news, knowing what is going on in her home country and around the world, and how those world events impact her business unit.  Parika is in every way, perfect for the role of General Manager or President of the company.  But she doesn’t stop there.

Volunteer activities and Sabbatical

The entire time that Parika has been a stellar worker in her first post-MBA positions, she has also been a volunteer in numerous outside activities.  She volunteers with environmental causes, expanding her contacts and network, making a name for herself, promoting her personal brand.  Although a competent public speaker, she continues to volunteer for causes that she is interested in, honing her leadership and public speaking abilities in the process.  But she doesn’t volunteer for her own career ambitions, she does it because she truly believes in it.  Her volunteerism is driven by a genuine feeling of giving back to the community, not her own naked ambition.  And that makes her even more driven in community involvement.

After 6-7 years, Parika has achieved more than she ever dreamed in her career.  She decides to take a “sabbatical” and at the age of 36-37, decides to go to law school.  In law school, she studies corporate law, tax law, environmental law, intellectual property law.  An unlikely turn of events, but she is our perfect example after all.  Even environmental services companies have legal problems every now and then.  Whether its suing a customer, getting sued by a supplier, or preparing the company to go public, Parika can sit at the table with the lawyers and keep them on a short-leash, getting them to achieve the results she wants, within the budget she wants.  Again, an unlikely event, but Parika is our superstar.  

And at the age of 40, Parika is ready to assume the absolute top levels of management in the environmental services industry.  From beginning to end, she has done everything right, collected every degree, every skill, every life and work experience, every volunteer experience she could ever possibly need as a leader in the environmental services industry.

Conclusion

I cannot live up to Parika.  As proud as I am of my own work history, Parika is impossible to live up to!  I have many of her qualities and if you look at your own resume and work history, you also probably share many aspects of her work history, education history, and personal attributes.  But Parika is the “gold standard.”  Almost impossible to live up to, yet the perfect example of skills and experience that all future managers in environmental services should work hard to attain.  In Parika’s work history she accumulated the following skills:

  • Customer service
  • Marketing research, an ability to analyze marketing data
  • Business to business marketing
  • The ability to manage a sales team.  Maybe had sales experience herself.
  • Brand management, the ability to promote your brand and differentiate your services/technology
  • An accounting background, the ability to analyze and understand financial statements
  • The ability to make and stick to a budget
  • Knows how to write a well thought out business plan, either for her business unit or a product launch
  • An ability to manage your staff, knowing the difference between micro-managing and “leading”
  • Knowing how to prioritize between “putting out fires” and seeing the larger strategic issues
  • An engineering background, with a good grasp of product design and the technical aspects of the product
  • Volunteer activities that create company goodwill, create networking opportunities, and give you the opportunity to practice public speaking
  • Knowing company politics but staying out of it and never engaging in office gossip
  • Having an engineering degree, accounting degree, MBA, JD, CPA, CFA
  • Knowledge of finance and ROI.  Knows how to finance a project and whether that project is a good investment in the first place
  • Having a manufacturing background so that you understand the manufacturing process
  • Experiences working in service/manufacturing so that you gain a sense of humility about your later management responsibilities
  • A detailed knowledge of the business environment, through reading industry publications, trade journals, and newspapers. An understanding of what is going on in your home market as well as internationally.  She probably even speaks 2-3 languages.
  • An in-depth knowledge of corporate law, tax law, labor employment law, intellectual property law, and trade law
  • An absolute ability to juggle job/work duties. Balancing different job duties, different priorities, family/home life, work versus volunteer activities, work versus profession development/education   
  • Conflict management skills: the ability to resolve conflicts within your own team, between departments, and between your company and its customers and suppliers
  • A sense of “teamwork.” Managers work for a “team.”.  They manage a “team.”  It’s not about the individual, it’s about the success of the “team,” the business unit, the company.  And good managers never forget that.
  • She shows empathy towards her subordinates, knowing full well that coaching, mentoring, and good management is far superior to bullying, which rarely gets good results from subordinates
  • But she can be tough when she needs to be, willing to make the difficult decisions when she has to
  • Believing in yourself and your abilities. Believing that you have the skills and experience to manage others and a business unit.  Having the confidence to lead others.
  • And a true passion for environmental services 

“Parika” has all of the qualities that a senior level executive should have in environmental services.  Smart, capable, knows politics as well as engineering, knows how to handle conflict between her staff as well as conflicts with customers.  When she is not balancing the books or keeping up with the trade publications, she is golfing with senior executives at the company.  When she is not making more sales, she is volunteering in the local community. 

Few managers can live up to this high standard.  But that doesn’t mean you should not keep trying.  Follow her example and you will certainly have a stellar career in senior management in an environmental services company.  

But, as you know, if you had read my previous article, Parika didn't need to be this perfect.

The fact is, if Parika had around 13-14 of these qualitities, she would still have been offered the position of General Manager or Company President.

In my next article, we will discuss the bare-bones skills you absolutely need, in case you cannot live up to Parika’s example.   

 

Scott Garner, CPA, JD, is Vice-President Asia-Pacific for Hi-Vac Corporation (China).

 

The Asia Environmental Daily