The Beqaj Interview

posted April 20th, 2011 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

This is the last in a series of posts I will publish based on an interview I did with Jim Beqaj to gain his perspective on the progress of women in the financial services industry. Jim is a respected veteran of the financial services industry and author of the recently published “How To Hire The Perfect Employer” which I reviewed in a previous post. (Check out my review; I loved his book!!)


I asked Jim what advice he would have for a person going through a management change or major restructuring in order for them to survive and prosper. He said:


“Well, I would say the exact same thing to a man or woman and it is that when your new boss comes in you need to be able to articulate to them very quickly what value you bring to the equation and why you’re there and why you should continue to be there on that basis and continue to have an opportunity in the new situation.  I’ve got two friends, one female and one male, both going through exactly the same thing, and I’ve approached them both and I’ve given them both identical advice and in both cases they are probably at the forefront of all the people they work with of doing that, but the concept of sitting back and letting the new guy figure it all out, that’s bullshit.”


I asked Jim how you communicate this to a new boss when there is a management change. He said:


“Well, you know, when they come in, you find an opportunity to say I’d like to come in and see you and I’d like to spend a little time with you, you’re new here.  I’ve prepared a little two or three-pager, nothing particularly intense, just to give you an idea of who I am and what I do and how I add value to this organization in dollar and other terms and here’s some extra-curricular stuff that I do.  The new person probably doesn’t know everything about everything and so it’s to help them out, give them a leg up on your area. Here’s what I do and here’s how I add value and, by the way, here are the key members of my team.  I mean, what new boss wouldn’t want to see that?  So there, in those first 48 hours, 72 hours, you bring him up to speed on all of those types of things.”


In the case of a restructuring, he said:


“The other side of the coin is when someone says we’re restructuring and we’re going to make changes which impact you, you say, I need to understand what that means for me.  Here’s where I was, here’s where you want me to be, what does that mean for my economics… is my comp going to change, is that what you’re telling me.  And is what you’re telling me that my mobility and my moving up through the organization is capped? Ask those questions in a polite manner but don’t be part of the crowd that they’re happy not to hear from, right.  Be part of the crowd that’s first and foremost because when there’s a change you want to find out if you’re going to be in or you’re going to be out and you want to control that agenda and the best way to do it is to come forward and say… if it’s a change as in someone’s taking over and you’re not getting demoted but there’s a new person… you come forward and you say, look, I don’t know about everybody else but this is what we do; it’s what we’re really good at and, by the way, in the event that I’m not here, various members of my team will be here. These are my people, I hired them, and they’re equally qualified to carry on.  That projects confidence, right? In the event that you choose not to have me here, I just want you to know that I have a really good team. ”


“So the next guy who walks in and says just let me tell you something.  I’ve got nothing but idiots working for me.  I’m invaluable to this place.  Well, who looks better in that situation, right, he’s not getting rid of you.  He may take one of these people and put them in their job or he may put you in their job.  And when you’ve been demoted or, you know, sort of had things change you should stand up and say, alright, time out for a second.  I just need to understand what all this means for me.  So the person says, oh no, nothing’s changed, just your title’s changed.  You say, okay, well, so what does that mean?  What does that mean exactly?  So I earn X now and I have this profit share and I have this or that, are you telling me that these are all the same, I’m still going to make the same money… and he says, well, you know, we’re not sure about that.  Well, okay, just explain it to me and you keep notes and then I always say to people after every meeting in one of these situations, you send an email to them, thank God for email, and it says just to reiterate what we spoke about today. These are my concerns and these are the responses you gave me on those concerns and now the ball is in your court.  I’m waiting for you to do X, Y, Z.  I gave this advice to a friend who did that and the whole place completely freaked, right, and they were all panicked and they called her, the most senior people, and she was able to say, well you know, what would you like me to do.  You just demoted me.  She was very polite about it and everything else and now they’ve negotiated a package, they’ve worked out a deal, and she is protected, because the institution’s not going to protect you unless you protect yourself.  It’s the one thing I’ve learned.”


“In 30 some years, I have learned the institution is not going to protect you because it can’t differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys sometimes.  So that’s what I tell people and I always tell people if it ain’t in writing it doesn’t mean anything. If they won’t put it in writing, then it doesn’t mean anything.  You have to assume it’s not true.  I’m not saying that they’re liars, I’m not saying that their intent is not to fulfill their commitments but, if it is, put it on a piece of a paper, right.  That guarantees what they have told you. What happens if that person gets hit by a car as they leave the office, you get someone else’s interpretation of the agreement.  I’ve been subject to it many a time, I know lots of people have, and I say the same thing to my clients.  If you’re not going to put it in writing, don’t even tell the guy.  Don’t tell someone  the comp’s anywhere between this and that but we’re only go to guarantee you this.  I said just tell them that’s what we’re guaranteeing, everything else is variable, not guaranteed.  Somebody says, well, that guarantee is like it’s a floor right.  I say, yeah, it is a floor but it could be the top too.  But that’s the floor right?  And I say yeah but it could be the top.  Well what do you mean?  They said I’ve got lots of upside.  Yeah, you do have lots of upside but they don’t have to pay it to you, but this number they have to pay you because if this number’s on a piece of paper it’s a legal contract.  Everything else is from Missouri, right.  Show me.  Alright?”


What Strikes Me?


When there is a management restructuring and your new boss arrives you need to be able to articulate to them very quickly what value you bring to the equation


When there’s a change you want to find out if you’re going to be in or you’re going to be out and you want to control the agenda


The institution is not going to protect you


Sometimes, institutions can’t differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys


If it’s not in writing it doesn’t mean anything


What Strikes You?

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