Being Bad in Vegas

Dear Ken Keller,

This is trade show season for my company. We have a major show every couple of weeks and these are important to our business. I thought everyone knew this, but at the last show, held in Las Vegas, I had some issues I need some advice on.

I had people showing up late in the morning, looking like they had just gotten in from the night before. I had customers showing up in the booth looking for my employees who weren’t there for scheduled meetings. And now that we are back, I’ve gotten pretty upset at the expense reports that I am supposed to approve.
I’ve never had these issues before. What should I do and what would you do? — Sal B.

Dear Sal:

If you are looking for someone or something to blame, don’t blame Vegas or the tradeshow. Look in the mirror because that is where the problem started.
Your employees looked for boundaries and didn’t see any.

You spent a lot of money for the booth, travel, hotels, transportation and meals. If I were a betting man, I’d say you did not have a plan for the tradeshow. You did not have clear expectations about attendance and punctuality, about account coverage in case someone could not get to the booth for whatever reason, and you did not make a clear statement about what you expected regarding employee behavior after show hours.

Given all that went wrong, and how your people behaved, it makes me wonder how badly they would have behaved if you hadn’t been there.

Use this as a learning opportunity for yourself and for your employees. Sit everyone down who was at the show in a room, and ask everyone to write down what worked and what didn’t work. Ask everyone to please write legibly because you will be compiling a master list to make the next show you go to more productive and more profitable for the company.

Your list, because you have had more time and are more invested in resolving the issues so that they don’t happen again, will be much longer and will encompass things that the others wouldn’t even begin to consider.

After everyone has spent a few minutes creating a list, go around the room and have them verbally share their thoughts.

When they finish, it is your turn. Go through each phase of the show, from planning and preparation to booth set-up to the actual show to tear down and finally, post-show follow-up.

For each category, go through what worked and then share what did not work.

Don’t get angry and don’t share your frustration. Be as matter-of-fact as you can.

Close by stating if those behavior issues that were on the “didn’t work” list were ever repeated the offending individual would be sent home.

This process should help you to get some closure on this episode and prevent it from happening again. If you wish to provide any additional emphasis, do it in private with the offending individuals and simply tell them how disappointed you are in how they acted at the show.

I’ve never met a genuinely good employee who wanted to disappoint their boss.

Dear Ken Keller

What do you think of closing a company down the week of July 4 as a mandatory vacation for all employees? It’s a slow time of year, and with enough notice, it won’t impact our customers. —Kristine H.

Dear Kristine:

It sounds great to me! I recommend checking with your employment attorney first, then let your customers and employees know what you are thinking. Early buy-in is much better than a last-minute communication; that makes people angry. Don’t forget that something like this cannot be overly communicated.