Reverse the pyramid: how to make the most out of your staff

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Have you seen the Despicable Me movies? 

These flicks are family-friendly, madcap adventures involving the ‘bad guy’ mastermind Gru and his team of yellow Minions. 


I thought this crew could give a good example for my ‘Reverse the Pyramid’ concept, which takes a new approach to hiring and maintaining a base of employees. 


You see, Gru is the criminal genius. He’s a master of dastardly deeds and has spent his life building his skillset. To help him create his machines and execute his criminal strategies, he has about a zillion underlings, who aren’t really capable of much other than buffoonery (they get laughs so it’s ok). 


[So happy. So yellow. So ineffective.]


Despite his best-laid plans, Gru’s heists tend to go terribly wrong. As it is a kid’s movie, hilarity ensues. As a business owner, you’ve gotta wonder why he doesn’t get better help. He has put a lot of money into creating his base, supporting his minions and building tools of destruction. Is he really getting returns?


This brings me to my point about the pyramid. 


Let’s take a look at the structure of a standard business. 


On the first floor, you have the ‘minions’ who carry out basic tasks according to instructions. Generally, they do the same thing every day and there are lots of them.


Go up a level and there is a middle-management level of competency. These people are getting things done, relying on their intelligence and industry experience to do so. 


Next is the ‘expert’ level, the money-makers, salespeople and the wheelers and dealers who are running the organisation. These people are under a lot of pressure to draw in the real money for the business. 


And at the top, you have your ‘Genius’, your Gru-like mastermind (who is hopefully not evil). This person is driving the machine and is on the top income for doing so. 


Most businesses around the world operate this way, allocating a small salary to general job-doers, who aren’t likely to generate income for the business. Wages go up in accordance with experience and those who contribute the most to revenue generation are financially rewarded for doing so. 


It has been this way since the dawn of time but in today’s software-driven, tech-enabled world, I think it is time to reverse the pyramid. 


What happens if…


Instead of having a fleet of low-paid minions who are doing the same repetitive task, are bored and who aren’t contributing to the business, why not flip the structure?


Look for as many genius-level people as possible to take on the responsibility of being decision makers and action takers. Increase the number of revenue-generating staff and you stand to increase the money your business makes. 


A lot of businesses are bogged down by menial-task workers. The cost of these workers adds up and while they help keep things running, they may be preventing your business from running lean and producing higher profit margins. 


Instead of your staff pyramid looking like this: 







What would happen if it looked more like the following? 







Those geniuses are the ones who are good at making money and providing real value to your customers. As HR expert Dr John Sullivan explains, “Hiring those who perform at a higher level will increase revenue — hiring a higher percentage of top performers (instead of average performers) over all of your openings will obviously increase your output. For example, if a superior hiring system selected more productive hires (i.e. new hires who produce 25% more on the job than the average worker), over a large number of hires, the economic value of that increased productivity and output would be significant.”


But what about all the work the minions are actually doing? You have a few options here, which doesn’t necessarily mean firing half of your team. 


It all comes down to automation. Let’s look at Customer Care as an example. 


The technology exists to affordably implement a chat-bot which can be the first point of contact for your customers. The script goes something like this:


Chat-bot: “How can I help?”

Customer: “What time are you open?”

Chat-bot: “We open from 9am to 5pm each weekday”

Customer: “Where is the closest location?”

Chat-bot: “Where are you located?”

Customer: “Queanbeyan”

Chat-bot: “The nearest office is at 23 XYZ Lane in Fyshwick”

Chat-bot: “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Customer: “I don’t know if your business can actually solve my problem”

Chat-bot: “You can find more information on our FAQ page [LINK]. If you don’t find it there, I can arrange a customer service agent to get in touch with you.”


The majority of customer questions relate to the same general topics. By implementing a chat-bot, you can minimise your minion-style customer care team to those who are at a Genius or Expert level. They may not be directly generating revenue but their role in keeping customers happy it is still very important. By helping customers at an expert level, they’re helping improve retention and word of mouth referrals. 


The benefit for these staff is they will be handling a wider range of enquiries and be more stimulated by their work, so they are more likely to stay on with the team. Your other customer care staff can be trained to do other things or you can gradually downsize the team. 


Ways to automate your non-revenue generating tasks


Here’s a rapid fire of automation and outsourcing ideas, which can reduce expenses and help focus on revenue generation. 


Skip the receptionist


There are plenty of software options which automate the response to inbound calls, reducing the need for someone to pick up every time the phone rings. 


You can also look at outsourcing to a virtual receptionist who will only bill for the actual time spent on the phone. Your current receptionist can upskill into a role which is more focused on helping existing customers or focusing on sales and marketing. 


Optimise inbound leads


This suggestion comes from Infusionsoft:


“With automation software, you can set up an internal form to be used when people call your main line. Enter the client’s contact information, along with any relevant notes, before using a drop-down menu to assign a sales representative to follow up. The form alerts the sales rep to contact the new lead. Meanwhile, the software sends an automated introduction email from that sales rep to the potential customer.


When the introduction email is sent five minutes after the form is completed, it appears that the sales rep sprung into action after learning of the potential client’s call. Your lead will be impressed by your customer service before the sales rep even starts working.”


This approach minimises the need for personal assistants, or for them to waste time on bad leads. 


Automate social media posts


You don’t need somebody pressing ‘Post’ on all your social media feeds. Affordable software lets you program updates months in advance, and to several platforms simultaneously. 


Again, you can hire or work with one Genius instead of a team of repetitive-task minions who cost your business money. 


Upgrade your data tracking and analysis


Again, with the right software, you can free lower level workers from the tedious task of data-tracking. Implement this technology and you will instantly be able to see dashboards which show you daily, weekly or monthly progress and a range of statistics which affect your business. 


Take this a step further and plug in to systems which respond to what’s working and take actions like automatically increasing marketing spend in this area. 


Systemise customer communications


Your business should constantly be in touch with your existing customers but you don’t need several minions to do this. By setting up your CRM so you are regularly communicating with your customers, sales will come your way more easily. 


Chase overdue accounts


Stop checking your bank account every ten minutes and set up your accounting software to send automatic reminders when an account is overdue. Most customers will pay after the first couple of friendly reminders, freeing up your accounts staff to stop chasing money and help you find ways to make more of it. 


Similarly, set up notifications when a direct debit fails to go through and arrange to have it immediately followed up on by your accounting software. 


With the above being said, this isn’t a completely black and white situation. You will of course require some non-revenue generating staff but it won’t hurt to see how automation and outsourcing can reduce the ‘fat’ which is sucking away your profits. 


Do some calculations to check how hiring one extra ‘expert’ or ‘genius’ will pay off despite the larger salary. Reversing the pyramid is a multi-step process but is worth investigating and plugging away at to create a more productive, efficient and profitable organisation. 


In the second Despicable Me movie, Gru (who has now turned good – how convenient) meets secret agent Lucy. Working at ‘Genius’ level together, they are able to get a lot more done to defeat the bad guys and emerge victorious. 



[Bring in the Geniuses]

Tim Hyde

Tim Hyde

Tim is an Infusionsoft certified partner, fixer and seasoned business growth strategist with real world business experience. Tim works with coaches, consultants and small business owners to help them get more time money and freedom from their business by optimising and automating the customer lifecycle.

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