This is a continuation of my series on my transition to the role of President at Hanapin. Originally I thought it would be 30 posts in 30 days but they got a bit redundant, boring, weren’t very widely read and I got really busy. I have 12 posts to go and hope to have them all done by the end of January (the 90-day mark).

In the ~30 days since my last post Hanapin has changed quite a bit. We rolled out our guide to how we think about promotions (to shed more light on how our ~40 employees can grow their careers), we brought in 6 new enterprise clients (which helped move us past sales goal for 2013), and we rolled out Ad Automator (a new addition to the Hero Pro tools).

I wish I could say all this was easy, but there were several bumps along the way.  In fact, many times we made things a little worse before they got better. Below are the three biggest things I learned in the past 30-days that help ensure that your good intentions don’t make things worse.

Balance immediate needs with long-term success

One of the toughest client types to work with are those that want to see performance improvements today along with long-term account/campaign build outs that will set them up for success in the future. That is because that means you have to do two types of work at the same time.

I think a common mistake made when faced with this is to have the same group of people work on both. What happens here is that if account performance is okay they spend 100% of their time on expansion. Then when performance shifts, they run a fire drill and spend 100% of their time on day-to-day optimizations. This push-pull is detrimental to the account and result in neither objectives being accomplished gracefully.

In an ideal world, you’d have multiple teams, with each working on only one of the objectives. This way there is a consistent focus on both objectives, which drastically increases the likely hood of achieving them. We’ve done this by building out different roles within our team and “overstaffing” so we have the talent capacity.

Spend time figuring out what the larger problem is that you are not seeing versus tackling symptoms you are seeing

 There were a few instances where we received feedback from employees about policies or activities that were inconsistent or caused frustration. We went to work on resolving these but it initially made things worse. That is because we solved the immediate problem but not the core or it. This induced feelings of, sure you have time to fix this thing but what about that thing, etc.

What we did then was take a huge step back to see what the real issue was. Most of the time the issue was with not providing context on a policy or activity so people could connect all the dots themselves.

This same thing happens on PPC accounts. We see that performance isn’t where we want it, that CPC is going up, so we change bids, add negatives and perhaps right some new ads. But we don’t always step back to see if new competitors entered the space, if search inventory is shrinking, etc. When we go to work on the smaller symptom we typically make things worse because we might fix something that isn’t broken, which will make performance worse, while not fixing what is broken, which makes performance continue to get worse.

It is 50% the result you got and 50% of how you got that result

 It both matters that you hit targets and that you do it in a way that is replicable and consistent with your values (ours are reliability, integrity, creativity, hanathusiasm and resourcefulness).

Being too behavior focused and not enough result focus makes it too easy to slip out of solving tough problems. For example, you can say that we followed our 90-day strategy map to the letter and that not hitting target(s) was due to external factors you could do nothing about. The problem with this is that although you did all the right things, you didn’t necessarily course correct your strategies based on results or present new solutions that will get you closer to targets despite these challenges.

Being too result focused and not enough behavior focused creates a similar situation. If results are really great but that is because one or two changes were made to a website, you can’t really say what you are doing is causing the good result. This means when something else changes it could send you in a downward spiral or that you could simply be getting better results if you were doing all the right things. And if results are really poor it could be a reality that you cannot change so only focusing on the result discounts progress made against realistic expectations based on all facts (many of which we only learn about after the event).

A good Account Manager always should be asking what’s the result, what did I do directly to contribute to the result and what tools do I have to drive the future result I want.