Why You Want Beam Holders in Your Business

This is part one of a two-part series on beam holders. Read on to find out what that is, and how you can find them.

I love it when I come across a new phrase in business. Especially one that describes someone or something that I encounter frequently and can then use myself.

I recently came across such a useful phrase as I was reading an interview with Sharon Sloane, chief executive of Will Interactive, a company that makes training videos.

Her interview was in Corner Office, the weekly NYT column by Adam Bryant. He asked her what she looks for when she hires people.

She responded that she looks for “beam holders.” By that she meant, “Someone who feels personally responsible for the welfare and growth of the company and will do whatever it takes.”

She explained that she wants people who are personally invested in the success of the company and are willing to go the extra mile.

You know the type she is talking about. The ones who stay late for days to make sure a deadline is met. The manager who picks up trash off the warehouse floor when he is walking around or steps up to help a customer when the line is too long. The customer service rep that stays on the phone after her shift has ended to make sure a customer is satisfied.

You will never hear a beam holder say, “That’s not my job.” If it helps the business succeed, a beam holder will take care of what needs doing at that moment, whether it falls within her job duties or not.

This person will also not say, “I don’t have time to do that.” If time is an issue, the beam holder will take responsibility for finding someone who can handle the task or project.

I look for those types of people too when I go into an organization because they are the ones who will help me pull it out of trouble. I refer to them as Super Stars in Game Breaking Positions. They aren’t hard to spot. In fact, I can generally tell within just a few minutes whether I’m talking to a beam holder or not.

These are the folks that have taken on additional responsibility for no extra pay when the company was downsized. These are the people who still show passion for the company they work for. Despite often being mistreated, unappreciated and expected to do more with less, they are still loyal to their companies and want to see them succeed.

I’ve encountered beam holders at all levels of an organization. Sometimes the CEO has pretty much thrown in the towel, but he has people in the warehouse who are still busting their butts every week to make the delivery schedule and customer service personnel who still do their best to handle the increasing customer complaints.

Sometimes beam holders may be the silent ones, initially hesitant to talk to me. It’s because they have been punished for speaking out before, or labeled difficult when they pointed out problems with the way the company was run. These people are sometimes the unhappiest because they know how the company could and should be run better. It bothers them immensely to see how far off track it’s gotten.

Beam holders are the people you want in your business — in good times and in bad. They will devote themselves to the company and do their best to see it succeed.

Come back for part two when I discuss how to find and hire beam holders for your business — how you can get those Super Stars in Game Breaking Positions.



Discovering Fraud By Walking Around

Have a fraud story to share? Send me yours for a chance to win a copy of my book! See details below.

I’ve had a front row view of more instances of fraud than I could have imagined when I first began my career. In my work as the Turnaround Authority™, I’ve seen hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the companies I’ve worked with. Almost half of my clients have encountered some type of fraudulent situation.

You may think that I uncover fraud by going over the books and discovering something wasn’t quite right. And in many cases that is what has happened. I have plenty of those stories, of accounting personnel setting up dummy companies and payroll accounts, and embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

My favorite story of uncovering fraud this way was when I sat myself down at the CFO’s computer, one I suspected of stealing. He was so organized that he had created a folder on his desktop with an entire spreadsheet detailing all the money he had stolen from the company. It’s so handy when thieves do a lot of my work for me.

But I’ve also found out about many cases of fraud from other employees in a company by employing a form of MBWA, management by walking around. Popular in the 1980s, MWBA really just means walking around and talking to people, face to face, and getting a sense of what is really going on in the office. (For more on MWBA, read my previous column about it, “Get Out of the Corner Office and Hit the Front Line.”)

In one instance of a twist on MBWA, I hosted a midnight barbecue for people working the nightshift. You could call it MBGH, management by grilling hamburgers. As I was grilling and we were all standing around chatting, the employees opened up to me and we began swapping stories. And boy, did I hear a doozy. One of the guys mentioned that he had a concern about excess inventory purchasing. Of course I made a mental note of that. Turned out to be a case of multi-million dollar fraud, which I uncovered because the employee felt comfortable chatting with me in the informal atmosphere.

I uncovered another case of fraud when I learned that a payroll clerk had returned to work the day after an appendectomy. That raised a red flag for me, as it seemed to be an extreme example of devotion to a job. After casually chatting with some other employees about her dedication, I learned they were in awe of sweet “Aunt Tess” because she had not missed a single payroll day in 25 years. Isn’t that something? Why yes it is, and that something is criminal. Aunt Tess was there every payroll day so she could handle the paychecks for the fake employees she had created, allowing her to steal up to $100,000 a year.

One of the best ways to uncover fraud in your company is to create an open door policy, a feeling of camaraderie where communication is encouraged. Generally, if fraud is occurring, someone in the company knows about it or is suspicious that something not quite right is going on. You want to encourage them to share their concerns with you so you can follow up.

I have plenty more stories about fraud and ways to prevent it in my book, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.” One of the most rewarding parts of writing this book has been hearing from readers who share their stories of fraudulent activity with me.

Do you have a story of fraud? Please share it with me at lnkatz@aol.com. I’ll print the stories here, and the best story will win a copy of my book.