Good, Better, and Best

Bill Tiszai details why empathy and constant improvement are key to a successful union between the salesforce and the finance office

Bill Tiszai maintains a footing in two worlds that might seem to be out of step with each other. But his job is to make sure they’re not. Tiszai is both vice president of global sales operations and treasurer for Belden Inc.In that role, he leverages his extensive experience in both sales and finance to help facilitate communication, empathy, and growth between departments that don’t traditionally always see eye-to-eye.

Tiszai began his career in finance. He understands why it’s easy to have an us-vs.-them mentality when it comes to the salesforce. “Sometimes the finance staff runs the risk of minimizing the challenge of closing a sale or carrying a quota,” he says. “We sometimes see a stereotype of the salesforce as an undisciplined group of golfers who work part-time. The finance team may look at themselves as the last ones working late while the sales team is out having fun and going home early.”

Inherent Tension & Miscommunication

Fortunately, Tiszai is familiar with the other side of the argument. At GE Capital, he found himself in a quota-carrying role. That role taught him the pressure that the sales side was under. It also taught him that how that translated into miscommunication with the operations team. “I think the sales side will look at finance as inflexible and out of touch, and maybe not focused on growing the company,” he says. There is an inherent tension that Tiszai sees as healthy. But he says that can also create a communication gap between two vital parts of a company.

Bridging that gap can often seem like a herculean feat, but Tiszai sees it a bit differently. “When you bring people to the table and explain what’s happening and the reasoning for decisions, I find that both sides tend to be pretty reasonable,” he says. The goal is to approach a problem by working together. The goal is also to treat the other side as a partner working to move the company forward.

When it comes to the sales side, Tiszai says it’s important to keep in mind that those are the people who are hearing directly from the customer about every single aspect of the company, both positive and negative. “You’re at the mercy of the performance of many parts of your company that are outside of your control but still impact you personally,” Tiszai says.

Harmonizing Customer Experiences at Belden

From a finance perspective, Tiszai believes it’s important for sales team members to remember that there is often more to the story when it comes to what might initially seem like confusing internal decisions. Customers put on credit hold might have previous payment issues with the finance department that sales wasn’t aware of, for example.

“What I try to offer is empathy for both, because I’ve been responsible for both,” Tiszai says. And Belden is working to find innovative ways to remove barriers from that communication process.

As treasurer, Tiszai  helped to shift Belden’s global shared services team from a region-focused structure to a platform-based organization. “As we put these teams together, we had to create a global shared services team, reorient the definition of ‘internal customer,’ and harmonize the experience,” Tiszai says. The transition and streamlining is ongoing, but the positive change Tiszai has seen in only a year is substantial. The plan is to continue to drive out waste and harmonize experiences between company and customer and among team members.

A Vision for Improvement

In his sales duties, Tiszai’s team works to create a more customer-centric culture, driving productivity with sales and marketing. “Our team is currently creating a vision around our potential together, which will drive the improvements and drive out waste,” Tiszai says.

Driving out waste is about creating standard work and constantly examining metrics. “If you find regular conflict in part of your business or are having surprises, you examine the root cause and work to address the real problem,” Tiszai says. Tiszai and his team must also thoroughly examine metrics. Tiszai says they will inevitably drive behavior; it’s imperative to make sure those behaviors are intended.

Standardizing work allows team members all over the wolrd to be on the same page. It also produces more effective and predictable results. “We are a decentralized company, and we regularly see pockets of excellence. A centralized team will, ideally, help examples of excellence become a standard for all,” Tiszai says.

Evolving Expectations

One of the biggest challenges for Tiszai and for Belden is that customers’ needs, demands, and expectations are always evolving. What made Belden successful in the past is not necessarily what will make it successful in the future. And the company has to not only be comfortable with that mind-set, but embrace it. “The bar is constantly being raised, so you must continually become better,” he explains.

Tiszai says that working to unify different teams starts with appreciating those on his own team. “There are really talented individuals around me that are smarter or have deeper expertise in some areas,” Tiszai explains. “I think that makes us a better team.”