Friday, November 24, 2006

Tips for Sales Managers from Marketing Headhunter

I'm catching up on my reading during this Holiday week here in the States. Harry talks about understanding the difference between revenue and profit. He provides some very specific tips on how to boost your bottom line profit numbers.
If you are a sales manager who is looking for new career opportunities, please take a look at your accomplishments in light of these suggestions.
  • To what extent have you improved your employer's profitability by helping it get its arms around its costs?
  • Have you developed and implemented any systems to track revenues, costs per sale, and net profits?
  • Have you partnered with your customers to lean-up the value chain?
When I joined my current employer, I took over a $16mm piece of business. We tracked revenue. That was it. Since taking over, and fighting though and around a development group that has bigger priorities we have laid in some new and knowledge-generating reporting. We look at conversion rate now. The first thing we learned is that there is a lot of "spray and pray". Lots of random, unqualified leads. We begun an immediate continuous improvement effort on that.

Secondly, we now look at the aging of the leads. Guess what...if a lead is open past 90 days, it ain't gonna close. Ever. More effeciencies gained there. No more effort wasted in trying to contact people. And then we tie it back to conversion rate.

Next up for us is churn. My revenue number gets adjusted month to month. But it is difficult to get at a good churn number. These measures (and a few others that we have implemented helped to "lean up the value chain". After that: cost per lead and cost per sale. We are building a nice name for ourselves. This group was once the convenient whipping-boy between marketing and the field. No longer. We are advocates for both groups.

After a half-year of operations center closings and announcements for more, we are at break-even from 2005. I'll take it. Since the second quarter, we were struggling. We turned it around by managing it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What Great Managers Do

I am just getting around to writing about an article from the March 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review by Marcus Buckingham. It is adapted from his book The One Thing You Need to Know which is on my reading list. This article hits on a number of areas that I have been involved with over the last few months.

I’ve been reflecting on managing people lately. I’ve been involved in a startup call center in Flordia. We are also deploying a new phone switch which allows us to make outbound “telemarketing” calls. I’ve been “managing” that whole process. It is similar to herding cats. I’ve spent time working, hands-on with the agents, trying to teach them how to “sell”. I’ve been working with the supervisors, trying to show them what they should be looking for and how to correct it once they find it. I’ve been working with upper management, trying to educate them on outbound dialing.

Great managers find that thing that makes each person a unique and beautiful snowflake…and then exploits it. (In the nicest sense of the word.) This is the opposite of what leaders do: they find the common thread between everyone/thing…and exploit it.

Managers capitalize on each person’s uniqueness. This is critical to success for three reasons.

  1. It saves time. Divvying up tasks to those that have special talents is much better than everyone breaking rocks. Someone needs to haul them away. Someone WANTS to haul them away versus breaking the rocks. Find that person.
  2. Once you show yourself to be the best rock-breaker, you have a reputation to uphold. Production lifts. There is no going back. We did this with the startup. The team of a dozen people was averaging 5 sales per night. I spent a week with them, on the floor, in their faces (nicely). When I left, they were averaging 35-40 sales per night. Collectively, as they were devouring the pizza I bought them on my last night, they realized what they had done: they had set the bar for themselves.
  3. It builds a sense of team. The rock-breaker and the rock-hauler have to work together or the breaker (who loves breaking rocks) will end up having to haul her own rocks (which she hates).

Buckingham provides a few tips for identifying strengths in your team members. He advises two simple questions: first, what was the best day you’ve had in the last 3 months? Second, what was the worst? Get at the root cause of both. Understand the driving factors behind each of the answers.

Buckingham quotes Albert Bandura (“the father of social learning theory”) on some insights into motivation indicators:

…self-assurance (labeled “self-efficacy” by cognitive psychologists), not self awareness, is the strongest predictor of a person’s ability to set high goals, to persist in the face of obstacles, to bounce back when reversals occur, and, ultimately, to achieve the goals they set. By contrast, self-awareness has not been shown to be a predictor of any of these outcomes, and in some cases, it appears to retard them.

Buckingham then talks about how to trigger good performance. Recognition. Ah yes, the simplest thing of all, yet always the most difficult. The simple act of saying, “nice job” is consistently viewed as a Herculean task. But even “thank you” is not enough. The author urges us to get deeper. How you recognize an employee? To whom you recognize an employee? Both are critical to keep encouraging high-level performance.

Back to my outbound team. A simple act to build a team dynamic that I use is the simple ringing of a bell. A simple, bell that you would find in a dry-cleaner or motel. Get a sale, ring the bell in front of your peers. Its one of those common denominator things. The team does not sit together for several reasons. But most of them are in the same general area. One night, I noticed a woman had 5 sales. She wasn’t getting up to walk across the center to ring the bell. She was a seasoned pro and didn’t need me high five-ing her when I heard her do something well. I did make it a point to walk by her though and hold up five fingers with a big smile. Apparently, her son works on the team as well. He came up to me the next day and told me how excited his mother was that I recognized her. He said he hadn’t seen her like that in a long time. I recognized her. But just to her.

Finally, the author talks briefly about adult learning styles. There are 3 styles of adult learning: analyzing (pulling it apart, examining it, and piecing it back together), doing (simple trial and error) and watching (needing to see it in action and assimilate it). I spent some time crafting a short training class for these folks. They were all new (6 weeks) to our company, our products, our territories. They were new to the concept of “sales”. They were scared of the term “telemarketing”. (Which is a term I hate to use anyway…we’re calling customers whose contracts have expired or will expire).

I took what I knew and slapped together a powerpoint deck. It took me two one-hour classes to realize that maybe one in ten were actually extracting any value from my training. Half-way through the second class, I had them go out on the floor, take their seats and begin dialing. Then we watched. Those that were panicking, we pulled and had them sit with someone. The buddy system. Those that needed time to digest we’re given it. It worked a lot better. I gave the third class my handout and left them at their seats. They caught on the quickest.

Two weeks later, I am getting questions via email about things in my presentation. They have had time to pull it apart. They have had time to assimilate it. Now they are reading for the advanced class.

This article served as a great reminder. Everyone is different. Everyone responds differently. Everyone is motivated differently. Everyone learns differently. I don’t know about unique and beautiful snowflakes (I used that line from “Fight Club” on one of my team members who is an excellent performer but has issues with authority. She will tell you the sky is green just to argue with you.) though.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The 10 Best (and 10 Worst) Companies for Customer Service

I love a good year-end list. This one comes from crmlowdown. (I feel I have to confess that I did not find this article on my own. They had to send it to me.)

I would put Home Depot at the top of the Worst list. I cannot wait for the Lowe's to open a couple of miles away. We just remodeled our downstairs bathroom. (In some places, this is called a "powder room".) Not tub or shower, just sink or toilet.

Mrs. Diligentia decided that it was time to move away from the 1977 harvest gold sink and toilet; the vinyl floor with the suspicious smell; and the country wall-paper. Off to Home Depot. Ceramic tile, cement backer board, tools, grout, thinset, vanity-sink combo, mirror, medicine cabinet, toilet (that will let you flush a bucket of golf balls), moulding, paint (two kinds) and assorted nails, screws etc. (We got the new light fixture at Lowe's).

As we are purchasing, they hand us a coupon good for a substantial amount of money off our combined purchase. We don't see the coupon until the next morning. (We closed the HD on a Friday night). Back to the store to redeem the coupon. Receipts in hand. They tell us we have to bring all the stuff BACK.

Less than 12 hours had gone by and some of the same employees were there. This is service? I am counting the days until the Lowe's opens. I stare at the brick around my fireplace, flush with my new ability to install ceramic tile, waiting patiently. I stand in the middle of my basement, thinking that we should tear out the carpet and put bamboo down in time for my kid to start having friends over.

Sorry, Home Depot, you blew it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Shaking Hands for Dummies

Lifehacker struck a nerve with me yesterday. Great post and commentary thread on the customer of shaking hands [Give a Good Handshake]. I was motivated to post a comment! I have been a long-time reader/fan of Lifehacker but this was the first topic that got me riled up enough to post.

I commented about the "look-away" when shaking hands with someone. I HATE (and you should never say "hate") the look-away.

Hate it.


When you shake someone's hand: LOOK.....AT.....THEM!

Even if you have to pretend that you are even remotely interested in them. DO IT! It will make you a better person. People will think better of you. And follow the other tips commented in the post. Clean hand. DRY hand. Strong/confident/firm hand. ONE hand. No homie-brauheim. No limp duchess-style. And be an equal-opportunity hand-shaker. Women get the same grip. And women, I'm not telling you to shake hands like a man. But all the same rules apply to YOU as well.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Are Leadership/Management Skills Portable?

The May 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review has an article titled Are Leaders Portable? by Groysberg, McLean and Nohria. They studied a bunch of ex-GE trained/indoctrinated (I'm not saying that in a bad way) managers and their ability to produce results once they moved on to fairer hunting grounds.

They break the managers' skills and experiences down to what they refer to as the Model of Human Capital. It is the HBR, they can't just call them "skills". There are five of them:

  1. General management skills
  2. Strategic skills
  3. Industry skills/experience
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Company-specific skills/experience

General management skills involve the ability to find and use financial, technical and people resouces. It also includes basic leadership and decision making ability. These are all portable according to the authors but new skills must be acquired when the manager moves into a more senior role.

Strategic skills (cutting costs, driving growth, etc), gained from situational experience are highly portable but ONLY to companies experiencing similar situations. Cost cutters will do well cutting costs in other organizations.

Industry skills are defined as the "technical, regulatory, customer or supplier knowledge unique to an industry." These skills are portable within an industry. But performance will wane if say, a telecom manager tries to run a company in the medical industry. Makes sense.

Relationship skills are key. Managers in their survey, that could bring colleagues along with them, did much better. If you can't bring your people with you, make sure you can build relationships and social capital in a hurry.

Company-specific capital includes knowledge of the ways a particular company does business. Its culture. Its processes. Its mores. Etc. This is the least portable of the five but "CEOs...are uniquely positioned to capitalize on this knowledge by implementing familiar systems and processes."

This article has allowed me to reflect on my own career path. When I look at my own experience and the skills I have developed along the path, I see the insights from this article. I have always had a common thread of "customer service" and I have been fortunate to translate that across three industries: financial services, high tech and telecom. I have had the ability to bring along people that I trust and am familiar with in prior work situations. I expect that to happen again in my current role. It is just easier to bring in people that you know. Know their work ethic. Know their abilities. And can tell what they will do.

I have also been fortunate to develop strategic skills as well. I am good in a turnaround. I am good in a startup. Both are very similar yet different in many ways as well. I have gone from startup to turnaround to startup to a hybrid in my current role. Launching a new 500 seat site is more like a startup than business as usual.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hiring for the Customer Experience

I am sitting in a hotel room in Brentwood, TN (outside of Nashville). I am in town for some training. It gives me a break from bringing up a 500+ seat customer contact center in DeLand, FL that has me commuting 3 out of every 4 weeks to Daytona Beach.

It's giving me some time to catch up on reading. I am not in the thick of the battle. I miss it to be honest. It is hard for me to sit for 7 hours in a room while someone talks at me. Made even harder because I am hooked on the rush of 13 hour go! go! go! days.

But I just finished reading an article in the lastest Fast Company about Danny Meyer, who owns 4 of the top 20 restaurants in NYC. He talks about hospitality versus service. Which is a theme for this edition of the magazine. No links because it is not online yet.

You must NAIL service before you can even start thinking about the customer experience. This is something I am heavily interested in...we are at a turning point in the 100+ year history of the company I work for...we are opening a new call center. We have the opportunity to build it RIGHT from the ground up.

Meyer talks about what he looks for in new hires. There are, of course, the technical skills. But then he talks about emotional skill sets. And he breaks them down into 5 areas:

  1. A natural warmth and optimism. (You either feel it from someone or you don't.)
  2. Intelligence and curiosity. Passion about something.
  3. Work ethic. ("You would be surprised at how many people show up late for an interview, or don't shave.")
  4. Empathy.
  5. Integrity and self-awareness. ("...somebody who is thoughtful about who they are and where things fit into their lives. If they are not accountable to themselves, it's unlikely they'll be accountable to the people they are working with.")

I've probably interviewed at least 200 people in the last couple of months. I am not surprised about people showing up late for interviews, or in flip flops, or with thongs showing, etc. I am not surprised about integrity. Who accepts a job offer and then doesn't show up on the first day? (We have a 20% no show rate. We haven't cracked the code yet on how to identify this type of person. We use a testing suite that gets at attitudes toward work. We keep setting the criteria higher. )

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Push Play to Polka

Seth Godin's latest ChangeThis manifesto is an attack on the status quo. I hate the status quo so Godin works for me. He has a section about products and quality. He demands MORE! $18 CDs are ridiculous!

He recommends we lose the shackles and attempt greatness. He asks us to make some assumptions:

1. Hard drive space is free.
2. WiFi-like connections are everywhere.
3. Connection speeds are ten to one hundred times faster.
4. Everyone has a digital camera.
5. Everyone carries a device that is sort of like a laptop, but cheap and tiny.
6. The number of new products introduced everyday is five times greater than it is now.
7. Wal-Mart's sales are three times as big.
8. Any manufactured product more than five years old in design sells at commodity pricing.
9. The retirement age is five years higher than it is now.
10. Your current profession is either obsolete or totally different.

Now what?

Welcome to the Machine

I've been crazy-go-nuts with work. I'm sitting in a hotel room in Daytona Beach, FL at the moment. We are bringing up a new center in a nearby community. I am on the Monday through Friday commuting plan. I'm not finding a lot of time to read/research/etc career/management/leadership related material. I'm either pre-gaming on the flight down, reading something for fun to try to clear my brain of the cobwebs, or post-gaming on the way home.

Seth Godin has a new manifesto posted at ChangeThis. Two pieces jump out at me. He talks about "cogs".

Since you were five, schools and society have been teaching you to be a cog in the machine of our economy. To do what you're told, to sit in straight lines, and to get the work done.

Seth joins the Thomas Friedman train. He is also on the path of Rajesh Setty who tells us we need to be distinguishing ourselves. Friedman tells us [see commentary]that we need to be constantly improving/increasing our skill sets. We need to be "special", or "specialized", or "anchored" or just super-adaptable. Otherwise...we are just cogs in the giant machine.

Godin goes on to define cogs further:

1. Cog labor is a lowest-common-denominator activity.
2. If cog labor gets expensive, companies now automate it.
3. If a company can't afford to automate, they move the work somewhere where it's cheaper.
4. If the competition moves, companies figure out how to measure and semi-automate their cog labor to make it cheaper still.

And then here is something to ponder. Read it, let it sink in, process it, put it in your brain as you drift off to sleep and when you are good and terrified...start doing something about it...

The end result is that it's essentially impossible to become successful or well-off doing a job that is described and measured by someone else.

Sleep tight.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dungeons and Dragons and Self Awareness

Read a post on yesterday that resonated with me. I must confess that I am a gamer. I have been a gamer since I can remember. I will be a gamer when I die. All kinds of games. Role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, strategic games like Risk, card games like Crazy-8s that I play with my 5-year old. I had an Atari. I play computer games. I have a modded PS2 where I log hours playing Madden. I find games immensely cathartic. They are a way to clear my head. They are a way to help me process the big stuff in the background while I decide to blitz with the outside linebacker on 3rd down or go on a magic item hunt in Diablo 2.

I also find that games help me stay creative. I find myself dipping into my old dungeon mastering skill set when I am trying to come up with a new story for my aforementioned 5-year old. Creativity is a critical skill to possess in today's world. Sometimes you need that +5 Godly sword to tackle a particularly tricky business situation.

The lifehack post takes a quick look at applying role-playing game methodology to understanding your own skill sets and determining what you need to develop.
How would you characterize your capabilities? ...What kind of character are you? How do you stack up against other people in the same game? What capabilities, skills, or equipment could you further develop to build your success rate with your current game?

Think about who and where you are. Determine where you want to go. Build your skills and find the equipment to help you get there.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Meg Quoted in Career Journal!

My friend, Meg Wier, has been quoted in an article on Meg recently wrote and published "Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl's Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most Out of Life". I've promised to write a review for her 6 months ago. I am sure she has disowned me.

Meg gives great advice on networking in the article. Go check out the book as well. I'll write a review soon!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Holistic Career Progression

I am four months into my new position as sales/marketing/change/project ninja/pirate. I am behind schedule if I follow Watkins' First 90 Days. But I am building relationships, peeling back the onion and affecting change. Watkins seeks quick wins. I haven't seen or recognized the opportunity for quick wins. Everything is big. Everything I am working on is strategic. My natural tendency (dominant, aggressive) is to crave action and get those wins. They will come. Some projects are ready to be unvieled soon. And one is a project that I inheirited that I am building the business case against implementing.

I am working on two talent-related intiatives. I am examining our hiring process(es), compensation structures, and on-boarding/initial training processes. This has given me some time to reflect on my own career progression. It is time to develop the next stages.

My friend, Harry talks about a holisitic approach to business orientation being a Top 5 Trait when looking for a marketing candidate in a post over at Marketing . This is something I believe in. Once I get a handle on marketing and sales in my current role (2-3 years from now), it will be time to start looking for the next opportunity.

I just finished reading a McKinsey Quarterly article that addresses talent management inside organizations. Making a Market In Talent provided valuable insights for me as I begin to transition away from line management to professional management.

Companies focus the greater part of their efforts on helping managers move up the line-management hierarchy and become better general managers. They usually spend less time developing people who have the talent required to cultivate distinctive client relationships, to tailor products for distribution channels, or to negotiate superior contracts with suppliers. The rewards of line management motivate talented people to seek line opportunities over professional ones.
Blammo! That hit me like a ton of bricks. I seek the transition from line management to professional management.

Sarah E. Needleman in Working With Executive Recruiters When Your Goal is the CEO Suite supports this holistic approach. In her article, she speaks to the qualifications she looks for when recruiting CEO candidates for her clients.

I want to see that they have run a significant profit-and-loss operation and that they have measurable achievements as leaders. I want to see that they have created significant change in an organization's approach to business and the results that followed.
She also wants to see a wide-range of functional responsibilities from finance, to product developent, to marketing and sales.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Beyond Code Review Published in The CEO Refresher

I recently had another book review published in The CEO Refresher! I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to review my friend, Rajesh Setty's book: Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps

Rajesh published a manifesto at ChangeThis and turned it into a book. We struck up a relationship, he sent me the book and I found it to be most valuable. Read the review at the CEO Refresher.

See Rajesh's link to the review on his blog: Life Beyond Code.

As I caution in the review, don't get too wrapped up in the IT focus. If you're tired of being just another drone in toiling away in your veal fattening pen day after day, you should start with Beyond Code.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tell Me About Yourself

Great article over at on what is often the first question in the interview process: tell me about yourself. Written by Arlene Hirsch, this article provides an indispensible roadmap to navigating this first set of treacherous rapids in an interview.

Hirsch provides many solid tips and points out the potential danger spots.

As I type this, this article is helpful beyond the interview process. Everyone needs their personal elevator speech. Everyone that wants to de-commoditize themselves and build their personal brand. This article will help you tell the person asking the question what they want to know.

Bullet points from the article:
  1. Start with the end in sight
  2. Take time to establish rapport
  3. Sketch the big picture
  4. FOCUS!
  5. Showcase your communication skills
  6. Highlight the benefits you will bring to the employer
  7. Spotlight the positive
  8. Provide details
  9. Disclose personal details CAUTIOUSLY
  10. Finish Strong.
I have already started using this article with my new team. When I first arrived, I sat down with everyone individually. My intent was to learn more about them both professionally and personally. Each one of them gave me a step by step travelogue of their work history. I stumped each of them with the question: "what are you KNOWN for?"

Along with understanding their personal branding, we will develop the TEAM brand. Clearly defining OUR collective value proposition. This article has provided a great foundation for that journey.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Leading Large-Scale Change

Jonathan Byrnes writes another great piece on managing change for HBS: Working Knowledge. Leading Large-Scale Change is particularly relevant for me in my new role.

As I previously mentioned, I joined a telecom company as a National Strategic Sales and Marketing Manager. I have responsibilities for four National "regions", each with call center, repair, collections, etc groups. I belong to a group that has strategic oversight over all the regions. I have several responsibilities but most of them roll up to changing the way we do business. In order to survive we must make the change from being "just the phone company" to becoming a full-service, total telecommunications provider. We want to be in every channel you use to communicate. Phone, tv, wireless, voip, and the list goes on.

When a company experiences a widening gap between what worked in the past and what is needed in the future, its market share declines, and sooner or later its financial performance degrades as well. The natural reaction is to work harder at doing the things that brought success in the past. Unfortunately, this usually does not help, and the organization gets increasingly dispirited.
Luckily, our leadership team IS searching for new ways to do things. It is not business as usual. We have a long road ahead of us. The first step, according to Byrnes, is for top management to convince the managers underneath them that the changes are going to allow the company to prosper over the long run. Byrnes uses a great choice of words here: change must be explicit.

Explicit. Not flavor of the month. Change must be dramatic.

For large-scale renewing change to be successful, it has to be comprehensive and bold. Managers will resist the change unless they see that it will make a major difference in the company's prospects. Unless the change is large enough, the managers will backslide.
Top management must be "relentless and unwavering" in leading and communicating the change process. They must constantly paint the picture of the end-state, or as Byrnes calls it: "what success looks like".

Don't misunderstand dramatic change though. You can implement big, bold change and still do it in incremental steps. He uses the example of climbing a mountain. You can use base-camps to phase in the adjustment period, break off manageable chunks and realign as you go. He makes a great point:

In most change situations, as in many ascents, the best specific ascent route will not be clear until the next base camp is reached.
I'll have more on Byrnes' thoughts on leading change. He has written a few articles on the subject. Since it is pertinently relevant to what I am trying to accomplish in my new role, I am studying hard.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Meg Wrote a Book!

My friend, Meghan (Meg) Wier, wrote a book! Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl's Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most Out of Life has just made its way to Amazon! Apparently, she mentions me, albeit indirectly, in this book. It is apparently under the section about people who have had a profound influence on her life.

I'm joking. I do believe I am in the book. I don't know because I have yet to receive my complementary copy. As soon as I do, I will post a comprehensive analysis. Meg is good people though. She's given me great advice and marketing help over the years. If you find yourself becoming a wallflower during networking events, this is the book for you!

Meg walked up to me one day at a job fair in a local mall and demanded a job. I gave her a reporting analyst position where she crunched numbers all day. It seemed like the appropriate position for someone with a background in graphic design and marketing. :) I think she still holds that against me.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The World is Flat

I just finished reading Thomas Friedman's bestselling, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century and I am afraid...very, very afraid. This is a MUST read. Now. You can go download an article he wrote for the New York Times called "It's a Flat World, After All" which is a 6-page summary of the book but it won't have the same impact as the book.

The Top 10 Forces That Flattened the World:

1. 11/9/89 - The Berlin Wall came down. Setting off a chain reaction that reaches China. 6 months later, Microsoft releases Windows 3.0. People, other than scientists, can connect PCs to telephones and send emails and view content via the likes of CompuServe and AOL.

2. 8/9/95 - Netscape goes public. This IPO tiggered the dot-com boom, which triggered the dot-com bubble, which triggered the massive overinvestment (billions!) in fiber-optic cable. Then the bubble burst leaving the banks owning a lot of fiber which they were happy to sell for pennies on the dollar.

3. Work Flow Software - As the walls went down and the PC, Windows and Netscape enabled people to connect with other people as never before. We found ourselves needing programmers to develop new applications. We needed to get everyone's applications talking to each other. XML and SOAP allowed application to application interaction which is the foundation for web-enabled work-flow.

4. Open-Sourcing - Linux.

5. Outsourcing Y2K - businesses wanted to fix the Y2K problem quickly and cheaply. They turned to India. Then the e-commerce push came. Both HUGE opportunities for India. They delivered mission-critical, high-quality products. By the time the dot-com bubble burst, India had developed a great reputation. With companies forced to cut IT budgets, India was there to do the work that needed to get done cheaper AND better.

6. Offshoring - In a range of industries. Not just call centers. China arrives on the scene once they joined the WTO in 2001.

7. Supply-Chaining - Wal-Mart's basic method of buying directly from the manufacturer to get the deepest discounts possible. They got the manufacturer's to cut their costs; they worked the supply chain with those manufacturers to further reduce cost and friction; and constantly improve Information Systems so it knew EXACTLY what it's customers were buying and could feed that info to all the manufacturers.

8. In-courcing - FedEx/UPS provide the means to develop and support a complex global supply chain for the little guy. Small companies can now act big. They can sell in places never before possible. You've seen the commercials.

9. In-forming - Google. Yahoo. Search engines. It the ability to build and deploy your own personal supply chain of information, knowledge and entertainment. It is about SELF-collaboration.

10. The Steroids. Digital, mobile, personal, virtual. All analog content is being digitized. And it can be manipulated quickly, and sent anywhere wirelessly.

Triple Convergence

1. Around the year 2000, all these flatteners started to converge and work together to create a new, flatter, global playing field. As this happend, both businesses and individuals began to adopt new habits, skills and processes to exploit it. They moved from largely vertical means of creating value (command and control) to more horizontal ones (connect and collaborate).

2. This merger of the new playing field with the new WAYS of doing business was the second convergence. This continued the flattening process.

3. While this was going on severl BILLION new people walked on the the field of play. They were from China, India, the former Soviet Union, South and Central America.

All of this doesn't just affect people and companies. It will and is effecting how countries organize their economies and geo-politics.

How will America compete? This book is scary enough until you hit this point. We are WAY behind in education. You have to constantly upgrade your skills. How do you become "untouchable":

  • Workers who are "special" - Peyton Manning, Bill Gates, Bruce Springsteen. These jobs can never be outsourced.
  • Workers who are "specialized" - knowledge workers who are specialized and have a niche. Their skills are always in high demand.
  • Workers who are "anchored" - barber, waitress, doctors (sometimes). Their jobs have to be done in specific locations.
  • Workers who are "really adaptable" - they constantly acquire new skills, knowledge and expertise that allow them to constantly create new value.
We are BEHIND. Friedman points to three gaps we are currently facing. The ambition gap, the numbers gap in the lack of scientists and engineers we are producing, and, finally, an education gap. The longer American kids stay in school, the worse they perform.

As he says..."this is not a test. This is the beginning of a crisis..."

Sunday, January 15, 2006

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Lifehacker points to an site which provides a nice summary of Dale Carnegie's MONSTER business/relationship book: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Solid, basic advice for anyone at any time. I don't know what happened to my copy of this book but it needs to be a permanent fixture in your library if you are serious about making some kind of statement. Don't look at it as a "sales" book. Look at it as a networking book or a relationship building book.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jonathan Byrnes Live!

The latest edition of HBS Working Knowledge came out yesterday. With that comes the latest "Bottom Line" column from Jonathan Byrnes on Managing Change. Regular readers know that I have become a HUGE fan of his column/work.

Byrnes also announced the launching of his personal site. It collects his columns back to 2002! Woot! I was hoping that it would list his course materials from his classes at MIT. MIT has a site called OpenCourseWare where they list online classes curriculae, notes, reading lists, etc. Well worth a look on its own.

I've linked to the site over on the right -->.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Relationships, Networking and a Correction

For the last year or so, I have been working at a startup customer management outsourcer. Emphasis on the startup aspects. Today, I agreed to an offer from a local telecom company. This decision was largely a financial one. In short, I needed the money. My family just could not survive at the salary I was bringing to the table.

This decision was a hard one for two reasons. First, I put all of my energy into this company. I have a long standing relationship with one of the owners. We are a small shop and we all have become very close. The second reason is that I had received another job offer. After struggling, scratching and clawing, and coming as close to giving up....and I mean REALLY looking into that abyss....I received 2 offers within a 24-hour period.

After a year of networking, countless resume re-writes and versions, a personal marketing plan (thanks Hannah!), targeted lists, and using to meet all sorts of people, BOTH of these jobs came down to long term relationships I have had with people from a previous position. One came from the guy that gave me my first call center/technology/IT opportunity connecting me with a head hunter. A guy I do not spend anywhere near the amount of time with that I should. The other offer came because a guy that used to work for me took a position and thought I would be a good fit for other challenges they were facing.

It is ALL about the relationships. I don't know if the size of your network matters. I've spent a lot of time, effort and energy in working and developing my personal "network". I'm pretty proud of the number of connections I have on linkedin. But at the end of the day, it came down to two people that are invested in me. And I in them.

Now...I also have to correct my post about how commerce seems to stop somewhere around Thanksgiving. [link] I had a TON of activity in December. A third company I had been working with started to get going. I ultimately opted to not follow through with them. It was a cultural thing. I was apparently wrong and bought into the business lore. Things definitely happened. Oh, and don't worry....I'll still be posting.

UPDATE: I spoke with Harry Joiner from today. I was reminded that Harry played a big role in my job hunt. Harry took time out of his busy life to provide me with mentoring and advice on positioning myself. Be a hammer! Thanks, Harry. I owe you.

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