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Monday, June 27, 2011

A Quick Word about Career Transitions
Since I haven't posted in a while, you can image something unpleasant has happened.  The unpleasantness was 2009 and most of 2010.

The economy and my then-employer gave me a nice kick in the face in late 2009.  I started my own business and took another series of blows, not only to the face and neck, but also to the body, knees, and generally everywhere else.

It is now the middle of 2011, I am still fairly beaten up, but at least I can type again, and thus this note on career transition

Whether you lose your job in a period of dramatic economic uncertainty or in a period of expansion, it is financially, emotionally, and spiritually very unpleasant.  I am sure you have read or heard a million stories over the last two years of gloom and woe, so I won't pile on.  Instead, I am going to provide just a few specific things I have learned.

Get organized and learn how to use your time wisely.  I recommend a book by Peter Drucker titled, The Effective Executive.  It is a short read but will help you schedule your day to be better focused on finding and securing your new opportunity.  It was also written in the 1960s, so it has some really funny, un-pc comments sprinkled through it.  Think "Mad Men."

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Most people with undergraduate degrees do not work in the field in which they studied.  When faced with a job loss, consider looking for or creating new opportunities in the field/s you are most interested.

Start with any necessary licensing or regulatory requirements, as they will often take the most time to overcome.  The next step is network like crazy and expect a whole lot of rejection.

Be patient.  Making a transition will likely take a long time and be financially painful.  Sorry, its the truth.  To put a better spin on it, think of your transition like planting a garden.  You plan your garden in the winter.  You think about what you want to plant.  Determine if there is sufficient sun, water, etc.  When the time is right, you sow your seeds, then water and weed regularly.  After a series of weeks, you make actually get something you can eat.

What you have just read is what any commission sales person tells you is their daily life.  Figure out who you want to meet, the nature of the relationship you want, then nurture the relationship.  Rinse and repeat.  Some relationships are immediately profitable, while others may take years.  Patience is a virtue, but cash flow is a challenge.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, short cuts, and your mileage will vary.  I regularly call people I know for advice and also to get their opinions on whether my newest idea is completely off the wall.  I also attend regional entrepreneur conferences held by the investment community.  It is a great source of information and contacts.  I am not talking about franchises or multi-level marketing.

I wish you the best!  Don't give up.  I will report back when I have crossed the poverty line in income.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Three Myths about Chinese Business Culture

Many major corporations believe that the 2010s decade belongs to China and have been flooding it with managers filled with perceptions and stereotypes.

For these managers going to China, Harvard Business Review points out in its January-February edition three of the major misconceptions about Chinese business. The article, "China Myths, China Facts," by Erin Meyer and Elisabeth Yi Shen, clears up the three major myths.

The first myth is Chinese business and business people are collectivist. In reality, the modern generation, having lived in a repressive state, are now able to more freely express themselves and strive for their personal goals. From the article:

"Interview subjects cited the Cultural Revolution, the one-child policy, and mass migration to big cities as factors in the unraveling collective spirit."

Although collectivism is no longer a dominant theme in Chinese business, it is important understand that many decisions are made in a consultative, group environment. The upside to this behavior is that Chinese are "...highly skilled at working in teams."

A second myth is Chinese business is governed by long-term deliberation. As stated above, many decisions are made by groups, however, Chinese are making group decisions and executing very quickly, relative to Western decision making. The element of truth in the myth is that Chinese build long-term business relationships, as well as setting long-term government policies.

The final myth the article addresses is that Chinese business is marked by risk aversion. The article contrasts a Western view of deliberation, examination, and trial before action, while the current Chinese attitude is "Right, we've decided, boom, off we go!"

This rapid action, according to Edith Coron, a "...French intercultural consultant," is due to: "...(with) GDP is growing at 10% per year, it's understandable that the level of entrepreneurship and risk taking should be so high." This sentiment is echoed by "...Wei Chin, 'We don't want to lose a single minute. We have a lot of confidence, and we are very comfortable with risk."

Although risk tolerance is acceptable, deference to senior staff is still present. Workers are unlikely to share opinions in the presence of more senior individuals. This reluctance is an element of deference and not wishing to make more senior staff look foolish, as well as the desire to not appear brash.

As the volume of business with China increases, it is important to regularly examine personal beliefs, biases, and stereotypes. While there may elements of truth in these beliefs, a changing world brings changing behavior. As China develops a more mature economy, and hopefully less repressive regime, new behavior has emerged. Collectivism has been replaced by individualism, long-term deliberation with real-time reaction, and risk aversion with risk tolerance. Awareness of these changes makes for a more successful manager and business.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vonage Gives Free Call to Haiti from US

In the wake of the disaster in Haiti, Vonage is doing its part. From their site:

Vonage is committed to helping during difficult times. In the wake of the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, Vonage is currently offering free international dialing to Haiti for all U.S. callers. Dial 800-809-2503 and follow the instructions to place a free 10-min call. We encourage you to pass this Vonage toll-free number along to non-Vonage customers who want to call Haiti.

Remember, calls to Haiti are free only if you use this toll-free number to place the call. If you dial from your home phone without using the 800 number, you’ll incur standard long-distance charges. Please note that due to infrastructure limitations in Haiti, you may experience difficulty reaching your party successfully. This free calling service to Haiti may be discontinued at any time.

Please remember the people of Haiti in your prayers and consider a donation through groups such as the Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to Quit Playing Phone Tag

How much time do you waste trying to reach people, leaving messages, only to miss their return call?

Phone tag isn't insurmountable. Some companies, usually larger ones, have ways to forward your desk phone to your cell phone. However, if you work for smaller companies, or yourself, you may not have that luxury.

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Fortunately, RingCentral offers a product that will forward your desk phone to any of four different numbers, so people can find you! Wouldn't it be nice if others had such a service?

RingCentral will forward the call to which ever number picks up first, though you can set a preference. Simply, RingCentral utilizes your internet connection to handle the call hand offs. Additionally, you may need similar services for faxing, which RingCentral also provides.

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Not to be out done, Google is soon to offer a service called Google Voice. Although it is only available by invite only (?), it is said to offer call forwarding, screening, voice mail, etc. It appears this will be a "free" service, but I don't have anymore details as of 01 September 2009.

Here is a brief interview from BusinessWeek that spells out some of the differences.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Easy Ways to Make Your Employees Happier

Are your employees happy? Better yet, are your employees fulfilled in their work?

Harvard fellow Anthony (Tony) Tjan, suggests it can be done in four simple steps. While I agree that his four steps are significant, I would like to expand on them.

Tony's four steps are:
  1. Help the employee create a meaningful role
  2. Provide feedback
  3. Provide professional development
  4. Acknowledge contribution
Mr. Tjan's steps are designed to maximize the interior motivation of the employee, in other words, as he puts it, the love side of the love or money relationship.

While many people have jobs whose compensation is minimal compared with their skills, those people place a significant value on their work. Examples could be military personnel, police officers, clergy, teachers, etc. The work is important to society at large and personally rewarding, though it offers less than exceptional financial compensation.

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Helping employees find what is most important to them in the company fulfills the need to provide a meaningful service. Additionally, an emotionally attached employee will likely stay with the company longer, or until their goals have been accomplished.

Feedback, which I have written about on this blog, provides the employee the critical information they need to stay on the right track, and to fulfill their job expectations. Good feedback can also introduce new opportunities in the business that fit the needs of the employee, as well as providing a clear road map for success.

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Feedback also highlights the need for professional development. Suggesting and providing the resources to achieve the next level of success encourages the employee not only to achieve more, but also to remain with the company. Professional development also creates reciprocity. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement, though they require a one year commitment. However, the retention requirement should be seen as a positive investment in the employee and their career trajectory.

Finally, the three steps above require the fourth step to be successful. The employee be recognized for their achievements and contributions. Recognition, whether in the form of money or a simple certificate, rewards and reinforces the actions of the employee and encourages them to remain and continue to succeed.

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Providing personally rewarding work, directing it, expanding it, and reinforcing its' value is a formula for a long-term, high-performing employee. Psychic benefits are, or in some cases, more important than material benefits. However, the proper balance and fulfillment of the two will make employees happy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Case for Core Competencies

Simultaneously posted at “Dollars and Sense”

Whether large or small, what keeps a business going is its’ core competencies. Those one or two things the company does best that distinguish it from its competitors should be, with customers, its top focus. In three cases, Topps baseball cards, Quiksilver surf merchandise, and Dial-A-Mattress, straying from core competency either ruined, or nearly ruined a successful business.

Topps, a multi-generational, family-owned business, was known in the industry as one of the top two producers of baseball cards. It was successful in the business because it had exclusive rights with players and clubs to the images used on the cards. Additionally, they also were successful selling the formula and base materials for the chewing gum that went into the packs of cards. RingCentral Online - Free Trial plus 10% Off

However, as the founding members passed away and the younger generations took control, the company began to change. No longer satisfied with business as usual, it was decided the business should rapidly expand and begin competing with larger confectioners, such as Wrigley’s and Beech-Nut. This proved disastrous. As the expansion and new products, such as chocolate flavored gum failed, the company neared bankruptcy. In 1984, the firm was bought by the leveraged buy out firm of Forstmann Little & Co.

Quiksilver, a popular surfboard and surf merchandiser is currently suffering from its expansion into Rossignol skis and Cleveland Golf equipment. Rossignol was purchased in 2005. Its recognizable name in Europe and among ski aficionados appeared to fit with Quiksilver’s sports brands. However, the manufacture and marketing of skis and golf clubs proved radically difficult to integrate into the other product sets. Both units have been sold, and in 2009, according to multiple sources, is on Moody’s Bottom Rung list of companies unlikely to pay back their debt. Cheap? No. 100% Free. Trade stocks for free on The Free Trading Community.

Finally, Dial-A-Mattress, the firm started in 1976 allowing customers to order mattresses over telephone is being sold to it rival, Sleepy’s Inc. The Wall Street Journal reports in the July 14, 2009 print edition that “…the two major changes in his business were largely to blame: an expansion into brick-and-mortar sales and a culture clash brought on by new management.”

While the story from the Journal sheds light on how new, big company executives squashed the entrepreneurial, employee-input driven culture, the real story is that Dial-A-Mattress strayed from its direct sales model into competing with other established storefronts. Find high-end jobs on Doostang. It takes 30 seconds to join. JOIN TODAY.

In these three cases, failure to adhere to core competencies has ruined or nearly ruined the businesses. While many find a core competency approach too conservative and not growth-oriented, it can be clearly argued that in many cases, such a conservative approach rewards businesses and investors. While I don’t discourage risk taking, it should be done fully understanding the consequences. While Boeing was able to radically change air travel with the release of the 747, many other companies failed miserably. For companies, understand the risk and prepare for it. Investors, do the same. However, don’t be ashamed to make a profit from doing that at which you do best.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Are Pay Job Search Sites Worth It?

First, I apologize for taking so long to post a new article. I am now among the ranks of those who have lost their job. However, with a decent network, a solid education and experience, everybody tells me I should be all right. However, should I be using the pay-for-search sites?

There are several companies that offer recruitment services like MRI, Sterling-Hoffman, etc., at no charge. There are also companies like, Doostang, and RiseSmart that offer a fee for service. Does it make sense to use them? Executives & Professionals: Changing Jobs?

I have used in the past and found the information, particularly the names and contact info of recruiters excellent. targets job seekers whose salaries are above $100,000. I didn't particularly like to pay, however, the content was easily available and accessible. Additionally, if has a very strong search function for specific positions, though it can be very granular. A Better Way To Search for $100,000+ Jobs. Join!

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I have never used Doostang, because it is new to me. It has a particular niche, targeting "elite" universities. This is how they describe their service:

"Doostang is an exclusive career community for elite young professionals. Doostang has over 500,000 members, the majority of which come from elite educational backgrounds and are interested in the finance, consulting, media, entertainment and technology industries."

While is not specifically targeted like Doostang, both are focused on the higher income job seeker. Find high-end jobs on Doostang. It takes 30 seconds to join. JOIN TODAY.

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RiseSmart is another site which I haven't used personally, again, as it is a new site. Like and Doostang, RiseSmart targets the $100,000 job seekers.

From their site:

"The Human-Powered Job Search Portal Making $100K+ job searches easier than ever! RiseSmart is the first service of its kind: a human-powered job search portal that prescreens online search results for time-starved managers and executives. The RiseSmart team matches opportunities with jobseekers based on each member’s unique profile, saving our subscribers countless hours of Internet searching."

RiseSmart appears, at least according to their material, to have a slight edge of With, you have sort through the results. If you have a good search criteria, that may not be an issue, however, RiseSmart indicates they do the ordering and sorting for you. Top High Paying Jobs. Use our services and find your dream job fast. Register now!

Is it worth it? Should I spend my money on these sites? From my experience, they are worth investigating. I used, but probably not to the fullest. Doostang and RiseSmart appear to have capitalized on the things didn't do very well. If you are in the $100,000 salary range and looking for a new opportunity, check out the sites. See which ones are the best fit. If they meet your requirements, it could be the best money you have ever spent. Good Luck!

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