Tuesday, March 11, 2008

From Mark Cubans Blog: Start-Ups

As most of you know (or at least now you do) I'm working on a start-up that will launch here shortly (hopefully within a month) and I just read this posting on Mark Cubans blog and it's exactly what I needed. His rules for a start up, I had a lot of these in the back of my mind but it's nice to see them from someone who is successful and gives you confirmation on their importance. Hopefully I'll be writing my list in 5 years, I'll do numbers 13-25 :-) So without further hesitation here they are:

1. Don't start a company unless its an obsession and something you love.

2. If you have an exit strategy, its not an obsession.

3. Hire people who you think will love working there.

4. Sales Cures All. Know how your company will make money and how you will actually make sales.

5. Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in your core competencies. Get the best. Outside the core competencies, hire people that fit your culture but are cheap

6. An expresso machine ? Are you kidding me ? Shoot yourself before you spend money on an expresso machine. Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours in a day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.

7. No offices. Open offices keeps everyone in tune with what is going on and keeps the energy up. If an employee is about privacy, show them how to use the lock on the john. There is nothing private in a start up. This is also a good way to keep from hiring execs who can not operate successfully in a startup. My biggest fear was always hiring someone who wanted to build an empire. If the person demands to fly first class or to bring over their secretary, run away. If an exec wont go on salescalls, run away. They are empire builders and will pollute your company.

8. As far as technology, go with what you know. That is always the cheapest way. If you know Apple, use it. If you know Vista... ask yourself why, then use it. Its a startup, there are just a few employees. Let people use what they know.

9. Keep the organization flat. If you have managers reporting to managers in a startup, you will fail. Once you get beyond startup, if you have managers reporting to managers, you will create politics.

10. NEVER EVER EVER buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, its ok to buy for your own folks, but if you really think someone is going to wear your Yobaby.com polo you sent them in public, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money

11. NEVER EVER EVER hire a PR firm. A PR firm will call or email people in the publications, shows and websites you already watch, listen to and read. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them an email introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communications with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.

12. Make the job fun for employees. Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them. My first company, MicroSolutions, when we had a record sales month, or someone did something special, I would walk around handing out 100 dollar bills to salespeople. At Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot. Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or 10 for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party :0

Monday, March 3, 2008

:::Bangs Head Against Desk::: Interviews

Not interviews for me but people I was interviewing. Out of the people who were scheduled to interview last week only 1 was interviewed without incident. By the end of the week I was banging my head against my desk in disbelief, I thought people actually wanted jobs in this era....guess I missed the mark on that one.

Now by this point you should know the do's and don't of interviewing but I'll give you a quick recap and lessons learned from the 3 of this past week.

Interview 1: Schedule for Monday 2pm. Receive an e-mail at 11am with an elaborate excuse saying they will not be able to interview today. Reschedule for 12noon the following day. The candidate shows up, unprepared, dressed in a very casual down jacket, business casual attire and white socks...yes white gym sock. The candidate had no enthusiasm even when asked about outside hobbies or interests, was disconnected and seemed distracted throughout the interview.

Lessons learned:

1.) Short of death show up to the interview! Even if you are a bit sick it's better to show up rather than give the employer any reason to doubt you, showing up in this circumstance will show determination and drive. If you must for whatever reason cancel, do it over the phone.
2.) If you do not have a "dress" jacket i.e. peacoat, overcoat, etc. do not wear a casual jacket into the interview. Even if it's cold outside it's only the walk from your car to the office. It looks very unprofessional and unpolished.
3.) DO NOT WEAR WHITE SOCKS! This is something that drives me up the wall, last time I checked I was not interviewing Michael Jackson. Regardless of the outfit this just looks ugly and unprofessional.
4.) Have a personality and answers to the questions. Do not respond with one or two word answers, be able to carry a conversation based upon the question. If you are asked "What are your hobbies and passions outside of work and you can't come up with an answer ...that is not a good thing.
5.) At least pretend you're paying attention and are interested.

Interview 2: Showed up on time, was prepared, dressed perfectly, organized, and ready to rock. Was a bit soft spoken but that could be nerves or personality but thats ok. Was able to carry a conversation based off questions and had great 2 way communication with stories and experiences.

Lessons Learned: They knew what they were doing, everything was done properly....great chance of getting the position.

Interview 3: Scheduled for 11. Never showed up, never called, never e-mailed. When we placed a call to his cell phone it was off and our message was never retuned.

Lessons Learned: You have got to be kidding me. If you really didn't want the interview that bad then why did you schedule it in the first place?

So 2/3 interviews were horrible or didn't even happen. Please do not let interview 1 and 3 be descriptions of you, it does not look good and you never know who talks to who in the business and HR world these days. Heck someone might even have a blog recounting interview horror stories!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Check You Attitude and Outlook at the Door

"You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone" -Al Capone-

Those days may have come and gone. In today's corporate world you do not have the ability to be rude, pompus or arrogant. There are 5 other people waiting to take your job, and if you are not liked by other associates and ultimatly your managers it makes it that much easier to can you. Have you ever had a manager who you WANT to work for? I bet they weren't an ass, so why should you be? If you want to lead people one day learn from the people you admire and soak up their skills and ability to work and lead other people. I will consistantly try to get as much face time with co-workers who inspire me so I can find out as much as possilbe about what makes them tick.

However you need to remember that being nice is only one part of the equation to be successful, you also need to produce, and best yet is to be good at both.

In term of seperating my personal and professional like I've worked by this rule:

-Leave emotion and personal issues in the glovebox.-

I have found this to be very hard for so many of my college counterparts, with streaming access to networking site or just a constant stream of information via txt, black berry, iPohones, iPods, etc it is so easy to get caught up in some personal emotion. If you are having a personal problem such as your significant other leaving you, leave it at home where it should be. Bringing these types of conversations up in the work place could spell doom. It can easily send all the wrong signals. So if you don't want to hear other people complain about personal issues make sure you don't do the same!

I would recommend watching this video. This may be one of the most moving and influential videos I've seen in a long time and it will change your outlook on life and the issues you have. It's 1hr 20mins long so make sure you can watch it all.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Business Dinner Tip

I hear questions regarding business dinners from friend all the time. This can be a make or break situation for you especially if there are outside clients or senior staff at the table.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is "play it safe"!

If you are a junior team member be careful about ordering alcohol and never order alcohol first. If everyone at the table orders then it's acceptable but don't put yourself in the position of being the only one with a beer/wine/cocktail. Picking the type of drink depends on the company at the table, the restaurant, and the fare. Generally when ordering a beer I order something besides a Coors/Miller/Bud (Lite), to me these beers are still too close to what you drank in college and can still hold those connotations. I would order either a local brew, standard lager or IPA, this way a bit of sophistication comes out even in your beer choice.

As for wine, the decision really comes down to preference and fare selection. Of course if you are having meat with the meal a red wine is the best choice. I would recommend getting and reading a wine for dummies book if you plan on having a lot of dinners with wine in your new position, it could go a long way. Also red wineglasses can be held at either the stem or as the base of the bowl because reds are served at room temperature. A white on the other hand is served chilled so you only want to hold the glass by the stem so as not to warm up the wine.

For a cocktail stick with something classic not new and fancy. Here is where you should have an idea of what you like, also know the terminology i.e. neat, up, twist, dry, etc. I will elaborate on these points in an upcoming post.

When it comes to the meal, unless it is a VERY casual and laid back dinner do not order anything that requires you to use your hands and pick it up. Pick a dish that requires a knife and fork, and do not cut the meal with the side of your fork; learn to use both the knife and fork in a proper manner.

Be careful what you say, even though you are not in the office what is said at dinner can have lasting affects. You never know what you might say that could offend a client or boss, you do not know his background and he may view and think of appropriate conversation completely different than you do.

Those are just a few quick tips for eating out in the corporate world, I have witnessed some blunders in this area and it can sometimes be very difficult to dig yourself out of a hole you dug at a dinner.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Profound Marketing

Here is a little tid-bit of a blog post made on Seth Godin's blog, the following lines may be the most profound advice about marketing I have ever read. I made sure to send it to all of my marketing counterparts within my current company.

Marketing, when it works, transcends any discussion of the benefits of the product or the service.

Marketing, instead, is about the equal sign.

Many of us want fun and respect and love and success and kindness and hope. What brilliant marketers do is add the =.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Start Something With Passion

A great way to get noticed at work is to create something from the ground up, Not only will you attract the eyes of senior management but you will also open yourself to a new way of networking.

Take something that you have a passion for outside of work and try to bring it inside the walls of the office. Playing computer games and watching movies might not be the choices but there are plenty of other opportunities. If you are very environmentally conscious try creating a "Green Team" at work, a group of employees who get together every do often and discuss ways the office can reduce, reuse, and recycle (more if you already have programs going). The more small success this group has the greater the chance that you will soon be asked my management to implement more rigorous programs and initiatives.

"If you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball!"

Do you enjoy sports? Create a sports league comprised of fellow employees (and their family members). Either form a team and enter a league or if your company is large enough create a full league with employees. If you have a small turn out try reaching out to companies you do business with and get a business league going, one team from a bank, one from a service provider, one from an engineering firm, etc. This type of league has a ton of networking benefits.
These are just some ideas of what you could do, the possibilities are endless, and with the various programs that are offered in communities it's easier than ever to piggyback onto one of those programs. If you get lucky enough your company may pay for the entry fees into this programs viewing it as "team building" or the like.

Now get out there and have some fun!