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!