Where do you see yourself in five years?

A couple of days ago I was talking to my next door neighbor, Carrie, about a job interview she’d just been on. “It went pretty well … except that: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ question. I didn’t know what to say. I’m just trying to get through the next week … five years – who knows!”

I couldn’t agree with Carrie more. Isn’t it time we move on as employers – and once and for all, and throw this archaic interview question to the scrap-heap.

Being a recruiter for over fifteen years, I have found that most interviewers ask this question only because they were asked it and it seems they would be committing heresy if they didn’t ask it too. Aside from nixing the candidate if they say – “I want your job,” or “I want to learn everything I can so I can start-up my own firm and compete against you” … nothing is gained from it.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Imagine if an interview went like this. Upon the appointment confirmation, the candidate was emailed these questions: Where do you see this company in five years? What role do you see yourself in it at that time? And what steps do you believe you need to take to get there?

First, as an employer, you just might get an interesting outside perspective on your firm. One you wouldn’t get as an insider.

Second, you would find out what the true goals and ambitions of the candidate were – not just what they thought you wanted to hear.

And third, you would find out whether the candidate could think creatively and critically. Most CEOs say the their biggest challenge in hiring these days is to find critical thinkers. Some even say they prefer candidates from oversees because of this factor.

As a candidate or even as a networker, it would force you to face your possible future in that firm. It would also give you an opportunity to gauge the response of the interviewer, your prospective boss. Does their vision align with yours?

The world has changed from the time this question can into our lexicon. Why hasn’t has it?

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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“Give, give … and give some more!” Make 2012 the year of the CGO!

We are in a precarious economic times. It seems like every business is trying to find that edge, that one thing that will set them apart from their competition.”The status quo won’t work – and if you don’t change then your day days are numbered.”

Well now it’s all about solutions. The question is:  What is it going to take for your firm to be one of those that makes the cut? I’m going try to throw out some ideas over the next couple of weeks … here’s the first one.

Hire a CGO … a Chief Giving Officer. Their job is to figure out and nurture ways your company can give. And not talking about “giving back.” I’m talking about giving, “Paying it Forward” – regardless if you’ve received.

Never miss an opportunity ... to give!

A few months ago I was visiting my daughter, Alex, in Los Angeles when I saw this banner on a gas station in West LA yesterday:  

We give 20% of all our proceeds on Tuesdays to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Tolerance.”

I’m not Jewish and I don’t care if they don’t have the best gas prices in town … but I’m still going there. They’re giving, they’re trying to be part of the solution – and I want to patronize a firm with that attitude.

People do business with people and companies they like and respect. The little bit I’ll save getting the best deal pales in comparison to helping someone who’s out there for the greater good. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. All your capabilities and “stuff” is not “the be all and end all.” Make your firm one that if … I don’t do business with you, then “I’ll feel guilty.” There’s always “workarounds” on capabilities.

Giving  – corporate speaking, can be in two different forms:

1. Give to existing causes – like my example above. This is nice, but an easy out. Unless your clients and target market identifies with the cause … it probably won’t resonate, except for its symbolic value.

2. Create your own causes. This is where the CGO comes in. Remember most of your business is local. Local in the sense that your customers share the same “away from work” issues that you do. It’s their community too. Imagine if your firm is seen as a major player in helping make your neighborhood better. Don’t just give to the Salvation Army, for example. Organize “ground crews” where you can solve local problems – ground crews that are led by your employees and your clients.

Given the chance, you will be amazed at what happens. Buyers, who you have to go down a gauntlet to see, will be standing hand in hand with you – helping the homeless, working in a mentoring program (that you built) … or even cleaning a public neighborhood park and fixing its playground.

This isn’t just about selling or marketing, and it’s not about any of the other services I’ve advocated over the last couple months. It’s about getting to core of humanity, human motivation and what makes us tick.

I have to believe we all, or at least most of us, want what’s good for all us. Call me an idealist. But if agree and you truly believe this – then why not demonstrate it in your company? Make giving such an integral part of your culture that without it, your company … well, it isn’t your company. Make it what your firm is all about.

Now this perspective may sound crazy. Well maybe it is. It’s not like Groupon where group buying and half off is all the rage. It’s not about advertising on Facebook, or tweeting till your figures bleed.

What it’s about … is being a person, and being a company that people feel proud to do business with. And worst case … you’ll sure feel better about yourself.

Please throw in your 2 cents worth – yea or nea. Share your ideas on giving and making it a marketing priority and a business strategy.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Collaboration

We all talk of the “Perfect World,” a world of collaboration … a world where we work together for the greater good – a world of synergy.

Maybe we use this as example … just maybe.

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Are you smart enough to know you may not be that smart?

Are you smart enough to know you might not be that smart?

Back in college, thirty years ago, I promoted rock bands. Once I did a show in Ortonville, Minnesota at the White Eagle Ballroom … in the middle of nowhere. Even though Ortonville only had a population of two thousand, the White Eagle was a great venue for small concerts. Since there was nothing else to do, kids from a hundred mile radius would flock.

This was my first show in Ortonville. In fact, I’d never even been there before.

My modus operandi was to find a local contact to put up our posters and hopefully start an “excitement virus.” I found Gordy, seventeen, still in high school – and a police dispatcher. How bad can this be – a discount on security. Since I had set everything else up … all that was needed was to put up the posters and get the word out.

Three weeks later, I traveled back to Ortonville to do the show with Dave Theige, my roommate. We got in late the day before and checked into a motel.  The next morning, I got up before Dave and went out for breakfast and survey the town for our show’s exposure.

I went everywhere in pursuit to find posters. I found none! What happened to Gordy?

After several hours, I finally tracked him down.  “Where are all the posters?” Gordy’s response was to hand me back forty of the fifty posters I gave him.  “I only needed ten.” “Great!” I said sarcastically. I needed six hundred people to break even. That’s sixty per poster. Unlikely!

Well, the show came and went and I made about two thousand dollars. Gordy manned the door so all Dave and I had to do was hang out with the bands and “rock.”.

After the show, I sat down with Gordy. “Where did all these people come from … and how the hell did they hear about it?”  Gordy came back with this:

“I put the posters in the places where the kids would see them when they were with their friends, so they’d talk about the show.”  This meant posters on telephone poles on the way to keg parties.

In addition, Gordy enlisted members of his “Tribe” (in Seth Godin jargon) to spread the word – and make sure that there were no parties or anything else happening to compete with our show.

I wouldn’t have put up the posters in places like that. Where I would have, the kids wouldn’t have seen them – or if they did they wouldn’t have talked about it. And there’s no way I could have squashed any potential competition. Fortunately Gordy did. That’s all that mattered.

Too many times, professionally and personally – we think we know everything, we have all the answers. Being smart isn’t knowing everything, because we never will.

Be smart is knowing that we may not be that smart!

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If you like this please retweet and check out more of my ramblings on twitter at @clayforsberg

Need financing for your start-up … join a HUB!

Let’s say you have this great idea. You’re tired of working for the “Man.” You know deep down in you’re an entrepreneur. And you’re willing to put in the long hours and embrace austerity as your best friend.

But you, and countless numbers of other fledgling young business owners are all staring at one seemingly insurmountable obstacle. You need funding. Not a lot, just enough to take of things barter or a good “arm twist” of one of your friends can’t take care of.

Banks aren’t going be any help. Banks don’t understand start-ups. They have no idea how value your project if they don’t have collateral backing it up. Banks need something to repossess. Venture capitalists want an investment they can sell off down the road for profit. They’re not interested in operating profit … especially from a $50,000 investment.

Normally, you would go to Uncle Charlie. But Uncle Charlie spent a day too long in Vegas. As they say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” … including Uncle Charlie’s money.

What do you do? You join the HUB!

The HUB is essentially a co-working facility. But it’s way more than that.

Imagine …

1. A place you could go to interact with other entrepreneurs, all in various stages of start-up development. Your project would be independent, but you would be open for collaboration or just general input from your HUBmates.

2. The HUB contains all the physical common facilities you would need to launch and operate a small business: reception, common space (kitchen, bathrooms, etc.), digital reproduction equipment (variable data printing), etc.

3. The HUB would also provide intangible services such as accounting, legal and other needed administrative functions. The HUB could even provide sales through a rep(s) that would do crossover sales for you and your other HUBmates.

5. Funding for the HUB would be provided by “cogs” or investors. They would provide capital to operate the facilities and also any other expenses needed by the HUBmates. Capital however need not be money, it could services (barter). For example, an attorney could invest in the HUB via his legal services. The same thing could be for web design, accounting and even basic administrative labor.

6. The “cogs” would invest in the HUB as a whole, not just in one start-up. This way their risk could be spread over several projects – much the way venture capital firms work. Individual start-up HUBmates can also invest in the HUB through their services provided to other HUBmates. It would also be in the best interest of the “cogs” to go out and recruit attractive new start-ups to join their HUB. How much share each “cog” has in the HUB as a whole, as well as how much share the HUB has in each start-up would have to be determined.

There you have it. The HUB’s kind of a “new age barter co-op incubator.” Now the question is; where do you find a HUB?

That’s a good question. I don’t know. All you HUBs out there – let us know where you’re at … we need you.

If you know of any entrepreneurial incubators like the HUB, please tell me. Or if you have suggestions on how to flesh this idea out – please throw out it here. The HUB could be that bridge that takes a “want-to-be” to a mogul. Maybe even that “want-to-be” is YOU.

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If you like this post please feel free to Tweet away. I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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Death by myopia … literally

The last few days it seems I’ve pulled into the world of cross-pollination. It’s kind of like I’m Alice spiralling down the infamous rabbit hole … only to told by the Cheshire Cat (I actually think my daughter has one) that any way I go is the way I’m going – it seems my solution to any problem.

Cross-pollination in the business world is when a firm utilizes the expertise of others outside the firm’s industry. A big example of this happened in the ’90s when John Sculley replaced Steve Jobs at the helm of Apple Computer (as it was called then). Sculley was a chief executive with Pepsi – and Apple’s board thought he would provide a fresh marketing perspective to ignite the fire under Apple’s sluggish computer sales.

They were wrong. Sculley effectively drove Apple Computers to graveyard and had them dig. Fortunately, the board begged Jobs back into the corner office. We all know what happened next … as I write this on my MacBook Pro listen to “Raise Your Glass” from Pink, which I purchased from iTunes.

Corporate death

Cross-pollination took a hit after that. All skeptics had to do was bring up the Sculley debacle to win their battles to keep their companies “pure” – void of any outside influence or “alien matter.”

Well this myopic blame was unfair. There is only one Steve Jobs. And he was probably the only person that could have done what he did with Apple. But more than unfair, this myopia is dangerous … and dangerous in more ways than financial. It could kill you.

Presently the number one topic of discussion on the economic front is the issue of health care reform. It’s broken and how do we fixed it. We can’t stop the rising costs. We can’t stop the declining quality. We can’t stop the fraud. And we can’t figure out how serve the masses that can’t afford insurance.

Recently I witnessed the system first hand as my seventy-six year mother had back surgery. Every step of the way, there were missteps. Not was the problem necessarily ineptitude, but rather lack of communication between different offices and functions, and even within the same offices. This lack of communication resulted in months long delays in setting appointments and excessive unnecessary changes to insurance companies, insurance companies that believe or not – didn’t seem to matter paying.

And at no time did any one of the components care about the overall outcome … only their little part – if even then. The end result, my mother becoming functional again – having her life back, wasn’t even on their radar. At no time was there a discussion, by anyone, of what was the “Perfect World” goal of the whole process. It’s as if a modern-day Tower of Babel sprouted up in the middle of Billings, Montana. “Communication … that’s heresy.”

Well, in all my cross-pollination revel, here’s my idea, my solution to the health care crisis.

My idea is a “Health Care Concierge” (HCC). The function of HCC is to coordinate all the disparate groups involved in a procedure, such as a back surgery.

Once the procedure is decided upon and approved, the HCC would come into play, interacting with the patient, doctors and all other relevant parties. They would set appointments, the procedure itself as well as follow-up and rehabilitation. Their eyes would be set on the end goal … not just getting the patient out the hospital opening a bed for the next unsuspecting soul. They would also look for the most cost-effective means of care delivery, such as generic drugs and ongoing preventive care. Can you say nutrition consulting?

The position of the HCC is not that different from what you would see in a production manager in the corporate world. You could even equate it to a casino host for a “high roller” where their job is to make sure the gambler has a great experience – from time they arrive in town to the time they leave, ultimately providing profit and customer retention for the casino – or in the case of health care, cost reduction and reduction of patient revisitation.

Unfortunately, due to the presence of insurance, there is a “financial responsibility disconnect” – a chasm, between the patient’s care and the providers. The goal of a Health Care Concierge would help bridge this chasm.

Health care is just one industry where I believe cross-pollination would provide great benefits. Too often a business and even an industry doesn’t know what they don’t know. They go down a road because, well … it’s the only road they know. The fear of unknown, the fear of change, is just too big of an obstacle to overcome. “What if we hired the next John Sculley?”

No longer is change avoidance an option. It’s only the postponement of the inevitable. Change is going to happen – either voluntarily or not. Cross-pollination is change. I used the example of the health care industry because it is so relevant for everyone who reads this. But health care is not the only application where cross-pollination could be a game saving solution. I’m sure your industry – whatever it is, could use some new blood. Someone will bring it in. The question is, will it be you … or your competition.

Will you and your company be declared dead by myopia … literally?

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A successful blog post is when the comment flow provides more insight than the post itself. Please comment and add to the flow.

And if you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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“Raise Your Glass” What we can all learn from PINK

Even if you don’t like what’s going on with contemporary music these days … read this anyway!

Sunday night, I watched the American Music Awards on television.  I’ve been waiting for this for several day now, if for no reason than see Pink perform may current favorite song .  Little did I know it would be the topic of this article.  I figured the performance would be good, but it was something that transcended music for me … it clarified how I want to do business.  Here’s what I learned – or as Pink says, “the dealio.

Start with a great product. Pink’s song ‘Raise Your Glass,’ is a great song.  In a year of memorable music, it may be the toast of the group.  It’s catchy and it has uplifting fun lyrics.  And it gets you up and moving.  While your business may not have your clients “dancing in the streets,” what you offer them sure should make them happy, and remember you for what you provided.

Adapt but stay true to yourself. For those of you not familiar with Pink, let me summarize.  She’s an edgy, scowling, rock and roll diva known for her unpredictable, ‘over the top stage antics.’  Heck, in the last Grammys she entered flying over the crowd, singing upside down on a trapeze. Sunday night, due to her present physical condition, there was no trapeze.  Pink is pregnant.  But that didn’t stop her from being Pink.  On the most elaborate stage set of the night, Pink was all over the stage dancing and rocking out, ebit in flats rather than the normal stiletto heels.  But she was still Pink.

The printing is in a major state of upheaval.  Its members are all over the place searching for ways to stay relevant in the changing communications environment.  Whether its web to print, social media, variable data printing or QR codes, printing companies are desperately looking for any way to engage and retain its customer base.  While change is definitely needed, too many of us have lost our way and forgotten that first and foremost we are communication delivery providers.  If we concern ourselves with making sure our clients get out the right message, at the right time, using the right medium to THEIR clients  … we’ll be all right.

Share the spotlight and trust your team. Pink’s performance was more like a circus than anything and she was the ringmaster.  The stage was full of activity – all the time.  There were dancers everywhere, seeming to all be creating their own routines on the fly.  There were flips, trampolines and jumps.  There was even skate boarders on ramps flying in back of, in front of, and all around her.  A good portion of time the time the cameras weren’t even on Pink as she sang. While the whole extravaganza seemed a random hodgepodge of frenzied activity, it was all carefully choreographed .  As she moved throughout  the song, she joined in with whoever she was around, supporting them.  She was the backbone … but her team was the rest.  Pink was the one that connected all the dots.

Running a company in this environment is a not unlike this.  We need to orchestrate the whole process and keep everybody together on the central task … but at the same time, let them do their thing, using their expertise.  After all, aren’t our companies are really nothing other than the people we have in them.

Leave a lasting impression. Overall the awards were relatively boring.  Aside from Pink, I really won’t remember much it after a few days.  I’m sure that most people in the audience at the Nokia Center probably feels the same.  But it wasn’t enough just for Pink to put on the best performance of the night.  Her song ended with streamers, balloons and glitter falling from the ceiling … glitter a lot of the celebrities will be pulling out of their hair well after they’ve left.

While I don’t endorse treating your clients like they’re at a birthday party for six-year olds, you still  have to leave them when an impression they will remember.  That last few minutes of a sales call, a job delivery or even a phone call is what will stick with them.  Make it count.

And finally, have fun. At one point in ‘Raise Your Glass,’ Pink sings “don’t be serious.”  And she does it with a smile and a giggle.  And as she struts off the stage, she rubbed her pregnant belly.  She wasn’t trying to mask her emotions to maintain her edgy reputation.   She was having fun, and you knew.  And the fun was contagious.

It’s easy to get all caught in the gloom and doom of what we hear and see in our industry everyday.  We read about firms closing every week.  None of us are immune from this news.  But how we react to it is up to us.  You don’t have to show you be on the bandwagon to bankruptcy.  Be a leader.  Be the than one that your clients want be around, the one that they want to associate with … the one they want to do business with.

“Raise Your Glass!”

You have to check out Pink’s performance on the AMAs.

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Also check me out on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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