management

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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