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.
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?
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.
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.
I’ve been following a group on Twitter called #helpprintthrive. It’s a discussion about how can the printing industry can, well – thrive.
I’ve spent the last 20+ years in the printing industry … and I’m as much for keeping the industry viable as much as the next person, but I’m starting to have second thoughts.
In discussions I’ve had with many people in the industry – I haven’t really heard many good reasons why the industry deserves my support. “You have to support print – just because it’s print.” That’s not good enough for me. And I don’t think it’s good enough for most people.
Every morning, I go outside and pick my newspaper only to have ten circulars fall out on the ground, or these days, in the snow. These are generic ads trying to get me to buy something I have no interest in buying or even looking at. And today took the cake … an empty paper grocery bag with just a logo on it. I’m about ready to cancel my print subscription and just read the online version.
And the sad thing is, I’m a customer of most of these advertisers and they know what I buy – but obviously they just don’t care. “Don’t push ‘everything under the sun’ to me just because you are too lazy or inconsiderate to care about my time and attention … and the garbage cans I’m filling up.”
And I’m going to add printers to this rant too. The print industry can’t expect their clients to know all the great 1 to 1 customization options available – options that focus on effective communication, not print spam. It’s the industry’s job to educate – not just be an order taker. And if they don’t offer these options … get with the program.
In fact, I believe a good portion of the blame lies with the print industry. It seems like too many of the reasons to “keep print alive” come out of tradition. Print has been around for some 600 years and by gosh we have to keep it going another 600. We bought equipment for hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions and we have to make the payments and pay for the people to run it … so buy our print. It doesn’t make any difference that maybe we didn’t really think it through when we bought all this stuff.
After all: “Don’t they come if we build it?” Unless you have Kevin Costner on staff – NO!
I want to hear some good reasons why I should buy and consume print. If I’m an advertiser, I want to know why I should spend what little money I have on print, rather on this cool internet stuff that everyone’s into. As a consumer – why should I go through mountains of paper … and waste my time and mind space on all this junk I don’t care about? Granted print is better for reading and I like the idea of sitting on my couch and going through the Sunday paper … but that’s just one day, and just one or two papers.
And I’m not even talking about the environmental issues. And I don’t want to hear about “more print means more trees planted” or the environmental effects of data centers. I don’t buy it. You can twist the statistics all you want. Neither I nor the vast majority of the world buys this argument – true or false.
Well – since I’m not getting any good reasons … I’m going to give you my own.
As an advertiser, I think it would be great to be able to make sure my customers know about things I had to offer, the things that are relevant to their lives. And I want to make sure it gets to them at a time when they could use it most. This would be great since I wouldn’t have pay for so much print and postage sending useless advertising to people who aren’t going to buy from me anyway. Answer me why should I be sending a teenage boy an advertisement for discounted diapers.
As a consumer, I’d like to receive something from the companies I shop at (or even just have visited), to show me that they have actually spent the time to realize I’m an individual – not like my next door neighbor or even my wife or my daughter. And if it was a printed piece that would be cool too, maybe even with a stamp on it – that would be even be best since it’s a lot harder to do and more expensive than just sending out an email or a text. It’ll show me you care about me and my business.
As a consumer, I’d like to get something on quality paper – paper that feels nice and memorable when I touch it … something I’ll want to keep and not just throw away. I can’t get that with my screen or my mouse. In fact it doesn’t even have to be paper, it could be plastic or any interesting substrate with message on it that I can use.
And as an advertiser, I want my printer to realize that just because I want to try new media options, doesn’t mean I don’t still love them and want them part of my life. And if they even add some of these new exciting options to their ‘bag of tricks’ – I’d be more than happy to give them the first shot. But, just because they don’t want to grow, doesn’t mean I don’t, and in fact I have to – to survive.
I’ve been through the ups and downs of the print industry as much as anyone has. As an electronic prepress recruiter I saw my open job orders go from forty to zero in just two months time a few years ago. Yes – zero, as in zero dollars. Not a five or ten percent decline … but a hundred percent. But that just the way it goes – life changes and you move on. Having a business isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. A privilege that has a finite life. That life may span over several generations – but it’s still finite.
The world is in a constant state of change. Our success as business people lies in our ability to navigate these changes and find ways to continually make ourselves and our businesses relevant. All to often it’s easy just to coast and think we are above it all … but we’re not.
Now I believe that the #helpprintthrive discussion has a lot of merit. At least it recognizes that the industry’s future needs be to addressed. But we just need to get past the “wave the flag” mentality and really look at the issues and solutions. You don’t see the online industry touting itself, just because it’s online. Why do we we?
If we really want to help the print industry, we need to look past – our past. The print industry has every bit as good of a chance to thrive as any other. We just can’t keep looking at our business and it’s value to our customers, and their customers – as being the same as it was yesterday and the day before that.
But that doesn’t mean its value can’t be worth even more.
About ten years ago I took a road trip from Los Angeles to visit my parents in Montana. After a couple weeks, I departed via my sister’s place in Nebraska. When leaving Christy’s place, I thought I’d try something. What if I made it all the way home to Southern California without touching an interstate highway or spending a cent at a national chain company.
It’s too easy to default to the easy … get on the highway, get off and eat McDonalds – and get back on the highway, and on and on. But isn’t there more?
My first stop was in Oklahoma. It was noon … lunch time, on two lane State Road 14. Out of nowhere was a little grocery store … and next to it was this huge black gentleman laboring over a barbecue barrel. This was lunch! After three dollars, great conversation – and the best pulled pork barbecue sandwich I have ever had, I drove on.
Now I could go on about the next two days. I could talk about Pie Town (the pumpkin pie is to die for!) … but I think you know how it’ll turn out. Every stop was memorable. Little I did know that that venture would result in a “business purpose” I’m putting in play today.
Our president is unveiling his jobs plan as I write this. Unemployment is high and consumer confidence is low. And the “insane clown posse” that poses as our government bickers about things that even my ten year old next door neighbor wouldn’t think relevant.
But as important as recognizing who your community is … it’s also important to recognize who your community isn’t. It’s not your Wal-mart, it’s not your Target, it’s not your corporate owned McDonalds and it’s not the big box store down the street. They may be in your neighborhood … but they’re not your neighbors – they are not your community!
These faceless corporations are here to take – to take your money, to take the life blood out of the locally owned firms who are your community. The more you give them – the less you have to give to those businesses that really matter, your neighbors – your community.
Of the sponsors of the Minot relief concert I was at (with L. Sean Key, my collaborator) with the Black Eyed Peas, none of them were these firms, even though all had presence in the town. There’s a Wal-mart in Minot. There’s a Target in Minot, and the there’s two MacDonalds. Only local business gave their time, their effort and resources.
This disgusts me!
Times are not good in America right now. But it’s not because there’s a lack of money. It’s because it’s going to wrong the places. Any time you patronize a national concern over a locally owned business, you are sending money out of your community. Every time you use Bank of America over your local credit union, or Home Depot over your local hardware store … you are killing your community. You are sending money to offshore accounts, to bloated institutions or worse yet greedy, self-serving CEOs.
40% to 50% percent of each dollar spent at a locally owned business stays in the community. Yet only 15% percent does with a large corporate entity, like Wal-mart, Target or Home Depot. What does that tell you!
You may think that the couple of dollars you save – is worth it …. but is it?
Fourteen years ago, my daughter Alex was seven years old and in 2nd grade. One day she had an after school activity. She was supposed to call me on the pay phone at the school when she wanted to be picked up. Alex brought seventy-five cents with her, three quarters. At thirty-five cents a call, we figured that would be enough – even if she messed up once and had to redial.
Well, at about 4:30 she tried to call me, but dialed the wrong number (as we planned for). That should have been no big deal since she had enough to make another call. Wrong!
Problem was – Pac Bell pay phones didn’t give change. The wrong number swallowed up two quarters – leaving her with just one, not enough to make another call. After about twenty minutes she found another quarter and finally got hold of me. She was visually upset though when I picked her up.
Now this is really no big deal in the whole scheme of things. But I just had problems with the fact the pay phone didn’t give her change on the initial fifty cents. So I went on a rant and called Pac Bell – all the way up the ladder to the head customer service in Northern California (we lived in the Bay Area). Carlos, the manager ,was sympathetic to my cause and agreed. In fact he was going to bring it up at the next managers meeting (not like anything would change – but nice gesture anyway).
What happened afterwards though, ended up being one of those stories I’ve told at least fifty times. Carlos hand wrote and sent Alex an apology note with two quarters taped inside along with his business card. Fourteen years later, my daughter still has that card … with the quarters still taped to it. He created a memorable experience for us, clearly when he didn’t have to. He respected the attention and time we invested in his firm – and did something about it.
No company or brand can do that – only a person!
Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows that much of the time things are rocky – arguments happen. Anyone married can attest to that. But there’s always those times, those memories that, well … are remembered. It’s these memories that cerebrally push aside all the “day in day out” squabbles. It’s the way our brain works. Synaptically, we cannot remember everything – it has to choose.
In a way, our relationships with our customers are really no different. We remember the out of ordinary experiences – whether good or bad. Our brain focuses on the fringe. We remember that waiter who arranged for us try out a new menu item before we took a chance on it. We remember the time when we couldn’t return that item one day after the return period expired – just because it was company policy. And we remember bad situations made good, like Carlos and the quarters. We don’t remember getting our food on time. We don’t remember things going smoothly. Those things just fade away, a casualty of selective memory.
Why is it then most companies only concentrate on making sure things run perfectly without event – hoping nothing bad happens. But unfortunately we won’t have any good memories either. We’ll have no memories at all. Every firm wants to have relationships with their customers … but they don’t do anything to create the experiences that will be the foundation of these relationships.
But really, a company can’t have a relationship with you – only another person can. Pac Bell couldn’t do what Carlos did. And there’s no way to write that situation into a training manual. But how many employees are trained in making memories and remarkable experiences – and empowered to make them happen. I would guess not many. It takes an engaged employee to turn a bad situation into a great one – one that will be a building block of a long-term relationship between the customer and your firm.
Now imagine a company philosophy that focused on “making memories.” Imagine an employee training program that stressed using the element of surprise, creating remarkable experiences as a marketing tactic. Imagine a weekly employee contest won by the the most remarkable customer experience. You could be the Karma King (or Queen) of your company for the week.
Sign me up! I’ll can never have too many memories!
Please comment below and share with me the memories a company has given you … memories that has made you a long-term loyal customer.
If you’re on Twitter please follow me … there’s cool stuff happening over there too @clayforsberg.