Tag Archives: job search

Building a good place to work. Not Utopia.

Tribe studioIn a market where good jobs are at a premium, it’s been surprising that so many of our recent job applicants have been strikingly unprofessional. Actually, self-focused might be a better description. Confused, maybe, about the way business works.

My small company is in the process of interviewing for a new staff accountant. At Tribe, as in most ad agencies, that’s the position that truly requires a buttoned-up personality.  The writers and art directors and other creative types here can get away with being a little flaky or free spirits, but not the person we’re trusting to add up the money and pay the bills.

We had one highly recommended applicant decline a phone interview because she was “busy running errands all day.” Another spent much of her interview explaining how she really needed a company that understood where she was in her life and “what she needed in terms of life balance.”

It’s true; Tribe does support work-life balance. Our company purpose is To Make Life Better, and part of that is supporting our employees in enjoying better lives. We generally don’t work long hours or weekends, we bring in a company-paid healthy lunch several days a week and we have a meditation room that gets a good bit of use. We host an annual company fitness competition and allow employees to use up to five work hours a week for exercise. In the spirit of balance, we also keep wine and beer cooling in the fridge and will often share a late afternoon sip of something as we’re finishing up work.

But that often seems to be misinterpreted by outsiders to mean that work comes second. It doesn’t. Tribe is a business. The first obligation of any business is to make money. If a company doesn’t make money, it won’t be in business for long. If it goes out of business, all those employees have to go, too. (And having a job remains a pretty important part of that coveted work-life balance thing.)

We make money by doing good work for our clients, over and over again, consistently. We do good work by hiring people who are very, very good at what they do. There is not one person at Tribe who doesn’t perform at an extremely high level. To do that, day after day after day, requires a level of professionalism that doesn’t put business obligations or opportunities second in line to running personal errands.

I hope Tribe is a great place to work. I believe it’s smart business to support our employees in living good lives as well as in doing good work. But Tribe would be a much less satisfying place to work without the passion and dedication that makes us all proud of what we do.

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Jobless at 58 sounds like an entrepreneur to me

Yesterday the New York Times ran a headline that read, “At 58, a Life Story in Need of a Rewrite.” The article was about Michael Blattman, who’s been out of work since January of 2008. Blattman is a 58-year-old MBA with a strong resume in financial services who once earned $225,000 a year.

After a year and a half of an unfruitful job search, it seems obvious that this guy should start his own gig. It’s unlikely that the financial sector will be in a hiring frenzy anytime soon. Blattman has applied for 600 jobs, according to the Times, and has scored exactly three interviews, only one of which was in person. It doesn’t look good for him being gainfully employed at a hefty salary anytime soon.

startercards.0626When I hear about people like Blatmann, first I want to shake them and then I want to find their address and send them a deck of our Start Your Own Company cards. He clearly has experience and expertise to share, having worked with the Federal Reserve and the Sallie Mae student loan program, as well as teaching business classes at the University of Maryland.

Why is he not starting his own company, or at least hanging out his shingle as a consultant? The cost of going into business for yourself needn’t be much of a hurdle, in an age when you can incorporate online with LegalZoom for $139 and launch a website with a free template. Perhaps there’s a growing need for guidance in applying for student loans, or maybe he could consult with schools on some aspect of providing financial assistance. Or it could be that his real passion is wine or carpentry or backpacking or piano and this is his chance to start a company doing what he loves.

He’s clearly got time on his hands that might be put to better use. He mentioned to the Times reporter that he had “zero” planned for the coming week, and he admits to driving two towns over for groceries, just to kill an hour or so. Blattman is divorced, but has given up on computer dating sites for now, because women apparently don’t show much interest in 58-year-old guys who are unemployed. It seems his life could use some positive momentum.

Blattman comes across as intelligent, likable, capable. He has years of contacts and a strong reputation in his industry. Why not use the thick skin he’s no doubt developed over his 18-month job search to sell the services of his own company, rather than trying to get hired by someone else?

He may have excellent reasons for continuing to job hunt rather than creating his own income. But I wonder if he just doesn’t realize that starting a company doesn’t have to be that hard. When I run into someone stuck in that spot, I want to get up on my soapbox and shout about how Starter Cards take you through the process, one manageable step at a time.

This is the era of unintentional entrepreneurs. People who never considered themselves the entrepreneurial type are creating their own work when they can’t find suitable jobs. But unintentional or not, every entrepreneur has to summon the guts to take that first leap.

Like anything else, launching a business can be broken down into a series of smaller tasks. If you know a Blattman out there,  send him or her to the Starter Cards website  for that Start Your Own Company deck. And if you’re Michael Blattman, give me your address and I’ll mail you a deck as my gift.

4 important reasons to start a company when you can’t find a job

woman blank biz cardIn this recession, many companies are being launched by people who never meant to be entrepreneurs. These people haven’t long harbored the dream of being their own boss; They just haven’t been able to find a job and are thus taking matters into their own hands. The New York Times published an excellent piece yesterday  titled “On to Plan B: Starting a Business,” by Mickey Meece that touched on several of what I consider to be important themes in today’s entrepreneurial landscape.

1. It’s not crazy to launch a business during a recession. Contrary to the general assumption that  starting a company during an economic downturn is particularly risky, it appears to be no more risky than at any other time, according to a 2009 report from Ernst & Young. In fact, the survival rate is about the same for companies started in good times or bad. The Kauffman Foundation offers some reassuring statistics supporting the idea that companies fare no better or worse when launched in a recession or bear market.

2. Technology and social media make it easier than it’s ever been to start your own company. Just imagine how much harder it would be to start a company a decade or two ago — without the Internet, without email, without cell phones. You can research competitive companies and potential customers online. You can find legal services online, so you can incorporate without even leaving your desk. Creating a website no longer requires the services of a programmer, since there are numerous website templates and tools out there, from inexpensive to free. You can even use social media to market your products and services. A tremendous amount of business resources are available now that just didn’t exist before.

3. Starting your own business can give you some measure of control over your future. The current job market can be tough on egos. While the jobless rate is almost in the double digits, many companies are sidestepping much of the etiquette that once was common practice. You send out resumes, email decision makers and place phone calls, and it might seem as if you’ve just launched them all into a black hole somewhere, judging from the response you get. You may score an interview, but then never hear back from that company again, even to tell you that you didn’t make the cut. Launching a business at least gives you some concrete actions you can take that will result in visible progress. Week after week, you can see that your efforts are beginning to materialize into a company you created out of thin air.

4. Even if you get another corporate gig, it’s still good to have that Plan B. Let’s say you launch your company and then you get that big job offer you’ve been waiting for all this time. If your business is something you can continue to do on the side, it might be helpful to  have that additional income. That side business is also just as useful for your mental health. When you have a bad day at work, or your job future seems  uncertain, it can be enormously reassuring to know you’ve got something else to fall back on.

Starting a company as a Plan B

Plan B guyThis economy is a great time to have a Plan B. Are you in the midst of a job search? Might not be a bad idea to start a company on the side, in case the right job doesn’t show up right away. Have a job? Also a good idea to have a small business you mess around with after hours, because even the most solid-seeming jobs can go away with no warning. 

I’m not saying you need to go out and launch a time-demanding, capital-intensive startup. I’m talking about creating some other stream of income, even it’s very modest. Maybe it’s selling vintage clothes on ebay, or marketing your handmade greeting cards on etsy.com, or taking orders for your one-of-a-kind birthday cakes. It could be starting a worm farm in the backyard and shipping live worms to bird lovers and reptile owners. It might be hiring yourself out as a D.J. for parties, or giving tennis lessons or painting dog portraits. You could build websites or custom backyard swing sets. You could sell your special barbecue sauce or cater barbecues. Almost anything could be a Plan B.

Creating additional income is only one reason this is a good idea. The larger reason is the benefit to your mental health. When you wake up in the middle of the night, worried that you’re marked for the next round of layoffs at work, it can help to know you have something else to fall back on, even if it couldn’t possibly support you in its present form. If you get to the third interview for a job and then they hire somebody else, you’ll feel slightly less desolate knowing you’ve got something else going on.

Your Plan B could also surprise you. Maybe your iPhone app becomes a big seller and you find it bringing in much more money than your day job. Maybe your hand-stitched handbags become one of Oprah’s favorite things and you’ve got retailers beating down your door for orders. Stranger things have happened. 

Your Plan B might give  you a running start when you need it. Let’s say you do suddenly find yourself unemployed. Or let’s say you’re enjoying your Plan B sideline so much, you’re thinking you’d be much happier doing it full time. Having spent several months or years making gradual progress on this side company, you could probably ramp it up much more quickly than if you were starting from scratch. You also will have had the opportunity to iron out a few wrinkles and get a feel for what’s it like to run that business.

Here are a few suggestions for putting your Plan B in place, just in case.

1. Choose something that’s a passion of yours. One of the best things about a Plan B is that it isn’t burdened with the entire responsibility for your financial support, so you can afford to try something just because you love it, and not because of how much money it makes.

2. Pick a business you can handle after hours. You don’t want to jeopardize the job you have, or to take too many business hours away from a job search. 

3. Treat it like a real business. Do what you can to make this sideline profitable. Keep good financial records. Pay attention to operating costs vs. income. 

4. Be professional. Your clients and customers will want the same level of professionalism they would expect from any small business. Even though you’re not doing it full time, you’ll still want to show up on time, do what you say you will and deliver a good value.