In Monday’s newsletter, I published a story about how I landed every single one of my jobs. It was from my network of friends and colleagues if you haven’t yet read it.
After reflecting on that a bit, I wanted to give an example of an unusual way I connected with a powerful person who was responsible for more than one of my job referrals.
Backing up for a moment, reminded me about Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.” In the book he classifies three different types of people: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen (ahem, should be salespeople, Mr. Gladwell). He then gave an exercise to list all the important people in your life that you met through someone else. The task was to write down the person’s name and who introduced them to you. After that, if relevant, you wrote the person’s name on top of theirs who introduced you to them.
As an example, I met George through Tiffany. And I met Tiffany through Hilary. And I met Hilary through Lilah. Lilah was the beginning connector. I met Dennis through John who I met through my boyfriend, Peter, who worked with Hilary, who I met through Lilah. There’s Lilah again.
What was the point of this exercise which I completed? To show who the connectors are. Unbelievably, almost every important person in my life was traced back to one person. One person! That’s pretty incredible. Of course my friend was not just a connector, but a super duper connector.
The idea of contacts and networking to get jobs is brought into focus with this exercise. It’s not that you have to be a connector, but you should recognize who your connectors are and treat them well.
Sometimes you make your own connections. Maybe at a local coffee shop or joining a networking group. At a certain point, I made my own strong connection at my first job after I moved back to California.
I was the controller for an apparel company that was financed by and in partnership with their Chinese factory. They were making silk boxer shorts and selling them to mass merchandisers, namely Target. As the controller, I had to find an accounting firm to do our year end financial statements and tax returns. I found a great candidate. They were a medium-sized firm in Los Angeles that specialized in the apparel industry.
As a controller, I like to find at least three or four options and quotes for any task. I met with three other firms and made my recommendation to the owners. They wanted a Big Six accounting firm (yes it was that long ago when there was actually a Big Six), and so I chose Ernst & Young. They were good, of course, but they cost twice as much as the firm I originally wanted.
I called the firms that did not get the bid. I explained that we passed on their quotes. My first choice I called and talked to the partner I had met with. I told him the truth, that he was my choice but the ownership wanted a Big Six firm. I disagreed with them, but it wasn’t my final decision. I appreciated the time he spent with me and if I found myself in the same position in the future, I would love to work with him.
He was quiet for a few moments. He then explained that I was the first one who ever took the time to explain why they weren’t hired. The situation always required him to call the potential client. I know he appreciated it because when another of his clients needed a CFO, he recommended me for the job. I got that job. And he became a friend who recommended me for other positions over the years.
In closing, figure out who your main connectors are. Whenever you meet new contacts, always treat everyone with respect. You never know when they could be in a position to help you.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.
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Remember that scene from Kramer v. Kramer where the husband is desperately looking for and had to get a job on Christmas Eve? You may have never seen that movie. It came out many moons ago, but everytime I think about someone looking for a job, I think about that scene. Poor Dustin Hoffman. He was trying to get custody of his young son after his wife, Meryl Streep, left them. He had recently been fired from his advertising job because when his wife left, he became a single parent and couldn’t manage it all. Welcome to motherhood, Dustin. We mothers have been dealing with this shit for decades.
Recently, I thought about this movie. Through a series of fortunate events I became connected with a mother who worked at a prominent venture capital firm, and she was just ranting and raving about the lack of and difficulty in finding good, affordable childcare. Bravo. My kids are grown now, but boy oh boy, I remember grappling with this problem and resultant anger when they were still in school.
Back to the job search. I started thinking about all the jobs I’ve ever had and how I landed them. I am a serial entrepreneur and most of my jobs have been with myself, but in between my own companies, I took other jobs with a variety of employers. Due to my education and experience, these were relatively high level jobs and every single one of them came from knowing someone. In fact, ever since I graduated from grad school, I never even had an official resume. I was simply referred to a job and that was that.
So consider this, the next time you have to look for a job, perhaps it’s a Kramer v. Kramer situation or simply a, if you don’t get a job you can’t pay rent next month and will have to move in with your mom situation, or you can’t afford your childcare anymore, call everyone you know. Tell them what you’re looking for. That’s how you’ll find a job.
If you don’t know people, seek them out. Network. Make friends.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com. Subscribe to my newsletter on LinkedIn:
He was running out of time. Our client’s warehouse was in a rustbelt town, he needed to sell it and no one was rushing to buy it. The weeds were growing through the cracks in the parking lot and he couldn’t cover the mortgage payment with his cash flow for much longer. This client was a perfect candidate for the 21 Reasons exercise.
In our Startup Founders group, we would task a participant to write down 21 Reasons in regards to anything they were struggling with. This came from our leader, John Morris, who is brilliant about startups, raising money and other esoteric businessy things. It probably came from someone or somewhere else, like most great ideas, but after many Google searches I couldn’t find anything. So, I’m giving John the full credit.
Write a list of 21 Reasons why someone would want to do whatever it is that you want them to do.
One of The Project Consultant clients needed to sell a warehouse, and sell it quickly. It had been on the market for almost two years. He was willing to lease it as well, but he had already tried that to no avail. His broker brought in interested companies now and then, but not many and no one bit.
My partner, Dennis, is pretty well connected in the real estate business; his dad was the top commercial real estate company in Connecticut before they sold it to Grubb & Ellis. And I was a partner in my own real estate investment company in Southern California for many years.
Despite our knowledge and contacts in the real estate business, the first thing we did was ask our client to list twenty one reasons why someone would want to buy his building. And we promised him that if he did, his building would sell.
The First Six
You might ask the value in doing this exercise. Fair question. As John Morris explained, the first six reasons are usually easy. They are the obvious things. The building is 100,000 sq. ft. which gives you room to grow. There is a rail spur behind the loading dock. Speaking of loading docks, we have ten of them. We just replaced the roof five years ago. The parking lot can hold a hundred cars.
The Next Ten
The next ten reasons are a little more difficult. You have to think about the less obvious things, like we’re including industrial shelves with the building. There are ten offices, too. The view from the main office looks out onto the river. There is a great security system built-in. It’s only five miles to the nearest interstate freeway and so on.
The Last Five
Then you get to the last five. You’re going through this process and you come to the last five reasons and you have to dig deep. Deep. There’s a fantastic deli within walking distance. Or, the offices are painted in a soothing shade of blue. I don’t know. It’s your building. What do you like about it? You can live on a farm on rolling hills nearby where the fog settles among the treetops every night. Your husband can buy a horse. The local town has an October Fest that can’t be beat.
The Psychology Behind This
By listing all these things, you will shift your mindset. That makes a difference in whatever you’re trying to achieve. Not to get all woo-woo about it, but it’s kind of like manifesting. You attract a buyer to you because you are putting out into the universe thoughts and messaging about this amazing building that anyone should want to buy as long as they have a need for a warehouse. It also gives you more confidence when someone comes to look at it. You think, this is a fantastic building. I just listed twenty reasons why it’s a fantastic building. I’ll let you buy it if you’re lucky.
Then, because my partner and I have real estate contacts, we convinced him to fire his agent. Dennis referred him to an international commercial broker he knew. The new agent had an enormous database of buyers from all around the world. That’s helpful because they might have known a company in Europe that wanted to open a satellite warehouse in the United States. And perhaps they never would have considered this particular area. In short, it increased the population of potential buyers.
The building was sold in a month. It was purchased by a company that looked at it the year prior. That’s fine. Competition had become more intense with the new broker. And I’m sure that company was aware of it. There was now pressure for them to buy. They didn’t need that much space, but they took a chance and had a belief that their business would grow, and therefore, they would grow into the space.
But in my opinion, it was the list.
To be sure, the list did help them write a more thorough and attractive listing. But it was the power of our client believing in the value of his building.
Some other lists we’ve worked on:
21 Reasons why someone would want to buy your medical practice.
21 Reasons why you should hire an assistant.
21 Reasons why you should buy out your minority partner.
21 Reasons why someone would want to license your brand.
21 Reasons why you should manufacture overseas.
21 Reasons why someone would invest in your startup.
21 Reasons why my nephew’s crush would want to go to the dance with him.
Try it yourself. Consider a vexing problem you have. Write your list of 21 Reasons. Remember, it must be twenty one.
Cynthia Wylie started her career in investment banking and left to start her first company. She has started/run/sold six companies. Through her last company, The Project Consultant, she has worked with many clients who were starting their own companies and/or launching projects in industries such as agriculture, publishing, toys, and apparel. She has extensive experience in consumer products manufacturing and importing as well as real estate investment. Her areas of strength include operations and finance, in particular, cash flow management and raising money.
As a founding member of the L.A.–based entrepreneurial group, The Startup Founders, and a participant in Startup Chile, she has evaluated and assisted hundreds of startups locally and globally. She has a B.S. in agriculture from the Pennsylvania State University and a M.A. in economics from Georgetown University which she attended on a full fellowship. While a student, Ms. Wylie taught undergraduate courses in statistics and economics. She has also written five children’s books for an imprint of Penguin Random House and is a regular contributor about business and economics for the publication, Data Driven Investor.
Favorite quote: The truth is in the numbers.
Originally published at https://www.datadriveninvestor.com on March 2, 2023.
What are the biggest challenges you are facing in your business right now? I just posted this question on a small business group that I’m a member of on Alignable.com.
As a partner in a consulting firm, we are putting together updated, post pandemic marketing materials and fine tuning our message. I wanted to get an idea of the biggest problems companies are currently facing. Our economy has been through a lot the past few years. The responses I received were wide ranging and touched upon just about every area of business (with some surprises): delegating, ADHD, growing the business, raising capital, finding employees, raising prices, staying motivated, prioritizing, and closing sales to name several.
I thanked all of those who replied and contributed some tidbits of advice. I couldn’t help myself. As a consultant, that’s what I do.
One particular response was a business having difficulty getting his salespeople to close at a rate above 10–15%. I replied that he should check his industry’s standard closing rate because maybe 10–15% was within the norm. Many a company I’ve consulted would be thrilled with a 15% closing rate. (The average sales success rate across all industries is 3%.) I also suggested some sales training, because while research has been mixed on the effectiveness of sales training, some studies suggest it can improve ROI considerably. Lastly, I suggested his sales staff read the book, “The Asking Formula,” by John Baker. It really is a wonderful little book for sales and I recommend that everyone read it regardless of what they’re doing.
He rather sanctimoniously said that he already has three sales trainers that he feels are the best in the world. One of them made $33 million in commissions in 10 years. And that, someone will not rise to his level reading from a book.
Okay, but, what?
Obvious first question, Why not use that guy for your sales instead of as a trainer? Maybe he’s retired? So, Why is your sales staff still struggling with the $33 million guy training them?
Along with the gold, there’s a lot of questions in “them thar hills.”
A Method to Find out What Your Problem Really Is
It brought to mind the Startup Founders Group I was a founding member of many years ago. We met once a month to process issues. We started with a dozen or so entrepreneurs and I appreciated it because being a Startup Founder without a partner can be a lonely endeavor. We had a formal approach for processing our issues:
Begin with a problem and put it into a question. It should take the form of How Do I (HDI). It can be business or personal, because if you’re having personal problems, it can definitely interfere with your business.
After the issue was presented, there was a period of questions which the founder would answer.
After that the other members would suggest a different HDI. We found that the problem members thought they were having, wasn’t really the problem. Almost always!
Here are some hypothetical HDIs to give you an idea of the concept.
1. HDI increase my runway by raising money in a hurry? Could actually be, HDI cut expenses to decrease my monthly burn rate?
2. HDI deal with my partner who is an alcoholic and passing out in the middle of the day? Could be, HDI buy out my partner? (Ask him when he’s on a bender with pen and contract in hand. Just kidding.)
3. HDI reduce my dependency on one large customer? Try, HDI divert resources and update my marketing plan to attract new, smaller customers?
4. HDI get my spouse to be more supportive of my startup? HDI improve my communication skills so that my spouse understands the startup world.
After the HDI is restated and accepted by the processing member of the group, (and they can choose between many suggested HDIs, or even their original HDI), we would enter the period of suggestions. These are ideas of how the member can fix their problem. During this period they need to remain silent and listen. We assign another member to take notes, so the issue processor can just listen.
Upon finishing, the member taking notes will email those to the processor and then, the most important part, they make a promise or commitment to action (CTA).
Relevant Questions to Ask
Back to the sales guy on Alignable.com.
The following are the types of questions he should ask himself after the first two obvious questions I mentioned earlier. Keep in mind some of the questions here included what are called, veiled suggestions. When you are processing, just ask questions. But for this article, I’ll include some suggestions along with the questions.
1. Again, what is the industry average closing rate? You didn’t answer that.
2. The $33 million guy might be a great closer, but a lousy teacher. That’s possible. Can he teach others? Perhaps he doesn’t like the task of training others?
3. Are the sales people you’re hiring any good at sales? Start keeping track of your sales data; who is the most successful and what are their methods?
4. If your sales people are underperforming, is there a problem with your product?
5. Ask top level interviewees that are declining to take a sales job with you, why? Maybe you need to offer a higher salary, commission rate or benefits.
6. In addition to training people to sell, are you training them about your products, all the benefits?
7. If appropriate, do you have a good prepared pitch? If not, maybe you need one. If so, maybe it needs to be better.
8. Are you providing your sales staff with good quality, warm leads? If not, maybe you could do that.
9. Is your product a commodity, based simply on price? If so, maybe you need to adjust your pricing.
10. If your product is not a commodity, have you developed reasons why customers should buy from you? Have you distinguished your company through customer service, or some other benefits?
11. Do you have a detailed marketing program to support your sales people? Do you have a marketing strategy at all?
I could go on. But after all these questions are answered I think a new HDI suggestion would be along the lines of:
How do I help my sales staff to be more successful?
Then move on to the suggestions phase, many of which will be self-evident.
That is the value of questioning whatever you think your problem is. You can use this process yourself, with your own company, for any issues you are facing. Better yet, get your employees to join in. They might know more than you. They’re on the front lines, after all.
Originally published at https://www.datadriveninvestor.com on February 24, 2023.
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Stories and snippets of wisdom from Cynthia Wylie and Dennis Kamoen. Your comments are appreciated.