Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Help Them Say Yes In Your Next Interview

By Barry Zweibel

It's one thing to be able to answer interview questions well. It's something else entirely to be able to get an offer. One way to 'sweeten the pot' is by offering something that most applicants do not - a written summary of the steps you'd take during the first ninety days of employment. In doing so, you show that you're:

a) seriously considering what it would mean to work there

b) completely understanding what the job entails

c) taking the initiative to further differentiate yourself from the other applicants

d) able to communicate through the written word

e) willing to share your insights and observations, without cost or obligation

Focus on the Foci

While creating a 90-Day Plan may seem onerous, it doesn't have to be. It doesn't even have to provide a calendar of events. All it needs to do is provide some additional insights into how you'd approach the job if it was yours. Think of it as providing a few missing pieces to the puzzle they're trying to solve about which applicant would be best-suited for the position.

The key is to focus their attention on your understanding of - and ability to address - four major aspects of the work at hand:

problems, processes, projects, and people.

Remember, you don't have to completely address each of these foci to maximize the impact of your 90-Day Plan. You just need show that you:

a) understand the issues involved, and

b) have a plan for working them.

Let's take a closer look at doing exactly that:


Pick a problem, any problem. Chances are good you'll have several to choose from. Most employers bring on new hires to help deal with immediately pressing and/or urgent issues. Show that you know what the big ones are and offer your thoughts as to how you will quickly come up to speed and start handling them satisfactorily.


Sometimes the problems that organizations face are more chronic in nature. Bottlenecks, inefficiencies, conflicting priorities, etc. all slow down an organization's ability to be crisp, agile, and progressive. You probably noticed several such process breakdowns during your interviews. State what you found and frame your approach to turning them around.


Surely there are also some major projects and key deliverables that you will be responsible for if hired. List them out and highlight what you see as potential trouble points, along with some solutions for mitigating those risks. If you're thinking about some new initiatives, this would be a good time to include them and their underlying rationale, as well.


While executives are typically hired because of their functional expertise, their success is usually more a function of their leadership acumen. Frame your plans for creating and sustaining support, respect, and regard from your staff, peers, boss, and other key stakeholders. Use this as an opportunity to articulate your Leadership Message and how you will assess if the right people are in the right roles. Indicate, too, how you will learn who needs what from your organization, and what your organization needs from whom. Focus on leadership, communications, camaraderie, and collaboration.

Based on the specifics of the particular opportunity you're pursuing, you might prefer to address a different combination of foci and approaches. If that's the case, then good for you! The more situationally-specific you can make your Plan, the more relevant and better-received it will be. So feel free to use this format as is, tweak it, or completely rework it, based on what makes most sense to you.

Begin with the End in Mind

Are you still thinking that this is waaaay too much work - especially for an employer that hasn't even hired you yet?! It doesn't have to be. In fact, just spending 30-60 minutes per focus point might be all you need to create a fact-based, hit-the-ground-running summary document. And, if you "begin with the end in mind", as Stephen Covey suggests in The "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," the task will be far less burdensome because you'll probably start asking far more focused questions during the interview process than you might have otherwise considered.

By the way, take note if you really don't want to develop a 90-Day Plan as it might indicate that the job isn't one you'd really like to have. Better to realize that before you accept the offer, yes?!

But assuming you follow-through, a 90-Day Plan gives a prospective employer deep insight into who you are and how you work. And, by providing it voluntarily, you create a far more compelling justification for hiring YOU, rather than someone else who merely answered the questions they were asked.

All things being equal, who would you hire?

[About the Author: Barry Zweibel, CEC, PCC, is a Certified Executive Coach, a Professional Certified Life Coach, and President of GottaGettaCoach!, Incorporated.
He specializes in providing 1-on-1 executive coaching and leadership consulting to seasoned and newly promoted leaders.]

Should SME Companies Use Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is the name given to the latest internet technologies which enable interactivity and networking between users. There has been a lot of hype about new networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Bebo and the result has been that many clients have asked me how they should react.

I have been very sceptical of the value of Web 2.0 to small businesses due to the cost of getting involved and the difficulty of measuring results. So I went to a marketing conference last week to learn a bit more and came away much more positive.

The growth of Web 2.0 has been the result of the new technology and the positive reaction of many initial users - mostly young and low-spenders. Major brands have become involved due to their increasing difficulties in achieving adequate return on investment through advertising in traditional media. They have seen where more and more people are spending their time on the internet and it is easy for them to divert a small part of their budget to test new promotional channels.

SME companies start with an inherent advantage over their big corporate competition. The bigger the company the more difficult it is to be flexible. Yet the key to success in this new environment is the quality of interaction with individual customers.

The problem for the small business is the time required for someone to participate in blogs, forums and networks. The person most likely to achieve desired results is the Chief Executive himself because he has the knowledge and is best able to speak for the company. Yet he is also likely to be caught in the classic trap of being unable to delegate to others and so lacking the time to spend on interaction that has no immediate priority in results.

So the first companies likely to make use of Web 2.0 are those run by people with the motivation to spend time on online networking.

The next strategy for success requires a Web 2.0 PR strategy. The standard PR promotion involves the company in sending out official news and promotions mainly to journalists or media owners for republication. In the new internet world such obvious direct promotion is unlikely to work. What does work is 'word of mouth' or referrals from sources not identified directly with the company concerned.

To achieve such referrals you must first identify a core of key 'influencers' or 'advocates' who specialise in your particular market niche and are recognised by potential customers. Then you need to find a mechanism to involve them in your strategy development so that they are aware of what you are doing and approve of it.

This process of seeding the internet with suitable information means you must also accept that its use is outside your direct control. It is therefore vital not to make promises you cannot keep and to ensure existing customers are happy. If not, you can find you generate as much negative noise as positive. That, though, comes back to the advantage of small companies who are much closer to their customers than big ones. I would not encourage a major bank, for example, to pursue active Web 2.0 promotion in the current climate.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Entrepreneurship Checklist

While many books and articles are written about leadership, entrepreneurship has been given short shrift. The following audit checklist is useful in finding basic qualities of entrepreneur.

Do not use force where skill is required.

  1. Are you well qualified to manage a small business successfully? Are you energetic? enthusiastic? willing to learn? willing to assume responsibility and make decisions? Do you get along well with other people? Can you motivate subordinates?

  2. Do you listen well? A manager can learn a great deal by listening to employees, customers, suppliers, competitors -- anyone exposed to the firm's operations.

  3. Do you monitor changes in the market that affect your business operation? Do you read relevant business and trade newspapers and periodicals? These publications offer valuable information to the typical small business owner.

  4. Do you belong to a trade association or other business organization? An owner can learn quite a bit by fraternizing with other business owners who encounter similar problems and opportunities.

  5. Do you attend seminars or classes designed for small business owners sponsored by local trade associations, colleges, or chambers of commerce? These classes often provide suggestions for improved managerial techniques and are usually quite inexpensive.

  6. Are you active in local clubs and organizations? Assuming an active role in the local community can be an effective way to create a positive business image and boost sales.

  7. Do you draw a reasonable salary as owner and manager of the business? Are you earning at least as much as you could earn working for someone else?

  8. Does the business generate a reasonable return on your investment? Do you earn as much from the business (over and above your salary) as you could earn by investing an equal amount in an investment of similar risk?

  9. Do you use any of the services the Small Business Administration and other government agencies offer? Publications, seminars, and consulting services can be valuable managerial aids.