Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chief Experience Officer

Here is a great concept for companies to consider. The role of a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) is prime for today. One voice, internal and external, producing a much overlooked need for a consistent brand across the entire organization, which can only be accomplished with this "Brand Czar", the CXO!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Clone Lesson

Reviewing an open position at Comcast, I was pleased to see them recognize the need for a competitive strategist. What seemed to me, to be a forward thinking organizational move. Then the shoe dropped. The process ended with a short five question "clone" test.

One of my previous posts, discussed GM's clone test, referring to their employment tests to ensure "like thinking" employees are hired. You can see how well that practice has worked for them. Finally, their new management team is coming from outside the auto industry.

Comcast needs to learn this lesson, too. How can you create a new strategy from old thinking? Watch out Comcast! Apple is hot on your trail, with a new entertainment subscription plan. Acquisitions probably will not save you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Candidates are People, too.

With the current high rate of job loss and shortened average career tenure, you could be the subject of your own treatment.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Emotional Education

A friend of mine send me this article that aptly addresses "emotional" education, as the "other" education. The author uses his own experience on how a musician help shaped his being, to support his point of view. He describes how the elements of life are just as critical to your education as the classroom. I agree.

With the apparent increase in higher education, MBA specifically, as your rite of passage to the workforce, experience is taking a back seat to education. Education is not just from textbooks, but experience.


Saturday, November 28, 2009


There seems to be a strong missing element in today's marketing – ROI.

To succeed as a entrepreneur, you just need to develop mass, without regard to monetization. "Build a social network site and they will come." But what if you're on the other side of the equation, as a marketer?

I've asked this question, as a consultant, to many clients who have joined the social networking marketing bandwagon, "What is the ROI on your investment?" and "Can you break it down per website?"

One client's answer was actually, "I'm afraid to find out."

What are your measurements? What is the ROI on each of your media channels? Basically, "What is working and what is not?"

Marketing/Advertising budgets are tight; choose wisely and measure the results.

Side note: since the "ad"vention of marketing, many claim you cannot measure advertising results with any degree of quantification. Social networking is just another channel. ROI can simply be "Did using this channel bring additional sales/recognition/(insert your goal here)?"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Corporate Culture As A Marketing Tool

In a conversation with a close friend of mine, regarding employer/employee relations, she questioned why other companies' products were preferred over theirs.

To answer the question, the companies' cultures give us some insight.

At my friend's company, employees are called to 5 AM meetings, sometimes an additional hour's drive from their normal workplace. They are still expected to complete their workday around or after 6 PM. My friend is so "burned out" when she arrives home, she can only muster a small bite to eat and head to bed. Sometimes this scenario repeats the very next day.

The competition, in this example, does not work over 40 hours/week, has fewer employees and benefits to make you happy to be alive.

You can see the answer is very clear:
Corporate culture is directly related to product quality.

But is this correlation clear? Unfortunately in the U.S., this scenario is very prevalent in today's economy. It follows the "be thankful you have a job" mentality adopted by this and many employers.

Where do you fit into this scenario?

From the marketing perspective, can you see a competitive advantage?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

This is not just a cliché or esoteric business strategy, it's a practice.

If you read my blogs, it is fairly clear, I'm all about change. Here are two situations where "outside-the-box" thinking was successful when applied to hiring.

Maintaining my philosophy, "If the people grow, the company will grow," I needed a manager who could apply this principle. It took quite a bit of time and I actually when through two previous hires, before landing someone with the right blend of qualifications.

Did he come from the marketing/advertising industry? No. I hired a professor. A person with all the industry skill sets and the added punch of knowing how to convey this knowledge. He could also motivate. He built on the staff's current strengths and taught them new skills. On the management team, he brought a broad perspective.
It worked.

Next, I needed a Business Manager. A prevalent practice of mine, when building organizational structures.

Did she come from the marketing/advertising industry? No. I hired a financial analyst from the banking industry. I needed a number cruncher. She brought not only accounting skills, but helped me set up productivity metrics. On the management team, she brought an outside-the-industry perspective. It worked.

This philosophy can be applied in any position. Don't look for the candidate that matches every detailed bullet point in the job description. If you do find such a person, you will get what you don't need–change or new thinking. Look for skill sets. Skill sets that can be applied to your real needs. These skill sets are referred as – transferable.

Examine your job postings. Do they represent functional duties or skill sets? If you require help determining your needs or examining this subject matter, hire a consultant (like me). Consultants bring an unbiased "out-your-box" viewpoint, as well as their broad experiences.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Candidate Assessment

There are a number of tools to help HR and hiring managers assess candidates. It seems the lower the level position, the more complex the assessment. I have frequently seen IQ type tests used for minimum wage jobs. I relate these test to many student's comments about math, "Where will I ever determine the area of a trapezoid? "

Take two cities 87 miles apart. A train is traveling at 42 mph towards one town and a car is traveling at 55 mph back towards the train's origin town. At one point do they intersect. Who cares as long as the car isn't on the train tracks?

An elevator holds 2500 pounds. Susie, Paul, Mary and Bill take up 60% of the capacity. Paul weighs 155 pounds, Mary 108 and Bill's been eating twinkies. How much does Susie weight? Well, every time I'm in an elevator, this really concerns me. NOT.

This is not to say math has no purpose, because it does. This is not to say all assessments are bad, because I've seen and used many excellent ones. This is to ask, are the right assessments used for the right purpose? Back in the 80's there was a major move from IQ, Intellectual Quotient, to EQ, Emotional Quotient, to assess candidates. There were many good books written about this alternative to evaluating candidates. Why do we still see IQ on minimum wage jobs? Because some companies just don't change.

As I said earlier, there are a lot of good assessments out there. The good ones emulate the work environment, are dialogue based and reveal the candidates experiences and/or thought processes, without determining Susie's weight. Also sad, these test are all online, as are most application processes.

A question you may ask, "A minimum wage job candidate may be fresh out of High School or College, with no previous work experience. How do I assess them?" Talk to them! The best assessment is face-to-face. Character can be revealed in presentation, speech, vocabulary, appearance, etc. What they did for extracurricular activities, classes they studied or part-time jobs can also reveal character. (Side note - unless your hiring for an academic based position, GPA is irrelevant. GPA just indicates the candidate can absorb and regurgitate information. Think EQ, not IQ).

"But I don't have time to personally interview candidates, in a high turnover, minimum wage based, industry." One fact about minimum wage jobs, there will always be high turnover. Hopefully, this is because people want to grow.

What about mid and higher level positions? The same rule applies. Talk to them! The best assessments are live and the same qualities are revealed, as for minimum wage positions. There is a big advantage in this environment, you can use the infamous HR statement, "tell me a time when ... " It works. Pre-qualification can come from the résumé.

Candidates, you can assess the company by their hiring practices and once you gain a live interview, assess the interviewer on the same characteristics as mentioned above. After all, matching candidates and companies is a two-way street (and not the street with a train and car headed for a collision). See my previous post discussing culture.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Traditional Marketing

Frequently, I come across a job posting stating the term "traditional marketing." What does this mean? Really, I want to know.

I always though the goal of marketing was to be non-traditional. To create products and campaigns that were innovative and creative. It seems to me this is one of the core problems with the industry today.

Most of us have heard the definition of stupidity – Doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results.

Isn't this what you will get, if you seek traditional marketers?

Here's an example:
Several years ago, I took the General Motors employment assessment tests, prior to a marketing position interview. These exams took a little less than two hours to complete. I must have failed miserably, because I was instructed not to reapply for 12 months.

After speaking and reviewing the questions with a couple friends working at GM, these test are better defined as "clone" tests and squelch independent thinkers. They ensure people fit the GM mold. Just think about it, for over a decade GM built cars no one wanted.

Look at GM now. It begs the questions, "Is this the result of traditional marketing?"

I say, hire the people who flunked the tests.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hire the Best

The economic situation is quite understated. Reports indicate a national average unemployment rate of 9.1%. Michigan leads the country with 14.1%. What the numbers don't include are those no longer on unemployment or other indicators. The real rate is closer to 25-30% or close to one-out-of-three or four people are not working. I'm sure you know someone unemployed, if not yourself.

What does this mean to the marketing/advertising industry? There are great people available to hire. Not good, but great people. I can't believe hiring managers still use the term, "over-qualified". Unless you're skirting the law and using this term to invoke age discrimination (shame on you), the word "qualified" is inside this term.

My definition of over-qualified, is getting more than you deserve. A candidate that can deliver above expectations and provide skills beyond the job description – bonus for you.

If you are age discriminating (shame on you), think again. These are seasoned professionals, who can help grow your company and you. It's a win-win situation. You can mentor your specific expertise back to them, too.

Look through those résumés again, now.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Smart Hiring

This blog post is a partial addendum to my last post Organizational Structure and to offer some direction.

The job postings I recently viewed, have exacerbated the job blending phenomenon. They expanded the Operations/Creative/Sales singular position to include IT. I realize IT is a vital function in all agency or department efforts, but blend them with all the other functions? Where does one get this background?

The new MBA program will have to include, i.e. blend, all these functions to satisfy many companies' expectations. What I believe will suffer is leadership. MBA already eludes to "My Best Achievement", emphasizing the latest CEO's compensation greed.

Leadership is comprised of three main qualities:
  • Experience
  • Vision
  • Risk

A leader can possess any singular or duplicity of the functional capacities, but it would be rare to possess anymore. Otherwise, the three main qualities become diluted. The agency or department head should have a "working" knowledge of all the functional areas, in order to best communicate with these leaders.

At the turn of the Millennium, a popular trend to flatten organizational structures took hold. I believe this is a good corporate posture. It allows strong functional leaders to specialize in their trade and it forms a forum for the diversity of ideas in a leadership meeting. With a strong meeting facilitation role, the agency or department head can create an effective problem solving environment. I have conducted and witnessed this successful meeting climate.

How do you implement this strategy?

  • Take a hard look at your current structure and leader's skill sets. Do they align with my blog posts?
  • Are you blending functions? Where? Does this make sense?
  • Take a hard look at your leader(s) compensation. Is their parity? This is a critical step, especially with the current compensation scrutiny, driving economic correction. I will devote my next blog on the parity subject.

Building an effective team is still key to success.

Job blending is contrary to building an effective team, brainstorming, creativity and problem solving.

Defining the Team Leader's qualities, ensures this success.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Organizational Structure

As I continue to consult on advertising agency organizational structures and interview for full -time operational positions for corporate in-house divisions, I'm learning mindsets have not changed. Business is changing at light-speed, but the way of doing business is not.

There is a certain sense of irony in the organizational structure paradigm (oh, that word), especially in the creative environment. Whatever you call it, Creative Services, Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Graphics or Sales Support, the company looks to your area for creative solutions for their lack of revenue. Your department/agency is to solve everything, by producing effective materials. Yet, with the plethora of talent, you can't seem to get a project out, on-time, on-budget. Take a deep look at your division/department structure. Who's running the show?

Most Senior managers of creative areas, and typically all levels above, think having a super creative leading the pack will result in producing the materials they seek. When the area fails to deliver to their expectations, they replace the creative lead. This cycle is repetitive. The next questions is, "why can't we find a good creative lead?"

Let's define lead. Lead what? The creative approach? The creative process? The creative area? Nine times out of ten, it's the entire area. As my pastor would shout, when he wants your attention and wants to get an important point across, "Listen".

- Creative people are creative. That's why you hired them.
- Creative people should not manage - process or people, i.e. the area.
- Stop replacing the good ones.
- Change the structure.

There are plenty of industries that develop right/left brain people: architecture, photography, musicians. All these industries require both sides of the brain. Each involve math and vision. Our industry, is no different. Leaders can come from our different disciplines, Account Services, Production, and yes, sometimes Creative. Your job is to recruit and screen for this balance, not "get me another creative person." In the event, this person is not easily found, get two people to complete the required balance. Don't scream, "I can't hire two people for one job."

- Change the structure.

Companies has been successful at reducing overhead, increasing creative quality and processes, when they have the right people in the right disciplines in the right structure.

Quit blaming the Creative Director for not producing their best work, when you hired them to run the entire area/department/agency. They were made to be creative, not lead large teams and crunch numbers. Our job as leaders is to give our associates the tools they need to succeed.

If you don't know how to do this, get help.