My apologies to anyone who got way too used to my 3-a-week blog posts. A road trip over the weekend lead into this week, which brought about a new business project for me (details to come). This project has come with the typical excitement of starting a new project mixed with the craziness of adding it to my schedule. Consistency of The Thinking Bat may suffer, but I suspect that the subject matter will get interesting! (For the love of all things sacred, it’s about time something interesting showed up on here, right?) I’m even thinking of a makeover for the site. Comments welcome!
Category Archives: A New Approach to Business
We’ve all been there. You’re palms are sweaty and you have that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach. You’ve rehearsed what you’re going to say over and over, but who knows what questions they may ask to throw you off. This is a great opportunity, and you think you are a qualified candidate… who knows what other candidates are in line though? You look nice. You keep repeating reassurances to yourself. Finally it’s your opportunity, and you introduce yourself. Everything that happens from here on out is vitally important…
I’m talking of course about picking up girls.
Actually, I’m talking about the interview process in general. Interviewing for a job is a well-known process; but meeting someone for the first time that you may have an interest in… that’s an interview too. No matter how much you may prepare, in the heat of the moment it can all go out the window, leaving you to rely on nothing but instinct. Interviewing for a job and trying to pick up someone you’ve just met are two things with more in common than Siegfried and Roy.
Think about it:
- You are getting to know someone for the first time and trying to make a good impression.
- There is a lot of small talk that doesn’t seem relevant… but it really is.
- At least once you will consciously wonder what your breath smells like.
- You are trying to convince the other party that you are indeed a worthy candidate.
- Going in, you don’t know if you are worthy yet (at least according to their standards).
- Your main goal from the first meeting is a follow up call.
- Both can either result in a huge victory or huge defeat – rarely a middle ground
- And inevitably you will have to pee right in the middle.
Having said all this, I am no expert in either field. But they say that the only way to learn is to fail, and I have enough experience failing in both these areas that I should consider myself an expert. I also have a couple successes; therefore, with all my journeys through the labyrinth that is the interview process – and I’m talking about both situations here – I have learned a lot.
I know there are hundreds of blogs giving tips about interviewing and probably hundreds more about picking up dates. Let’s combine them. First, from here on out, “interview” will be taken to mean both jobs and picking up girls. Second, I apologize for taking a biased, male-sided approach to this… I’ve only ever been a guy.
So after much thought – and many utterances from others of, “I’ve decided to go with someone else” – I have developed 10 tips that can help anyone score a call back.
1. Confidence is Sexy
Everyone says it, and it’s true! Conveying confidence is the single sexiest thing to a potential suitor. Confidence conveys that you know what you are doing (whether you do or not).
This can be done by dressing sharply, shaking hands firmly, carrying yourself with good posture and speaking up. Next time you are in a social situation, observe someone you think is confident. Examine how he composes himself, and look at how much attention he gets. That’s exactly what you want.
An important thing to remember is that confidence is entirely in your mind. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“A man but is the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
So when you dwell on all the negative things that can go wrong… something will probably go wrong. At the very least, you will make yourself nervous. A good technique to dealing with this is the following tip::
2. What’s the Worst that Can Happen?
This is a good question to ask yourself right before you start perspiring vehemently through your newly-dry-cleaned shirt. What is the worst that can happen? Answer: they say “no.” And it’s not the end of the world. This is an attitude I love adopting for a lot of things, because it relieves stress. Going in with a more cavalier attitude prevents you from psyching yourself out, getting too nervous or constantly worrying about whether or not you’re doing OK. Subsequently, your confidence will rise, your entire demeanor will be more positive and you will end up performing a lot better.
On the other hand, taking this too far and acting as though you are not taking things seriously is the biggest turnoff possible. So learn to utilize the “what’s the worst that could happen” strategy to help yourself, but careful not to accidentally portray that frankly my dear, you don’t give a damn.
3. Show Your Value
This is all about finding a way to brag about yourself without bragging about yourself. Now, I cannot by any means claim to be an expert in this one (though not for a lack of trying), but obviously the other party will want to hear what you bring to the table right off the bat.
In the book The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley, the author states:
“Poise, self-assurance, optimism, efficiency, perseverance, courage, decisiveness, intelligence, ambition – these are the things that cause men to rise to the top of their professions. And not coincidentally, these are the things women find attractive.”
Demonstrating your value could be as easy as portraying confidence, or could involve a little more. Likely you will have to specify how you and your skill set coincides with the interviewers’ needs. This means paying attention and doing as much research beforehand as possible.
4. Find a Wingman
Walking up to someone and generating a relationship out of thin air is tough. Of course, first there must be an open position, so make sure of that right away. You hate to get the old “Sorry, I’m just not interested at this time.” That’s why having someone else introduce you is always easier.
Initiating conversation is the most difficult part. It can be quite awkward, and frequently lead to nothing. So get an “in.” Call in a favor, develop a relationship with someone who knows someone who knows someone and rely on mutual friends. You are just one of many, and trying to gain credibility by yourself is damn near impossible. Having someone else who has a little more credibility (or less to lose) talk you up allows you to stand out. It also prevents you from being too forward, seeming overeager, or – depending on how bad you are at it – creepy.
5. Eye Contact is Key
Eye contact displays confidence, conveys interest and shows that you are paying attention. But here’s the secret: actually pay attention! Look straight into the other party’s eyes and actively listen to what he or she says so that when it’s your turn to talk you don’t ramble on about something idiotic and off subject. For more on this, I recommend reading up on active listening.
6. Find Something in Common
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important in any interview process. Have you ever had a conversation with someone with whom you have nothing in common? After about five minutes you start looking for the nearest sharp object.
Compatibility is important. And sometimes you are compatible; but you just have separate lives together and apart (this is still a double entendre, stay with me). But studies show that people are way happier surrounded by others with whom they can be social and professional (for the sake of argument we’ll call a relationship “professional.”) So look for things in common, because if you don’t have anything and still end up getting that call back… you may be headed for a nasty break up.
Which brings me to my next point:
7. Not Everyone Will be a Perfect Fit
A lot of this game starts with quantity vs. quality. You give your credentials to anyone who seems attractive and hope one or two reply. Or maybe you have tunnel vision and only have a couple potentials on the radar. Either way, you need to get to know the other party before you know what your relationship will be like. That’s why there are several rounds of interviews! (Pause while I high five myself for coming up with that one.)
But hey, everything’s worth a shot. And if the fit isn’t right, so be it. Maybe the next one that comes around will be. It’s better than taking home a “4.”
8. Practice Makes Perfect
Unless you’re Beethoven and know how to write symphonies as soon as you pop out of the womb, this is true for just about everything. The more you interview, the better you get at it. You learn what to expect, you have a gauge on what to work on, and you end up being a lot more comfortable in interview situations.
So practice. Enter into an interview you don’t even want, or grab a friend and do a mock run. Trust me, friends are harder on you than strangers (mostly). Then when you get turned down (and you will) think about what you did right and wrong and then change it for the next time.
9. Speak with Intention
If you ramble when you get nervous… stop. This is where the practice comes in. You have very little time to make an impression, and when you are put on the line, the smallest mistake or departure from your train of thought could potentially ruin the whole thing (no pressure).
You know how women remember the smallest things you say and interpret them however they want, even when you don’t remember saying them? Treat every interview – on both sides of the spectrum – like that! Everything you say could be important, so think before you talk. If you need to take a second and gather your thoughts, do it.
(Side note: this theory tends to go to hell if you are drunk at a bar. I’m not saying don’t get drunk at bars, just be mindful of the effects.)
10. Learn to Close
Unfortunately, I can’t double entendre this one so easily. In both scenarios this is equally as important, but done in very different ways. In the job search scene, this is easier than the dating scene; however, if your interview went well, it should be an easy transition.
When flirting, it’s getting the number. I have a pretty simple rule about this one: if you think it went well enough, just go for it. I can’t begin to develop a theory around this – that’s a whole other blog post – but after all, what’s the worst that could happen?
For job interviews, it usually ends with them asking, “Any other questions?” Your answer is and has to be “yes.” They have put the ball in your court and this is where you shine. I don’t have the time or space to write out a list of suggested questions, but I will tell you to plan several out beforehand. Many times they will answer a few of them just by telling you about the job. Make sure you have more.
The follow up is also important. Hand written notes are great ideas (I assume this would work for a pickup as well… trying it may be pretty corny but if you want to, more power to you). Some of these make or break getting a call back.
If anyone can think of any other tips, tricks or suggestions for this post, feel free to comment. Remember, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ve ALL been there. Just be confident, prepare, and remember to wear deodorant.
There is one very difficult step every young entrepreneur will take in the process of starting a business. It could lead to outrageous amounts of stress; it could lead to a complete reorganization of your strategy; in fact, it could derail the entire thing. When pursuing your dreams, I advise anyone who has a strong vision to power through any roadblocks… well, this could very well be your first. What is it?
Having the “I’m starting a business” conversation with your parents.
I’ll pause while you shudder…
All parents are different, so I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I know many young entrepreneurs know exactly the conversation (or at least the implications of the conversation) that I’m talking about. After your folks helped put you through undergrad then business school, and helped you pay for crap, and gave you money for books which was inevitably spent on beer (“I swear Dad, the damn thing costs $300!”) you sit them down and tell them you’re gambling it all on a fanatical business venture.
Granted, I think every graduate has a business idea at least once. Especially in this job market, after playing the resume and interview game every young, disgruntled student goes, “Screw it, I’m starting my own business!” (Note: the chances of this rise 10-fold after watching a Hugh Hefner documentary. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be that guy?) But very few people go through with it.
This doesn’t just pertain to recent grads either. I know people several years older than I who have had this conversation with parents. Sure, the older, wiser and more financially stable you get the easier this goes, but the conversation still takes place. I recently had a conversation with a man who was in his mid-30s who had a great business idea and told me that he was pitching some potential investors the following week. When I asked him how he felt about it he replied, “It will be a breeze after pitching my parents on the idea last weekend!”
The parent talk, however, can be the most significant reality check you have. Now, in my experience, I did not have to ask my parents for money. As a consultant, I need less upfront capital than a lemonade stand. But if you will be asking for money, work on your pitch just as you would a high-level venture capitalist. They will take even more stock in your idea, because with parents it isn’t just a financial investment; it’s a personal and emotional investment.
If you aren’t asking for money (and in reality, I would only recommend doing so as a last resort), then you will likely hear from the greatest devil’s advocate you can get, especially if one or both of your parents is a business person. But if they are not business people, then be careful, because you may receive false encouragement to pursue your line of kitten Christmas sweaters. Or at the very least, you will receive a brain-numbing amount of questions.
Let me tell you my experience. It did not at all happen like I planned, though like I said, the risk/reward of a one-person consulting company does not merit tons of concern from the parentals.
Now, my parents are very encouraging, and I know they would support me in just about anything. However, my father is a financial advisor – which means fiscally minded, structured, planned, and well aware of the business world as a whole. So boy was I prepared for the devil’s advocacy.
I, not being structured and planned (ask anyone), took a “ready, fire, aim” approach to the business model. Well done, Matt. I had a business plan, a mission, etc. I also had just completed my website, and started up this blog. My problem was that I had too many ideas about the website and the creative aspect which I had to get out first. I wanted to get the “aim” part taken care of before I told my parents the idea, but apparently when you “fire” and it’s live online, people find it quickly. Once again Matt, probably should have seen that one coming…
So before I had all the details ironed out, I visited home. I didn’t even have the Michael Bublé song I was singing in the car out of my head before my mother was saying, “So tell me about your website and this business idea!”
That’s how I broke it to the parents.
That weekend my entire family was coming to visit. Oh great, not only is the “aim” portion of the business not ready, the entire family is going to be pitched this at once! The weekend consisted of everyone – and I mean everyone – in my family taking a look at the site, proofreading and critiquing. Between my parents, my brother who is close to my age, my grandmother who was a teacher, my granddad who was a judge, and a couple uncles who are business men, I’d say I had my bases covered.
Let me tell you, you don’t develop a 30-second pitch much quicker than when you have to do it on the fly in front of that crowd.
I got lucky in that “marketing consultant” is an easy sell, and everyone was more curious and intrigued than concerned. I also got some great feedback for the site, and it should be grammatically impeccable now.
Finally, my immediate family went out to dinner, and the subject came up. My dad said, “I have some questions about your business venture.”
Ok, here it comes… deep breath… another sip of wine… hit me.
I wish I could give you a great dialogue here; some kind of quid pro quo between the businessman and myself. But the line of questioning was very simple. He asked me about all the things I hadn’t worked out yet. He asked me how I was going to be paid, what would I charge and why, and what the legal ramifications were. All encouraging and valid questions, only I wish I had more of an answer than “yeah, still working on that…”
Long story short, he told me that I needed a mentor. This is something I knew in the back of my head, I had just not reached out yet. But he was right. Every successful person has a mentor. Every young entrepreneur has someone showing him the ropes. No one ever ever ever does it completely on his own. At first, I wasn’t sure what kind of concerns my father would have, or what advice he would give me, although – and it pains me to say it – he is usually right. Therefore I was going to listen. What transpired was great advice and nothing but support from both my folks.
So kids, talk to your parents. The talk is inevitable, though I would advise you to be more prepared then I was. Pitch them as you would pitch a professional. You never know what could happen, but if you leap this hurtle you are well on your way.
At the very least, you have a few more subscribers to your blog.
The following is a blog I wrote last week. In honor of Labor Day, it seemed like a great subject matter: the art of NOT working. Actually, I’ve just been putting off editing it, and every time I do I get distracted. Ironic and also true.
I consider myself a hard worker (and my iCal will back me up on this) but every once in a while it feels wonderful to do nothing. In the words of Ellen Degeneres, “That is why procrastination feels so right.” We overload our schedules and expect everything to happen in real-time; subsequently, many of us have trouble focusing on the task at hand, or we simply put it off and get distracted.
I recently caught myself in the middle of an ADD-episode:
In the last 10 minutes I have returned a couple e-mails, composed a couple e-mails, checked Facebook, texted an old friend, organized my contacts, set up a dentist appointment and started this blog. Sounds like a typical workday… but I did all of these things essentially at once.
Hold on, if I’m going to tell this story I need another cup of coffee…
Let me tell you how this blog came to pass: I was typing an e-mail when a text came through. I stopped typing mid-sentence, switched “keyboards” and responded. Then I came back to the e-mail. I needed to embed a link to Facebook, so naturally I went to Facebook to copy the link. I had three notifications! (Is it just me, or is there some kind of subconscious excitement about seeing the little red notice symbol.)
Just a sec, another e-mail just came through…
As I was saying, after perusing through my Facebook homepage, I returned to the e-mail. I proofread all e-mails before I send them (because first drafts are about as legible as a blind doctor writing in hieroglyphics), but before I had a chance to send this one, another couple came through. (I don’t want to make myself appear popular, I’m just part of a couple of e-mail lists that CC everything – everyone knows these people; they must be stopped!)
After reading these interrupting e-mails, another text came through. Obviously I had to stop what I was doing to respond to that. But you know what I hadn’t done in a while? Deleted my text conversations. They have been piling up… time to delete a few. What’s the point of saving them anyway? I consciously make the decision to keep some, knowing full well I will never read them again. Anyway…
Sorry, there has been some sort of bug flying around my desk this whole time; I need to take care of this…
Where was I? Ah yes, after deleting my text history, I went to select the contacts I was going to e-mail blast… but oh, you should have seen the contact list. Totally unorganized.
It was at this point, I said to myself “Man, I’m ADDing today. I should write an article on that…” So I jotted down a few ideas.
Then I realized, “Crap! I was supposed to make a dentist appointment!” Quick call to them.
Back to this article, I realized I had left in the middle of a paragraph. I also realized as I stared at my computer screen that I have three incomplete blogs waiting on me. That means I started and got distracted three separate times, and ended up writing this fourth one.
Oh hold on, another e-mail…
Like I was saying, I needed to organize those contacts. I’ll get to it after this.
Timeout to look up statistics for the following part of the blog…
According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, around 5% of the US adult population has ADD. Statistics also show that rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007.
Does that mean more people have it? Have we gotten better at diagnosing it? Or are we so inundated with information, and faster-moving communication, and modes of doing it all that more people feel as though they have it.
What I have described is probably not atypical: work on something; get distracted; get back to work on it; get distracted again…
Hold on, my friend texted me back again…
Feel free to comment on this subject. What do you think? Have we essentially developed ADD through faster moving processes and technology?
So the point is to slow down and take time for yourself. How awesome are lazy days?! Some of my favorite days are lounging around, watching a TV marathon, being totally unhealthy and not worrying! Allow yourself to procrastinate once in a while. It’s nature’s way of telling us we need to slow down. Call it ADD or ADHD or procrastination or whatever, but I don’t think it is always a horrible thing (it does, however, tend to hit at very inconvenient times). As I said, I would like to hear any opinions on this, but in all honesty, I may not get through any of the comments because I’m so easily distr
Congratulations to me, I am now $50,000 in debt and have three letters after my name. That’s right, I did what many underemployed undergraduate graduates have done: I got a leg up by getting my MBA.
The experience allowed me to grow on so many levels and in ways that I could have never done otherwise. On an academic front I learned valuable material; however, hindsight vision being sharper than Reese Witherspoon’s chin, I now notice that there was something missing.
For a while I didn’t know what it was. Then one day I had to read a chapter for coursework that was talking about dealing with employees. The chapter outlined a person’s mood changes throughout the day… by using a graph.
At this point I realized that everything I was learning throughout the program was based in analytics, statistics, formulas, quantifying measures, etc. After all, that’s the way business programs are designed, and that’s the way business professors know how to teach.
So I can confidently say that I can quote you theory and formula (and also improv a presentation like I was on Who’s Line Is It Anyway?); but now I’m beginning to go through the motions of starting my own business and I realized something: I don’t know the intricacies of how to actually start a business.
Sure, I have a business plan, a logo, a website… that’s not what I’m talking about. Of course a business plan is where you start. I have even done a SWOT Analysis, something that I vowed if I ever had to do post-graduation, I would Jason Bourne it out the nearest window.
(SWOT is analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a business, for those of you who didn’t go to business school – or if you did, if you were sick the day they taught business.)
But the question is, after all that… now what do I do with it? What’s the next step? Where was the class, Starting a Business 101?
We had an entrepreneurship class, as any MBA program should, but it was more theory, graphs, charts and analytics. Granted, in an academic program you need some of this structure and basic theory, and in the business world it is also vital. But…
If I were teaching an entrepreneurship class I would do one thing on the first day: “Class, you will be starting your own business over the next 10 weeks… ready? Go!”
Where was that kind of practicality?
So as much as I did learn from this program, towards the end I started to think a little differently. When someone asks me what my key takeaways were from business school I won’t point at a book. I will tell them that I learned to question things. I will say that I now know it’s not about the time value of money, discounted cash flows or the statistical valuation of a company. It’s about taking calculated risks… but without sitting down and actually calculating the risk itself! It’s about taking chances, intuition and – most importantly – hard work.
Business school is a box. You learn from a book, with a syllabus, in a curriculum, in a school system. After that you enter the job box: resumes, cover letters, interviews and climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. I knew I didn’t fully subscribe to all that noise in undergrad, but it took me a higher education to learn how to take what I needed from within the box, and combine it with my risk-taking, intuitive, creative ideas from outside of the box. And voilà! I have made it as far as this blog.
So here we go. This is the new class. The new Matt Williams School of Business. Scratch that…
The Matt Williams Art of Industry Less Restricted.
This is about business-savvy out-of-the-box thinking, questioning status quo and being successful at it! And I promise there will not be one graph or chart trying to quantify what should otherwise be intuition.