human resources

Thank Ten Customers Today

About a month ago, some of my customers got upset that they were ineligible (US sweeps rules being what they are) for a promotion I designed around an event they planned to attend.  They complained on Facebook, and I thought they had a good point.

I looked them up in our database and sent them a handwritten note and some brand swag, just thanking them for being a Facebook fans and customers.

The couple hours I spent on that was 100% worth it. One of them even posted an Instagram photo of my note on our brand page.

Every marketing manager, VP, or exec should try this.  But don't wait for a reason to apologize.

Sit down and thank 10 customers.  They'll love it.  Reflect on why you do your job, whether you really value their business,  and keep that moment close to you.  

Relatisonhips matter, and having a great relationship with every customer should be your goal.

Snubbing the Media — Strategy or Revenge?

Much of this post was orginally a comment on "Snubbing the Media — Strategy or Revenge?" at Bulldog reporter.  I'm working on a larger post about what a universe run by Apple would look like.

The manufacture of the gadgets that have become part of our lives, and made Apple a hugely profitable company in the meantime, has transformed Apple's operations into a lightning rod for outrage over worker conditions.  Listeners to This American Life were let in on the sad story even before the Times article was released. 

What was damning about the NYT story was that it went further in context and further in exploring corruption.  In context, it was better able to show the matrix of conditions costs and imperatives that are involved with being an apple supplier and a worker at such a supplier.  But in corruption, the NYT was able to get former Apple employees to discuss the company's internal perspective on the problem, without being official mouthpieces.  Culpability seemed to be at the heart of these admissions.  What are we to say about that? Apple ruthlessly prevents outside access to its inner deliberations, and in some ways this culture of secrecy is good business practice, but in others, it allows sensational news items to define the company's story.

So now Apple is using its main currency, (thirst for details about the company), to attempt to control the story and diver the narrative away from the labor issue.  It's an authoritarian move, and we shouldn't expect Apple to change that approach overnight any more than it can change Foxconn's practices overnight; in many ways that approach might continue to work.  

Apple isn't just freezing out the NYT: it is freezing the citizens of the world and the community of its users from being stakeholders in Apple's governance.  

As the goods we purchase transition to digital rather than physical, the tangible devices and experiences we do purchase become increasingly important expressions of their lose their tangibly, the opportunity we have to participate in the industrial decisions surrounding their production is real and a true test of the world's appetite for respecting craftsmanship, effort, sacrifice, and pride.  Will it become harder to exploit citizens of other low-wage countries, or easier?  That much is up to us.

On Being an NWC Backer

About a year ago, for a period of around 3-4 months, I was a paying member of New Work City.  I have always been interested in the evolution of the workforce around new technologies, and so I was a spectator of this project for a long time.  When my professional needs aligned with the NWC model, I thoguht, this makes sense for me, as more than an experiment.

Having known Tony via nextNY I suppose I had less of a need to be SOLD on the experience actively, but I will say that if anything, the community under-promises and over-delivers.

It's subtle, but Peter Chislett and Tony and great folks like Frederic Guarino and Mark Bursteiner were fun to be around, full of optmism, and showed how working from the Library or the Cornell Club (some of my favs at the time) were missing something.  Those venues didn't offer stimulating conversation, beta invites to cool projects, or a sense that no matter how f#cked the economy seemed in those days, that we could make it better by our own bootstraps.

This blog is hosted on Squarespace largely as a result of meeting Dane Atkinson at New Work City one day.  NWC will find you business partners, customers, friends, and drinking buddies.  Some of them might like Iced coffee as much as you do (cheers Peter!)

My professional needs changed a bit at the end of the summer and I ended my membership, but I remain supportive of Tony and New Work City's way of discovering the best way to do things with smart and dedicated experimentation.

I pledged my support to NWC, and I'm letting you know I support NWC on Kickstarter not only because it sure looks like Tony is going to do some crazy stuff, but if you believe in something, helping is better than watching.

Who have you hired and what have they done?

Enjoyed reading the interview of Cisco CEO John Chambers in the NYT, and I'm glad to take away this point about hiring. I've been on my share of interviews, but I have not been asked this question, which Mr. Chambers says is one of his barometers for successful candidates:

Who are the best people you recruited and developed, and where are they today?

Most organizations expect leaders to recruit and retain high-performing employees,  and the question of "What do you look for in a new hire?" might seem to substitute for this.   Judgements about teambuilding style are important, but I think Mr. Chambers question gets at 2 critical issues:  Success at maintaining a professional network and generostiy of character.

Maintaining a Professional Network

In an age where workers change jobs more frequently, perhaps every 2-3 years, By the age of 40 most of my peers will have had a half-dozen or so jobs.  Some of them may have been self-employed for some of that time.  They'll very likely have left companies a few times.  I'd look to hire employees who left on a positive note and are able to grow and maintain professional relationships; these are the people who are feeding new information to your potential new hire, and who may be the key to new business opportuntiies or partners.  While sales professionals may be expected to "bring a rolodex" across jobs, we're all smarter for the people we know and connect with.

Generosity of Character

The ability to nurture someone else's career and to sustain a professional relationship over time, even across different firms, also speaks to a generosity of character that I think goes along with a successful employee.  If you've hired a young whippersnapper and helped them to become a stronger employee, I know exactly how you will approach junior tema memebers of my company, and that you will contribute to their success as well.  Clearly, you're focused on helping the orgainzation succeed, not just watching out for your bonus.  

A lesson for me

The best people I ever hired have gone on to great jobs in finance,  venture capital/private equity, IT consulting, academia, and marketing.  I can name many people I would be pleased to have define my role as manager over the years, and that's just off the top of my head.  I wish I kept better track of them, and I will make an effort to do so.

Who have you hired?  Did they make a difference for your organization?