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Archive for March, 2009

Participating In The Recession

I heard a funny line last Friday at the Minnesota Recruiters conference.  I didn’t catch the name of the gentleman, but he was a search-firm recruiter discussing the recession:

We have chosen to not participate in this recession. <applause>
Unfortunately, our customers have chosen to participate in it. <laughter>

I want to send a blog shout out to Paul DeBettignies for putting on another excellent conference.  I have attended 6 of the 7 conferences over the past couple of years and I am always impressed at what I learn by attending.  If you are in the Twin Cities, may I suggest joining the community at and attending the next conference in June?

Job Metrics

From a email regarding the pork stimulus plan:

By the fourth quarter of 2010, over 3,994,000 jobs are estimated to be created and/or saved due to the American Reinvestment and Recovery act according to Moody’s

I’m all for efforts to create jobs in this economy, but I have heard this question asked before and it bears repeating:

What tool measures “saved” jobs?

There isn’t one, it is simply marketing propaganda.  Granted, the qualifying word in the sentence is “estimated,” but the real issue is job creation.  I think it was Peter Drucker who said if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  The focus this year and next should be on job creation instead of an indefinable saved jobs estimate.

Bench Building

I was shocked today when I read this sentence in a sales ad”:

Please note that at this time this posting is for purposes of building our talent pool only and there are no current available positions.

That was the 2nd sentence in the ad.  This is an interesting approach in this market – the company appears to be building their bench which is an important task.  What type of response they receive…well, that I wonder.  Nonetheless, I like the approach.

Quote Of The Day

This is from

Obstacles cannot bend me.  Every obstacle yields to effort.

–Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Italian painter, sculptor and inventor

Cities Getting Downsized

Here is a funny clue from the article:

To be direct: If Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel or John Mellencamp has written a melancholy song about your city, it’s probably on this list.

Good line for a sad story.  I wonder how some of these towns are going to be affected by this present economy?  Here is the top 10 most downsized cities:

10. Providence, RI
  9. Lansing, MI
  8. Pittsburgh, PA
  7. Toledo, OH
  6. Buffalo, NY
  5. Dayton, OH
  4. Detroit, MI
  3. Cleveland, OH
  2. Flint, MI
  1. Youngstown, OH

It is almost shocking how close these cities are to each other and how they followed similar paths – reliance upon automotive and steel industries.  I’ve been to 7 of these cities and the economic trouble before the recession was startling.  I can only imagine what it is like today.

Pink-Slip Parties

This is a new trend, I think:

As unemployment numbers hit historic highs, “pink slip” parties are popping up in big cities around the country. Hundreds of axed employees are going to happy hour meet-and-greets, where one can enjoy a drink and discuss career prospects with eager recruiters.

People are finding creative ways to stand out above the pack. In order to get a job in this economy, people have to get out there. And while there are no guarantees of gaining anything more than good conversations and a few contacts, some pink slip attendees have had success in finding new employment. Pink slip parties offer those on the prowl for jobs a chance to share information among themselves.

“If you take your network and compare it to the network of a total group, you get access to more people – if you can help each other, it’s a win for everyone,” said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Pink slip parties are just one extension of social networking.

That is from the Career News newsletter.  Quite the creative idea as long as the parties include the “eager recruiters.”

Gaps In Agility

Cuts, layoffs, workforce reductions…the stories are everywhere in the media today as this economy takes it’s toll on business.  Clearly it appears that more cuts are underway in March and will be reflected in the next labor statistics report.  This approach is needed during a recession so no company can be blamed for taking this drastic move.

But how far should companies cut?

There are no easy answers to that question, but I think there is a general principle companies should follow.  Reduce only enough to make your company agile in this marketplace while minimizing your gaps in performance.

Here is an excerpt from last week’s Herman Trend Alert (sorry, no link):

Recently the Human Capital Management Division of the IBM Institute for Business Value released a white paper with its recommendations for leaders coping with the global economic crisis. Implementing this advice, IBM believes that “organizations can use this downturn . . . to position themselves for future opportunities.”

First, they advise organizations should make informed resourcing decisions. Base those informed decisions on capabilities and gaps, including the costs of rebuilding resources, costs of lost productivity associated eliminating training, and even the opportunity to acquire entire divisions or companies.

Second, and this suggestion echoes our book “Lean & Meaningful”, focus on “core” versus “non-core” activities. Look for opportunities to outsource and in-source, concentrating on what the corporation does particularly well. These moves may, in fact, improve agility by creating a smaller organization that is better able to respond to changing market conditions.

Facing imminent layoffs, organizations are most vulnerable to lose their best performers—those in the highest demand in the labor marketplace. These are people the enterprise can not afford to lose at this critical time. A clearly defined performance management process, coupled with “stay interviews” will help tackle this issue.

I have seen some companies cut too deep in the wrong areas which left a tremendous gap in their business.  As you may expect, the company was not aware of this potential liability.  Cutting to improve agility is the best method for this economy.  This approach requires an objective view of your team and a manager with the understanding that there are no sacred cows.  An effective layoff may mean letting go of someone who would not be considered in any vein during a robust economy.

The Enormous Forecast

Shrinking revenue reports are the fear of most sales managers.  This fear is further intensified during this economy.  There are salespeople who are attempting to leverage this fear by submitting an inflated forecast.  These salespeople provide forecasts that are filled with large deals that are welded to the 90 days out category.

The sales managers who buy into this approach are trading accuracy for enormity as they submit the aggregate forecast from their team.  I suppose the sales manager’s thought is that the salespeople will get shot before he or she is shot.  Perhaps, but the business pays a tremendous price for this obfuscation.

There are two antidotes to this inflated approach:  1.) Budget qualification and 2.) Salesperson close ratio.

Budget Qualification
Many salespeople suffer from a money weakness.  They have difficulty discussing price with prospects and customers.  This weakness is problematic in a strong economy, it is deadly in a recession.  Any salesperson who places a prospect into the pipeline needs to have the money portion fully qualified.  Any lack of clarity on this topic should immediately lead to the salesperson having to go back and clean up that bit of qualifying.

Close Ratio
Most sales managers know that each salesperson has a unique close ratio.  Some salespeople are overly optimistic and require a multiplier of <1.  Others are pessimists and typically close more than their forecast (there are far fewer of these salespeople, but they do exist).  The key is to know the historical ratio of the salesperson when analyzing their forecast.  If their close ratio is <50%, you know they best have a large number of suspects in the early stages of their pipeline.

One last note – sales cycles are extended in most industries so pipelines need to be extended also.  Since it is March, this seems like a trivial point.  However, if your normal sales cycle is 3 months and it has not been extended to 6 months, your salespeople do not have much time to establish their 2009 numbers.  The next quarter will determine whether it is a successful year or not.  This is an important point no matter how short your sales cycle.

Copy-Paste Before Proofing

Proofread your ads – a simple, simple task that seems to be ignored by some companies.  From an ad I read this morning (my editing):

A fast growing ______________ is seeking one great sales person to take the Minneapolis/St. Paul market to the next level.

Innocuous enough, but when you read through the ad you find this requirement:

Organization, computer proficiency, a valid Massachusetts driver’s license and proof of insurance required.

That is going to drastically reduce their candidate pool in the Twin Cities.  I wouldn’t recommend writing the entire ad in bold font either, but that seems minor compared to the Massachusetts license requirement.

A Compelling Job Ad Title

This is leverage:

Financial Advisor for FORTUNE magazine’s No. 2 “Best Company To Work For“

Financial advisor in this day and age = tough sell.  Fortune’s no. 2 company to work for = compelling.  Kudos to Edward Jones for a well-titled employment ad.

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