And the Most Innovative Entrepreneur Is…

15 Nov

By: Sarah E. Needleman, Vanessa O’Connel, Emily Maltby and Angus Loten

Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Imagine this. You’re coming off the best year in your company’s history, with
record sales and seemingly smooth sailing ahead.

Then the industry implodes. Your sales drop 70%, and your prospects seem even
bleaker.

What do you do?

If you’re Quadlogic Controls Corp., of New York City, you think fast, get
creative and rewrite your business plan. And you do it so well that you not only
stay afloat but thrive in the teeth of the recession—taking on dozens of new
workers and setting a record for revenue.

Quadlogic’s nimble reinvention put it at the top of The Wall Street Journal’s
Small Business, Big Innovation competition. In July, the Journal invited
entrepreneurs to share the ideas they’ve used to survive the worst downturn in
decades. Over the next three months, more than 100 entries poured in, ranging
from a rubber-duck manufacturer in San Rafael, Calif., to a consignment retailer
in Tampa, Fla., and a Chinese-language school in Riverside, Conn.

Their strategies for overcoming the harsh economy were just as diverse—and
could be a model and an inspiration for other companies that face similar
struggles. Some expanded their offerings, adding goods or services to appeal to
consumers with less disposable income. Others tapped new markets to cater to a
larger demographic or an underserved niche. Some abandoned their original
business model and pursued an entirely different venture.

[SMCOVER]
 Bryan Derballa for The Wall
Street Journal

Sayre Swarztrauber, left, and Doron Shafrir, two founders
of the winning firm, Quadlogic Controls.

The Journal’s small-business staff narrowed the field to 10 finalists, and
then a panel of editors—Vanessa O’Connell, Alan Murray and Dennis Berman—chose
an overall winner. Readers also voted for their favorite.

So, what exactly did Quadlogic do to earn the top spot? Let’s go back to
early 2009 for the answer. Times were good for the company, which made
energy-tracking products that let different tenants in the same building manage
and pay for their own usage. The two remaining founders—Doron Shafrir and Sayre
Swarztrauber—had just put up the best revenue figures the 27-year-old company
had ever seen.

All of a sudden, though, the housing market was in shambles, driving sales
into the ground. So Quadlogic decided to stake its future on a daring
reinvention plan.

[SMCONTEST_logo]

Messrs. Shafrir and Swarztrauber had learned from a business associate a few
years earlier that in developing countries, energy theft was a major problem.
The entrepreneurs had even begun tinkering with a new product to prevent
utility-metering systems from being breached. Only it was far from complete, and
they hadn’t yet identified any potential buyers.

The partners decided that their best move would be to ramp up production of
the experimental line and launch an intense marketing push. “You have to place
your bets,” says Mr. Swarztrauber, 56. “We saw our survival threatened and that
gave us the incentive to make it happen.”

The gambit paid off. Within five months, Quadlogic Controls signed a
multimillion-dollar deal with a private utility company in Jamaica, and a
recovery was under way.

Today, Messrs. Shafrir and Swarztrauber say the company’s new line has a
dozen customers, all in markets thousands of miles away such as Jamaica, Mexico,
Costa Rica and Ecuador. What’s more, demand for its original energy-tracking
systems is close to the level it was just prior to the recession, thanks in part
to an improvement in the commercial housing market.

The company has ballooned to roughly 90 employees from about 20 two years
ago, and it’s on track to post $20 million in revenue this year, $5 million more
than its previous high.

Messrs. Shafrir and Swarztrauber credit the turnaround they pulled off to
constantly keeping an eye out for new business opportunities. While they say
it’s important to focus on proven models of success, it’s also critical to
regularly set aside time to investigate potential alternative sources of
revenue.

“I always have a plan B and a plan C for just in case,” says Mr. Shafrir, 64.
“You never know.”

Here’s a look at the other finalists in the competition, and what they did to
stay afloat.

CUT YOUR EXPENSES BY GOING D.I.Y.

Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora, co-founders of Back to
the Roots LLC in Oakland, Calif., have grown a business out of other companies’
trash. They manufacture grow-at-home oyster mushroom kits filled with used
coffee grounds. WSJ’s Lauren Rudser reports.

Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora seemed destined to launch a company
together. Before they had even met, they went to the same teacher at the
University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business for advice on the
same offbeat business idea: growing gourmet mushrooms in used coffee grounds,
rather than pricier fertilizers and wood.

After the teacher brought them together, the new partners approached
neighborhood coffee shops offering to haul away their waste free. In a
fraternity kitchen, they grew their first crop of mushrooms in a coffee can
filled with discarded grounds—and it worked.

“We got so jazzed about that first bucket,” says Mr. Velez, now 24, who
turned down a Wall Street banking job to co-found Back to the Roots LLC with Mr.
Arora in April 2009.

The company saw strong sales at a local Whole Foods and nearby farmers’
markets. But scaling up proved tricky. Even though raw materials were cheap,
other parts of the business were getting expensive, and financing was tight. It
didn’t take long before the partners outgrew an 800-square-foot warehouse and
payables were already much higher than receivables, Mr. Velez says.

[BTTR]
Kristen Lokey

Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora of Back to the Roots
LLC.

“We came to a crossroads in the business where we could have tried to become
regional mushroom farmers,” says Mr. Velez. “But we weren’t mushroom
farmers.”

Instead, they used the technique to develop grow-your-own mushroom kits,
eliminating the need for a costly infrastructure. The kits can produce 1.5
pounds of mushrooms in just 10 days.

Today, the company collects some 20,000 pounds of used grounds from area
coffee shops and repurposes them into growing kits (as well as a separate
product, $10 bags of nutrient-rich soil). Whole Foods and Home Depot are now
stocking the kits, with deals in the works with SkyMall and Wegmans. This year,
revenue hit $1.1 million, up from $240,000 in 2010.

“We’re profitable after just two years,” says Mr. Velez. “But even better,
we’re reconnecting people with growing food again.”

GIVE THE CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY CAN AFFORD

Many small businesses in the housing industry grew with the real-estate
boom—and then went bust when the bubble burst. Not Henrybuilt Corp.—thanks to
some quick thinking by founder and Chief Executive Scott Hudson.

The Seattle firm specializes in designing kitchens that range from $30,000 to
$100,000. Launched in 2001, the company expanded quickly. In 2006, it opened a
New York City showroom, which doubled in size in just 18 months. By 2008, the
company was working on some 200 projects in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and
sales had tripled since 2004.

[HENRYBUILT]
Lisa Elliot

Scott Hudson of Henrybuilt Corp.

In October 2008, sales came to a standstill. “Everyone was canceling
projects,” says Mr. Hudson, 50. Over the next two months, the company lost
hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue, he says.

With clients shying away from the high-cost renovations, Mr. Hudson launched
a subsidiary in 2009 called Viola Park Corp., which provides clients with a
modular option based on the Henrybuilt designs. Rather than working with an
architect, clients use the company’s software to configure and customize the
layout and design to their liking—a cheaper and quicker process that costs
roughly half what the Henrybuilt kitchens do.

“We listened to the market, rather than waiting to get back to the old days,”
Mr. Hudson says of the strategy.

Since Viola Park launched, both businesses have collectively grown about 10%.
Viola Park now represents 20% of the company’s revenue and has doubled every
year.

But the biggest benefit to the company has been psychological, says Mr.
Hudson. When things got tough, he laid off two of his 25 employees. But after
Viola Park launched, the two divisions grew to a combined 30 employees, who felt
excited and inspired amid the industry’s turmoil. “It drove morale,” he says.
“We created opportunity in a time when everything else was contracting.”

SEE A PROBLEM, SELL A SOLUTION

Shane Bauer started Laughingstock Design as a graphic-design and custom
greeting-card company in 2007. But the downturn left fewer businesses and
families able to afford its high-end custom cards, which required a first-time
outlay of at least $40 to create a graphic using a likeness of the recipient’s
head. His Duluth, Minn., business needed a new revenue stream.

[LAUGHING]
Camelot Photography

Shane and Jenny Bauer of Laughingstock
Design.

Mr. Bauer was inspired by a T-shirt on display in a department store
featuring the words, “Bite Me.” He thought there might be a market for shirts
with positive slogans to counteract that kind of negative message. “I thought,
man, things are getting pretty bad,” says the 35-year-old.

So, he created Happy Space PositiveWear, a line of casual clothing and
accessories that pair his intricate graphic designs with positive messages—such
as a guitar with the slogan “Live In Harmony.”

Mr. Bauer now sells more than a dozen different designs, up from six in 2008,
and expects his business to generate about $100,000 in sales this year. The
success of the new products led Laughingstock Design to open a retail store,
Happy Space, in April 2010, and to hire its first outside employees—two part
time and one full time.

TAKE YOUR IDEA AND KEEP TINKERING

Courtney Tudor of Madeira, Ohio, spends his weekdays designing jet engines at
GE Aviation. But on the side, he’s honing Mr. Bigshot Inc.—a company that tries
to have some fun with the stock market.

[BIGSHOT]
Wanda Tudor

Courtney Tudor of Mr. Bigshot Inc.

Mr. Tudor, 50, grew fascinated with the market while seeking an M.B.A. at
Xavier University, and wanted to capture in a game the thrill of investing. In
2000, he created the company, funded by the proceeds of his own stock
investments and backed up by financial data and market results for 45 years.

The idea: Players can go back in time to play the market through rounds of
investing. For instance, they might go to Jan. 1, 1969, and follow two companies
(known by aliases) for the year. Every quarter, they decide whether to sell or
switch to another company.

Mr. Bigshot started out as a board game, followed by a downloadable computer
version. But sales were meager. And when the real market plunged in
2008, Mr. Tudor’s source of capital dried up. Then he got what he describes as
his breakthrough idea: an online multiplayer version that can be used to conduct
a “Massive Market Madness Tournament” with thousands of high schools across the
country.

His next steps are to conduct trial tournaments in a few area high schools,
incorporating the feedback from students and teachers. Then he intends to hold a
regional tournament in the greater Cincinnati area.

To be sure, his big idea hasn’t been tested. But it was recently among those
that took top honors in a business-launching competition at Xavier, and as the
prize Mr. Tudor will get consulting services to help him move forward.

WHEN NOBODY’S BUYING, SCRAP YOUR PLAN

Mid-2009 was a scary time for Merrimac Dillon, founder of Pillow Bar LLC.
Some $400,000 in potential licensing agreements for her custom pillow-making
machine suddenly fell through as customers became too nervous about the economy
to commit. To keep the company going, she realized, the business model would
need a risky overhaul.

Ms. Dillon, now 52, first designed and constructed the pillow machine in her
Dallas garage in 2007, after an extensive and unfruitful search for the perfect
bedtime headrest. For $12,500 a year, she licensed the machines to high-end
linens stores, which used it to make customized and personalized pillows
according to their customers’ sleeping positions and shoulder widths. The
pillows cost $195 to $295. By mid-2009, the company had made about $400,000 in
sales. It had placed eight machines in stores and had a waiting list of 30
interested retailers.

[PILLOW]
Pillow Bar

Merrimac Dillon of Pillow Bar LLC

But the honeymoon didn’t last long. The economy lagged as the normally busy
holiday season approached, and retailers were less prepared to make capital
investments—22 on the list told Ms. Dillon they didn’t have the cash.

“They wanted me to float it, and that scared me,” she says. “What if I float
it and they can’t pay? It really made us stop and say, ‘Now what?’ “

Some retailers asked Ms. Dillon if she would offer ready-made pillows. She
didn’t like the idea. The machine gave customers a unique buying experience, she
reasoned. They liked watching the down feathers swirl in the machine, and the
assembly process.

But Ms. Dillon decided to give it a try. She started wholesaling the 12
pillow varieties most commonly requested. And the business took off. Ms. Dillon
moved manufacturing operations into a 3,500-square-foot work space with a
loading dock. She also opened an online store.

Today, the ready-made business accounts for 60% of sales. The company, which
now has four employees, will exceed $1 million this year, Ms. Dillon says. “We
could move quickly as a small company,” she says. “We wouldn’t be afloat if we
hadn’t made the change.”

CORE BUSINESS WEAK? ADD A NEW ONE.

When Dawn Cameron launched Sanctuary T, a small New York City restaurant, in
mid-2007, she naturally expected it would take time for the business to turn a
profit. But the former banking professional never imagined the wait would last
more than two years, or that she would need to dip into family savings to cover
payroll.

Ms. Cameron, 37 years old, says she might not be in business today if she
hadn’t branched out—and gotten help from her employees. In the summer of 2008,
she and her 15 staffers put their heads together to create a line of four
tea-infused cooking spices.

[SANCTUARY]
Aretha Choi/Barrel

Dawn Cameron of Sanctuary T

Since money was tight, the seasonings needed to be prepared and bottled by
hand, with labels designed and printed in-house. Ms. Cameron, at the time
pregnant, visited a dozen local grocery stores to drum up orders. She also
pitched media outlets for press coverage. “It was a very stressful but exciting
time,” she says.

Within a few weeks, efforts started to pay off. A buyer for one specialty
grocery store placed an order on the spot, and the New York Times ran a story
about one of the company’s new spices. Next, Ms. Cameron says she invested
$10,000 on upgrades that included beefing up the company’s website, buying
product-liability insurance and adding new packaging with nutritional
information and bar codes.

As more wholesale orders came in, Ms. Cameron says some local clients agreed
to let her to run in-store demos. As a result, she says, traffic to the
restaurant and her online store increased.

Today, Sanctuary T’s Dust-T spices are for sale in 19 grocery stores in four
states and Washington, D.C. Ms. Cameron expects the business overall to post
$1.2 million in revenue this year, up from just $400,000 in 2008.

“It felt counterintuitive to try to grow the business in the face of
declining sales in a recession, but that’s what it took to survive,” she says.
“I’m glad we had the courage to do it.”

FIND A NEW WAY TO BROADEN YOUR BASE

Brian Linton, 24, was on shaky ground when the retailers that sold his
company’s coconut-wood jewelry suddenly halted orders in late 2008. But he found
inspiration in an unlikely place—trash-strewn beaches.

His company, Sand Shack LLC, based in Philadelphia, had taken off earlier
that year. He had established a customer base of small beachside boutiques and
surf shops on the East Coast, as well as one national retail chain, and had
reached $150,000 in sales. The firm had a green streak, too—5% of the proceeds
were donated to environmental-education and conservation organizations.

[UNITEDBYBLUE]
Matt Soriano

Brian Linton of Sand Shack LLC

After the financial collapse, however, “the only thing keeping us afloat were
a few key accounts,” says Mr. Linton. A few dozen boutiques out of several
hundred were still ordering by mid-2009. And the 5% donations were a burden on
the company.

Mr. Linton and his two employees brainstormed how to turn the business around
without losing its environmental mission. Their concept? Instead of donating
cash, the company would collect one pound of trash—mostly on waterways and
beaches—for every product sold. Each cleanup involves a few hundred of those
small loads at once; the company says it has pulled in 40,000 pounds to
date.

Mr. Linton moved core operations to a new division called United By Blue,
which sells hoodies, handbags and T-shirts. The company, he realized, could be
more competitive if it had more items to offer, and it could build a stronger
brand if its merchandise sported the company logo.

The business model had instant appeal to a whole new retail
base—outdoor-industry stores, specialty clothing stores and certain supermarket
chains. Despite the dismal first half of the year, sales in 2009 stayed
flat.

Last year, sales hit $350,000. And this year they could double, Mr. Linton
projects. Now, United By Blue is going international, thanks to interest from
Japanese retailers. And the company has caught the attention of a major auto
manufacturer that wants to launch a cross-promotional campaign by providing cars
for the company’s clean-up efforts.

“The recession made us think in a different way,” says Mr. Linton. “Some
companies throw money at a problem, but we want to internalize it and solve it
ourselves.”

DON’T GET STUCK IN A DEAD END

Four years ago, Travelers Haven LLC, a Naples, Fla., real-estate rental firm,
found itself in the epicenter of the housing crash. Demand in the rental market
dried up and nearly drove the fledgling company under.

[TRAVELER]
Jason Brown

Elia Wallen of Travelers Haven LLC

“We could’ve gone down with the rest of the housing market there,” says Elia
Wallen, 28, the firm’s president. Instead, he decided on a new
direction—worker-relocation services.

As the recession set in and jobs became scarce, more Americans were willing
to follow jobs wherever they went and for however long. Usually, corporate
housing services and staffing firms own properties or rent them long term, which
means they can sit empty for long stretches between tenants.

Travelers Haven offered to handle the task at lower cost. The firm would use
proprietary software to track the availability of short-term rentals and match
it with the needs of clients.

To better tap this emerging market, Mr. Wallen and a handful of remaining
employees pulled up stakes and moved to Denver. Their time zone allows them to
work within the 9-to-5 office hours of staffing firms on either coast without
having to start too early or stay too late, he says.

Since leaving Florida, the firm has grown to 35 full-time employees. Revenue
rose to $10.8 million last year—doubling from 2009 and up from an average of
$1.3 million in 2007 and 2008. The company expects revenue to hit $20 million by
the end of the year. “We started off imitating every Tom, Dick and Harry in the
real-estate industry, where you earn a commission, shake a few hands and that’s
it,” says Mr. Wallen. “We took a traditional model and turned it on its
head.”

SOMETIMES IT HELPS TO TURN DOWN WORK

Rebecca Geier, 42, and Wendy Covey, 37, were colleagues for more than a dozen
years at a marketing firm. In early 2008, they got together to build Trew
Marketing—a venture that they hoped would bring them more balanced lives as well
as new challenges.

The agency got off to a strong start, but the recession took its toll. By the
end of 2008, prospective new work was thin for the Austin, Texas, firm.

[TREW]
Morgan Norris

Rebecca Geier and Wendy Covey of Trew
Marketing

The founders decided to narrow their focus, concentrating on
business-to-business projects in engineering and science markets.

Their reasoning: It takes a lot of hands-on work to deal with scientists and
techies properly. If they were doing other types of work, it would take their
attention away from tech-oriented clients. And their reputation might suffer as
a result, costing them recommendations and jobs.

That meant turning business down, including clients like a city looking for
help with economic-development projects and a start-up that wanted to develop a
website. Each of those jobs could have comprised from 12% to 20% of Trew’s
sales, Ms. Geier says.

They also put more of an effort into optimizing traffic to Trew’s website.
That meant redesigning the site to match their new focus, adding a blog and
offering a free downloadable book, “Smart Marketing for Engineers.”

The result: Trew thrived during the recession. Revenue is on track to grow a
projected 194% this year over 2009. What’s more, the pipeline of work is
healthy, and comprised of the kind of technical marketing the firm is best at,
Ms. Geier says.

By Sarah E. Needleman, Vanessa O’Connell, Emily Maltby and Angus Loten in
The Wall Street Journal’s New York bureau. They can be reached at sarah.needleman@wsj.com, vanessa.o’connell@wsj.com, emily.maltby@wsj.com and angus.loten@wsj.com.

Lee Hecht Harrison Interview Workshop

8 Nov

Friday, November 11th

Malloy Hall LL6

10:00am – 2:00pm

Lunch Provided

Career Coach, Vanesse Johnson from Lee Hecht Harrison, will lead a session on interviewing skills and strategies.  Learn how to conduct:

  • Informational Interviews
  • Group Interviews
  • Video Interviews
  • Case Interviews

Learn tips and techniques and be prepared for upcoming job and internship opportunities!

Please RSVP to: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YKMZ76Y

Friend — and Possible Employee

25 Oct

Facebook Inc. is ready to friend more recruiters.

LinkedIn Corp. has
long been the more dominant professional-networking site, where recruiters can
buy access to the professional résumés of 120 million professionals. Although
Facebook itself hasn’t created its own system to allow recruiters to search for
job candidates based on work history or education, independent developers have
moved in to fill the void.

Attracted by Facebook’s 800 million users, these developers have started to
create software for recruiters that makes it easy to find candidates on
Facebook. And some resourceful recruiters are coming up with their own ways of
exploring the potential gold mine of talent on the site.

Here are five tips to get the most out of recruiting on Facebook:

1: Use Professional-networking apps built for Facebook.

A number of companies have been building Facebook apps that allow people to
create professional résumés on the social network. Recruiters can then gain
access to those résumés and search for job candidates based on the people’s
entries about their work experience and education. Thanks to such applications,
posting and perusing job openings is now an option for Facebook users, too.

[FACEBOOK]

BranchOut Inc., for example, is a start-up with a Facebook app that invites
anyone to sign up for its professional-networking services. Users can give the
BranchOut app permission to access their work and education histories and
contact information, and those of their Facebook friends who choose to share
such details on Facebook. All of their professional information is then
displayed on pages separate from any personal material, so that recruiters won’t
see items from a user’s profile page.

“The concern would be, ‘I don’t want a potential employer to be able to see
my personal information. I don’t want to connect with a recruiter on Facebook
because they’ll see a picture of me at party or with my children,’ ” says
BranchOut Chief Executive Rick Marini.

This month BranchOut launched RecruiterConnect, a tool that lets recruiters
pay for access to potential candidates’ work histories, education and recent
professional activity. It also helps recruiters accurately match job candidates
with available positions.

Carolyn Betts, CEO of San Francisco-based Betts Recruiting LLC, says
BranchOut lets her search for Facebook users based on where they work, years of
experience, where they went to school and their job title—all details that
previously weren’t searchable on Facebook.

“Efficiency is one of the most important things about recruiting,” Ms. Betts
says. “How do you get the largest response from the quality people?”

Another software developer, Jobvite Inc., based in Burlingame, Calif., just
launched a Facebook app that allows companies to post jobs and lets users
discover and apply for those postings privately within Facebook. Jobvite uses
its matching software technology to connect employers and job seekers through
Facebook.

 2. Ask employees to contact their Facebook friends who they think would be good candidates.

Recruiters say companies need to explicitly ask their employees to post job
openings on Facebook or find friends who might be right for a position at the
firm. Companies also should reward those who bring in new talent—not just with
recognition and thanks, but with money.

Because you are asking people to tap into their own social networks, says Dan
Finnigan, chief executive of Jobvite, “you’ve got to have a commitment that
genuinely and authentically rewards people. Recruiters have got to tap into the
employees’ authentic power and generate enthusiasm to participate.”

 3.  Don’t spam people.

Facebook users are very wary of spam. Recruiters run the risk of being
blocked by users if they post every job opening so that it constantly shows up
inside a user’s news feed.

“I don’t want to annoy my friends by every 30 seconds having a new update
about every job because they will just block me in their Facebook feeds,” says
Ms. Betts, who says she posts jobs a few times a week and tries to vary the
content.

Holly Casey, a recruiter at Insight Recruiting, San Francisco, recommends
avoiding posts that say simply that a job is available. Be creative. Entice
friends to check out your postings by linking to interesting articles or quotes
so that people aren’t just inundated with job descriptions. She also suggests
limiting postings to just a few times a week.

“You want to be targeted,” she says. “You want what you’re doing to be
noticed, and it’s got to be a little different.”

4. Follow the same rules of behavior on Facebook that you use offline.

Don’t ask someone to make an introduction for you on Facebook if you wouldn’t
ask them to do it in person, recruiting experts say. Before you approach a
potential candidate, or someone who is friends with a potential candidate, be
sure that you are close enough to the intermediary to ask for the introduction.
Don’t assume that Facebook behavior is different from regular social
interactions, experts say.

Ask yourself, “Is this person somebody who I would pick up the phone and say,
‘Will you make the introduction?’ ” says Ms. Betts. She gets upset when people
ask her to make an introduction or a recommendation when she has had minimal
contact with the person.

 5. Let your employees use Facebook at work.

Many companies maintain a Facebook fan page and want to recruit talent
through the social network, but then ban the use of Facebook in the workplace.
Recruiters say this is a no-no. Employees need to feel comfortable using
Facebook as a professional tool where they can build professional
connections.

Not allowing Facebook at the office “only makes you look stupid and out of
touch,” says Mr. Finnigan, who notes that if employees can’t get Facebook on
their work computers, they can usually access it on their smartphones
anyway.

“You have to not only participate on it,” he adds, “but be comfortable that
your employees are building connections.”

Courtesy of Wall Street Journal Writer, Shayndi Raice, staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal’s San Francisco
bureau. She can be reached at shayndi.raice@wsj.com.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Social & Professional Networking Sites

19 Oct

Overwhelmed by all of the social media possibilities?  Don’t worry — you don’t have to do it all.  Use the following questions to help you determine the best medium for your message!

1. What’s your primary goal?

Do you want to connect with friends, business contacts or both?  Are you looking to build your professional reputation, relocate to a new city, find a new job, or stay up-to-date on industry news?  Knowing your main objective can help you identify the best social networking tool for your needs.

2. Which sites do the people you want to connect with use?

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter offer the opportunity to reach a wide audience, but they are used for different purposes and in different contexts.  Determine the audience you wish to reach and find out which sites they use and what communication style they prefer.

3. What’s your strategy?

Decide how much time you’re willing to invest, and then choose specific tasks that will help you achieve your goals.  you may decide to join five new LinkedIn groups, follow 10 new people on Twitter each month, or network on Facebook for a set amount of time each day.  Change your approach to find out what works best for you.  Investing just a few minutes a day can help you manage your time and pay significant returns.

4. What can you offer that’s different from others?

If you’re an expert in your field or just well versed on a particular topic, you can share your knowledge with others.  Provide links to relevant articles or videos.  Ideally, you can offer insights on industry trends or share some unique expertise of your own.

5. How will you monitor your progress?

The more you participate in your network the more you’ll gain from it.  But don’t get hung up on the numbers.  There are many ways to get more “followers,” but those large or follower friend numbers don’t necessarily mean you’re getting more from your network.  Instead, focus on the value of the new relationships you’re developing.  You’ll see a much higher return if you focus on quality versus quantity.

Some interesting stats include….

44% of adults who are online have searched for information about someone whose services or advice they seek in a professional capacity.

31% of employed Internet users have searched online for information about coworkers, professional colleagues or business competitors, up from 23% in 2006.

65% of adult social networking users have changed the privacy setting on their profile to limit what they share with others online.

27% of employed Internet users now work for an employer that has policies about how they present themselves online — such as what they can post on blogs and websites, or what information they can share about themselves.

Information provided by Robert Half – Professional Staffing,  2011

 

Join Us for Professional Development Days: October 13th-14th

12 Oct

Agenda

Day 1

Thursday, October 13th, USF McLaren 252

10:00am-11:30am

Leadership Time-Up: Questions

Richard Stackman – Associate Professor & Chair, Dept. of Organization, Leadership & Communication

12:00pm-2:30pm

Negotiation Skills:  From Theory to Real World

Renn Vara – Co-Founder SNP Communications

Day 2

Friday, October 14th

The Westin San Francisco Market Street

50 Third Street, San Francisco CA 94103

11:00am

Registration

11:30am-1:00pm

Lunch  & Keynote Speaker

Anne Wilson – CEO, United Way of the Bay Area

Anne joined United Way of the Bay Area in 1980 and was named the first female CEO of the organization in 2000. Under her leadership, United Way of the Bay Area has transformed into a community-impact organization that brings together resources and people to create pathways out of poverty.  Some of Anne’s programs include: SparkPoint Centers, Earn it! Keep it! Save it!, and 2-1-1.  Anne has a Master’s of Social Welfare degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University. She lives in San Rafael, California, with her husband Richard Cohn and their two children.

1:15pm-2:30pm

Networking Skills 

Talk Less… Learn More

Renn Vara – SNP Communications

2:30pm-3:30pm

Social Media Panel

The Impact of Social Media on the Way We Live, Work, & Manage Our Careers

AirBnb – Rebecca  Sinclair

Autodesk – Dan  Zucker

BranchOut – Alissa Dos Santos

Hipmunk – Jacqueline Tanzella

30pm-4:30pm

Breakout Session #1

Careers in Consulting Panel

Gartner — Laura Flowerree & Morgan Berman

Kannisto & Kamahele — Vicky Kamahele

Nimble Consulting — Betty Magome

Olive Grove Consulting — Emily Hall

3:30pm-5:00pm (Olympic Room)

Breakout Session #2

Recruiting Exchange

Ajilon Finance — Sara Weintraub

Ajilon Professional Staffing — David Rabil

BVOH Accounting & Finance  — Bobby Simon

Premier Staffing — Brooke Simon

RHI OfficeTeam — Sarah McCullough

RHI Finance & Accounting — Scott Dicke

RHI The Creative Group — Neelu Jain

5:00pm

Reception

Ducca Patio, The Westin San Francisco Market Street

 

For more information please visit: https://www.usfca.edu/management/homepage_calendar/Professional_Development_Day/

Three Questions for Effective Feedback

5 Oct

Thomas J. DeLong

Thomas J. DeLong is the Philip J. Stomberg Professor of Management Practice in the Organizational Behavior area at Harvard Business School and the author of Flying Without a Net. His research focuses on the challenges facing individuals and organizations in the process of change.

Article origination: http://blogs.hbr.org/hbsfaculty/2011/08/three-questions-for-effective-feedback.html

When I was in graduate school, Phil Daniels, then a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, taught us about a feedback mechanism he called the SKS form. It was simply a process whereby we would ask others what we should stop (S), keep (K), and start (S) doing, given a particular role we might have as a teacher, friend, spouse, father, mother, etc. People are asked to fill in the blanks, limiting their entries to no more than three bullet points under each subhead.

Eventually, I introduced the SKS process into faculty evaluations at universities, as well as performance appraisals on Wall Street. I’ve found it helps me, as well as others, avoid living in our fantasies of who we are. The specificity of knowing what we should quit, continue, and start doing anchors us in reality.

Asking others for feedback using SKS can be important to professional growth. I urge you to tell your support people about the SKS process. Ask them to evaluate you using SKS regularly and hold you accountable for what they list. It’s a simple tool, but a highly effective one. Too often, we may tell ourselves that we have to quit being such a micromanager (for instance), but our resolve to stop micromanaging gets lost in the activity of daily events. By having your support team respond to three simple questions, invaluable feedback can be obtained. The questions are:

  1. What should I stop doing?
  2. What should I keep doing?
  3. What should I start doing?

The SKS also counteracts our tendency to avoid seeking out other people’s opinions of our attitudes and behaviors. When you are feeling the worst about yourself, you don’t ask for more feedback. You don’t want to know. You use the excuse that you are already being tough on yourself, so you don’t need anyone else to be harsh. This rationale creates a vicious cycle where there is no need for you to learn of other views or ask for help. If you don’t hear the hard truth from others, you don’t have to acknowledge that it’s real. The SKS process breaks the hold our illusions have on us.

When you have your support people do an SKS, use the following questions to help you identify the behaviors that are keeping you stuck and the behaviors that will help you move in new directions:

Stop

  • Are you hearing that you should quit doing something that you feel is a skill or strength?
  • Is your first response that quitting this behavior will have catastrophic consequences?
  • On reflection, is it possible that you’ve fallen into a behavioral rut? If you stop doing one thing, might you have an opportunity to try something new and different?

Keep

  • Is there something you’re doing right that people feel you should do more of?
  • Have you been dismissive of this particular behavior or skill for some reason?
  • What might happen if you used this “keep” more? How might it impact your effectiveness and satisfaction with your job?

Start

  • Are people recommending you do something that feels foreign or scary?
  • What about it makes you anxious? Is it because you are afraid of looking like you don’t know what you’re doing?
  • Why are people suggesting you start doing this new thing? What benefits do they feel will accrue to you, your group, or your organization?

We know feedback is seldom as bad as we have imagined in our heads. The key is to begin the process sooner than later.

8 Tips for Nailing Your Next Startup Job Interview

29 Sep

Alex Berg is the Chief Product Officer of Bonanza and Bags Bonanza. Bonanza is a marketplace focused on creating a browse-friendly experience that helps you discover unique items. Prior to Bonanza, Alex served in leadership positions with Wetpaint, Expedia and Blue Nile.  See what he has to say about how to land your next job. 

While unemployment remains high, some sectors are hiring at a breakneck pace. New startups are cropping up in cities across the U.S., with hotspots emerging in New York, Chicago, Austin, Seattle and, of course, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. If you’ve been limiting your job search to more established companies, you might just be missing out. For every Twitter, Groupon and Zynga, there are dozens of smaller-stage companies emerging and hiring everyone from programmers to interns.

However, when it comes to hiring decisions, startups are a breed of their own. With their unique value systems, knowing a startup’s particular “fit” criteria can mean the difference between a second round of interviews and being shown the door. Equally important, of course, is understanding how well the startup fits you.

Article orgination: http://mashable.com

1. Why “Fit” Matters


Startups are for believers. This isn’t to say that Pollyannas abound at your average startup, but most folks are there to make a significant impact. This is true with regard to their own day-to-day roles as well as the impact that their company makes on the world at large. Startups like to disrupt markets and challenge Goliath-like competitors. Getting everyone on board is crucial to their success, and the wrong fit stands out like a red-shirted crew member in a Star Trek landing party.

Fit goes beyond merely finding believers, though. In larger companies, you can often avoid interactions with the office jerk, but the small size and fox hole mentality of a startup can turn a jerk into a real morale killer. Not surprisingly, startups are laser-focused on making sure the fit is right. When there are less than a dozen employees in a company, every one really matters. The challenge is that what constitutes fit varies from startup to startup. Some startups celebrate collaboration and autonomy, while others are manically focused on productivity or technical innovation.

And, of course, fit is a two-way street. It has to be right for you, as well. Find out as much as you can about the culture before you go in. Check out LinkedIn and sniff out info from people in your own network. Read reviews on sites like Glassdoor, but take these with a grain of salt. Company review sites can be a haven for the disgruntled and startups likely don’t have lots of ex-employees anyway. Ask pointed questions of managers and individual contributors and see how their answers line up. Don’t compromise any strongly held beliefs and don’t expect the startup to adapt to you either. If the fit is not right, be ready to walk away — buyer’s remorse of the career variety is the worst kind.


2. Getting Noticed


Once you have your sights set, the first thing to do is get on the radar. Startups’ focus on fit makes them a fairly incestuous lot. They tend to hire friends and former colleagues, so relationships really count. The best way to get noticed is not through the front door. Hop on LinkedIn and comb through your contacts. There’s a good chance that someone in your extended network knows someone who knows someone who can get you in touch directly. Take the burden off of your contact by making it clear you aren’t asking for a recommendation, only that they pass you along.


3. Spring Cleaning


While you’re mining your network, make sure your LinkedIn profile is current and nicely polished. A pretty resume template looks very “1997,” and many startups have a bias against those not taking advantage of what they consider superior tools. Besides, at some point, the decision maker is going to pour over your profile looking for someone who can provide an unsolicited reference. So make sure your skills and job history are current and your endorsements are strong.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and Google your own name before they do (and they certainly will). Make sure your online presence is the very best version of you. You don’t need to eliminate your personality, but that late night tweet or old spring break photo might be perceived unflattering.


4. Do Your Homework


Before your interview, find out who you will be meeting with. Get the names of your interviewers and research their backgrounds. You might even get lucky and know someone who has worked with them and can give you the inside scoop. When asking for feedback on a company or prospective manager, resist the temptation to send the easy email. Offer to buy a coffee instead. In a world where emails get forwarded fast, you’ll find people understandably reluctant to dish online. When candor matters, cappuccinos are currency. Even if you don’t have a direct connection, understanding your interviewers’ unique backgrounds can give you insights into how they think and what they are looking for.

When candor matters, cappuccinos are currency.

Preparation goes beyond the interviewers, though. Get to know the company’s products and get to know them well. Have pointed questions and suggestions written down and ready for discussion. Candidates who don’t bother to try a company’s products demonstrate an appalling lack of interest and are often shown the door.


5. Showing You Have What it Takes


Startups don’t want people who do what’s asked of them and little more. They want people who genuinely love what they do. Be ready to tell multiple stories about how you went above and beyond the call of duty. If you don’t have any examples in your work experience, create one as a side project. Taking on an extracurricular project shows passion, curiosity, and enthusiasm — characteristics that are incredibly attractive to startups. When interviewing engineers, my teams always look for “tinkerers” — engineers dabbling in Ruby on the side, or designers escaping their day-to-day template work with more exciting outside projects. Demonstrate that you’re more than a solid contributor and have all-star potential, and remember that showing is always more powerful than telling.

A close second to having initiative is being adaptable. In a world where terms like “fast failure” and “pivot” are celebrated, you have to be ready to flex. Startups change direction. Sometimes it’s simply a collection of tactics, but on occasion it’s the entire company strategy. Prove you’re not just tolerant of change, but actively embrace it. If you were a part of a new initiative at your previous employer, be ready to tell the story.

Startups also value candidates who are focused on what can be done, rather than on what cannot. This might sound obvious, but early stage startup teams in particular are focused on validating the appeal and market for their products. This requires rapid and repeated trial and error. What makes this possible is a culture that champions what can be done, and done quickly. Startup productivity comes to a grinding halt when the focus shifts from the possibilities to edge cases.  Demonstrate your openness to new ideas and creative thinking, taking care to build on the ideas of others rather than tearing them down.


6. Tilt Your Scale Toward “Work”


Every company talks about valuing a work/life balance, but the fact of the matter is that most startups’ scales are weighted more heavily toward work. If your situation requires a predictable 9-to-5 schedule and 40 hours a week, a startup probably isn’t the right place for you. If you are accustomed to longer hours and the occasional night or weekend, that’s the kind of thing they want to know.


7. Beware of the Oncoming Bus


Take care when referring to your previous employers and managers. While your last manager might have indeed been incompetent, you’re not going to earn any points by throwing them under the bus. If you do, you’ll come across as jaded and start raising big, red “fit flags.” Find the positive in your previous gigs and, when pressed about why you are looking, retain a positive outlook. If the situation warrants it, by all means be candid, but don’t be petty. No one hires that guy.


8. Follow Up


Don’t disappear once you’ve left the interview. It’s important that you not only stay top-of-mind but also that you build your own personal momentum as a candidate. Get business cards or email addresses from your interviewers. For extra points, go beyond the mere thank-you note that expresses excitement about the opportunity and add something to the conversation. Flub an answer? This is your chance to fix it. Have an epiphany in the car afterward? Share it. Continue to demonstrate passion and interest and you’ll rise to the top.


Above all, the most important thing you can do is find out what the startup uniquely values, ensure it aligns with your own interests, and then demonstrate that you’re the perfect fit. Startup teams labor over hiring decisions heavily. The skills conversation takes about five minutes. The fit conversation? That one can take hours.

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