Monthly Archives: May 2010

Alternate Resume

I have this idea I like to play with which I call the “Alternative Resume”.

Everyone we meet in business has a resume. Its normally a very dry, 3-6 page document that lists your contact details and all your achievements, in chronological order. Every item on it has been phrased to make you look your best. The only point of this document appears to be getting you a job.

All of us have another resume though, I call it then “alternative resume”. Its terrible for getting you a job but its absolutely fantastic for networking.

The alternative resume is all about the stuff that makes you interesting, but isn’t a self promoting achievement. For instance:

  • For the life of me I can’t figure out why the Square root button is on every single calculator, despite the fact that less than 1% of the population knows how to use it.
  • I have fair skin and grew up in Perth so I know what the Dermatologists scalpel feels like.
  • I met a guy who worked for Telstra, whom I can’t remember anything else about him other than he went to school with Elle McPherson.
  • I went to School with Darren Bennett, who was famous (at school) for clocking the P.E. Teacher whilst playing footy at the school.
  • My moral dilemma in March was accusing then convincing an old flatmate that he had stolen my wetsuit 15 years ago. A week later my brother in-law gave it back to me (because I had loaned it to him 10 years ago).  I haven’t told my old flatmate though because I was embarrassed.

A strange group of things to disclose about myself, however they all share one attribute. They are interesting little bits and pieces about me that make me memorable.

You see its not the size of your network, or who you know, its whether you have mind share that matters. When I meet new people, the easiest way to have them remember me is to make them feel comfortable, as if I was an old friend. So unless there is a good reason not to, I like to share details from my “alternative resume”. Its the easiest way to “get to know someone” and have them remember me.

I don’t think I’m mechanical or insincere when I do this, because I am genuinely interested in getting to know people. I also avoid over-sharing, which is why I haven’t told the “stinky suit story” today.

6 tips for “un-networking”

Imagine this scenario….

  • You go to a networking event, hovering at the edges of the crowd , desperately searching for someone you know, so you can chat and relax.
  • Succumbing to the pressure to “network” you give up and introduce yourself to a nearby stranger, who is also standing by themselves.
  • To your disappointment your realise that they are not going to be interesting to you professionally.
  • To your horror you realise that the reason they were standing by themselves is that they lack social skills / basic hygiene / sanity.
  • And with a sinking feeling of absolute failure and desolation, you then realise that they aren’t going to let you go, now that they have made a “friend”.

This was one of the situations I was thinking about when I was interviewed by Mark Jones of the Financial Review for his Scoop podcast last week. Although the discussion was primarily around networking for CIO’s, I thought it would also be useful to talk about some techniques for “un-networking” or disengaging with people at networking events.

Since at networking type events you need to kiss a lot of frogs, I thought I’d share six tips on disengaging that I regularly use.

  1. Take the cowards way out – excuse yourself and go to the loo/bar/table with canape (you know you can easily do dinner on canape at networking events!).
  2. Hold off giving your business card to the end of the conversation because giving business cards can be used as a natural ending. “Great to meet you, here’s my card, call me if you need my services”.
  3. Invite any additional “singles” around you into your group, so when you disengage, there isn’t an awkward “I’m dumping you” moment.
  4. Merge your group with another group. Everyone at the event is their to meet new people, despite the fact they may be standing in closed circle with their backs out. Although it feels uncomfortable, I have never ever been knocked back when I have asked “Can we join you?”
  5. Keep looking over the the crowd to find someone you know that either a.) should meet your new friend , or b.) you feel like shafting. Drag your new “friend” over and introduce them, then depart gracefully.
  6. Avoid the person that has poor dress sense, has sweaty hair plastered down on their head and is standing by themselves. Its highly likely that they will “lock on” to you making it difficult to escape. In my experience they will try to follow you to the loo/bar/table with canape.

Having to regularly “work the crowd” at Churchill Club events I have found that all of these tips work, and become easier with practice. This isn’t a comprehensive list though, so if you have any more ideas, I’d love to know.

5 Olympic Sized Opportunities

Having recently done a bit of work with people from the City of London, I have suddenly, but probably not strangely, become aware of the next Olympics due in July 2012 in London. Its also come to my attention that a number of Australian firms, that aren’t what you’d exactly call “sport” or “building” companies, have been picking up some good “games” business in areas as diverse as digital content and environmental consulting.

New opportunities always get me excited, so I thought I’d have a look around, and pass on what I found. At just over 2 years out, it appears that there are still a vast number of opportunities and a number of great resources Australian SMEs can access.

1. If you just want general information on the next Olympics you should go straight to the source at www.london2012.com

2. If you are looking for a job with LOCOG , London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, have a look at locogrecruitment.london2012.com There is a huge variety of jobs being recruited for; in areas as varied as medical, marketing, ICT, transport, event management, legal, security and more.

3. If you plan on attending the games as a tourist, but intend on doing some business whilst you are visiting, Austrade has some great resources focussed around their Business Club Australia which will provide many networking opportunities.

4. If you are interested in bidding for opportunities arising from the games (and there are still 35,000 or so contracts to be let) have a look at www.competefor.com which details every opportunity in the Olympic supply chain, plus a whole lot more . Australian companies are winning work and this free website allows you to be notified of any and all Expressions of Interest and Tenders coming up in your desired area.

5. For those committed to doing business with the LOCOG, there are some great event opportunities coming up. I would specifically recommend the Connect to London programme put on by Think London, this two day event will be a tour of all the facilities plus presentations and meetings with all the major players.

Definitely got me out of the arm chair, quite looking forward to the games now.

10 common business card mistakes

Bad Business CardI’ve just come back from a two week business development campaign with a client where I collected about 100 business cards through one to one meetings and event attendance. I then went back to my office and spent 10 minutes scanning every card for import into my contact list and the organisation’s CRM system. I then spent another hour or so verifying the information was allocated to the right field (e.g. Mobile number in the cell number field) and ensuring any mistakes were corrected.

When I first started working, all business cards ended up in Rolodexes – and the fax machine had its own operator :)  Today is very different – I normally scan and destroy a business card within 24 hours of receiving it.

So in age of smart phones, ubiquitous wireless internet and CRM in the Cloud – I have found myself asking “do business cards still matter, and has their information and design needs changed?” Whilst scanning and fixing up the business cards, a number of thoughts flitted through my head about “good” and bad” business card design. So time to share…

  1. Putting half your contact details on the front and half on the back is irritating as it means the card has to be scanned twice. I don’t care what your corporate image people say – I’m your customer not them.
  2. Putting your details on more than one plane plays havoc with the scanner. Put your details either landscape or portrait. Not diagonals and certainly not both.
  3. Paying a premium for a funky shape or rounded edges is a waste of money as I am am going to rip up your business card up within 24 hours – not save it and sleep with it under my pillow.
  4. The scanner doesn’t like tiny business cards the size of my thumb. I don’t like them either as the text is normally tiny and difficult to read when I have to enter it manually.
  5. Funky colour combinations such as green on purple are difficult for the scanner to read, which means I need to retype the details (getting more cross now).
  6. Poor contrast between the letters and the background (e.g. feint grey on white) is difficult to scan. I then have to retype whilst squinting.
  7. Only having your company name in the logo means that I will almost always have to type it in.
  8. Raised text or logo increases the chance the business card may get skewed as it passes through the scanner, meaning more retyping.
  9. Exotic and flowery fonts don’t OCR at all well, nor for that matter read well. Massively irritating.
  10. If you do international business, write your number as +61 3 9014 9600  not
    +61 (0)3 9014 9600 as the scanner picks up the (0) and automatically puts it into the system. When the (0) gets synced to my phone the number doesn’t actually work.

Because we (people I met) don’t have standards and simple process for exchanging information electronically, business cards are still critically important. I think that will change in the future but for today designers need to recognise that every business card is going to end up electronic form and they can either facilitate that process, or ignore it. Great business card design lasts a couple of seconds, but irritation can last a lifetime.

Are your details going to end up in someone else’s contact list, and if so how are you helping that process?

Solutions to problems

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about experience versus wisdom and mentioned different types of solutions.  What I was really talking about was solutions from the entrepreneurs point of view.  I have found myself discussing this a bit lately, in fact last night  I had a meeting with a couple of senior members of a community who were trying to fund activity to meet their communities objectives.  What they pointed out was their people were highly passionate about their area of interest and we should be cashing in on this as the source of funding.  What I pointed out is that this passion, is not necessarily the basis of a business.  From my (entrepreneurs) point of view there are only three types of solutions.

Solutions without problems
Research organisations tend to come up with really fantastic solutions, funded by you and I, that don’t know what problem they are solving, or perhaps can’t communicate it clearly. Most solutions (without a problem) tend to be described in terms of their features, rather than their benefits.  For instance if you look at the product set of Melbourne University spin off Quantam Communications Victoria, its easy to understand what they are doing as clever, but almost impossible to understand what problem their solution solves.  Its also worthwhile remembering though that just because the problem doesn’t exist today, doesn’t mean it won’t tomorrow, or a slight tweak may help it solve a problem.  Eg Whilst looking for medical uses of wheat fungus’s, Albert Hoffman invented the drug LSD; whilst looking for refrigeration gases, Roy Plunkett invented Teflon.  The list of these kind of discoveries found accidentally whilst looking for something else is endless.

Solutions solving a problem
Charities, clubs, associations & community groups all solve problems,  some of them very serious problems.  However this doesn’t mean these are problems that people are prepared to pay for.  The large majority of Government services deal in problems that are important, but users are not prepared or able, to pay for.  Communities way wish to save a species from becoming extinct, or preserve a natural habitat, or prevent illegal immigrants, or have our streets policed. All important, but not able to survive on a user pays model.  Commercially it might be a new feature on a product, which although desirable, might not allow you to charge a premium.  But don’t forget though that these type of solutions this can be tweaked.  For instance many markets are “two sided” meaning that they satisfy more than one distinct group of customers.  Perhaps only one of these groups is prepared to pay for a product or service.  Talk back radio is a great example of this,  consumers love it but won’t pay, advertisers will though.

Solutions solving problems that people will pay real money to fix
Successful business not only solve problems but solve problems that can be quantified and that people are prepared to pay for.   The ways this can be done are legion and include reducing, costs, mitigating risks, improving quality, satisfying status or brand needs,  or simply solving a problem such as hunger.  The quickest way of figuring out whether people will pay for your solution is to uncover whether they are already paying to solve the problem in another way.  If no one is already paying to solve the problem your solution  addresses, your idea might be great but it may not be a business.

So back to my meeting of last night, my position was that unless they can find the problem the members of their community are actually prepared to pay to solve, they will have to depend on grants to get things done.