I recently got an e-mail from a business associate of mine. Apparently, this person was doing a favor for a member of his network who was searching for a new VP of Business Development.
While I’m unfamiliar with the organization (and will not name it in this post), apparently, it is a technology company in or around the publishing space. It claims to be a game changer and brags about its ‘patent pending’ technology. It then goes on to provide a typical (read: boring) description of the ideal candidate, the position, and its responsibilities.
I’ve been traveling the country for the last nine months speaking on the topic of Conquering Your Growth Barriers to CEO groups. Inevitably, the challenge of hiring people in general – and sales talent in particular – comes up. The term ‘Talent War’ has become trite and consultants warn companies that they must fight as never before to attract the talent they need to succeed. Despite this, boring help-wanted ads are still the norm.
An advisor and client of mine, Bob Corlett of Staffing Advisors has made it his mission to “end bad ads.” I’ve used Bob on my hires and I have to tell you that they have been the smoothest, best hires I’ve ever made – in any job market.
Bob says, “The fastest way to prove you don’t care about people? Don’t think about your ads. The fastest way to make a bad first impression on future employees? Don’t think about your ads. The best way to drive away creative class employees? Don’t think about your ads. You are what you post.”
Here’s my advice. Hiring is the most important issue facing fast growth companies today. It is harder to find great people to work for you than it is to find great clients to buy from you. You should approach your hiring process in the same way you plan your business development efforts. You must define who the ideal candidate is, develop a compelling value proposition and communicate it in a meaningful, interesting, and compelling manner.
Here’s a final clue – if your ads look like everyone else’s, you have no chance of winning the talent war.
I feel for Michael Dell. His company was an example of everything that was right in business for so long. It’s understandable that he’s lost in this new environment where Dell is no longer special. First, Dell missed the consumer market move, then they abandoned their core business model of selling customized computers direct to consumers when they decided to sell their computers in Wal-Mart, and now Dell is resorting to disingenuous platitudes to stimulate its business.
Dell has launched a new campaign claiming that it ‘cares about small business’. To prove it, they are launching a new line of computers built ‘to work as hard as small businesses do’. Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? The only thing I can see that makes these computers different is that they are not loaded with trialware.
Maybe the bright idea of focusing on the small business market is Dell’s bold new growth strategy, but the new campaign simply has no credibility. What has Dell ever done to demonstrate they care, or even think about small business?
The campaign reeks of ad agency ‘creativity’. It’s fake, it’s manipulative and insulting. Additionally, it’s bad strategy. Dell is not positioned as a small business specialist. It’s like Wal-Mart saying they’re now dedicated to luxury buyers.
What could Dell do differently? At the risk of giving basic advice – they could go back to the basics. Get back to delivering a compelling experience and value proposition. Dell still clearly brings a tremendous amount of operational excellence to the table – they need to get back to their strengths rather than creating expectations they’ll never be able to deliver on (it’s a lot easier to make a promise than it is to deliver it).
What if Dell is really serious about serving the small business market in a compelling manner? They’d be better off taking Toyota’s approach when it launched Lexus to serve the high-end market. By doing so Toyota did not violate their position, they played to their strengths and they freed up the creativity to serve one master – their target customer.
Nostalgia. Remember the days when businesses could control the flow of information – when customers only knew what companies wanted them to know? News from Major League Baseball shows how some companies are still fighting today’s world. According to USA Today, MLB has banned ESPN from broadcasting their ‘Baseball Tonight‘ show because – get this – ESPN announced the All-Star rosters before WTBS finished their All-Star selection show; violating MLB’s embargo on the information.
Embargo? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
How’s this for nostalgia – Remember when baseball was America’s pastime? When it (and not the NFL or extreme fighting) were what all the kids talked about? Remember when baseball was the most important sports story? Today, baseball is fighting for relevancy, and apparently its strategy for this, is to ignore reality.
Two months ago, I wrote that CBS’ decision to hire Katie Couric was not only a mistake, but one that could have (and should have) been predicted. An interview with Katie Couric appearing in New York Magazine quotes Couric expressing possible regrets with her decision.
The article quotes her as saying, ““I think I underestimated the feeling that some might have that I was a morning-show personality and not a credible news person. Which I, quite frankly, think is patently unfair.” This may be true, but, unfortunately for Couric or CBS, it’s moot.
While I would not disagree that people, or companies, are capable of doing more than one thing excellently, the market can only see an offering under one banner. It’s called positioning. A company or an offering (and make no mistake, Katie Couric is an offering) can only maintain one position in someone’s mind. Choosing that ‘one thing’ is one most important decision a company makes. The failure to obtain – and maintain – that one position leads to commoditization, and kills growth.
Worse yet, if you have achieved an effective position and you then violate that position (as Couric has done in going from morning ‘entertainment’ to ‘hard news’), there is no going back. While it wouldn’t surprise me if CBS attempted to fix its perennially struggling morning show by convincing Couric to return to morning TV, I highly doubt that it would work. Couric and CBS have violated their ‘one thing’ and we are most likely never gpomh to see her the same again.
Make sure you learn the lesson that Couric is teaching fast growth executives – it doesn’t matter what you think, it only matters what your customers think. Violate that trust at your own risk.
By the way, I wrote a series of articles on this very subject (how companies can determine and communicate their ‘One Thing’) last year. If you’d like a copy of the article, send me an e-mail. My address is email@example.com (sorry for not including a link, blame it on the spambots), and enter One Thing in the subject line. Better yet, tell me what your one thing is and I will create a list. If it’s interesting enough, I’ll post it in a future blog and include a link to your website.