Predictions for New Year

Predicting what will be big is a fun game that all the analysts like to play each year. The technology industry, often so full of hype, frequently drinks its own Kool-Aid and genuinely believes that they have the next big thing. Obviously I am a cynic, but I often doff my cap to the analyst world who makes their living (as IDC say) analysing the future.

Consequently I have listed below some of the predictions that our analysts have come out with in the hope of looking back at this post in a years time to see how accurate their prophetic skills are.

IDC’s two big guesses are an “Apple iPad” and “Battles in the Cloud.” They have an excellent download detailing their full views here which i would recommend everyone to get. Their summary is as follows:

1. Growth will return to the IT industry in 2010. We predict 3.2% growth for the year, returning the industry to 2008 spending levels of about $1.5 trillion.
2. 2010 will also see improved growth and stability in the worldwide
telecommunications market, with worldwide spending predicted to increase 3%.
3. Emerging markets will lead the IT recovery, with BRIC countries growing 8–13%.
4. Cloud computing will expand and mature as we see a strategic battle for cloud
platform leadership, new public cloud hot spots, private cloud offerings, cloud
appliances, and offerings that bridge public and private clouds.
5. It will be a watershed year in the ascension of mobile devices as strategic
platforms for commercial and enterprise developers as over 1 billion access the
Internet, iPhone apps triple, Android apps quintuple, and Apple’s "iPad" arrives.
6. Public networks — more important than ever — will continue their aggressive
evolution to fiber and 3G and 4G wireless. 4G will be overhyped, more wireless
networks will become "invisible," and the FCC will regulate over-the-top VoIP.
7. Business applications will undergo a fundamental transformation — fusing
business applications with social/collaboration software and analytics into a new generation of "socialytic" apps, challenging current market leaders.
8. Rising energy costs and pressure from the Copenhagen Climate Change
Conference will make sustainability a source of renewed opportunity for the IT
industry in 2010.
9. Other industries will come out of the recession with a transformation agenda and look to IT as an increasingly important lever for these initiatives. Smart meters and electronic medical records will hit important adoption levels.
10. The IT industry’s transformations will drive a frenetic pace of M&A activity.

Gartner always one to beat the rush tend to name their strategic technologies in October for the next year. In fairness, they do have many bespoke reports on Predict 2010, they are behind their firewall so I cannot share the full content with you. However, below is their list of strategic technologies for 2010 which is in the public domain. I have fully copied below the below extract from the aforementioned release.

1. Cloud Computing. Cloud computing is a style of computing that characterizes a model in which providers deliver a variety of IT-enabled capabilities to consumers. Cloud-based services can be exploited in a variety of ways to develop an application or a solution. Using cloud resources does not eliminate the costs of IT solutions, but does re-arrange some and reduce others. In addition, consuming cloud services enterprises will increasingly act as cloud providers and deliver application, information or business process services to customers and business partners.
2. Advanced Analytics. Optimization and simulation is using analytical tools and models to maximize business process and decision effectiveness by examining alternative outcomes and scenarios, before, during and after process implementation and execution. This can be viewed as a third step in supporting operational business decisions. Fixed rules and prepared policies gave way to more informed decisions powered by the right information delivered at the right time, whether through customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) or other applications. The new step is to provide simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, not simply information, to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action. The new step looks into the future, predicting what can or will happen.
3. Client Computing. Virtualization is bringing new ways of packaging client computing applications and capabilities. As a result, the choice of a particular PC hardware platform, and eventually the OS platform, becomes less critical. Enterprises should proactively build a five to eight year strategic client computing roadmap outlining an approach to device standards, ownership and support; operating system and application selection, deployment and update; and management and security plans to manage diversity.
4. IT for Green. IT can enable many green initiatives. The use of IT, particularly among the white collar staff, can greatly enhance an enterprise’s green credentials. Common green initiatives include the use of e-documents, reducing travel and teleworking. IT can also provide the analytic tools that others in the enterprise may use to reduce energy consumption in the transportation of goods or other carbon management activities.
5. Reshaping the Data Center. In the past, design principles for data centers were simple: Figure out what you have, estimate growth for 15 to 20 years, then build to suit. Newly-built data centers often opened with huge areas of white floor space, fully powered and backed by a uninterruptible power supply (UPS), water-and air-cooled and mostly empty. However, costs are actually lower if enterprises adopt a pod-based approach to data center construction and expansion. If 9,000 square feet is expected to be needed during the life of a data center, then design the site to support it, but only build what’s needed for five to seven years. Cutting operating expenses, which are a nontrivial part of the overall IT spend for most clients, frees up money to apply to other projects or investments either in IT or in the business itself.
6. Social Computing. Workers do not want two distinct environments to support their work – one for their own work products (whether personal or group) and another for accessing “external” information. Enterprises must focus both on use of social software and social media in the enterprise and participation and integration with externally facing enterprise-sponsored and public communities. Do not ignore the role of the social profile to bring communities together.
7. Security – Activity Monitoring. Traditionally, security has focused on putting up a perimeter fence to keep others out, but it has evolved to monitoring activities and identifying patterns that would have been missed before. Information security professionals face the challenge of detecting malicious activity in a constant stream of discrete events that are usually associated with an authorized user and are generated from multiple network, system and application sources. At the same time, security departments are facing increasing demands for ever-greater log analysis and reporting to support audit requirements. A variety of complimentary (and sometimes overlapping) monitoring and analysis tools help enterprises better detect and investigate suspicious activity – often with real-time alerting or transaction intervention. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of these tools, enterprises can better understand how to use them to defend the enterprise and meet audit requirements.
8. Flash Memory. Flash memory is not new, but it is moving up to a new tier in the storage echelon. Flash memory is a semiconductor memory device, familiar from its use in USB memory sticks and digital camera cards. It is much faster than rotating disk, but considerably more expensive, however this differential is shrinking. At the rate of price declines, the technology will enjoy more than a 100 percent compound annual growth rate during the new few years and become strategic in many IT areas including consumer devices, entertainment equipment and other embedded IT systems. In addition, it offers a new layer of the storage hierarchy in servers and client computers that has key advantages including space, heat, performance and ruggedness.
9. Virtualization for Availability. Virtualization has been on the list of top strategic technologies in previous years. It is on the list this year because Gartner emphases new elements such as live migration for availability that have longer term implications. Live migration is the movement of a running virtual machine (VM), while its operating system and other software continue to execute as if they remained on the original physical server. This takes place by replicating the state of physical memory between the source and destination VMs, then, at some instant in time, one instruction finishes execution on the source machine and the next instruction begins on the destination machine.
However, if replication of memory continues indefinitely, but execution of instructions remains on the source VM, and then the source VM fails the next instruction would now place on the destination machine. If the destination VM were to fail, just pick a new destination to start the indefinite migration, thus making very high availability possible.
The key value proposition is to displace a variety of separate mechanisms with a single “dial” that can be set to any level of availability from baseline to fault tolerance, all using a common mechanism and permitting the settings to be changed rapidly as needed. Expensive high-reliability hardware, with fail-over cluster software and perhaps even fault-tolerant hardware could be dispensed with, but still meet availability needs. This is key to cutting costs, lowering complexity, as well as increasing agility as needs shift.
10. Mobile Applications. By year-end 2010, 1.2 billion people will carry handsets capable of rich, mobile commerce providing a rich environment for the convergence of mobility and the Web. There are already many thousands of applications for platforms such as the Apple iPhone, in spite of the limited market and need for unique coding. It may take a newer version that is designed to flexibly operate on both full PC and miniature systems, but if the operating system interface and processor architecture were identical, that enabling factor would create a huge turn upwards in mobile application availability.
more discussion at


How You Can Plan for and Capitalize on the Recovery

How You Can Plan for and Capitalize on the Recovery
See details at
Ideas from a group of business experts:

If the recession is indeed "very likely over," as Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke suggested recently, what then should executives and managers be focusing on and thinking about right now -- to put their businesses in the best possible position to capitalize when the economy picks up steam again? Conversely, what would they be wise not to be thinking about and focusing on any longer?

That is the trillion-dollar question many of us are asking now. While most agree that the recession is indeed over, managing the recovery may require skillful maneuvering. Here are some tips to help small- and medium-sized business managers not only survive but thrive during this transitionary period.

Reach out to your customers. Many are still shell-shocked and, as such, are fearful of spending. Let them know that your products/services are better than before and that they will need them now more than ever. Most important, ease them back into purchases. Offer to let them try out one new item before selling them the entire catalog.

Continue to manage your spending. Many of us have been in lockdown mode this past year when it comes to expenses. While it still makes sense to be mindful of the company budget, it may be time to ease up on the purse strings a bit. In a thriving economy, you need to spend money to make money. While we are not quite there yet, it might be time to test the waters by spending on some company needs (vs. company wants).

Businesses are starting to get busier and before too long, we will find ourselves out the recession. There are many employees out there that have been waiting patiently for new jobs and opportunities to become more widely available. Managers have enjoyed record setting retention levels over the last 18 months and some have mistakenly taken this for granted.

First, reflect back to what you learned during the recession so that those lessons are embedded in going forward. We have seen companies learn “organization" lessons in three areas.

Culture: we learned how to be bold, fast, and decisive. Keep that culture going.
Communication: we learned how to be more transparent, open, and candid. Keep the communication lines open with all employees.
Customer: we learned how to serve and target key customers. Keep personalizing the customer experience.

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, do not waste it by making sure that what you learned gets embedded.

Second, plan on going forward to fully differentiate yourself. Make your culture an outside/in activity. Begin your culture change with your customer expectations and your firm brand. Know what it is you want to be known for by your best customers and translate that expectation into leadership and management actions.

Then, be very attentive to talent. Make sure that your employees are not only able and willing to do the work, but find meaning in the work. One of the great risks coming out of recession is that the gratitude attitude among employees will create a false positive. Employee retention and survey scores may be artificially high because employees are grateful to have a job. But, memories are longer then recessions and if you treated employees badly durin ghte recession, they may leave coming out. Work to help employees find meaning in the work that they do so hat they will be not only competent and committed, but contributing fully.

Seek out new opportunities. Some of the best businesses have been created during the worst times. Take advantage of the emerging new economy to see what more your company can offer. Consumers and businesses will have changed in the aftermath of the recession and change often leads to opportunity.

Reward loyalty. Your employees have stood by you and your company during the recession and many have endured setbacks including lost wages and benefits. Show them you appreciate their sacrifice. While it’s probably too soon to dish out Wall Street-type bonuses, a gift card or luncheon can go a long way.

Learn to hedge. Many of us lost sight of this in the years preceding the recession. We overborrowed and overspent. While the recession may be over, it can easily reemerge. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Make sure your company maintains sufficient liquid reserves such that no matter what happens, now or in the future, it will survive.
Clearly recessions are macro events with micro implications. Bernanke’s assertion that the recession is very likely over should be considered as one input into your own determination of the micro conditions for your particular business. Ask yourselves these questions:
• 1. Are your customers in greater need of your products today than they were six months ago?
• 2. Do you anticipate that your customers will have more economic resources - cash or other - to invest in your business?
• 3. Is your market smaller, the same or larger? How have changing conditions changed the profile of your customer base?
• 4. How have your competitors fared in this downturn? Have they dropped offerings you could deliver
• 5. With this reset in mind, what is the expectation of your customer base? Lower investment upfront? Smaller purchases? Or, is there pent-up demand that will rise when conditions improve?
Then do some scenario planning:
How are you prepared to handle an increase in sales volume? Do you have access to the inputs? At what cost? Have delivery times changed?
• 1. Labor: Can you scale up without making long-term commitments? Can you use part-timers, consultants or lesser-priced employees?
• 2. If you business requires training, do you have the right training system in place? Quiet times are a good time to invest in streamlining systems and training.
• 3. In the event of a prolonged downturn or flat cycle, are there opportunities to consolidate the market – acquire a competitor and reduce costs?
Recoveries can be rocky but with a plan to address the uncertainties, you’ll be ahead of the game regardless of where things go.
The key to business success is relationships – relationships with your employees so they will do good work and provide ideas, relationships with your customers so they will be loyal and tell you how to get better. Therefore, the best thing to do as the recovery takes hold is to do whatever necessary to repair important relationships that were harmed by actions you may have taken during the economic crisis that you thought were necessary to survive.
One way to repair relationships is to apologize. Research in consumer behavior shows that when businesses admit mistakes and problems, apologize, and provide some credible indication of what steps they have taken so the problem doesn’t recur, customers are quite forgiving. Employees, too, understand the economic stress companies have faced. They also can by won back by heartfelt expressions of sympathy and concern and concrete actions to show that the relationship matters. Figure out who matters, and be sure they are still with you – customers, suppliers, creditors, employees – and, if not, win them back.
Businesses are starting to get busier and before too long, we will find ourselves out the recession. There are many employees out there that have been waiting patiently for new jobs and opportunities to become more widely available. Managers have enjoyed record setting retention levels over the last 18 months and some have mistakenly taken this for granted.
It will be very important for managers in companies of all sizes and industries to consider who on their teams are likely to stay as things improve, and who may not. These types of assessments or “Talent Reviews” are an essential part of a strong overall Talent Management Strategy, and should be implemented in one form or another in good times or bad. They can actually be pretty simple as long as they cover some key points:
• Assess everyone in your team.
• Determine their likeliness to stay (usually relying on informal data).
• Revisit their training and development plan.
• Identify their goals for advancement.
• Calibrate their goals with the needs of the business
I am concerned that managers are not paying enough attention to this and that more teams will unravel because of turnover than need be in the coming months. The managers that focus some attention and effort back to individuals within the workgroup and to the team itself, will always outperform peers, but as the job market opens up, that gap will only widen."

Marketing Strategies that Drive Sales

By Doug McQueen
Advertising cutbacks are a reality today, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean a decline in new leads or business. For companies that have a lead generation slump due to spending cutbacks and the poor economy, there’s hope--guerrilla marketing.

Guerrilla marketing is a term for strategies that generate new business at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing. Most of these strategies leverage resources for little or no money. A clever marketing department can use it to generate more leads on a small budget.

Here are 10 guerrilla marketing strategies to drive your sales:

1. Generate exposure with borrowed interest: When you “borrow interest,” you attach your message to a high interest event, person or product and ride the tide of traffic for free. Here are three ways to borrow interest:
• Release a YouTube video tied to a recent event. In the first week after Michael Jackson’s death, over 35 million people watched a YouTube video of prisoners dancing a tribute to him. While this video didn’t advertise a product, your video can.
• Bump up your Google’s Adwords placement with “borrowed” copy. Many companies use Adwords to increase traffic to their site, but don’t know that Google doesn’t always place the highest bidder’s ads at the top. Often it rewards high click-thru ads by pushing them up the list, at no extra charge. One technique to get pushed-up is to borrow and repurpose the copy from successful ads. The interest borrowed here is from both Google and the community of searchers.
• Leverage a local event. The concept of borrowed interest can be applied almost anywhere. In July 2009, 125,000 prepaid, high-interest visitors attended the Comic Con convention in San Diego. Costumed characters such as Batman roam the venues and outlying areas passing out flyers. Are there local events that you could be visiting?
2. Monthly press releases: Companies advertise to create top-of-mind awareness so that when a person is ready to buy, they think of you first. Press releases do the same thing, but for free. Newsworthy releases typically cover the following: new hires, product releases, new alliances, large contracts awarded, new territories covered, favorable independent lab results, or a summary of and link to a white paper or article on your website. Your release should follow a professional press release format and should be written in news-based style and not as an advertisement. You can use a news release service or build your own list of editors to distribute your release.

3. Publish articles: Publishing articles does three things for you: it generates long impression times, improved perception of expertise and leads. Your name, phone number and email should appear at the end of each article so readers can contact you with questions. It’s often cost effective to have reprints of articles mailed to your prospects or to be used as a sales tool. Also, email your prospects recent articles to accelerate selling cycles with higher credibility.

When applicable, submit your articles with incredible photographs. They have a higher likelihood of getting published with great photos.
4. Vehicular welcome wagons: Can your company vehicles generate demand for your business? Think about ways you can roll out the welcome mat for fellow commuters and pedestrians. Here’s a catchy “welcome mat” for a taxidermist that works quite well to generate conversation and business:

The taxidermist’s own creation, a stuffed, mounted coyote, hangs on the back of the owner’s company truck as a business advertisement.
5. Join free directories: You can find 10-20 free online business directories in less than an hour and get yourself listed. Google “free business directories” to get started, then try to narrow the search down to directories in your industry.
6. Become newsworthy: Create a newsworthy story and send it to your local TV stations, radio stations, newspapers and industry editors. Stories tied to community pride often get picked up by the media. For example, a bank president once offered CDs that would provide interest rates equal to the ending point spread of the Super Bowl (for the first three months) if the home-town team won the game. The local news coverage was all over it. The bank enjoyed three exciting weeks of coverage leading into the game. New account activity exploded and it did so with customer pride.
7. Establish customer advisory boards: Companies with a customer advisory board enjoy improved loyalty, referrals, leads, strategic direction, ideas for business and an inside track to earning a higher share of their total purchases.

To create a customer advisory board, hold quarterly luncheons in exchange for feedback. Use a third party to chair the board so that you can focus on listening and learning in the course of the event.

These boards give employees a strong dose of customer insight. If every employee from production to accounting is effectively on the sales team, these forums help make the whole company better at selling and servicing.
8. Guerrilla e-marketing System: The key to e-marketing is to integrate all the ways you touch prospects (your website, newsletter, emails, banner ads and articles) so that they act in concert with each other; displaying one theme, one brand identity and one message. Building a website, newsletter, and auto-respond email system is not expensive, but make sure your message is rich, yet simple. Nothing kills time and selling cycles like confusion.
Also, create a video for your business website. People don’t want to read websites, they want to view them. Hire a production team or shoot the video yourself and edit it on the software that comes with a Mac. Once the video is complete, host it on Youtube and place it on your site.
9. Use expert endorsements: Validate your product with an expert’s stamp of approval. A famous chewing gum uses “4 out of 5 dentists agree.” What can you use? When companies stamp it, seal it, shine it up and promote it, it sells faster and at a higher price point.

Here are some possibilities for endorsements: industry certifications, recognized figures, labs, certifying bodies and experts with initials following their names such as BBB, Phd, MD, DDS, MS, CPA, RN. There are two ways to grow a business: Improve the price or improve the volume. Endorsements do both.
10. Referrals: Referrals are the easiest form of growth, the fastest form of acquisition and the lowest cost marketing technique. Most people know this and yet they don’t ask for them. Companies that hold staff accountable for referrals beat their competition each time a referral is granted. In those moments market share begins to migrate and relationships are solidified.

Here’s a sample referral dialogue:
a. A customer says thank you after a business delivers a service.
b. Rep says, “I appreciate that very much.” (pause) “Excuse me, would you happen to know of anyone else who might benefit from my company?”
c. Client says, “Ummm, yes. I might know a few people.”
d. “I get almost all of my business from referrals. Could you help me please?”
e. “Sure, I think John Doe and Mary Smith could use you.”
f. “Would it be possible for you to call them to recommend me? I don’t want my first call to be an interruption.”
g. “Sure.”
h. “Thanks so much. If they say yes, could you forward me their number so I could call them right away?”
i. “Absolutely.”
Referrals not only add to a company’s prospect list they also solidify loyalty between the referring client and the business. Once that call is made, it locks in a memory of preference and a set of beliefs that you will continue to perform.
Your guerrilla marketing plan should include elements that you know will work for you. The sooner you take action, the sooner you begin to create positive results. By the way, if you found this article helpful, would forward it to a friend?
Doug McQueen shares his time lecturing CEO’s and business owners. He is a writer, lecturer and successful business owner/operator living in Encinitas, CA Doug runs Your Results Marketing Co., a full service marketing company that helps businesses sell more efficiently with proven neuro-science languages and their positive effect on decision making and memory.


Tech Management - Communicating Change

In times of change -- which these days means pretty much always -- the leader's role calls for imparting clear, informative communications. Unfortunately, say experts Ron Arden and Paul Batz, not all CEOs come equipped with built-in communications skills. Some know what to say and how to say it purely by instinct; most have to learn. Others resist counseling and assistance, thinking it's enough for them alone to know what's happening in the company. They generally leave the communication side of things to other people.
"This attitude can be a major disadvantage these days," Arden says. "For all organizations, it's become an absolute necessity for the leader to communicate effectively with anyone who has a stake in their company, whether they be staff, shareholders, clients, the board or potential investors. When things are changing, staff needs information and motivation to keep up, to know what's going on, to meet changing objectives, to make decisions that will ultimately affect the bottom line and the well-being of the organization."
"A chief executive needs to make change personal because it's personal to the people who are being asked to change," Batz notes. He cites the example of one CEO's efforts to alter an organizational culture from production to performance.
"Until this time, employees had focused primarily on their specific duties, with little regard for the big picture. Now, just because the CEO was talking 'performance,' they didn't really get the need to set new goals beyond their usual boundaries."
True change occurred only after this CEO explained that he'd be leaving in a few years and wanted to make sure that the business endured. Once he provided a context for change, employees were much more inclined to listen.
Context is crucial, say the Vistage communications experts. Regardless of the project or initiative, it's vital to address the broader elements needed to achieve success, including:
• What are the reasons behind our proposed change?
• What are our goals?
• Who does the change affect?
• What are the likely repercussions of change throughout the organization?
• How will we all benefit from change?
At the same time, the leader has to convey his or her own stake in the change initiative. This includes making such statements as:
• "I'm personally committed to seeing this project through to completion."
• "I understand that these proposed changes may have a negative impact on people."
• "I welcome an open discussion about how you feel regarding this change project."
• "I hope you'll feel free to share your ideas and suggestions about how to make it work."
"Change is always based on market forces and customer realities," Batz says. "So when employees are asked to change their personal and group behaviors to accommodate these realities, the message has to provide enough information to make the change tangible at all levels in the company."
Arden adds: "Remember, it's not just the message of change you're trying to get across. You also need to let people see how you feel about change -- your optimism and the strength of your convictions about the path the organization has embarked upon. Employees listen to what you say but they watch you, too. They draw their own conclusions based on what they observe."
Even when change is affecting the company adversely, to get employees to face the situation along with you calls for the right kind of communication.
"It's a fact that, generally, the CEO's priorities are very different from their employees," Arden notes. "The average employee cares less about the company's bottom line and more about their own bottom line -- primarily, job security. The dominant motivator for them is to tune into their favorite radio station, WIIFM (What's In It For Me)."
People dragged into change do so kicking and screaming. Why? Change equals uncertainty. "The trick is not to hide this fact but to acknowledge its scariness and point out the potential rewards if people come along with you. Obstacles, mid-course adjustments, uncertainty -- all of these are part of any significant change effort."
For this reason, Arden adds, being honest and caring is the best approach. "If you as the leader acknowledge all of this, you're doing no more than telling the truth. Make it clear to employees that this is a normal part of all change. The message, 'Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy but exciting ride,' will alleviate some of the pressure and ease the tensions of uncertainty."
The goal is always reducing ambiguity and uncertainty. "Think of communication as a pre-emptive strike against rumor and gossip," Batz says. "By sharing truthful information -- in a complete and timely manner -- you diminish the hurtful effects of the grapevine." And make no mistake about it: your company has a grapevine. Every company does.


What Would Google Do>

What Would Google Do - A phenominal book that shows the reader what Google has done to change the way business in conducted; openness, politics, news, information flow, invention and collaboration are all the basis of Google. THis book shows us how to enhance our business, innovate, advance our careers and improve our lifestyles and creatively change the way be live...A MUST read for every business person, inventor, engineer, operations and sales person.


The Art of Finding New Customers

The best way to make sure your company flourishes and grows is to consistently find new customers. New customers often result in quickly realized revenue with a low acquisition cost and high margins. Here are five proven techniques for finding new customers.
1. Existing customers: How many additional divisions, sister organizations, other plants does your current customer have that you’re not doing business with? They know you, they trust you, you already are approved as a supplier – why not get all the business instead of the small amount you currently have? Also, who do they know that they could refer you to – either inside their company or in their business or social circle?

2. Past customers: Go back to past customers to see if their needs or people have changed. Also, try selling to the company’s additional divisions, sister organizations, and other plants. As you speak with people, ask who they know that they could refer you to, either inside their company or in their business or social circle?

3. Vertical markets: Much of what you do and who you work with is transferrable to other potential clients in similar sectors. For example, if you work with electrical contractors, you may want to look at plumbing, landscape, and roofing contractors. They are in the vertical market of construction contractors.

4. Trade groups and associations: If you are already part of a trade organization, consider reaching out to fellow members. They might make good clients or referral sources. Work together with other members to get business that will benefit both of you. Also, don’t overlook the organization itself–they may need or have use for what you do now more than ever!

5. Non-profits and civic groups: Many non-profits are hurting for revenue but they still have business needs. While you may not be able to charge full price, you might be able to secure work with a non-profit and then use publicity to leverage that work into name recognition or other jobs. Recently, a Tennessee non-profit needed a new office. A local builder took the job and while he didn’t make much money, it enabled him to keep his crews working and cash flowing. The builder got good publicity in the news media for the job. From this, the builder picked up two jobs which more than paid for the short profits on the non-profit job.
While there is no magic solution for gaining new customers, some hard work put into these five areas will keep you growing and moving forward.

-Tim Shaver is owner of Tim Shaver and Associates – a business consulting, coaching and training company. Tim Shaver and Associates is an authorized franchisee of Sandler Training. Tim can be reached at 615-399-8700 or

Twine Uses Artificial Intelligence to find and store web info

In an article printed in Fast Company this month, a very interesting technology is emerging:


Keeping Your Balance in Turbulent Times

A friend recently confided in me saying, “This down market has me scared. I can’t sleep at night. I don’t know if my business will be here three months from now.”
Certainly, some anxiety about this economic crisis is normal and expected. Some people, however, have become emotionally hijacked, gripped with a fear of spiraling downward.
Living chronically in a state of fear can over-tax our system and set the stage for many health problems. Here are some signs that you’re living in chronic fear:
• Looking for ways to flee your situation
• Unusual amount of anger
• Emotionally frozen
• Feelings of imminent or approaching doom
• Loss of optimism
• Anxiety in response to real or imagined events
• Self-preoccupation or withdrawing from relationships
• Selling off investments and taking huge losses, when selling is not a necessity
It is possible to change how you cope with distressing events. You can experience stress and fear without getting consumed by it.
Counteracting fear and stress
Below are five tips to maintain emotional balance in times of fear and stress.
Maintain perspective. Balance out the negative with something positive. Opportunities exist everywhere for people who maintain perspective. Don’t deny the reality of the situation but try to see the positive aspects and opportunities in the change taking place.
Practice self-care. Different stress-management techniques work for different people. Pick and choose from the following and see what works best for you: prayer, mediation, exercise, gardening, yoga, poetry, pleasure reading, to name a few. Whatever you choose, find a way to make it a part of your daily practice.
Know thyself. Much of the fear prevalent during a recession is based around our financial situation. Get to know your relationship with money. Often it comes from childhood experiences that created an emotional connection with money. Did your parents ever tell stories or say things like: “Don’t be a financial failure like your uncle” or “Happy and successful people are wealthy”? These influences operate mostly out of our awareness and, if left unchecked, make us especially vulnerable in times of economic crisis. Take time to understand your money story. Consider working with a coach on this project.
Develop appreciation. We are all more than the sum of our material possessions. All the literature on happiness boils down to one thing: happiness is a measure of appreciation that goes beyond the financial. Develop and practice your appreciation for all things non-financial.
Turn to others. Lean on others for advice, feedback and support. Your colleagues at offer a tremendous resource. Don’t ignore their words. Spouses, friends, other family members and even consultation with a licensed therapist can offer the glue you might need to hold yourself together.
We live in tough times. Now is the time to find and practice skills that can help us stay balanced. These skills can act as our hedge against fear. -
Dr. Eric Weiner is a speaker and consultant who helps families and organizations with the psychological and relationship issues associated with wealth, leadership and values-based legacy planning. For more information see

Nine Strategies of Highly Productive Workers

People with talent fail at an alarming rate within organizations. According to Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan, researchers who studied workers at Bell Labs, most talented hires wind up as average or below-average performers. Among the people at Bell Labs and those of competitors, Kelley and Caplan found that 85 to 90 percent of the extremely talented people hired never rose beyond average, when it came to productivity. They also found that the 10 to 15 percent of hires who rose to “star performance” status were eight times more productive than the average or mediocre performers.
Let’s say you’re responsible for the results of an organization employing 100 people. If your organization is average, seven of those people are star performers, eighty-three are average, and ten are slackers. Let’s say you encounter an economic climate that prohibits you from hiring and compels you to find a means of doing better with what you have. What would be your strategy?
According to our experience, there are, very likely, other star performers hibernating among your workforce. If you could convert just one mediocre performer into a star performer, the value of that conversion, according to the Bell Labs study, would be equivalent to adding seven average performers to your workforce at no additional cost to the organization.
Defining star performance
You can create star performers by taking two actions: 1.) Define star performance (to expect star performance you first need to define it) and 2.) Identify the work strategies consistent among star performers and absent among mediocre workers.
Organizations that have not defined superior performance, tend to experience lackluster growth. Companies that want to outpace the competition should commit to defining star performance, not just for one job but for all the key positions in your company.
Companies that have defined performance tend to use performance-based job descriptions that define not just the tasks essential to the job, but also the minimum expected and exceptional outcomes in the job. A star performer in a job would be a person who consistently achieves breakthrough outcomes.
The nine strategies of highly productive workers
The key to converting average or mediocre people to star status lies in determining and then coaching their competencies in nine areas. The Bell Labs study identified those nine areas as the strategies that workers use to get their work done. Here are the nine strategies of highly productive workers:
• Taking initiative – Star performers go beyond just informing someone of an error, they correct it. The mediocre don’t.
• Networking- Star performers establish their anticipated needs for outside input prior to beginning a project. The mediocre wait until there’s a need, and then they look for help.
• Self-management- Stars know that self-management goes beyond time management and includes management of effort and knowledge. The mediocre feel that time management is all that’s needed.
• Teamwork effectiveness- Star performers are comfortable with being either a follower or a leader. The mediocre tend to push too hard for leadership roles.
• Leadership – Star performers know that small leadership roles are as important as the bigger, more visible ones. The mediocre are often disappointed with smaller, less viable leadership assignments and, as a result, perform at a level expressing their displeasure.
• Followership – Star performers are aware of the value of following as well as leading and understand the need to contribute to the leader’s and the team’s performance. The mediocre are often difficult to work within a team setting and focus more on getting credit for themselves.
• Perspective – Superior performers are able to see how their immediate work factors into the “big picture.” The star performer is invested in taking on other view points, like those of the customer, manager or other team members. Mediocre workers often seem to have a world defined by the length of their reach. They tend to have difficulty in accepting thoughts and ideas from those other than themselves.
• Show-and-Tell – Star performers are master presenters. The mediocre are PowerPoint specialists.
• Organizational savvy – Star performers understand how they contribute to the overall performance of the organization and are capable of navigating through the competing interests of an organization. The mediocre are often perplexed with organization politics and hide behind the mantra of not being a “political person.”
Understanding theses strategies and then defining them for your workforce is a powerful tool among the steps necessary to convert mediocre workers to star performers.
In these difficult times, adding the equivalent of seven average performers to you workforce by converting just one to star status is a strategy that addresses the pressing need to do more with less.
Stephen Blakesley is Managing Partner of GMS Talent L P, and author of the book Strategic Hiring – Tomorrow’s Benefits Today..

Plan Now to Expand - How executives can make the right business decisions based on a clear view of the future.

Economist Alan Beaulieu Projects 2010 Recovery
Here’s the tough news: the next six months (March-August) will be worse than the previous six months. And the good news, we should see the economic recovery begin around March 2010 based on the monthly trend in the U.S. Industrial Production Index.
This projection, was made by economist Alan Beaulieu of the Institute for Trend Research. The information Beaulieu conveyed was geared to help executives make the right business decisions based on a clear view of the future.
Many Main Street business owners will be oblivious to the recovery as it’s happening, says Beaulieu, and won’t recognize the recovery until three to six months after it has begun. Vistage members, armed with a reliable economic forecast and actionable advice, will be able to pull ahead of those businesses that recognize the recovery too late.
Following are highlights from Beaulieu’s three-hour presentation.
Economic Projections
Based on the movement of leading economic indicators:
• The recovery will begin around March 2010, and will be so mild that most Main Street businesses won’t trust that it’s a true recovery until we are three to six months into it.
• U.S. housing markets will reach a low in late 2009 or early 2010 when prices flatten out before rising again in 2011.
• Disinflation (a decrease in the rate of inflation) or deflation is likely to continue into 2010, while inflation returns in 2011-2012.
• Unemployment will peak in early 2010 above 9 percent nationally. Job growth should begin around September 2010.
• Credit conditions will improve somewhat in 2010, when we should see renewed lending at low interest rates.
• The value of the dollar against other currencies won’t change much from now through the end of the year.
Advice to Business Owners
Beaulieu recommends that business owners take the following action:
• The middle of 2010 will be a golden time to expand your operation. New and used equipment will be inexpensive, real estate will be inexpensive, interest rates will be low. Start planning your expansion now.
• Borrow as much money as you can in 2010, as conditions may not be as favorable in the years to follow.
• If you lease business space, renegotiate your contract as vacancy rates goes up later this year.
• Hire some of the exceptional talent that will be available through 2010.
• Stop activities that don’t create profit, such as a seminars, services or other things that lose money for your company.
• Eliminate products that aren’t profitable. Get rid of that which doesn’t serve your company.
• Find clients in these resilient sectors: energy, “green,” hotel/motel, water, healthcare, funeral services, alcohol, security, legal services, food distribution, water purification/distribution, electricity, natural gas distribution, education (community colleges in particular), pet products, and leisure.
• Look for clients or ways to sell your product in western Canada, Brazil, and Australia. These countries are positioned for strong future growth. Russia and China are not positioned for near-term growth.
• Review your competitive advantage. Define it and tout it.
• Lead with optimism. Be the chief cheerleader.
• Communicate your company’s future clearly.
• Exercise your courage, don’t just maintain the status quo. Take risks and be courageous.
• Celebrate victories, even small ones, with your people. Treat your best employees well or they will defect during the recovery.
• Monitor your cash position religiously and take all necessary actions to maintain a positive cash flow.
• Learn to compute your company’s “12/12 rate of change” so you can project where your revenues are going
Market Advice
There’s no huge stock market rebound on the other side of this downturn, only a long, slow climb out.
• People in their 20s and 30s should continue to put money in the market as it will have an eventual payoff.
• People within 10 years of retirement should go for safe fixed asset investments.
• Rather than buying broad-based mutual and index funds, focus on specific sectors such as alternative energy and healthcare, or companies you’re willing to invest in for the long term.
• In the post-2010 world, avoid bond funds as they will be under long-term negative pressure.
Housing Market
There is more negative housing activity to come, says Beaulieu.
• Housing prices will continue to decline, reaching a bottom around March 2010.
• Even though housing prices have a little more to fall, now through the end of 2009 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy a house. Rarely do low interest rates align with low prices and the promise of a modest recovery two years off. There will not be a better time to buy real estate in our lives. Look for areas with strong demographics suited to an aging population.
• Home prices will begin to rise slightly in late 2010.
Foreign Markets
• Canada, Australia, and Brazil are best positioned for growth for years to come.
• China is no longer the low-cost manufacturer that it has been for the past decade. Factories are shutting down or moving to nearby countries with lower labor costs. Look for increased civil unrest and a long recession in China.
As a final thought Beaulieu reminds us: “It took only two years to crumble to where we are today, but it will take us many more years to get back to that peak. It was a bubble and you don’t recreate a bubble quickly, nor do we want to.”

Interpreting the Answers to “15 Interview Questions…”

By, Russ Riendeau, Ph.D.

What question do you have for me right away?
Look for preparation, substantial questions, focus, poise, and the ability to think on ones feet. This question allows you to show you’re wanting to have a dialogue.
What would really surprise me about you? What else?
This question allows candidates to reveal a different side of themselves. Look for confidence, willingness and candor. The second question (“What else?”) gives the candidate another chance to reveal more if they gave a conservative first response.
What’s your real motivation to change jobs? No, the real reason?
Look for motives other than money--money is rarely the real reason. See if the candidate places blame; is seeking asylum elsewhere; can’t handle the pressure, the boss or the pace. These are signs of immaturity, poor-decision making skills or lack of true selling ability. Ask the question to check to see if you’re hearing the whole story.
What’s your philosophy on goal setting?
The more detailed answer you get, the more you’ll see if the candidate values setting and achieving goals. Ask for examples of goals they have set and how they measured them. A blend of intrinsic and extrinsic goals will show emotional balance and another sign of maturity in prioritizing ability.
What reading material would I find on your coffee table, nightstand or kitchen table?
The answer to this question will show intellect, curiosity, variety of interests, breath of life experience, dedication to learning, or lack of these traits. The candidate’s response will give insights as to how well he or she follows your industry and field of work.
Tell me a story about when you were placed in an ethical dilemma and what happened?
This question reveals morals, ethics, integrity and problem-solving skills. If the candidate places blame on others, it may indicate tendencies towards poor judgment, unrealistic attitudes, non-genuine or secretive personality.
How did you earn money while in college?
This question offers a good indicator of the candidate’s entrepreneurial skills. If they ran a formal or informal business in college, they are most likely resourceful, driven, have strong social skills and street smarts. These candidates tend to be good at sales, marketing, customer service or other roles that require proactive behaviors.
How far away from home have you traveled? (Have a map on your desk.)
Allows for storytelling with better visuals and allows person to share travels and gives you insights into drive, personal interests and how well they communicate outside of business issues. Can show more about risk-taking, social and cultural differences and ability to travel safely and effectively for work.
Draw me a pie chart showing how you spend an eight-hour day.
Watch for organization, clear communications and accurate calculations. Their response shows you their presentation and communication skills. Are those skills in line with what you need?
Are you a curious person, and if so, show me an example?
The example they give shows you how well they can communicate, persuade, sell, entertain or motivate others. Also, is their curiosity connected to their drive and need to win or to something else?
What’s your favorite success story and failure story?
A person willing to share failures tends to be self-confident, mature and has a sense of true self and place in the world. In success stories, look for credit given to team effort and personal drive in relation to goal setting. Bragging of solo efforts may suggest arrogance, inflated sense of self, lack of self-confidence or lack of interest in being a team player.
What should I have asked you that I haven’t?
This question allows the candidate to respond by closing and asking for the job or to address hidden concerns of their ability to do the job.
Do you want to be a millionaire? Why? What are you doing to prepare for it?
Look for an overall balanced approach to wealth and lifestyle choice and for consistency relative to other questions around goal setting. Does the candidate have a valid, compelling motive for a yes or no to wealth accumulation?
Are you ready to resign from your job in five days? What will your firm do when you quit? What will they say about you after you have left the company?
The answers here show the seriousness and commitment of the candidate. A person committed to changing jobs will not hesitate when asked if they’re ready to resign. If the candidate presents a counteroffer, tell him/her that you do not believe in the success of counteroffers and that you will not negotiate against a counteroffer.

Have you ever created a 30, 60, 90-day strategic plan?
If the candidate has created strategic plans, how many months were they required to plan out into the future? Is this commensurate with the requirements of position you’re offering? Ask about a specific plan and watch for ability to articulate and define time frames and goals. Many people can speak about planning, so ask candidate to illustrate the plan using visual aids, graphs, charts, etc.
Vistage speaker and member Russ Riendeau , PhD has been in the executive search business since 1985. He is Senior Partner of The East Wing Search Group. He’s also the co-author of a new book, “The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition.” He can be reached at, or 847-381-0977

Quality Meetings -The Easy Way

How can you make every meeting a productive use of time that moves your organization closer to its goals? The key is to require that every participant--from meeting manager to each attendee--to accept 100 percent responsibility for the results of the meeting.
Meeting participants often feel they’re only a silent participant with little control over the meeting’s agenda and flow. This attitude changes dramatically when each participant is responsible for the two major components of a quality meeting--courageous participation and time management.
Courageous participation pays off
Recently I worked with a company where the research director chose not to speak up in meetings. When I asked her why, she said: “I’m not going to compete with all the sales and marketing people who talk all the time to impress people. I’ve been brought up to believe that ‘self-praise stinks.’ I don’t have to impress anyone. Executives will call on me if they want information.”
I suggested that she take a risk and ask at least one question in the next meeting. She did so, and it changed the focus of the meeting because it was a question no one had considered. The entire discussion shifted as a result of her question.
Using time wisely
Here are some suggested questions participants can ask to turn around an unproductive meeting:
• What is the agenda so we can plan our contributions and our time (if no agenda handed out)?
• Which objective are we discussing (if someone has sidetracked the meeting to their own agenda)?
• I am having a hard time hearing the speaker (directed at the person next to you who is in a side conversation).
• I’d like to hear what Mary has to say. We haven’t heard from her yet (if a major contributor has not yet spoken).
• It sounds like the conversation is getting personal. May we summarize each approach (if two people are raising their voices at each other)?
These statements/questions may seem risky especially if the meeting manager is a senior executive. But if an organization claims to be committed to an atmosphere of trust and respect, in which management listens and responds appropriately, executives should respect and adhere to that commitment.
Three tips for better meetings
Meetings are a waste of time when they are viewed as unnecessary—either spur of the moment, too long, or with the wrong people. Sometimes attendees lack preparation, don’t participate, or refuse accountability and the agenda is off target, hidden, or simply missing. Then unresolved issues arise, decisions aren’t made, or deadlines are missed and there is no closure or documentation of the results.
Here are three tips for making your meetings efficient and effective:
1) Assign a meeting manager
Before each meeting, a manager should be designated. This person should plan by:
• Determining what specific objective(s) should be accomplished by the end of the meeting
• Deciding what kind of meeting it will be: information sharing or decision-making
• Selecting attendees based on the need for their contributions
• Sending the agenda out in advance, with stated objectives, assignments to prepare, expected formats, and time length
• Selecting appropriate meeting room and audio/visual requirements
• Starting the meeting on time
• Sticking to the agenda so all who prepared get to contribute
2) Encourage participation
The meeting manager should encourage every voice to be heard by:
• Providing a safe, respectful environment so everyone will participate fully
• Completing objectives within the announced time frames and developing action plans
• Summarizing results and expected individual follow-up actions
3) Follow-up
The meeting manager should spend time following-up after the meeting by:
• Sending out complete minutes including assignments and expected action dates for completion
• Providing periodic monitoring of the people who are responsible for completing the action items
Before your next meeting, get proactive by using these tips. Don’t let meetings become a waste of time.


Why Succession Management Matters

If you would like a .pdf copy of this, please email me at gary


Succeeding with External Alliances: Applying Tested Tools to the New Environment

If you are in the Portland area on Wed. March 18th:
Join Guest Speaker Dr. Ron Khormaei of Logitech as he presents…
Succeeding with External Alliances: Applying Tested Tools to the New Environment

This event will provide technology managers with a fresh look at the external alliances as a tool to succeed in a
challenging economy.
Date: April 22, 2009.
5:30 P.M. Registration table opens
5:30 - 6:00 P.M. Food and networking
6:00 – 7:30 P.M. Presentation and Q & A
Speaker: Dr. Ron Khormaei, Director of Engineering for the Audio Business
Electrical group, Logitech.
Location: 2828 SW Corbett Ave., Portland, OR 97201 SW Meade and SW Corbett

RSVP Required. Register on-line: right sidebar under Technology Management Chapter
Contact: Chris Dennis, Registration Volunteer, 503-285-6034,,

This is clearly a challenging, uncharted economic and business environment. In such an environment, successful organizations focus on their core competencies, to not only survive, but to emerge as even stronger players in the market. This success requires improving and fine-tuning existing tools.
Outsourcing and establishing effective partnerships are such critical tools when used with offshoring, but now can be applied effectively to re-tool organizations big or small.
Leveraging external design and development capabilities is important to both established companies as well as the fresh start-ups during economically uncertain times. Larger operations rely more on the flexible commitments to “preserve capital,” while individual entrepreneurs rely on specific niche capabilities to adjust to the impact of wide-spread “right sizing.”

This talk will cover the elements for a successful alliance, and provide the framework for the audience to apply the concepts to their own specific circumstance. A clear definition and set of expectations for different models (like EMS, CDM, and ODM) is commonly overlooked, but forms the important foundation to a strong relationship. The types of relationships, structure, subtle pitfalls, and measures of
success are discussed during this talk.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Ron Khormaei is the Director of Engineering managing the Audio Business Electrical group at Logitech. Before joining Logitech in Vancouver, WA, he was Director of Engineering at Hewlett-Packard’s OEM Printer Division managing a global engineering team of over 100 and multiple external design partners. He started his career at Planar Systems in Beaverton, Oregon, leading development of advanced displays. Since 1995, he has held various management roles in HP and has led technology developments resulting in over 15 products. He has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in Solid State Electronics from Oregon State University, and has led multidisciplinary programs in display systems, IC and printer development areas. Dr. Khormaei has established and led multiple successful external consortiums as well as global university and industry partnerships.

The Technology management Chapter of IEEE is being sponsored by Portland State Business Accelerator. The PSBA is part of Portland State University to promote and incubate start-up technology companies in the Metro area. The PSBA primarily focuses on the industry clusters of Green Tech & Sustainability, IT & Software, and Biotech/Bioscience.
Companies locating at the PSBA gain affordable space for offices and labs and a range of support services to help speed each company's time to market.


Lose Your Personality and Become a Better Interviewer

When I started out in the search business, it became quickly apparent that most managers weren't great at interviewing. For one thing, I always thought my candidates were great, and they didn't
Part of this difference of opinion was due to a lack of understanding of what the real job entailed, lack of any rigorous assessment process, and a desire for many to take short cuts, waiting for the "perfect" candidate to arrive. In this case, unanimity of perceptions substituted for evidence and logic. In the bargain, many great candidates were excluded for bad reasons.
After studying the problem, I noticed that there were four basic personality styles that seemed to be at the crux of the matter and predicted exactly how the person would come to an incorrect conclusion. From this a simple DISC-like assessment was developed that described how the errors were caused and what could be done to eliminate them. This technique is pictured in the accompanying graphic and described below.

The horizontal axis represents the speed of decision making - fast and instinctive on the right, slow and deliberate on the left. Those on the right prefer to make fast decisions with limited data. Those on the left are more cautious and would rather ponder a bit, collecting as much information as possible before deciding. Plot yourself on this decision-making axis, based on your preferred mix of facts and speed.

The vertical axis represents a focus on people or results. Those who are very people-oriented are less concerned with getting things done on time and on budget. They'll tend to let things slide to ensure that everyone is okay. Those who are extremely results-focused will be less concerned with the needs of the people involved. They'll tend to push for results, even if it upsets some of those involved. Plot yourself on this vertical axis based on whether your emphasis is on people or their performance.

Based on where you've plotted yourself on these two dimensions, you fall clearly into one of the four style quadrants, or more in the middle - the coaching style. Following is a quick summary of these styles and how they affect a person's decision-making process when interviewing and evaluating candidates:

Director Style. These people are the hard-chargers, dominant, and fast-paced. They are less sensitive to the needs of others, with delivering results as their high number one priority. During the interview they over-value their intuition and tend to like people who are assertive, strong communicators, and those who seem to have high potential based on a strong intellect. They'll assess the person's achievements at a high level, but won't spend too much time digging into the person's background to validate their quickly-drawn conclusions. While they hire a lot of hard-charging smart people, many of them aren't great at managing people or delivering results on a consistent basis.

Analytical Style. This group is comprised largely of technical people - detail-oriented, cautious, methodical, and conservative in their decision making. They tend to over-emphasize technical competency and experience when assessing candidates. Their conservative nature protects them from hiring technically weak people, but they overlook the person's potential, ability to collaborate with others, and how they plan and organize their work properly.

Diplomat Style. This group is HR-centric - those who proudly profess to be people-persons. They believe their role during the interview is to judge "fit" and the so-called "soft skills." They emphasize team skills, personal likeability, and look for clues as to whether the person has the flexibility to meet the cultural norms of the company. Unless the person is the hiring manager, their vote is often less valued, since it's based more on feelings, rather than objective evidence regarding team skills. The people they hire get along with everyone, collaborate well, and don't upset the apple cart, but sometimes don't get much done.

Influencer Style. This is the classic sales personality or politico type. This is the group that makes instant judgments in a few minutes based on first impressions. If the candidate looks good, sounds good, is confident and reasonably competent, it's a sure-fire hire. On the other hand, if the candidate is a bit nervous, less than ideally groomed, late, or is slightly maladroit or geeky, it's into the reject pile faster than greased lightning. While the people these types of managers hire are fun at parties, their on-the-job performance is problematic, since the initial hiring decision making was more superficial than substantive.

Coaching Style. This is the person who's pretty much in the middle on both axes. This is also the ideal interviewing style using rational thought, objectivity, and evidence to make the hiring decision. When evaluating candidates, a coaching style manager considers results, past performance, technical competency, team skills, leadership ability, and decision making in proper balance based on the real requirements of the job. The person will objectively consider their first impression, but not be unduly affected by it early on.

Adopting a coaching style, even if temporary, is one way to increase assessment accuracy. The key to achieving this is to overcome your natural style by adopting the best traits of everyone else, especially your polar or diagonal opposite. Here's some specific advice on how to do this:

Directors Becoming Diplomats. You need to slow down, get more facts and details, and focus on the process of achieving results, with special emphasis on collaborating with others. This includes developing and supporting team members, working with other departments, and understanding how the person handles conflict.

Analyticals Becoming Influencers. Speed up your decision making and broaden your selection criteria. Focus more on what a person has accomplished with their technical skills, rather than the absolute level. Consider how the person manages, plans, and organizes work, and whether it gets done consistently on time. Dig deep into team skills, especially how the person collaborates on cross-functional projects.

Diplomats Becoming Directors. Don't worry so much about team skills and personality fit, but rather how the person used these skills to get results. Draw org charts, get names, find out how the person developed others, who was mentored and how, and if the candidate was mentored. Get facts, dates, and specific examples to demonstrate conclusively that the person is a leader and strong collaborator. Be sure to find out the type of work the person has excelled at and what motivated the person to perform at peak levels.

Influencers Becoming Analyticals. This will be very hard for you, but you must delay any yes/no decision for at least 30 minutes. In fact, be sure to measure first impression at the end of the interview. To do this, have a list of prepared questions focusing mainly on performance and results. (Try these to get started.) Go slow and dig deep, step by step, so you understand exactly how the person accomplished the results and how the person made their biggest decisions. This will give you the evidence you need to make an accurate assessment. You'll probably discover that many of the people with great first impressions were marginal performers and some of those with average first impressions are pretty good. You might even hire some.

Of course, making this personality shift is easier said than done. As a recruiter, I had to forcefully intervene to pull most of this off. Here are some of the ideas to help you here:

1. Lead panel interviews with clients. Panel interviews help since the personality of the individual interviewers is defused. A competent leader can also control the types of questions being asked to ensure that everyone on the team obtains the information they need to make an accurate assessment.

2. Train managers to dig deep into accomplishments. This is how the two-question performance-based interview was developed. The questions are based on digging deep into the candidate's accomplishment most directly related to real job needs. This simple tool gives managers something other than intuition to make their assessments.

3. Stop using a yes/no voting system and implement an evidence-based decision-making process instead. Adding up a bunch of yes/no votes accentuates the personality style problem. To minimize this, considering using our evidence-based assessment process based on the 10-Factor Candidate Assessment template. Narrowing each interviewer's focus and requiring that specific evidence by justified and shared, forces the person to adopt a balanced interviewing style.

Of course, there's a bit more to making accurate, better hiring decisions than what's described here. But from what I've seen, if you can't overcome the interviewer's natural error-inducing personality style from the get-go, nothing else will help much.
By Lou Adler, March 4, 2009

Tighter U.S. Oversight Comes to H-1B Visa Program

As federal officers raid alleged abusers, tech employers worry they'll run short of skilled foreign workers, especially in stimulus sectors
By Moira Herbst

As the unemployment rate in the U.S. rises, the federal government is tightening its oversight of a controversial visa program that allows companies to bring in skilled workers from overseas. The crackdown is aimed at reducing alleged abuses of what are known as H-1B visas, but it may also make it more difficult for U.S. companies to hire talented workers from abroad. Tech giants such as Microsoft (MSFT), Oracle (ORCL), and IBM (IBM) have been active participants in the program and have lobbied for its expansion.
The H-1B visa program was originally designed to let American companies fill high-skill positions for which no local workers were available. But critics say the program has had such lax oversight that it has been open to abuse and fraud. In several cases, companies have been charged with underpaying workers they bring to the U.S. In addition, outsourcing firms have become some of the heaviest users of the program, raising concerns that visas are being used to train foreign workers who end up taking American jobs. Late last month the government disclosed that the top four recipients of the work visas in 2008 were all Indian outsourcers—Infosys Technologies (INFY), Wipro (WIT), Satyam (SAY), and Tata Consultancy (TCS.BO). The companies use the visas to bring employees from abroad to work in their U.S. operations, typically for two or three years.
Increased oversight of the program is likely to come on several fronts. The Labor Dept. is tightening its review of applications for the work visas, having staffers process requests manually for the first time. Meanwhile, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is more actively investigating companies that receive the visas for potential misuse. Last month, USCIS and the U.S. Attorney's office in Iowa cooperated on a six-state raid of companies allegedly abusing the program. Matthew Whitaker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, says the resulting 10-count indictment against a New Jersey-based company called Vision Systems Group is just "the tip of the iceberg." Vision Systems did not return calls seeking comment.
Congress Could Act
Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), two of the program's vocal critics, are pressing for legislative reform as well. They plan to introduce legislation by early April that would require employers to pledge they had attempted to hire American workers before applying for H-1B visas—a step not required under current law. "I want to make sure that every employer searches to make sure there is no American available to do the job," says Grassley.
American tech companies are wary of any reforms. Microsoft, the top U.S. recipient of H-1Bs in 2008, says the Durbin-Grassley plan risks making it more difficult to recruit talented workers to the U.S. and more likely companies will hire abroad. The company says expansion of the program will bring in skilled immigrants who will help the U.S. economy recover. Still, Microsoft says it supports government efforts to crack down on companies misusing the existing program and has met with USCIS to help develop methods to detect fraud. "We are supportive of steps to reform the H-1B visa system to eliminate the potential for abuse," says Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith.
The government will begin accepting applications for this year's H-1Bs on Apr. 1. In recent years, the 65,000 visas permitted annually have been scooped up in days. Robert Hoffman, spokesman for the tech lobbying group Compete America, says it's important the government not clamp down too much because skilled workers will be needed in green tech, health care, and other sectors that are targeted for expansion in the stimulus plan. "We're trying to create industries where none exist," he says. "That may create an added need for workers."
Herbst is a reporter for BusinessWeek in New York.

The Executive Brief


How IT Leaders Can Thrive in Tough Times

How IT Leaders Can Thrive in Tough Times
Slashing IT staff may not be the answer… by Gary Perman

As anxiety and uneasiness continue into Q2 of 2009, companies are looking for ways to trim spending and improve their bottom line. Even though IT often encompasses a small percentage of a companies’ cost expenditures, executives inevitably turn their attention to IT budgets as a target for cost cutting.
According to Gartner analysts, the number one cost-reduction option that IT executives should prepare for involved people, either in the form of hiring freezes, job cuts or eliminating layers of management. Yet, Gartner still expects IT spending to grow by small amounts during 2009. Caution, will likely be the business direction at many companies, affecting IT as well as other departments.
It may seem inevitable to some that staff pay the price during a budget crunch, but the short term dollars saved reducing head count or putting more work on an already overworked staff could ultimately cost an IT department exponentially more.
"People are looking to manage their costs in IT. But the last thing IT departments want to do is lose embedded knowledge. That would be hard to salvage," states Andi Mann, Research Director at Enterprise Management Associates.
During the Dot Com bubble, IT budgets grew rapidly. When the bubble burst, those budgets burst as well. Since that time, CIO’s, and their IT teams have improved the performance of IT departments by streamlining applications, reducing infrastructure costs, improving governance, consolidating vendors, and outsourcing many activities.
Technology now dovetails tightly with operations in ways that weren’t possible a decade ago, for instance; manufacturers use IT to manage supply chains, business operations depend on IT for financial accounting, payroll, asset management, e-commerce, and HR. IT capabilities have fostered new sales channels, defined new customer segments, and even helped create new business models.
These factors make reductions in IT spending more complicated than ever. Simplistic cuts, applied across the board, may endanger critical business priorities from sales support to customer service. That potent message should resonate even among corporate officers anxious to find quick savings.
CIO’s, of course, should continue to make their operations more efficient, especially in areas that show signs of dilation. Reducing pockets of unproductive expenditure now will bring savings that help meet corporate cost targets. Still, except in the direst of circumstances, turning off technology spending or reducing staff during a downturn is counterproductive. When business picks up, you may lack critical capabilities. Besides, many technology investments can improve profitability in the now as well as after a recovery. When business and IT executives jointly take an end-to-end look at business processes, the results can have a tremendous impact on IT cost reduction efforts. With minimal affects to staff.
So what ideas can IT leaders use to manage their costs and thrive?
1. Create opportunities. The trick is to scan for and create opportunities. Smart CIO’s will make sure their teams remain the bloodline to good services and innovations that save money. When the next problem comes up, IT must be ready to handle it swiftly. “Rather than just trying to weather the storm, figure out how to thrive in this environment and the company will do well no matter what the future holds.” Says Wilson Zehr, CEO at Cendix, a SaaS company.
It may also be wise for CIO’s to skip incremental improvements that don't have huge value. Stick close to your budget, and make sure any upgrades are not just tied to IT savings, but to savings across the entire company. The fact that conditions are changing opens up opportunities for resourceful firms to outsmart larger competitors who, during a downturn, carry on business as usual or are unable to adapt quickly -- except to fire employees.
Innovative IT leaders can partner with business development and gain market share by taking it away from competitors unable to adjust to the shifting market conditions.
Now is the time to be aggressive in the marketplace. Actively seek out new business by adding extra service to give you an edge over competition.
Improve customer service internally and externally. Look for ways to become a leaner, more cost-effective and efficient operation, better positioned to do well when the market improves.
Be imaginative. Companies who survive and even prosper during hard times must be able to look beyond the present, to overcome the constraints of tradition, to see the company from a new perspective, and to do business differently.

2. Improve Operating Leverage. CIO’s need to be focusing on only programs, projects, and actions that add value and are taking the business in the right direction. “Employees know when management is being wasteful and when they are focused on the wrong things. Working on the right stuff and being both accountable and transparent is critical” says Gary Smith, Managing Partner at The Consultant's Connection in Hartford, Connecticut.
Assess the moves your competitors will be taking and build a strategy to outflank them. Position products & find the holes... “One of the things that we IT folk rarely look at is our achievements. This can be on projects that made money, or saved money for the company,” says Peter B. Giblett, head of IS Development at The News Group. He continues “There is one area of IT that is currently in boom, which is business intelligence and its associated specialties; Data Warehousing, ETL, and Data Integration. The reason for this is that businesses need to use business intelligence technology to spot their best opportunities in business” Learn how to use industry tools to assess your own product portfolio, remove the lemons, and become more competitive. If you are the one in the IT department facing the challenge of expanding service without increasing the budget - business is still expecting IT to deliver. Business expects this without having extra money to do it, so you have to find creative ways. For instance, SaaS (Software as a Service) will continue to grow in popularity, partly as a result of the economic downturn. The cost savings are huge.
Blair Mandryk, global IT manager at Haworth Inc., a Holland, Michigan based maker of office furniture, had been looking to cut his technology costs long before the recent events began unfolding. Mandryk had already begun using VMware Inc.'s virtualization technology to reduce 450 physical servers down to 100 boxes. “Areas that our IT department won’t want to cut due to the upside profit potentials for the company include storage projects. There also is expected to be continued demand for business intelligence tools, to help users better evaluate every investment and business risk. In addition, IT requirements may grow in ironic ways; for instance, if PC replacements scheduled for next year are put off because of economic concerns, help desk calls from users having problems with their systems likely will increase” he said.
3. Don’t be caught under-staffed. Options include hiring specialists, freelancers, consultants, and part-time employees. Some managers and executives believe the myth that hiring becomes easier during a recession because the talent pools overflow with laid off people. This is far from the truth. The reality is that there are more unqualified employees filling the pool and finding a needle in a haystack becomes more time consuming, difficult and increases delays – all which translate into a very expensive process, rather than a cost savings solution.

Beware of overworking IT employees. Even the most eager go-getter can burn out when faced with an impossible workload. Talk to your team, find out who does what, and make sure your expectations are realistic. Your staff might already be too small. “In lean times, look at the core tasks which have to happen and work out who are the required staff to meet this base requirement. This is no different than planning a project and having the budget cut. You have to sort out what can be done with the new budget. From there you do what you can with the resources you have. Once the core services/tasks have been established to keep this scope as much as possible” conveys Jeff Theunissen, Chief Technology Officer and Infrastructure Specialist at QLD Health.
3. Good customer service cannot be overstressed, especially as internal and external customers’ buying power or willingness to spend is lessened during tough economic times. Studies show that customers’ perception of service is fixed primarily in terms of time in a customer's mind. Three examples
are: waiting time to obtain service; reaction time to deliver service; and length of time of the
service. In banks or stores, or phoning in orders or for information, prospective customers will
walk out or hang up if their time perception is strained. Understaffing will negatively impact customer service.

According to management consultant Donald Blumberg, author of ‘Managing Service as a Strategic Profit Center’, customers will temper their time demands when they see employees busy helping other customers. But they will not be so tolerant when service people are chatting with one another or on the phone while waiting customers are ignored.

4. Increase training. A mistake companies can easily make during a recession is to cut training budgets. Training is best conducted during slack periods -- especially low-cost, on-the-job instruction and broadened skill acquisition. Also, local community colleges offer a number of free classes that teach and upgrade trade and office skills and supervision techniques.
If you can't hire new staff, the best thing you can do is to make your existing team more valuable. Provide opportunities for current employees to train in new skill areas, and encourage them to take them. Your company will reap the benefits, and your employees will appreciate the challenge and the chance to broaden their skills. When good times return, training is also another positive retention strategy that increases succession management as well as build employee loyalty.

5. Get employees involved in tactics and implementation – During lean times people get nervous and worried about the security of their jobs. They need to know what is going on with the business, what they can do to support the operation, and how their contributions are helping. They deserve the truth and will pledge their loyalty to the managers who are open and honest with them.
Rather than face initiating layoffs, Sal Gonzalez, co-owner of R&D Plastics in Hillsboro, Oregon asked for ideas and input from his staff. His entire operations staff agreed to take a fifteen percent salary cut, including the executives. This did two positive things; One, it prevented layoffs and two; employees saw that management was willing to take pay cuts as well, which had a significantly positive affect on employee loyalty and production.
If layoffs or a significant reduction in work hours are unavoidable, let employees take a lead role in designing the program. Shortened hours, job reassignments, job sharing, and other alternatives may surface.
Meet with staff regularly to exchange ideas on boosting productivity and other issues. Create an
incentive for good suggestions and foster a team spirit for survival.
Remember that employees need to feel they are important to your company, and that their work
is challenging them to their fullest capabilities.

Develop a "culture" of doing more with less. Get every person in the company thinking about how to do more with less. If you can maintain this as a core piece of your culture it will also help when things are less lean.
Scott Simmons, VP of Operations at Climax Portable Tools in Newberg, Oregon has been installing Lean thinking and Lean processes among all departments of his company. In order to become successful with Lean, he has had to sell the idea to every level of the company. Training has increased to teach everyone from the janitor to the executive about the cost saving advantages of Lean thinking. The cost savings can be in the millions of dollars as well as preventing layoffs and even increasing staff. I had the opportunity to sit in on one of his mock lean training exercises that his design manager was conducting for their operations. Key staff members from various departments were going through the hands on learning lean process, step by step– including inventory, product development, process improvements, and machine tool changes. The introduction to lean working principles throughout their company has saved them millions of dollars. The introduction to lean as also allowed them to bring work in-house which they used to outsource – thus containing costs and increasing profits. “If your organization is already lean and mean then you can focus on continuous improvement! Lean methodologies, Six Sigma are areas that can guide you to the top! If you must reorganize then you should conduct a complete Value Stream Map of the department or system that you are in charge of. You will be surprised at how many processes and activities that you will find that are: redundant, wasteful, and useless. Systems evolve and procedures that were once key are many times deemed useless due to system changes, technology upgrades, or product reforms.” David Steinhauer, Six Sigma Black Belt, General Mills

6. Communicate. If you’ve noticed, a prominent theme throughout these six ideas is communication. Keep your management team included in all decisions. When possible keep your employees updated to what short and long term plans you are making for them and the company. Bob Nehauser, CEO of NCS Corporation adds “When staff members are listening to the gloom and doom on the news and/or seeing friends and colleagues losing their jobs they can be subject to survivor mentality, which slows down productivity and makes them feel crummy, of course.”

“The single best practice you can use at any time, recession or boom, is communicate with your employees. This includes frequent open and honest communications to large and small groups of employees as well as individual one-on-one communications. One of the most important communications skills a manager can employ is active listening. Engage your employees and actively listen to them... I find that this practice offers inspiration and opportunity to the manager to facilitate positive changes that will lead to increased employee satisfaction, improved team performance, and, ultimately, improved productivity.” adds Darren Sprout, Professional Services Delivery Manager at MicroAge.

While economic downturns are admittedly difficult, and increase the obstacles IT departments face in trying to survive and grow, it is not axiomatic that companies have to slash staffing and resources. Resourceful IT Leaders can seize available situations while creating new opportunities, and take steps during today's hard times to lay the groundwork for tomorrow's prosperity.

Gary Perman is a certified recruiting professional and president of PermanTech, which specializes in recruiting technology executives, managers and engineers. He also hosts a technology management blog.