The First in a Series…

Posted by Richard Moran.

On Getting Ahead, Getting a Job and/or Getting Funded

Advice Too Simple Not to Know

Story Time

Can I pick your brain?
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Can you meet with my son/daughter/niece/nephew/cousin/spouse….about their career?
Will you be my mentor?
How do I get capital to start a company?

Here it is, the first of the pickings from my brain.

Since I have moved from the “boy wonder” corner of the room to that area reserved for those “more seasoned”, I am a slow moving target for those seeking advice. I am happy to give that advice although I am often not sure how it is received. My advice is never in the realm of get that MBA or make sure you get an “A” in quantum physics. Whenever I received that kind of advice I always felt guilty for not taking that extra calculus class, wished I was smarter or said to myself, “Oh well, too late.”

Much advice that is dispensed in person or on-line falls on deaf ears because it is just too hard to implement. No one wants to hear “Go to MIT”, if you are already somewhere else. If you hear, “Start your career at Accenture or IBM”, and you are already at Enterprise Rent a Car, the advice is not useful. I will not go into that part of the advice world. Rather, I will provide easy-to-use, practical advice that anyone can hear and use. Whether or not you will apply it is up to you. Each part in this series will be one bullet, only one. The bullet for this column is:

Tell a Story

This is not a hard concept and is one that we learn as babies but people seem to forget that much of life is about “the story”. Why do we follow celebrity gossip? There is almost always a story. Why do we like a particular wine? The label or the winemaker tells a good story. Why do people get ahead in their careers or get their companies funded? They can tell a good story.

Remember the stories that were read to you or that you are now reading to your own kids. Those children stories have three key parts:

The “Once Upon a Time…” the start, setting the stage
The “One Day…” intervening variable part, something changes
And the “The End.” The resolution part. Closure.
Making the case when you are looking for a job or trying to raise capital or trying to sell the project is not any different. You must tell a story. Your story has the same components as the children’s book.

Instead of talking about a princess or a witch with an apple or a handsome prince, you are talking about your background, your idea, what happened to bring you here and in the end, what you want.

In meeting people and listening to entrepreneur’s pitches all day, I see some common mistakes that can be easily corrected.

Too much time is spent in the “Once upon a time” section. Yes, we know the internet is changing the world and yes, it is a flat world, and yes we know that college usually takes four years. Don’t waste the first twenty pages or twenty minutes telling us what we already know. Many times the presentation or pitch should start on page twenty, not on page one. Too often, the presentation is over before it starts because the “once upon a time” section took too long. If the words “disruptive” or “paradigm” are used in the first twenty pages, see if you are really setting the stage like you may want to.
The story cannot be distilled to a few key messages. “We are building a world class technology company” is not a key message. “I like to work with people” is not a key message. Sometimes the more word-smithing that takes place, the more muddled the messages become. Three key messages should be developed and be crisp and tight.
Stories are about timing. If you know the interview or the presentation lasts for forty five minutes, which is usually the case, don’t mess around for the first thirty minutes and save the good stuff for the end. By then everyone will be on their blackberries. Pace the story so that by the time you are approaching the end, the audience is in a mild state of arousal waiting to hear how you will wrap it up.
Wrap it up and have a strong close before you say “The End” and close the book. Make sure the audience knows what you want. A job? Millions of dollars? Help? A second chance for a better interview or presentation? Too often, stories just end without any conclusion. Forrest Gump often said, “And that’s all I have to say about that.” Don’t say that.
Stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Constructing your own story shouldn’t be so hard, but it is. Without those three elements your story may not have a happy ending. If you get stuck, refer to The Little Engine that Could or A Bug, A Bear and a Boy Build a Garden.

Stay tuned for the second part of the series.

Careers on the Web

Posted by Richard Moran.

Don’t assume the network of technology will take the place of the network of friends and others who can hire you.
Survey research completed on the web can leave you ecstatic or depressed. Validate like crazy.
Employers really do hire through their web sites.
The personal touch in job hunting doesn’t come from the PC. It happens through your research and interviews.
Remember your password on all web sites, especially those that might generate a job.
The web will not offer you a job but it will offer you incredible opportunities to gather data.
Surfing between career/job hunting web sites and porno web sites will leave you confused.
Expect co-workers to know where you spend your time on the web. If it’s a job hunting site, the implications are clear.
Web sites are almost always secure. Who is looking at your screen over your shoulder is not.
Falsifying your resume on the web is just as bad as falsifying your resume on paper – only faster. Either one can get you fired.
Always expect your resume to be scanned by something other than human eyes. Use brand names and active verbs.
No need to refer potential employers to your personal web page.
Remember that the web is a source of information about you as much as it is a source to discover employers. Look yourself up on the web to see if those arrest records from college are showing up somewhere.
Don’t expect to hear back from employers you contact over the web. If you do, it’s a bonus.
When you give your email address to a potential employer, think about who else might read your email.
Imagine the resources that could be available to you if all search firms and all newspapers posted their openings every day.
Posting confidential data on a career web site is almost always confidential.
Even job searches on the web will eventually require getting dressed up.
Double check the address and attachments before you push the send button. The baby pictures shouldn’t be sent to employers.
Check out any employers’ web site. It will tell you a lot about the organization.
Keep double clicking on employers’ web sites. You might see an empty box on the org chart just for you.

The Car is the new Cubicle

Posted by Richard Moran.

The next time you look out the windshield and look at a sea of cars stuck in traffic, don’t get frustrated. Think of it more as a world of productive people in their workplaces. Yes, we have moved way past the car as the bathroom, a place for brushing teeth, putting on makeup and unmentionable nasal hygiene. The car is the new cubicle. The car is the new workplace.
Don’t believe me? Look out your window and see how many are talking on their cell phone, thumb dancing on their blackberry or making notes on some gizmo attached to the dashboard.
We are spending a lot more time in our cars commuting and just plain driving and we know we need to use that time in ways other than listening to AM radio shock jocks screaming at their callers. As a venture capitalist I visit with entrepreneurs and spend too much time in my car. I am part of the mobility and productivity crowd. We live further from work than ever, the traffic is horrendous and there are only so many times you can listen to those Credence Clearwater old hits so we have the choice –work longer when we get there or use the time productively. We are using the time. This is a good trend. We may not be helping the environment while we sit in the car but it is a step toward cracking that work/life balance conundrum.
Working from home is a great idea on paper; but to many it is a place full of distractions like spouses, children, dogs and soap operas to mention a few. The effective home worker requires discipline, focus and a fast internet connection; factors that don’t always work in conjunction.
A lot of organizations don’t even want you to come in to the office anymore. Big consulting firms like Accenture only have places to sit for a small percentage of their people. In an office of 5000 people, they may only have 300 workspaces. If they all showed up on any given day, it would be chaos. We’ve moved on from cube land as far as the eye can see. We are literally and virtually virtual.
If you work in sales, consulting or in a start-up, like many entrepreneurs I meet, you may not even have any formal office or space. That vehicular vocation box is it, your international headquarters. You have to learn to use the car for calls, meetings, and conference centers.
The automakers all know what is happening. There are 19 million new cars sold in
North America annually and the car makers are filling them with the electronics and connections that can transform our cars into our mobile cubicles, our traveling workplaces, our remote productivity center, our dream or nightmare. You are probably already in the process of making the conversion from auto to mobile work module (MWM) and don’t know it.
Here are a few symptoms:
Are your car windows covered with yellow stickies full of notes and phone numbers?
Is your car console more equipped than your desk and do you make sure it is all set for calls and notes before you turn the ignition?
Is the cup holder and the cigarette lighter the two most prized features of your car?
Is the area behind the passenger seat full of empty Starbucks cups, Mapquest printouts and old PowerPoint presentations?
Do you schedule conference calls for when you know you will be in the car?
Is your radio tuned in to classical or jazz so that you have background music for work instead of classic rock?
Is your car buying or rental decisions based not on the features of the car but on what will be a quiet place to work?
Do you check your blackberry at every red light?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you are one of us, those who look at time spent in the car on the way to work as, well, WORK. Of course this raises a whole set of cosmic questions too complex to imagine like,
“If I am in the service industry like a lawyer or a consultant, should I bill for my time in the car?”
“Do I get overtime pay for working in my car?”
“Can I show up later or leave earlier, since I am working in my car?”
“Can I have meetings in my car?” or,
“Should we hold the annual holiday party in my SUV?”
While we wait for the workplace experts to render opinions about these difficult questions, here are a few tips to make that time in your mobile work unit (MWU) most productive and enjoyable.
Working in the car is not a license to drive without paying attention. Anyone who works in the car has had some brush with bad situations while talking about net income or headcount. You know who you are. Never, under any circumstance let mobile productivity get in the way of good driving.
Stay out of the fast lane while working in your car. You may make bad decisions on several fronts.
Eating in your car while working in your car is a really bad combination – a broken burrito in your lap, poor work decisions and danger.
The GPS is your friend. It allows you to work without paying attention to directions. The chances of getting you to your designated location are 50/50 but at least some work was done.
Everyone seems to be talking to themselves in cars because of the hands-free laws, you can too. In fact, sing your heart out with no embarrassment, no one will know.
Know where cell phone dead areas are and use them to your advantage.
The mute button is the most important feature on your cell phone while in the car.
Just like your cubicle, the car can become your workplace closet with a change of shirts, ties for when you drip lunch on them while eating and driving.
Buy into Fastrack or any other transponder that will allow you to cruise through the tolls. It is impossible to fish for quarters while on a conference call.
Automatic transmissions. Repeat, automatic transmissions.
We know that over 40% of all SUV’s have media centers built in. As a venture capital firm we are seeing deals that include some exciting ideas for cars, including: Built-in WiFi and networking systems; car2carcommunications; streaming video in cars and every bell and whistle you can imagine. Pretty soon we won’t need an office or a house, everything will be in the car.
There are 210 million vehicles on the road in the US. I bet that 80% of those cars are mobile work centers. Let’s be productive and Safe please.