Over at the American Express Open Forum blog I posted an article called “Literature and Narrative Management.” According to the New York Times, hospitals are incorporating the study of literature into residency programs because it leads to greater innovation, empathy, and communication. My theory is the same would hold true for business.
Pontificating, theorizing, and terrorizing abounds these days in tech startups. Here is a simple test to help you figure out if the startup you work for is in trouble. All you have to do is listen to your CEO talk to people for a week and determine if she uses these lines.
“Let me tell you why the Sequoia memo really doesn’t apply to us.”
“Our team is totally engaged and believe in the company.”
“Our market is so large that a 20 percent reduction won’t matter to us.”
“We aren’t changing our long-term strategy because this is a short-term problem.”
“It’s still too early to tell if we’ll be affected.”
“The sales pipeline that we’ve already booked is still strong.”
“The start of sales results is just around the corner.”
“We can accelerate revenue with a few tweaks to our product.”
“We can reduce expenses without affecting headcount.”
“Our investors are totally engaged and believe in the company.”
“We think we can raise another round right after the holidays.”
“We heard that our competitors are in trouble, but we’ve been more conservative with expenses.”
“We have twelve months of cash even with our most conservative sales forecast.”
“In these times, (Some Big Company) needs what we offer to increase sales.”
“In these times, (Some Big Company) needs what we offer to reduce costs.”
“We’ve built an extremely viral product so we can reduce our sales and marketing expenses.”
0-3. You’re good for at least a year, and there is a healthy level of optimism and delusion (both of which are required in startup CEOs).
4-8. Unless things turn around, your company will hit the wall in nine months.
9-12. Six months is about how long it will take to find a job so start looking now.
12 or more. Fire up Word and get your resume ready.
These are interesting times, and you should understand that many people can tell you how to cut costs. That’s fine and dandy, but the true test is whether you can increase sales and increase cash flow not layoff people to success.
To help your CEO, suggest that he or she go here for leadership help and here for financial news.
Additions from the front line:
“We fired out sales team, but our upcoming Facebook app will drive sales.” (Peter Urban)
The experts are promulgating many esoteric ways to determine the financial condition of the economy. It's irrational to base one's mood on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). After all, (a) what does that have to do with the real world? And (b) it reflects the buying (and selling) decisions of the same investment bankers who got us into this mess.
Instead, here are my ten+ ways--GIA (Guy's Index of Absurdity)--to tell if the economy is really bad:
Venture capitalists attend board meetings via WebEx rather than Gulfstream.
Over at the American Express blog I explain how to tell if your boss is crazy based on the work of Mindsite to DSM-IV-TR bring to the rest of us. If you suspect that you work for a narcissistic, paranoid, obssessive-compulsive, anti-social nut case, click here to learn more. Related resources: "Is Your Boss an Asshole?" and Psychology.alltop.
Those who believe they were born with all the smarts and gifts they’re ever going to have approach life with what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” Those who believe that their own abilities can expand over time, however, live with a “growth mind-set.”
If you're interested in her work, I wrote about her twice before. Click here for a video and here for a review of her book.
Tell people where they'll go next. No one works at one company forever, so if you can show how a candidate can get ready for a career leap, you'll make your company attractive.
Use your public relations team to prop up the manager. By this Penelope means that you should advertise that the job reports to a cool/great/influential manager. (Hopefully, this is true.)
Get some respect for speciality recruiters. Good employees develop loyalty to recruiters. These recruiters place the same candidate in ever better jobs. Ergo, make nice with recruiters.
Advertise in niche communities. Here's an example: Want to catch women as they return to the workplace after child raising? Duh, advertise in mommy blogs via Blogher.
Leverage social media. There's no doubt in my mind, for example, that you can recruit using Twitter. You can do a lot with 140 characters if you know what you're doing. If you want a quick introduction to the best of Twitter, click here. Just being on social media sites says something about your company.
If you're having problems getting great candidates, be sure to read Penelope's counterintuitive ideas before you conduct the next interview. Remember: recruiting is one of the purest forms of evangelism because you are truly "bringing the good news" about working at a company.