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Talent Management

Lessons In Entrepreneurship: 7 Points To Consider Before Launching

At some point in your career you may be there, a forked path in front of you. You’ll ponder your options. You’ll reflect on your career up until that point. Past decisions, advice from mentors, missteps, wins. You’ll gaze ahead, unsure of where to turn.

Choose left, and find a comfortable path. This path leads you down a familiar road. It’s known, it’s safe, and it’s a path with little risk.

Choose right, and find uncertainty. This path is full of unknowns. There is no guarantee and no assurance about what lies ahead. It’s scary. It’s murky. It could be a huge mistake.

This is the crossroads of an entrepreneur. At some point, the draw to make that right turn grabs you and you can’t shake it free.

I found myself facing this choice towards the end of 2013, after staring at this fork for a year. I pondered, I sought advice, and I analyzed and modeled. I wrote a business plan full of buzzwords in a five-hour caffeine fueled cross-country flight “Jerry Maguire moment” that’s never been shared. It was terrible.

Choose right was where I eventually landed. In the end, it wasn’t that difficult of a choice. I was ready for a change. I spent a year contemplating this move. I was fortunate to have two great clients lined up. I had a supportive wife who encouraged me and supported this transition. The risk was there, but I believed deeply I could build something.

I’m now six months in and have no regrets, but its not all frequent flyer miles and travel meals. There are times working for yourself is hard. Really hard. There’s also a tremendous sense of satisfaction when you deliver great results to your clients, sign that deal, and realize you might be on your way to building something special.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Be ready to hustle.

There’s a romantic notion around self-employment that your hours are yours, and you have complete flexibility when you work. It’s a myth.

When I pondered my path to entrepreneurship I often wondered if I had it in me. I’ve held a job since I was 14 years old. I used to knock on doors throughout my neighborhood when I was ten, offering to do odd jobs for money. In middle school I rode my bike twelve miles to a convenient store to buy candy, which I re-sold at school to fund my G.I. Joe habit.

That experience taught me lessons that carried over to my current endeavor. Most importantly work ethic (my dad gets a lot of credit there) and a drive to do great work that leads to loyalty and repeat business. In short, when you’re bootstrapping your own company, you better be prepared to work your ass off.

Be prepared to work even harder at home.

If you have a spouse or family, you may struggle to find your balance. Because you have the work hustle above, you’re going to want to pour all your energy into building this new business of yours. Be careful. While the business requires your attention, your family does too. You need a supportive family to make it as an entrepreneur, but more importantly, you have to learn where to set boundaries so that you’re present for them.

If you’re married, keep in mind your spouse is making a huge sacrifice for you to pursue this dream. Your new job might require you to travel more. That puts a huge burden on your family. Don’t underestimate that. You may be pursuing this path to provide more long-term financial security for your family, but be sure you don’t lose sight of short-term needs. I have to admit I really struggled with this in the first few months.

Find mentors and listen to them.

My friend Laurie Ruettimann regularly offered me great advice as I stared at that fork in the road. Yes, working for yourself is liberating. Things that aren’t liberating? Chasing clients for payments, spending a day Googling why your email client isn’t working, bookkeeping, etc.

Mentors keep you grounded, and help you realize the good and bad. Particularly, not to get so caught up in the romantic notion of being an entrepreneur that you’re blinded to the less exciting aspects of building a business.

Be flexible.

No matter how well thought out your business model is, be prepared for it to evolve in the first year. Even the best laid business plans might need to pivot as opportunities present themselves.

Entrepreneurship is about creating opportunity at the intersection of demand & skill (among other things). These are both fluid lines intersecting at random times. Be nimble, and be ready to change your focus and shift your plans to seize those opportunities.

I realize this lesson isn’t universal. There are much more accomplished entrepreneurs who champion laser-like focus. However, this is what I’ve experienced firsthand in my journey.

Help others, but be mindful of your time.

This one is a bit tricky. When you’re building a business, time is precious. Most entrepreneurs pursue that path because they have identified professional skills where they excel. Clients pay a premium for this expertise. Any time you spend away from focusing on your clients has a real opportunity cost, and ultimately monetary impact.

This has been a bit of a struggle for me. While I want to share insights and help others in my field, I have to ‘vet the ask’ a bit to make sure the time commitment is manageable.

Want a 15 minutes Skype chat, or input on a quick email? Done. Meeting for coffee an hour away from my house? That’s a three-hour investment that really impacts my day. Entrepreneurs need to manage their time closely.

Find time for wellness.

When you’re not traveling and meeting clients, you’re typically in a home office for hours at a time. That’s a rather sedentary life. I find I have to remind myself to get up and get active. I think it’s helpful to have a rhythm or routine around your activity. Whether it’s exercise, practicing mindfulness, or just getting out for a walk. It’s important to schedule and make time for yourself.

I recently bought a standing desk. We’ll see how that works out.

You don’t have to start a business to be an entrepreneur.

This is something I explored for years before actually leaving a full-time job to launch . I’m a huge supporter of intrapreneurship. While only a small handful of companies have established programs, you can usually find entrepreneurial outlets even within traditional corporate organizations.

Find a project within your company. Join a non-profit board or volunteer. There are ways to begin gaining exposure to the different aspects of building a business without leaving the stability of your full-time paycheck. The more of this experience you gain, the more you’ll be prepared to choose which path if and when you reach that fork in the road.

These are some of my personal learnings six months into building a new business. Have you followed an entrepreneurial path? If so, please share your learnings in the comments below.

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Recruiting

A Tale Of Two Entrepreneurs

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The other week I had an opportunity to chat with a friend of mine, Leela Sreenivasan from LinkedIn, about my thought process in deciding to leave the corporate world and launch a new business. She was working on a blog post for the LinkedIn Talent Blog and gathering thoughts from me and a fellow new entrepreneur from the talent world, Kara Yarnot (@klyarnot).

In reading the post, I was struck by the similarities between Kara and my paths to starting a business. Both of us had great full-time roles we enjoyed. Both of our moves were triggered in some way by internal drivers within our organizations. We both cited the influence and impact of our networks in supporting our decisions. We also shared the same sentiment about what we felt we’d miss most in making this decision – leading and mentoring teams. The similarities were quite interesting.

Kara’s company, Meritage Talent Solutions, was launched to “disrupt the talent acquisition process and marketplace by providing a blend of solutions to impact the way companies acquire talent”. She has the experience and vision to make a big impact in our space. I look forward to watching Kara and Meritage’s growth.

You can read more about Kara and my views on launching a new business in the original post below.

Have you ever considered striking out on your own? If you think you’re ready to climb out of the corporate recruiting trenches and advise your peers, read on.

In the last several months, two of my favorite corporate talent acquisition leaders stepped away from high-profile corporate roles to launch their own consulting firms. First Kara Yarnot, who previously ran the Talent Acquisition Center of Excellence for Fortune 500 company SAIC, resigned and launched Meritage Talent Solutions. Then Lars Schmidt gave up his Senior Director role at NPR to focus on his new business, Amplify Talent.

In speaking to both, I identified certain commonalities in their stories (beyond, coincidentally, both of them living in the Washington DC metro area).  As they struck out on their own, our protagonists each had the following 5 things going for them:

1. The sudden impetus to go out and do it.

Both Kara and Lars were sitting pretty in their previous jobs – until a business shift made them rethink their careers. In Kara’s case, SAIC split into two separate companies, heralding change for the Talent Acquisition function. And while Lars had been mulling over the opportunity for a while, the catalyst was the departure of his VP HR and the resulting team re-alignment.

2. A powerful and extensive network.

Kara and Lars assert that who they know will be vital to their success. “Our community is incredibly supportive, even to those of us who ‘change sides’,” said Kara. “I have a large number of connections that have given me advice, sent me leads, reviewed my marketing materials and challenged my business model.  I will be forever grateful for all of the advice and counsel.”

Lars agrees that “If you’ve worked hard to cultivate a network, they will be there for you.” For him, launching the business “really reinforced to me how important relationships are – a core learning for any new entrepreneur.”

3. Determination and know-how to drive wholesale change.

Whether you work in Talent Acquisition or any other function, change management is not for the faint-hearted. But apparently it’s something that both Kara and Lars run towards, not flee from. Before launching her firm, Kara did explore other more mainstream careers, “to be sure that other corporate opportunities weren’t going to meet my need for regular change and disruption.”  When they didn’t, Meritage Talent Solutions was born. Having heard her speak with authority on the power of pilots and working on ‘small, manageable chunks’ to make change stick, I know she embraces that challenge.

Similarly, Lars notes how “most recruiting teams today are so heads-down with their requisition loads that they have a hard time thinking differently about how to engage and attract talent.” If your recruiting organization is ‘bogged down in transaction mode’ and needs help thinking differently, Lars says he’s your man.

You can read the rest of the post, 5 Things You Need to Form Your Own Talent Acquisition Consulting Shop, on the LinkedIn Talent blog.

Recruiting

How To Design A Corporate Recruiting Calling Card

Recruiting is no longer a subset function of the HR team. The key to competing in today’s global talent market is engaging your colleagues to help with your recruiting efforts. Networking, branding, conferences, referrals – all are key components of a successful recruiting strategy.

As a talent leader at a non-profit with limited resources, this has been an important factor for our recruiting team. We’re constantly exploring new ways to engage our colleagues, and make it easy for them to contribute to NPR’s collective talent scouting efforts.

You never know when you might meet your next co-worker – conferences, meet-ups, coffee, PTA meeting, wherever. We wanted to develop an easy way for our colleagues to connect prospects with our various recruiting channels. That led us to create the ‘recruiting calling card’ below. It’s a business card-size summary of many of our key recruiting channels.

NPR Recruiting Calling Card

NPR Recruiting Calling Card

Continue reading

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Recruiting

The War On The ‘War For Talent’

War For Talent

I have to get something off my chest. The term ‘war for talent’ is bullshit. It’s a tired idiom that’s been used and abused in recruiting vernacular for over a decade. It’s time for it to be retired.

Have you Googled the term?

202MM results. I’m not kidding. The term even has it’s own wikipedia page. It’s been attributed to Steve Hankin from McKinsey who coined the phrase in 1997. That was during the heydey of the first dot com boom. I suppose it was clever at the time, and I’m sure it earned him a few high fives from his fellow consultants.

I remember recruiting in 1998, working with clients like eToys who would hire and relocate technical talent based on a phone screen. It was a highly competitive market and you had to move fast if you wanted to compete – but it wasn’t a war. The tech hiring market is almost as competitive now. It’s still not a war.

The ‘War For Talent’ is everywhere

Books, conferences, across the pond, in healthcare, being taken on by CEOs, even searching for beasts?! Just when you think the white flags are out and it might be getting better, ‘McKinsey Predicts The War For Talent Will Go Nuts By 2020′. NUTS! We’re all screwed.

The good news is that some of my colleagues get it, and are doing their part to stop the madness. See Lance Haun’s, “Lay Down Your Arms: There Is No War For Talent“.

Rather than vent about the problem, let’s find a solution

Let’s put our collective brains together and come up with something new and snappy for our recruiting, HR, and marketing friends to use. I’ll get it started…

    • Hiring, Get Some!
    • The Highly Competitive Market For Acquiring Skilled Labor
    • Take Your Company To Hire Ground
    • My Hire Is Higher Than Your Hire
    • Yo Quiero Talent
    • Your Development Team Is Quite Extraordinary, We Will Take Them Now
    • Or you can get defensive: This Is Not The Talent You’ve Been Looking For

Have a substitute for ‘War For Talent’? Leave a comment and share them.

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Job Search

Handshakes To High Fives: A UK Ex-Pat’s Journey To The US

The following post is a guest blog post from a friend and former colleague – Sue Dickinson. In the post below, she shares her journey as a UK ex-pat transitioning to the US, and what she learned along the way.

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“HEADQUARTERED IN WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA.” These words flashed in front of my eyes, in letters the size of the Hollywood sign. I knew as soon as I saw the job description for the role of HR Advisor with Ticketmaster UK, that not only did I need to get this job, I also had to find a way to make my lifelong dream of living in the United States of America come true.

After a nerve-wracking interview I accomplished part one of my plan, I got the job. Over the next four years I worked hard to build a successful Human Resources team at Ticketmaster’s Contact Center in Manchester, England. I raised my profile internationally by volunteering for global projects, gained credibility, built relationships with key leaders, and four years later was given the opportunity I dreamed about – a new role as Senior Manager of Human Resources with the corporate HR team in Los Angeles. I couldn’t have been more excited, and was ready to pack up and leave rainy Manchester for sunny California to start this new chapter in my life. Continue reading

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Recruiting

Are You (Candidate) Experienced?

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There has been a lot of buzz in the recruiting space this year about candidate experience. This is a good thing. Every interaction an employer has with a prospect, good or bad, can send ripples into the marketplace and shape perceptions about that organization.

In many companies, candidate experience is a low priority on their talent strategy list. These organizations are missing the mark – earning reputations as employers who are lazy at best, arrogant and disrespectful at worse.  Continue reading

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Recruiting

Most Job Descriptions Suck. This One Does Not.

Update: a friend of mine, Susan LaMotte, commented below inquiring what sucks about this job. My first response was that as a non-profit, resources are limited. Unfortunately that point was reinforced today, and this position was put on hold – dreaded words for recruiters. So, for the time being this job is on the shelf. I met some great like-minded recruiters over the last month, learned how to create inforgraphic job descriptions, and had some great discussions and feedback on this post – so grateful for all of that. This post can now stand as a window into my personal views and perspectives on what it takes to be a successful recruiter in today’s market.

This is not your typical recruiting job. I’m looking for a progressive recruiter to partner with our team to lead and drive best-in-class recruiting and talent strategies at NPR. This infographic provides an overview of key areas of focus, the full job description below goes into much more details (it’s lengthy, but it’s worth it).

This Is Not Your Typical Recruiting Job

This is the job for you, if…

  • You’re a pioneer; a progressive, hands-on, roll-up-the-sleeves recruiter who would be successful with a landline and a phonebook if the Internet died tomorrow. You’re a natural networker who’s comfortable interacting at all levels – able to simultaneously woo the Executive Producer of a major newsmagazine while helping an intern with her resume. You understand how to leverage social media to expand your network, maintain relationships, and satisfy your unquenchable thirst for lifelong learning (and perhaps your penchant for cat videos and internet memes).
  • Solving big, complex problems excites you. The challenge of figuring something out sparks your competitive instinct. (We’re a not-for-profit, so scrappy resourcefulness and creativity is essential.) You cringe at the thought of reactive recruiting. You’re a team player who proactively shares your knowledge and expertise with coworkers. You have vision, not for what we can be tomorrow, but what might be five years from now; and you have the insight and expertise needed to help guide NPR toward that vision.
  • You’re driven to work at one of the premier multi-media news organizations in the world. The mission of creating a more informed public resonates with you, and you’re inspired and motivated to play a vital role in the hiring, retention, and development of a world-class NPR staff. Continue reading
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Recruiting

Things I’m Looking Forward To In My First LinkedIn Talent Connect (#InTalent)

I’m writing this at 30,000 feet as I’m on my way to Las Vegas for LinkedIn’s annual global user conference, Talent Connect. I’ll admit, I’m a LinkedIn homer, and a devoted fan since I joined in February of 2005.

I admired their strategy to build market share and focus on becoming the de facto professional social network, before looking for more way to monetize their site and offerings. I’m a tech geek with an affinity towards mobile apps, and LinkedIn has strong iOS offerings that really provide a lot of value for recruiters. The Outlook calendar integration in particular, and tools like CardMunch, are huge time savers with practical use for mobile recruiters.

Today’s recruiters have to be mobile, engaging the populations where their organizations recruit, and evangelizing for their companies at every opportunity. These are some of the benefits LinkedIn provides that I mentioned in a contribution to George Anders recent Forbes cover story on LinkedIn.

So, yes, I’m a fan. What am I looking forward to over the next three days in Las Vegas? Continue reading