INTUITION—USE IN DECISION MAKING?

One of the big questions about decision making is the intuition versus science balance: how much should you go with your gut and how much should you depend on information that has been gathered systematically? My answer is that intuition should be used as often as possible. I’m well aware that there are many people who feel that “your gut” is the same thing as “your emotions” and therefore should not to be trusted. But it seems to me that if you’re working in a realm you’ve very familiar with, your gut is based on the sum total of your past experiences. If you’re driving down a road in a city where you’ve never been before, you haven’t looked at the map in the glove compartment, and there are no landmarks with which to orient yourself, then your intuition about which direction to head in is probably worth very little.

By contrast, if you’re on your own turf, your intuition is worth a lot. It may not be something you can articulate as a rational process, but it’s definitely a tool you should use. So, if you’ve got a lot of experience, trust your gut more. And if you’ve got a lot of time—and some resources—try to adopt a systematic approach to the decision at hand.

The decision deadline is a factor in the intuition versus science approach. With lots of time, the balance shifts towards a more systematic, thorough study approach. With less time, I would rather rely on intuition rather than lose an opportunity. Of course, if the opportunity fails and can put your company out of business, I would want more than intuition at play. . .but don’t downplay the value of intuition, particularly in an experienced person.

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TROUBLE GETTING AN APPOINTMENT ?

I loved reading the below Media Life Magazine article on a smart way to find a job. I have reproduced it in its entirety
as I believe it applies equally to securing a hard to get appointment in your sales effort.
Happy Selling!
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Now here’s a smart way to find a job – Target a Google ad at the person you want to hire you

By Diego Vasquez
Jun 15, 2010

It’s the time of year when thousands of recent college graduates are searching for their first job in media, hoping to find some way to stand out in a crowded field. They could learn a lesson from Alec Brownstein. The 29-year-old from New York City was looking for a way to get his resume in front of some top agency creative directors when he flashed on an idea: Why not buy a Google ad targeting them by name? Whether we like to admit it or not, everyone Googles themselves. The next time they did so, they found an ad addressing them by name and stating why Brownstein would be the perfect hire. He bought the ad last summer and by January had a new job as a senior copywriter at Young & Rubicam, the agency he targeted in his search. Though recent graduates are often warned not to use gimmicks in their job search, this particular gimmick worked because Brownstein was also showing his future bosses his smarts: He knows how good media works. Brownstein talks to Media Life about how inspiration struck, why it cost so little to execute, and why the scheme worked.

How did you come up with this idea? How long did you kick it around before deciding to go ahead with it, and where were you employed before?

I decided that I wanted to work at Young & Rubicam in New York, for some of the most creative creative directors in the business.  I was doing a bit of research about them, on Google of course, and I noticed that no sponsored links appeared when you Googled their names.

As someone who Googles myself, shall we say, frequently, I realized that if someone were to take out an ad above my results, I would notice it.  So that’s what I did.

I didn’t kick around the idea for long before implementing it.  I think I executed the idea the same day that I thought it up.  I was employed at the time, but at a much less creative agency.

How did you decide who to target with the ad?

I identified the creative directors whose work I most admired and respected. These were the guys who I thought I could learn the most from, so I targeted them.

Take us through the process — how much did the ad cost, what did it say, how long did it run, etc.

Since nobody else was bidding on these names as search terms, I was able to get the top spot for a bid of 15 cents per click.  I only paid per click, but I put a cap of $1 per day, per ad, just in case.

The ad said, “Hey, _____________.  Googling yourself is a lot of fun.  Hiring me is fun, too.” The ad then linked to my online portfolio. I believe that the ads ran for about six weeks before I started getting responses. The total cost for the entire campaign was less than $6.

Did you hear from all the people you targeted? How many interviews did you get?

I heard from four of the five creative directors that I targeted.  I interviewed with all four of them and received a job offer from two of them.

Was anyone embarrassed to be discovered Googling themselves?

Interestingly enough, they all said that someone else had Googled them and told them about it.

People are sometimes advised not to do gimmicky things, like sending resumes on pink paper or sending HR people gifts to stand out. Why do you think this gimmick worked? How much of it has to do with the fact that advertising is an industry based on creativity?

I believe that the Google Job Experiment worked because the entire idea was predicated upon the thing which I was asking them to hire me to do. That is, to create a successful ad.

It was certainly a stunt, but different in its thinking than, say, sending a resume on pink paper. My exact execution was probably best for the advertising industry, but I believe that there is room for creativity in any job search. The key is to come up with that creative idea that says more than just, “Look at me!” but says, “Look at me, I’m quite good at __________.”

How much media attention have you gotten for all of this? Have you enjoyed it, or is it getting to be a distraction?

The media attention has been amazing. I’ve been on/in news shows, magazines, blogs, trade publications, radio, etc.  It’s died down quite a bit, so it’s not really a distraction for me. I have enjoyed it, though.

Now that you’ve used this method to get a job, how will you go about getting a raise?

Good question. Perhaps I’ll figure out a dollar value for all the free press that I’ve gotten for the agency and then ask for that.

Or I could do it the old fashioned way: hard work.  Maybe I’ll try both.

Managing Your Numbers Is Essential for Growth

This is my June column in Entrepreneur.

It takes more than quarterly meetings with your accountant to know what is going on.

Do you want to do everything you possibly can to ensure the survival and growth of your company? Of course you do. Well, one of the most essential skills that you can bring to your company is understanding, tracking, and using certain numbers.

This numeracy–thinking in numbers–is a vital, vital skill.

Let me explain. In my experience, far too many people feel that they aren’t good at math, or didn’t take accounting, or whatever. Using this as an excuse, they hire someone else to watch the numbers for them. This is two mistakes in one. First, they’re selling themselves short. Anybody can work with numbers, and the kind of number-tracking I’m talking about requires no advanced mathematical training or professional degree. Second, there’s no substitute for you in this process. Nobody else out there is as motivated as you are to get the numbers working on behalf of your business.

Yes, your accountant can prepare your P&L statements, tax returns, and balance sheet and offer certain kinds of advice based on rules-of-thumb and industry norms. (By the way, an accountant with lots of experience working with companies like yours can be a gold mine of comparative information.) But you simply can’t count on quarterly meetings with your accountant. In order to run your company properly, and dramatically reduce your risk of failure, you need to get access to certain numbers quickly, and use those numbers effectively.

Here are the numbers you should have at your fingertips:

  • a snapshot of the company,
  • cash flow statements that are regularly updated,
  • cost analysis of your product(s),
  • break-even analyses, both for the company overall and for each new product.

Here I will only discuss the snapshot of the company. My goal is to get you comfortable with these numbers–by which I don’t simply mean that you’ll be able to generate them, but that you’ll understand them and be able to adapt and use them effectively. In general, my prescription is, know and love these numbers! Note, I am not saying you have to prepare the snapshot yourself. When you’re small, you can have your accountant or bookkeeper prepare them for you; and if your company grows to the point that you can afford a chief financial officer, then he/she will take responsibility for preparing the numbers.

I call the following chart the Company Snapshot because I want to convey the idea that it’s quick to read and absorb. I’ve done it weekly because that’s been the interval that’s proven most helpful to me in my businesses. One manufacturing company I’ve worked with does a similar report daily. Depending on the nature of your business, you might find a bi-weekly report adequate, particularly during slow seasons. In certain situations–for example, where your company is temporarily flush with cash–you may decide that a monthly snapshot is adequate. But you can’t make that decision until you understand the snapshot, and how your company performs against that snapshot. So my advice is start weekly, and adjust as necessary.

The snapshot is meant to be simple. It’s meant to be easy to prepare–your secretary or bookkeeper should be able to do it–and able to be digested by you in no more than five minutes. Depending on the specifics of your business, you may want to add or subtract categories from the following exhibit. You might also want to use comparatives from a prior period. Just remember: Keep it simple.

Company Snapshot

Current assets: ______________________
Cash, reg: ______________________
Liquid assets: ______________________
Receivables: ______________________
Other: ______________________

Total: ______________________
Inventory (if a product company): ______________________
Finished:    ______________________
Component:   ______________________

Total: ______________________

Current liabilities: ______________________
Payables: ______________________
Misc: ______________________
Accrued commissions: ______________________
Accrued royalties: ______________________

Total: ______________________

Fixed monthly expenses: ______________________

Loans outstanding: ______________________
Monthly sales to date: ______________________
Yearly sales to date: ______________________
Future orders to ship: ______________________
Open purchase orders: ______________________
The point of this report is to get the quickest possible handle on key aspects of your company’s operation, such as:

  • Do I have enough cash to pay my bills? (You may notice that you’re cash challenged because your fixed monthly expenses seem to be too high. This should trigger you to start thinking about cutting some expenses or converting some to variable expenses.)
  • Are my receivables running too high? (If so, is it because payments are running late? Or is it because my credit-checking system has fallen apart, and we’re selling more non-credit-worthy customers?)
  • Do I have enough inventory to handle future demand? (A caveat: This report can’t tell you if you have the inventory in the right categories; only a detailed inventory report can tell you that.)
  • Have we overcommitted ourselves in terms of inventory? (Most companies hit this stumbling block sooner or later. If your inventory figure is too high, it’s a signal that you need to get the kind of detailed report that would let you take the right immediate action–such as canceling existing product orders, heading off the placement of future orders, putting certain items on sale, or closing out certain items.)
  • Are my sales on target as to projections? If not, why and what corrective actions need to be initiated?

Starting and growing a business can have you in chasing-your-tail mode with not enough time in the day to do everything. While you deal with this syndrome, you must always keep an eye on your numbers. This snapshot is meant to help you do so in a minimum amount of time. It will help you prevent crises by spotting them before they materialize. Most business failures are attributed to running out of cash. Let’s avoid that.

Energy – An Important Entrepreneurial Attribute

One thing I’ve noticed, in my conversations with entrepreneurs over the years, is the incredibly high energy levels most of them possess. It would be interesting to find out whether they’ve always been that way, or whether they started working at higher energy levels as the amount of fun and reward in their lives began to increase after they started their own business.

I’m convinced that, within reason, physical activity generates more energy than it consumes. All the years when I was on the road, I made a point of working out almost every day. (This was back in the days before running became popular, and I used to attract some interesting looks from hotel guests as they encountered this character running around the periphery of the parking lot in the dark.) Physical exertion makes you sleep better and think better, and may permit you to sleep fewer hours with no ill effects. And the more stress you’re under, the more you will benefit from exercise.

I remember when a Goldman Sachs partner, Connie Duckworth, gave an informal talk at my kids’ school a number of years ago. (The talk was sponsored by Dare to Dream, a foundation headed by my wife, Grace, that tries to inspire girls and young women to aspire to high professional achievement.) Duckworth was telling her young audience about her schedule, which might best be described as murderous. At the time she had three children (ages one, two, and five), worked a million hours a week, and had no free time. But she treasured her exercise. Her solution? To work out at 4:00 a.m. three or four times a week. Duckworth was performing at a high energy level!

You will have to do the same. Think about it: The engine that makes your small business go is you. So take care of your engine. Give it a proper physical regimen and diet, which is very important and usually overlooked. Read a book, get a video, put an exercise machine in your home or office, go to classes, hire a trainer—whatever it takes to get into the habit. But above all, use common sense. And don’t let yourself say that you don’t have enough time. Make exercise a priority, and you’ll be paid back with increased efficiency, and a good shot at a longer and more satisfying life.

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