Moving to where the jobs are

Formation Flying
Creative Commons License photo credit: Koshyk

In today’s guest post from Forbes, an interactive map showing where people are moving to and from, county by county across the US.

Thanks to @BeckyMcCray for sharing it with me.

Lost it all? Here’s how he came back


Today’s guest post is an interview with James Altucher, who had it all after selling his internet-based business.

Shortly thereafter, he lost it all during the dot com bust in 2001-2002.

The video above tells the story on what he did to turn his business fortunes around.

He used software as a means, but the key is the thought process. Worth a listen (6 minutes).

How not to be a survivalist

Coast Guard 47' Motor Lifeboat in Morro Bay, CA 04 Dec 2007
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikebaird

I really try to avoid talking about survival.

I avoid it because think it’s the wrong target.

Focusing on “just surviving” places your business in a risky position.

A bad month or a consecutive series of just two or three bad months can shift many businesses from a survival position to just-plain-closed. I don’t think I have to explain how that will ripple out to your family, your employees and their families.

Not a good thing.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of folks out there working hard every day to make sure their business survives, and I’d be the last person to criticize them for that.

What I would suggest is that those folks focus on what has to be done for their business to thrive, since survival tasks are usually a subset of the “do this to thrive” list. We talked about the “Stop Doing” list yesterday, so I won’t revisit that.

Focused on … what?

Let’s talk about a few other things to examine when trying to transition from a survival thought process to one focused on thriving.

What’s the biggest problem your customers have that you aren’t doing anything to solve? Why is that?

Are you teaching your clients/prospects the one thing your business does that would make the biggest difference in their lives? If not, why not?

What would your customers buy from you – that they rarely buy now – if they only knew how much it would help them. Why don’t they know? What are you doing to educate them about it? What should you add to the education/sales process?

Are there markets you don’t yet serve with your existing products and services? Are the markets you serve now in need of products or services that would compliment your existing products and services?

Ask yourself “Who needs you the most?” Ask your best customers which of their friends could benefit from what they get from you – not so much as a referral, but as a hint about a market you might not have thought of.

What’s the one question that when *answered correctly for your product* always results in a sale with a business client? And once you know that question… how can you get them to ask it? Or can you ask it yourself? You already know the question…if it isn’t already the focus of your sales process, why is that?

What local business in your area is in the most trouble due to the economy? What can your business do to help them and their clientele? If a business you knew of has already closed, is there something you do that can pick up their slack?

For that matter, is there a marginal performer who isn’t serving their market well that might benefit from merging with (and learning from) you? If there’s an upside there, it might benefit you to look around.

Have you talked with your competitors lately? “Heaven forbid”, right? Maybe they’re ready to retire and this economy is the excuse they need? Don’t have the cash to buy them out? Work out a deal that lets you both win.

In other words, look around with eyes that don’t have any sort of preconceived notion.

Ask yourself “What can my company be?”, and then step on the gas.

Do you offer a recession anxiety warranty?

Fed Up
Creative Commons License photo credit: Furryscaly

Remember the outrageous 7/70 bumper-to-bumper warranty Chrysler introduced back in the early 1980s when they introduced K-cars?

At the time, Chrysler’s quality problems were front and center reasons to avoid buying their cars. Likewise, major car manufacturers limited long-term warranty coverage to the engine and powertrain (ie: transmission, axles and such).

Iacocca came up with the “outrageous” warranty to get people past the quality question so they would  give Chrysler’s cars a chance. He knew the warranty was only good to get them INTO the cars – they’d have to meet their quality goals or that warranty would bankrupt them.

High Anxiety

While the warranty was a big change for car owners, the main purpose was to provide a little anxiety release. To get you to realize that Chrysler’s quality had changed, so much so that they were willing to cover *everything*, and thus, you could trust them to buy their vehicles.

Obviously, it worked. The K-cars saved Chrysler (for the time being, at least) and they paid back the then-controversial billion dollar loan (guaranteed by Congress) in 3 years, rather than the required 10.

It should be noted that Iacocca says much of the reason to pay the loan off quickly was to get the Feds out of his business. No question there is lots of controversy about the 1979 bailout / loan guarantee and the terms that went with it, but that isn’t the topic of the day.

Fast forward to today – when you wouldn’t dream of buying a car without a very-long-term bumper-to-bumper warranty.

So what does your business do in an environment of high buyer anxiety?

Remove the anxiety

Hopefully the obvious answer is to remove it.

Back in the Granite Bear days, we found some buyer anxiety issues cropping up. The few people who would ask for a refund would do so right at the deadline date. In almost every case, we found that those were also the folks who hadn’t started using the software yet. They were worried they’d be stuck with it and having not tried it, the obvious thing to do was ask for a refund.

One of our solutions was to extend our 30 day money-back guarantee to 60 day and then to a whole year. As I’ve noted before, some people thought we were nuts and would give back tons of refunds on day 364, but that ignores the reason people bought business management software in the first place – to manage their business and save them time. Who in their right mind would invest a year into integrating software into their business (and vice versa) and then toss it out the door on a specific day? That’s nuts.

In our case, we knew that if they really *used* it for a year, they’d never ask for their money back. We were right and it made a huge difference in sales, despite seeming like an insane thing to do. Our upfront costs of sales and implementation were mostly buried by day 30 (and definitely by day 60), so it made no difference whether we gave back the software on day 60 or day 364.

We also implemented other things that got them moving right away – another guarantee. Do you have specific guarantees for different parts of your business?

Recessionary buybacks

Recently, you’ve seen a number of major car companies offer to buy your car back if you lose your job – and that’s after they make several months of payments for you.

Hyundai started it and several other manufacturers felt the pressure to follow suit.

As I hear it, one very dark economic area’s local Hyundai dealer had their best weekend *ever* after corporate started offering these deals.

Something else that tells you about people in a recession: They aren’t all broke. If the buyback changed car buying behavior of a large group of people – did it also put a bunch of money in their pocket?

Of course not. Clearly they had the ability (and desire) to buy, but their anxiety about the future kept them from buying.

Your turn

In my case, I guarantee my marketing / strategic planning work.

Some people suggest that I’m nuts to do that. I might be nuts, but that has little to do with the fact that I’ve never been asked for a refund.

Meanwhile, it’s a huge differentiating factor because almost no other consultant guarantees their work. They either don’t have the confidence in their work, or the gumption to hang that guarantee out there – likely for fear that someone will use it. Maybe that even tells you something about the work product they provide from a strategic perspective.

Someday, someone might ask for a refund. Even if they do, it’s a great anxiety reliever for every other client – regardless of the economy.

What are you doing to take your clients’ anxiety off the table (or reduce it substantially) and get them from thinking to taking action/buying?

Is it the recession or is it you?

Normally I don’t do two guest posts in the same weekend from the same person, but Lisa Barone’s “It’s not the recession, you just suck” resonates with a number of things I’ve been passing along to you over the last few months.

As such, I thought I’d let someone else in the PickYourselfUp Choir sing the lead this time.

Here she is.

Look at it this way… if McDonald’s closed, you wouldn’t starve to death. Why would allow a business closure or layoff to starve your career?

GOYA.

The new economics of entrepreneurship

Rink of Fire
Creative Commons License photo credit: C.P.Storm

Today’s guest post from Guy Kawasaki talks briefly about the current state of the economy and more importantly about the economics of starting your own business these days.

Guy’s post offers more reasons why I keep pestering local folks to start their own business – *especially* if they are currently laid off.

Which of these four types of businesses do you own?

Bye bye baby!
Creative Commons License photo credit: smlp.co.uk

Scott McKain, author of Collapse of Distinction, is also the author of today’s guest post, where he talks about the four different types of businesses as categorized by today’s economy.

Which business is yours?

Are you dead weight in a “Man Overboard” Economy?

What gets thrown overboard before a ship sinks?

What gets thrown out of a plane that is struggling to stay in the air, or that appears to have less fuel than it needs to reach land?

Answer: Dead weight. IE: Everything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

If you’re an employee, what are you doing to make sure you are invaluable to the success of your boat (ie: your employer)?

If you own a business, what are you doing to make sure that the products and services you provide are invaluable, must-have items for your clients and prospects?

You can either be the one that stays onboard, or the one who doesn’t.

The choice is ultimately yours. Yes, YOURS.

Inherit the earth, inhale the opportunity

All around us, people are being laid off.

The companies in (and near) my little town in rural, northwest Montana – have seen more than 800 layoffs.

Thankfully (if there is a bright spot), not all of the 800 people laid off live here in our town of 4500 people – but it still affects everyone as it trickles through the town’s economy.

A local banker told me a few weeks ago, “You can see it on them when they come in…they’re wearing it”.

“It” being the weight of unemployment.

The bright spot

There is a bright spot to all of this. Our local community college has seen a massive peak in registrations.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” –   Eric Hoffer

You know that a lot of the folks who are getting laid off are unprepared to move on. Not all of them, of course, but a substantial percentage.

As a business owner, you already know that you have to be careful who you hire in these situations. Many folks will bolt back to their former job as soon as it opens up – because you probably can’t pay them what a manufacturing job does, for example.

Scout motto – “Be prepared”

How are you preparing your staff and *your company* for the world that doesn’t yet exist?

You might think that you don’t care because tomorrow isn’t here, and those newfangled things won’t appear for a while.

Or you might be the town’s Yahoo and the new business in town just might be the Google that makes you irrelevant.  Heaven help you if that new business actually has some funding and isn’t bootstrapping like so many others.

It isn’t about Silicon Valley, Yahoo and Google. This conversation is just as applicable to them as it is to your dry cleaning store.

It isn’t just laid off employees that need to be learning. You likely recognize that they should have updated their skills BEFORE they found themselves in a position to be laid off.

Look in the mirror, cuz the same goes for you.

Your business needs to learn and grow as well if it is to inherit its rightful place as the dominant innovative business in your niche.

That has to happen before your Google arrives on the scene.

The valuable assets your competition is giving away

Classic photo of a distress sale -- Great Depression $100 will buy this car
Creative Commons License photo credit: onohoku

I‘ve always been amazed that a large company can lay off 20,000 or 30,000 workers and not fail soon after. These days, layoffs of 5,000 to 20,000 are regularly in the news.

In January 2009, 241,749 people were laid off across the U.S. â?? and that likely only counts the firms large enough that they have to report layoffs to the U.S. Department of Labor.

It likely doesn’t include the people who are working fewer shifts or short shifts. Not a layoff, but just as impactful to those folks. That number could easily be in the millions.

Still, it’s the companies with tens of thousands too many white collar workers that are stunning.

What are they thinking?

If you can lay off 30,000 workers next week â?? what in the name of standing around the water cooler are that many people doing to create value and generate revenue this week?

How critical could their work really be if a company can afford to send that many people home with less than a day’s notice?

Weâ??re not just talking about manufacturing companies where an extended shortage of orders could result in having too many people on staff. Even in that sort of environment, sales don’t change so quickly that 30,000 people who are providing value and generating revenue on Monday are suddenly not needed on Tuesday.

What management team would allow such a glut to get to the point where you’d not only have to lay that many people off, but you’d have to do it all at once?

How was the performance of those people being evaluated?

For that matter, how was the management over those folks being evaluated if their company could afford to layoff that many with one massive cut?

Gluttony: Also one of the seven deadly business sins

Just so you get an idea what kind of impact we’re talking about, let’s do a little math. 30,000 people who are paid an average of $35,000 a year is a total payroll of ONE BILLION, 50 MILLION dollars. 20 million bucks a week.

That doesn’t count benefits, the employer half of SSI and Medicare, unemployment insurance (much less the increase caused by laying off 30,000 people – YOW) and so on â?? nor does it count the human resources team necessary to handle the various work that has to be done to handle the paperwork and such that’s necessary for 30,000 workers.

Nor does it count the office space necessary to house that many people and all the assets necessary to give them something to do (desks, computers, chairs, etc).

How do you waste $20,000,000 a week â?? plus all those costs – on that many people who are easily expendable (proven by the ability to lay them off all at once). How can you afford to discard the experience and business knowledge that 30,000 people have gained in your industry?

Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

What about your business?

For the small business owner â?? it’s not just a cash flow issue, it’s about not hiring people you don’t need, being smart about the ones you do hire, and cross-training the team you do have so that you don’t ever have to lay them off.

There are a few large companies who have never laid someone off. You can read about them here: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2009/fortune/0901/gallery.no_layoffs.fortune/

As for everyone else – now is the time to strengthen your business, train your people, test new product lines and services and start competing harder in your market while many of your competitors are in a possibly weakened condition.

If your direct competitors – or those in similar fields – are laying off people,  put the word out on the street that you’re interviewing.

Why? So you can get a look at the folks everyone else has laid off. There just might be a gem in the bunch.

Why not use their sharpest knife against them?