Saturday, February 28, 2009

Newpaper Industry Should Try Networking

I was once told by a reporter from a major city daily newspaper, "I don't need to build relationships with people in the business community. I work for [paper name withheld], which means that people need to kiss my butt.... NOT the other way around". (that is not the exact quote, but you get the idea).

This guy had a chip on his shoulder the size of Mars, and did not think he or his co-workers should stoop so low as to attend community business events unless they were chasing a story. Making friends was a waste of time, as he was "a reporter", and above the standard rules that impact the rest of the business world. is that working out for the industry? In the end, all businesses face the same issue of the need for profit. When cash is flowing in fast, they can rationalize all day long that they are under some other set of "rules", but when the money gets tight we all learn that business is business, regardless of industry.

With few exceptions, I do not know of major daily newspapers where the corporate culture actively encourages building and cultivating relationships in their business community. Yet, daily newspapers have a great advantage that they ignore.... they employ an army of professional people in a variety of roles. Thus, if they worked on establishing a philosophy that encouraged their reporters, editors, publisher, sales staff, and the executive office team to network and establish mutually beneficial relationships in the community -- I believe they would find more success.

(I do have to give kudos to some of the folks at my local daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, as Kirk Ladendorf, Lori Hawkins, Dan Zehr and Omar Gallaga (and others) do participate in the communities that they cover. But I do not see more of the team being aggressive in their looking to establish real connections in the business community (to be fair, they might be... and are just not at the events I attend. But I attend a lot of very good events full of local professionals and rarely see them!).

These reporters I mentioned above are not just meeting people for story ideas, but they have successfully established themselves as part of the ecosystem of this business community. The American-Statesman is also at the cutting edge with their online social media involvement. Their effort is being lead by Rob Quigley who is doing amazing things, including hosting their own "Tweet Ups" for local Twitter users).

I am sure every city has examples of reporters who actively network, and all show up from time to time -- but I am always hearing from people all over the country who cannot figure out how to even meet anyone at their local paper. This means that papers are not actively being visible. They are making it hard for anyone to become part of their network. Those that are seriously networking are the exception, not the rule.

Law Firms used to be the same way.... they avoided everything to do with marketing, branding, advertising, and networking. However, the smart firms realized that they could win more business if they were more visible at a street level in their community. Now most successful firms are active at all of these things (or try to be at some level). I think the newspaper industry could benefit by putting a human face on their brand, too.

Here are my suggestions for any daily newspaper who wants to try and see if having a networking culture would help their business. Try this for 6 months and then let me know if it worked:

1. Identify all of the business, civic, political, and networking groups in your city. This should be easy, as the best ones most likely list their events in your newspaper's print or online calendar. While you do not want to or need to participate in EVERY organization in the city, identify a large variety of groups that are attended by the influencers in your town.

2. Assign two people from your staff to each organization. Each person should have two or three different organization assigned to them. Now make attendance and participation in these organizations a priority. If two people from your organization attend each event, it will not take much time before the community starts to notice your participation. "Drop In" networking (just showing up at events on occasion) will not allow you to establish any real relationships. Meeting someone does not make them part of your network - It makes them someone you have met. It takes time to cultivate real bonds with other people.

3. Educate your team about the purpose of networking. Remember that networking is not just about helping the paper or others, it is about finding ways to bring value to the other people who are part of you network. While you cannot write about every person or company you meet (nor should anyone expect you too), you can bring value in other ways. If your people are good, they should have amazing contacts. Being a connector (one who helps people meet others in the community who could be useful contacts to each other) will make your individuals shine. If your networking purpose is selfish, you will fail.

4. Have a consistent message. Make sure that everyone, no matter their job title, is describing your company in the same manner. While sales and editorial have different goals and purposes, they should both be able to convey a message about why your paper is a valuable business in your community.

5. Regularly discuss the events your team has been attending, the quality of the programs at the events, and whom they are meeting. Champion those who are taking the networking program seriously and have talks with those who seem not to care. If you want to change the industry you need to have your people engaged. Those who are stuck in the "old ways" or who believe journalists (and anyone else who works for the paper) are exempt from the changing aspects business social networking (online and offline) should not be allowed to spoil the success of others.

6. Adopt an online social media strategy. Many newspapers are already doing this, and I see more and more reporters who have blogs, utilize Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc... These mediums are new, so there is no "best" strategy yet.... so be the ones who are trying out different methods. Do not just sit on the sidelines and wait for another paper to figure it out. If you are a follower you might just be the next daily to go out of business.

I have no idea if any editors, publishers, or sales managers from daily newspapers will read my advice. I do not work in their industry, thus many will dismiss my ideas without consideration. But I think I am right. Papers have large staffs, and if each person just showed up at two events a week they would suddenly be seen as heavily engaged in the community, as opposed to hiding in some ivory tower.

I do know that in this recession that most companies are very interested in the topic of "the power of business relationships and networking". I know this because they are buying my books and hiring me to speak to their teams. I cannot imagine that this message would be any less useful to a newspaper.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas Host Corporate Social Responsibility Conference

As part of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas, they hosted their first annual Corporate Responsibility (Opportunity!) Conference today.

When they launched the idea for the event they had hoped to have around 50 attendees. Instead over 150 community leaders showed up to participate in the dialogue about the importance of companies being engaged in philanthropic and community efforts. When done right this is win/win ... as it impacts the social well being, but also helps the company's reputation and brand with customers, employees and the community.

Corporate Social Responsibility goes far beyond what some might think. Many perceive such programs being part of large, multi-national corporations. While the "big checks" that large companies write are part of the equation, it is not usually the money alone that has the power. Enlightened organizations know that the world is changing, and people want to be affiliated with companies that have a cause. Making money, while very important, is not enough, especially to the younger generations of workers and customers.

"Giving back" is not exclusively for big companies, and it is not just about some PR motives. Organizations of all sizes can benefit from being engaged with their community. Aligning the culture of your company with the interests of consumers, employees and beyond creates the seeds of a sustainable organization.

All organizations can benefit from having a cause that they support. But to have a successful program you must have buy in at all levels of the company. Many CEOs are visionaries who desire to impact the greater good, but they do not do an effective job at making sure that middle management and line employees are part of the CSR team.

A company can have the best results if they focus on one thing rather than trying to their charitable attention up into too many directions. Look for ways that your expertise and skill sets can have the greatest impact and work together with organizations that serve those areas. When corporations and non-profits can establish long-term partnerships and alliances then more can be accomplished.

Most important is to realize that it takes time to create meaningful results. Doing volunteer work one day a year will not solve big picture issues. It takes years to make a sustainable impact on causes you support. This is why you must make this part of your culture.

Congratulations to the team at the Entrepreneurs Foundation ( Eugene Sepulveda, Amanda Chiampi, marion Cimbala, Shobie Partos and Peter Frey ) for putting on a great conference that made people do more that listen.... it made people think!

Have A Great Day


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Attend a FREE Session of RISE Austin

Next week is the Big Week for RISE Austin 2009.

If you live in the Texas Capital and would like the opportunity to see some of our area's finest business professionals present in small and intimate setting... here is your chance.

All day long on March 3rd, 4th and 5th there are over 120 business presentations being conducted at various venues all over town. Each session last 90 minutes. Audience size is limited to 20 -25 people, and the speakers are sharing all sorts of tips and stories.

Many of the sessions are already filled up (My session is full - March 5th at 8:00 AM), but there are several to choose from that will be GREAT. This is an amazing chance to meet and listen to the speakers in a small setting. Participate in the RISE program and make some connections with key people in our business community (yes, it IS always about networking!!!)

Scan the whole list and look for interesting topic and speakers.

Don't know who to go see? Here are a couple of suggestions:

As of this writing there are still a seats available for several FANTASTIC presentations.

I recommend you go and listen to my boss, Ellen Wood (co-founder and CEO of vcfo) deliver her talk "There Is No Parachute - And Other Lessons Entrepreneurs Learn AFTER Take-Off" at 10:30 AM on March 5th. Ellen launched vcfo 13 years ago, and in addition to her hands on experience running the company, vcfo has worked directly with over 800 companies - many of whom are entrepreneurial, high growth businesses. Thus she has seen the ups and down from many angles, and she will share a bunch of great stories and ideas.

Spots are still open to see Colin Pope, the managing director of the Austin Business Journal. His talk, "How and When to Address The Media" , is a must see presentation for anyone who is curious about how to get more PR. If you don't already know Colin, you should know Colin!

Laura Patterson, CEO of VisionEdge Marketing, still has space for her presentation "Creating a Customer-Centric Measurable Marketing Plan". I just finished reading Laura's book. She knows her stuff, so attending her presentation on March 5th would be a good one!

Brett Hurt, CEO of Bazaarvoice would be a great one to attend. He is set for 2:00 on March 5th. Space is filling fast for his presentation, "Establishing the Foundation of a Great Company Culture". Ask anyone in town, and they will tell you Brett is all about having a wonderful culture, and they live that at Bazaarvoice.

Are you a new entrepreneur? Go see attorney Matt Lyons of Andrews Kurth present "Top Ten Legal Mistakes Made by Entrepreneurs" at 2 PM on March 5th. Matt has an impressive career of counseling business owners to ensure they avoid the legal mistakes than can hurt their company down the line. This one will be good!

Leadership Austin president and CEO Heather McKissick will present "Creating Customer Experiences" at noon on March 5th. I am a graduate of the 2008 Leadership Austin Essentials Class and have worked with Heather on several projects. This would be a great presentation to attend.

Richard Balius from Intergistic Solutions will present "What Every Owner Should Know About Compensating Sales People" at 8:00 AM on March 5th. Richard is a great speak and an expert on sales.

I could list two dozen other friends, colleagues, and local experts...all of whom I know and respect. To any of my friends whom I left off, this was just a sampling. I did not want this post would be too long to read.

You can't go wrong with any RISE event you attend.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Social Media Online Fundraiser

For the second year in a row my family has hosted an "Online Social Media Fundraiser" for the Dell Children's Hospital Foundation.

As of this writing we have raised $1220 for the "Kate Singer Endowment for Cranio-Facial Research" in honor of Kate's Birthday. She turned seven on February 2nd, and we feel very fortunate that she has continued to thrive throughout her life, having been born with Saggital Synostosis, which required her to have reconstructive surgery on her skull when she was six-months-old.

All of the money donated has come from the readers of this blog, friends on Facebook, and those who follow me on Twitter. Donations from as little as $5 have pooled together to create a wonderful gift for the local hospital.

The power of the social media online communities continues to amaze me. I am touched by how many people supported our fundraiser to help such a good cause.

We appreciate your generosity.

You can still donate until Saturday, February 28th. Lets move the bar a little higher. Last year we hit $1700.

Thank You!!

Have A Great Day.


Guest Blogger - Matt Scherer: "Observe & Listen"

I asked for volunteers on Twitter to be guest bloggers on The Some Assembly Required Blog. Wow, some great people stepped forward to share their thoughts, ideas and pontifications.

Today's Guest Blogger is Matt Scherer. Matt has been working as a public affairs and communications professional for over 30 years, including 20 years in the Air Force. You should read his blog "So What Makes Matt Scherer Tick?"

Observe & Listen

by Matt Scherer

Last week, I went to a morning breakfast meeting where I ran into some longtime friends that I haven’t seen for nearly two months. My friend and I were in the midst of a deep conversation when two sales professionals came up to interrupt our chat to sell us their services.

At the time, I had used their product and services for clients. My friend, a technical type for one of the major TV stations, wasn’t a customer. Still, they barged into a conversation without listening.

I am amazed by some people’s lack of manners.

Obviously, these 20-something marketing types were not attending to the signals I was sending. My friend and I had broken the traditional American space of speaking to each other at a normal three feet and were close to 18 inches so we could talk to each other.

To most, it should have been obvious that were having an earnest conversation.

Had these people taken a couple of seconds to observe what we were communicating with our body language before trying to introduce themselves, I would have been nice enough to stop what I was doing to allow them to join their conversation.

Yet,they didn’t get the signal, and they sure aren’t going to get more of my business.

And, there is another colleague of mine who will go on and on about his business accomplishments. He once spent 45 minutes of my valuable time as I was driving to tell me about his latest successes. I was unable to get a word in return so I put him on my cell phone speaker and uttered an occasional “Great.” Despite my lack of feedback, he kept talking.

Now, when he calls, I put him into my voice mail. I don’t have time for someone who want allow me to talk, even just a little.

As a longtime communications professional, I am amazed by the number of people who don’t pay attention to these communication signals.

To me, if there is one skill that most of us can improve upon in networking, it’s the art of listening to others.

As a former Toastmaster (, I learned how to become a more effective listener. Through four years of meetings, I learned how to improve this critical skill. This non-profit organization provides a great forum for teaching people how to really pay attention to others in every meeting.

For anyone who wants to build a network, it’s important to focus on your listening skills. The “peeps” in your network will value you when they realize that you’re listening and they’ll be glad to share more with you, especially if they believe you’re going to listen to them more effectively.

Regardless of what you do in life, Toastmasters is a good investment of time and effort. The listening skill sets that are developed through this non-profit program will make you a better communicator and a very effective networker.

*****Thom's Two-Cents: Toastmasters was the best move I ever made in my career. I highly suggest that everyone select a local TM Club and participate actively for one year. You will never regret it.

Have A Great Day


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Don't Let Your Presentation Run Long" ... OR..."I Missed Tucking In My Kids"

Note to people who speak on panels...

I don't care how good you are or how wonderful, informative and important your content is to the audience.... please do not run long. (This is also a reminder to myself, as I speak often!)

Keep in mind if there are other people who need to follow your presentation, and there is a finite time set for the panel discussion, that it is not just you who is impacted by your going over time. If you are too verbose you are being rude to the other panelists and the audience.

I recently attended an amazingly intelligent business panel on an important topic. The place was packed. The speakers were brilliant. But they all went so long that they lost me. I was looking forward to the audience questions, which never never came.

At the start of the event they announced that each had about 8 minutes to present their piece (three panelists), then they would take Q&A. There was about 55 minutes for the whole event following the announcements from the host of the evening.

Speaker one was funny, engaging, and I learned a lot. But she spoke for 30 minutes. Wow.

Speaker two was cleaver, and had amazing examples that were spot on topic for the audience. He spoke for 20 minutes.

Speaker three was whom I came to see. He is a person that I know and respect - and I was excited to see his presentation. By the time he got his computer plugged in and began going through his slides, the program should have ended. I have no idea what he said because I kept thinking about how I promised my daughters I would be home in time to tuck them into bed, but I was stuck in my crawling out over a dozen others in my row would have been awkward and rude.


Speaker three ended about 17 minutes later. No idea what he said, and that makes me sad.

I will admit that after ten years of studying professional speakers and presentations, I am highly critical of the execution of panel discussion and speakers. I am sure the rest of the audience was more or less unshaped by the longevity of the talking from the stage.

But I feel bad for the third speaker, the people who organized the event, the audience members who were planning to leave on time, and my kids,....who do not understand that sometimes panel discussions just run long. They will have sad little faces in the morning.

I write this not to be pompous, as I am a professional speaker, and I too have had events where the content has run long. I instead write this as a reminder to all of us who take the stage and plan events to remember that we must be respectful of the clock!

Have A Great Day.


Guest Blogger - Debra Helwig: "Running Scared"

I asked for volunteers on Twitter to be guest bloggers on The Some Assembly Required Blog. Wow, some great people stepped forward to share their thoughts, ideas and pontifications.

Today's Guest Blogger is Debra Helwig. Debra Helwig is the marketing communications manager for IGAF Worldwide, an international trade association serving mid-sized accounting firms in over 60 countries. Her favorite part of the job is sharing ideas and connecting people -- helping service professionals learn from one another and from the brightest minds in the various industries they touch. Find Debra on Twitter at @dhelwig or visit the IGAF Worldwide Web site at

Running Scared
by Debra Helwig

“At least I still have a job…for now.”

How many times have you heard that phrase in the past few weeks? Me, I’ve heard it more times than I care to count, from people in every walk of life – the bakery gal at Publix, the marketing director of a public accounting firm, a social worker, a Web designer. I’ve heard it enough times that I actually caught myself saying it, even though I work for a very stable association that has yet to feel the rattle from the downturn.

Maybe it’s the pathologically bad news reports blaring from every PC and TV screen. Maybe it’s that just about everyone knows at least two people who have been laid off recently. But whatever the reason, people all around us are behaving as if their jobs are on the chopping block. The whispers at the water cooler aren’t just whispers anymore.

I admit, for some folks, this attitude is common sense. Layoffs are happening all over, and some companies are folding. People who work in these places have every right to be freaked out, jittery, and afraid they’ll be next in line at the Department of Labor.

HOWEVER (and this is a big however) if you’re a manager at a company that’s doing even marginally well, the rising panic is a serious problem. If you don’t stop the tide before it starts, a larger-than-healthy percentage of your people will be punching the wrong half of the flight-or-flight ticket. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re going anywhere. Hooooo no. They’re filling up their timesheets, but mentally they got fired last week. They’ve checked out. They’re unproductive. And – worst of all – if they talk to your clients, they’re poor mouthing your business directly to the people who are keeping you in business. Disaster walking.

You have to stop the bleeding before it begins. But how?

Talk to them.

A lot.

An old boss of mine, Ernie, used a technique he called “management by walking around.” Every day, he walked the department. He talked to every person. He answered questions. He planted ideas. He explained decisions. He never hedged, and he never lied. When we had a sizable layoff, he told it like it was – early – and people believed him because he had the street cred that came with years of playing honest and fair. Even after the downsize, his department’s productivity and customer service soared. People worked harder than ever because they knew Ernie had their back.

Even if you don’t have Ernie’s years of credibility on your side, you can make a difference in your company’s ability to successfully weather this downturn. Begin communicating right now – regularly and truthfully – about where things are going for your business. Give your valued professionals (and your customers) the information they need to stop running scared.

Your bottom line will thank you.

***Thom's 2-Cents:

I agree with Debra. There is too much negative chit-chat going about the negatives in the economy. While not to be discounted, we must also remember that there are still positives out there. To only focus on the bad will not help anyone. We must break the cycle of bad news by finding the good stuff and talking about that, too.

Have A Great Day


Monday, February 23, 2009

Five Networking Tips For Everyone In The Current Economy

There is a lot of interest in the topic of networking. During the boom-boom days many people would roll their eyes when I would opine about the power of cultivating long-lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships. Now everyone seems to be interested.

Book sales are rising and readership of my blog has nearly doubled since the start of the economic meltdown. There is also an uptick in speaking opportunities - as more law firms, sales-oriented companies and professional business associations are showing interest in my 90-minute presentation: "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow, and Keep Your Business Relationships".

Networking matters! For companies who are hungry for sales, suddenly the economy has them interested in ways to build stronger referral partnerships. With the tough times comes more competition, and that makes every referral that much more important.

For those who have been laid off who are seeking new employment, the reality is that most jobs are filled, directly or indirectly, through a contact within a company or with a recruiter. You need people if you want a job.

And those who have been laid off that want to start their own business - They know first hand that their network matters more than ever as they launch their new new thing. When bootstapping an idea it is the word-of-mouth marketing opportunities that get you started.

Here are 5 tips for how to network in the touch economy that will help job seekers, entrepreneurs, and anyone whose company is looking for more clients:

1. Networking takes time. If you are suddenly in need of sales or recently laid off, you cannot expect to create a network overnight. The people you meet for the first time will not know enough about you to be an instant resource. Knowing that this is a process that will take months (if not years) to create results will keep you from being discouraged. Always network with a long-term horizon. Networking cannot help you with short-term goals unless you already have a very strong list of contacts.

2. Ask others for help. If you have avoided networking in the past and now realize that was a mistake, admit it. Not just to yourself (although that is a good place to start), but also fess up to the people you know and new folks that you meet. Tell them that you had never understood about the power of business relationships and ask them for help in getting you started. Most people enjoy helping others, but you need to let them know what you need from them.

3. Remember that networking is NOT just about YOUR needs. You must establish mutually beneficial relationships in order to see real results from networking. The problem is that when people are up against a wall they often forget that other people need assistance as well. Never have a conversation with anyone in your network without asking them what they need to succeed. You will not always be able to be of assistance to others, but when you can provide them with ideas, introductions or other value...make sure that you do so in a timely manner. Helping others is the fastest way to create a network. Expecting people to help you without your investment in helping others will not only fail, but get you listed as a taker.

4. Do not try to network EVERYWHERE. Select two or three business organizations that interest you and that draw the right people in your areas of interest and participate in all of those groups events. If you try to hit too many groups you will end up just dropping in on them "sometimes". Drop in networking does not lead to building real relationships. It takes multiple interactions with people to establish connections, so if you spread yourself too thin then you will never create a true network.

5. Create you own networking events. Be the catalyst that brings others together and you will find that your network will grow. Many people complain about the quality of the networking events they attend, but they do not do anything to improve upon the gatherings. If you cannot find an organization that brings together the people you want to see, then create your own events. With a little effort you can structure new and productive events that will put your name in front of many new people.

Two Bonus Networking Tips For Job Seekers:

1. Do NOT bring your resume to every networking event or individual meeting. If somebody wants your resume, you can easily get them a copy in a timely manner. However, people are often turned off when a resume is shoved into their hands at the first meeting. On the flip side, you do need business cards, as they are an unobtrusive way of making sure others have your contact information. If you have been laid off you can purchase inexpensive cards at Kinkos or Office Depot that can have your name, address, email, phone, etc... If asked for a card you do not want to reply "sorry, I don't have one", as you will appear unprepared.

2. Use "Social Media". If you do not have an account on LinkedIn, you need one. This site has become a regularly used tool by companies and recruiters when they are looking for candidates. If they look for you on the site and you are not there, they will assume you are "out of touch" with this very common business tool. Additionally, you can use LinkedIn (or other social networking sites) to help connect yourself with former colleagues, bosses, vendors, etc.... Any of whom might be able to serve as a contact that could lead you to your next opportunity.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Choose Love

"All my life I've had a choice of hate and love. I chose love, and here I am!" - A.R. Rahman.

Moments ago A.R. Rahman won two Academy Awards for best score and best original song from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. As he accepted his second award he made the above quote to the audience.

This hit home. Today I had some yokel give me the finger on the freeway. We almost had an accident as we both merged in from opposite directions. Fortunately we did not collide, but it was one of those moments where we both shared blame. He flipped me the bird. All day his selfish jerky choice made me sad. I actually said a prayer for him, as I am sure he needed it.

But Mr. Rahman made me feel better with his comment. In every moment of every day we can choose hate or we can choose love. As I look around, I am proud that most of the people whom I encounter regularly do choose love.

Have A Great Day.


Advice for Outsourcing Key Roles - Guest Blog Post by Ellen Wood, CEO of vcfo

The below originally ran on the Austin Startup Blog on Friday, February 20, 2009. Ellen Wood is the CEO of vcfo (the company I work for as director of business development)

Today’s guest blogger is Ellen Wood who is the co-founder and CEO of Austin based vcfo. The firm specializes in operational finance and accounting, HR Solutions and recruiting services for companies of all sizes. She can be reached at 512-345-9441.

The outsourcing of key roles inside companies of all sizes is becoming more common. Historically companies have looked to outside experts for highly specialized assistance in areas such as audit, tax, and legal assistance. In more recent years functions such as marketing, HR, operational finance and accounting, IT and recruiting have become outsourced resources as well.

For startups, tapping an outsourced resource can be an ideal solution. The company can obtain the desired level of experienced professional advice at a fraction of the cost of making a long-term hiring commitment that comes with adding headcount before the business has grown to the right size.

There are several things to consider when deciding to outsource any key business function for your company:
  • Reputation Of The Resource. Check references both formally and informally. When you can, go beyond the references they provide and inquire within the community and your network to see what kind of feedback you get.
  • Validate expertise and specific experience. Make sure that the consultant has the experience you are seeking. There is a significant difference between an individual who is between jobs and a firm with experienced resources across multiple areas of expertise. Individuals are great resources and may become a long term hire – just be sure if that is the option you are considering that they individually have the experience that you need in your situation. Avoid the “brother-n-law” or “best-friend” option to fill key roles on part time or outsourced basis unless they really do have the expertise that you need.
  • Be wary of overly discounted rates. You are looking for expertise for the right amount of time to get the job done, not to become ongoing billable hours indefinitely or inefficiently.
  • The Network Matters. As an early stage company it is particularly important to think about the value of the network other resources you engage with can introduce you to. You are building your team right now both internally and externally.
  • Transparency. You should be able to learn from your consultants. Look to them to educate you as to their particular areas of expertise. You need consultants who see themselves as your partner and put your interests in first place in the relationship.

Utilizing experienced recourses at key growth points can prevent your startup from making common mistakes along the path to success. An optimal outsourced provider will see themselves as your partner in achieving your goals.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Come See Me Speak at SWSWi on March 13th - 2:00 PM

Come and see me lead a "Core Conversation" session at South By Southwest Interactive on Friday, March 13th at 2:00 PM

"The Conference Networking Catalyst" is a program I offer at a variety of seminars, conferences and conventions where I discuss how to get the most out of your networking efforts at a multi-day event.

According to surveys, one of the main reasons that people attend conventions and other seminars is for the "networking opportunities" - and yet many people do not have a plan for how to meet other people and make mutually beneficial connections.

With a little planning and a dedication to following up with those you meet, anyone can improve their networking skills and make connections that could lead to future opportunities.

I hope to see you at SXSW.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Resilience vs Stubbornnes

In these turbulent times, how does an entrepreneur know if they are being smart and resilient, or stupid and stubborn when fighting onward? Fine line to define.

Marcelo Calbucci has a great post on his blog that illustrates how to know if you are really doing the right thing when pushing to keep your business alive in the face of adversity.

Read his post here.

Have A Great Day.


Believe You Can Accomplish Great Things In Life

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right" - Henry Ford

Human beings must believe in their ideas or most will just sit on their ass. Many people rationalize false reasons not to reach for their dreams and find themselves convinced that those who achieve are either born with unique skills, lucky, or both. They wait for direction, and direction never comes. They are Waiting for Godot.

Southern California marketing industry thought leader, Tim Tyrell-Smith, has a blog called "Quixoting" where he blogs about ideas. Creative ideas. He encourages himself and others to think. Quixoting (pronounced key-ho-ting) is based on the story of Don Quixote. A character best known for being "delusional". But Tyrell-Smith admires his daring to take action. Because ideas or creative work left in a bottom drawer will never be seen by the eyes of the world. And that is a shame.

Quixoting's tag line is "Take Action. Be Courageous. Have Fun!" - these words should sing to your soul.

Once you believe in your ideas amazing things can happen. It is those with confidence and drive who are the ones who change the world. Become a dreamer. Imagine yourself winning. Know that you can succeed.

I know too many people are closed to both their ideas and those of others. They rationalize all sorts of reasons to not act and close down the spirit of being a "big tent thinker" (I have written many times about being a "big tent thinker" who is open and inclusive of others). Then they mock the dreamers, seekers, creatives, optimists, entrepreneurs and anyone who desires more out of life. We we need people of action at this point in our economy. Either "do it" or get out of the way of those who will.

Re-read the words of Henry Ford at the top of this post and think about the meaning. Believe that you can accomplish great things in life. Then go get 'em done.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PODCAST - "Re-Inventing Yourself in Business and Beyond" - Interview with Cathy Wohlberg-Craig

My latest edition of the "Some Assembly Required Podcast" on the Blog Talk Radio Network is an inteview with Cathy Wohlberg-Craig of

Cathy has seen the highs and lows in both her professional and personal life. After college she took over the family business and burned herself out as the CEO of a multi-million dollar company.

She had money, prestige, and everything she thought she wanted until she looked in the mirror and realized her ladder was against the wrong wall. "I was FAT (over 200 lbs fat)/ conflicted / lonely / married to the wrong man and trapped in my career until one 24 hour period changed my life and I never looked back." say Wohlberg-Craig.

Cathy is now happily creating her own path. Please listen to our interview as we talk about how others can re-start their life in business and beyond.

Have A Great Day.


Celebrate Yourself

After my blog post from earlier this morning, I received a phone call from a reader of this blog who told me that I missed a critical point.

He appreciated my point about the need for people to celebrate entrepreneurship, vision and ambition, and how these traits should be honored in our culture.

He also agreed that the lack of focus on this element of the human spirit in the Stimulus Package (and anything else coming from the government) is a horrible oversight (but one he believes is on purpose).

The reason for his call was to tell me that he thought the "homework assignment" should not have been for people to celebrate others with vision and ambition, but to celebrate themselves.

He pointed out that the type of people who are regular readers of the "Some Assembly Required Blog", and of my books, are those who possess a desire to achieve more in their life. They already know that they have the God-given ability to succeed....and they are seeking ideas and opportunities to connect the dots that will lead them toward victory.

He is right. If you are reading this you are that special type of person. Take a minute to pat yourself on the back for not rolling over and complaining all day long about the state of the economy. Celebrate your inner-drive to contribute, to build, to create, to expand your territory.

Do you believe in yourself? Are you sure that you have talent? Can you feel the desire inside your soul to make a difference? If yes, then take a minute to celebrate yourself. If we all saw the power that we have to make the choices that pave the road to our own success.... more of us would reach that destination.

Have A Great Day.


Celebrate Ambition and Vision

"For a vision to come to pass, you have to have a vision" - Brewster McCracken

At a political fundraiser Monday night in support of Austin Mayoral Candidate Brewster McCracken, the candidate spoke about the importance of having a vision. If you want to achieve success, you first have to have an idea of what your success will look like. It bugs me that Mr. McCracken's main opponent in the race for mayor has criticized him for having "vision and ambition" - as if this is a bad thing. For thousands of years our world has been constructed by men and women with both of those traits. People should champion such things rather tear them down.

The importance of vision goes far beyond the politics of running for Mayor. People are often short-sighted and have no idea of the direction they choose for their life. They are adrift and hope that they can get by holding tight to some imaginary handrail. They are paralyzed from advancing, but fool themselves into thinking that their "steady hand" gripping tight is some kind of progress.

To have success we must take action, but this requires a clear vision of where we want to go. Imagine a pilot taking off from Los Angeles and flying toward Honolulu. If he just climbs into the clouds and heads west he MIGHT find the runway in Hawaii, but the odds are without a clear vision of a flight plan he would crash into the Pacific Ocean.

When I ponder our current economic crisis, I wonder why so little is being made of the entrepreneurs and business leaders who have the vision and ambition to create jobs and grow companies. These people are the only engine can drive our economy out of recession. However, I see very little attention being put on the power of innovation and entrepreneurship by the press or our leaders in Washington DC.

I am dumbfounded that we do not celebrate the ambition and vision of entrepreneurship in a bigger manner.

Everyone who can dream of success is a visionary. But we seem to fail to cherish those strive for the stars.

If you have read this far, then you have a homework assignment. Look around you. Whom in your life is a person who has impressive drive, vision and ambition? Think about it for a minute. Now find a way to let that person know you admire them for all that they are trying to accomplish. Celebrate them.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hiring A Public Speaker

In 2008 I had the honor of speaking 47 times around the United States.

I was a keynote speaker, master of ceremonies, trainer, expert panelist and served as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". Audiences ranged in size from as small as a dozen people to well over 1000 participants.

Because of this experience I have recently had several people ask me several questions about how they can find the right speaker for their company meeting, industry conference or organization sponsored events.

Here are 12 questions that I think anyone should ask themselves before beginning a search to hire a professional speaker for any presentation. Regardless of if you are looking for a free speaker for a Rotary luncheon or if you have a large budget for a major event.

1. What is my budget? Be aware up front that professional speakers are professionals. Just as you cannot expect a doctor or lawyer to provide their services at no charge, most speakers will expect to be paid. Many will do pro-bono or discounted presentations for local non-profit organizations, but will expect for-profit organizations to pay their established fee, much as any company should expect their clients to pay them for their work. Be upfront with a potential speaker right up front about your budget and payment expectations. (If their fee is higher than you can afford, ask them for referrals to others in your price range).

2. Does the speaker have references? There is a big difference between someone with fame, experience or a good resume and someone who has the ability to captivate an audience from the stage. Speaking is a skill, and not every speaker is equal. How many talks did the speaker give in the last two years and are they willing to supply the entire list to you (making them available for reference checks)? I am amazed when speakers will not share their client lists with people who want to hire them. If a speaker is hiding information you should be concerned. The "secret" client or one who would prefer not to be "bothered" with reference calls is the exception...not the rule. I have only had one client who ever asked that I not share the details of speaking to their company.

3. Will the speaker customize his or her presentation to fit your meeting? Many speakers have canned presentations and do not do any research on their audience. I am amazed when I see speakers who have no idea about the composition of their audience, but it happens all the time.

4. What is the expectations of my audience? Will those in attendance at your event expect to be educated, motivated, entertained or all three? Are there certain topics that are more meaningful to the audience? Be clear about the needs of your audience before you begin looking for a speaker.

5. If hiring a speaker for a business event will they make themselves available for questions after the event? Will they attend other parts of the conference if asked? Some speakers are premaddonas who think they are important "celebrities", and will not mingle with the common folk. I have heard of some who make pop music divas sound tame. You want to hire professionals who will engage in discussions with your audience and add to the overall positive feelings of your event even after they leave the stage. If you want a "celebrity", there are lots of those available for hire.

6. Does the speaker try to sell from the stage? Many speakers use their speaking opportunities to sell expensive programs to the audience. While speakers who have books and other products should be making them available to those who are interested, the hard sell can kill the mood of any presentation. Ask your speakers directly about what they offer for sale and communicate your preferences with them as to how to handle this at your meeting or conference.

7. Does the speaker ever use bad language, religion, politics, sexual innuendos, and controversial subjects in their presentations? Many meeting planners are surprised when "F-bombs" or other words fly from the stage, only to learn later that this is part of the speakers "shtick". If you don't ask, you cannot blame the speaker.

8. How does the speaker handle travel costs and other incidental charges? Surprise charges are often shocking for those who hire speakers. They do not read the fine print in contracts only to discover that they are way over budget when the speaker submits the additional charges for first class airfare, limousines, steak dinners, bar tabs, etc... Discuss all possible charges up front so there are no surprises.

9. Do you like the speaker's personality? I have seen many jerks who give great talks on stage, but they are so hard to work with that the meeting organizers and audiences are unhappy with the overall experience. If you find them hard to work with up front, think twice about hiring them. Additionally, check with references and ask about more than just their performance.

10. Is the speaker willing to help with other parts of your conference, such as serving as "Master of Ceremonies" for a dinner or awards presentation? Will they do this at a reduced fee or as part of the main presentation charge? Speakers who are flexible and willing to help you make your event a success without nickle and diming you at every turn are going to make your experience better. If they are already going to be flown into town for your event, they should be open to participating in more than just their session.

11. Will the speaker meet with the organization's senior team before the meeting (in person or on phone)to make sure the presentation meets all the needs? Always have a pre-meeting call with all speakers in advance of your event. You will never regret scheduling such a meeting.

12. Can the speaker provide me with ideas for other presentations for my conference? As a speaker I have the opportunity to witness many other presentations. Do not ask anyone to give you names that would put them in direct competition for your business (that would be awkward for everyone), but once you have made a decision to hire them, they should be willing to help you find other speakers to fill in the rest of your program. The best speakers create real friendships with others in the business and are happy to help you meet other talented professionals. This is especially useful for subsequent years when you want fresh faces, so last years platform speakers are not on your short list for the new year program. Call those who spoke for you in the past and request their help in finding others that will be ideal for your program.

I hope this list is helpful. Feel free to email me with any other questions, regardless of if you might want to hire me - or someone else. I am happy to share my thoughts to help you find the ideal speakers for your program.

Have A Great Day.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Social Media Linking Policies

Do you have a policy for connecting online?

Do you accept every link request that is sent to you on LinkedIn and Facebook?

Do you follow back everyone who follows you on Twitter?

For as many people who have accounts on social media / online networking sites there are equally as many ways that people view how to get the best value out of these tools.

I find it interesting when people get mad that others do not "friend" them, or "follow" them. I think it is a personal choice on how you use these tools, and we should respect others personal space - just as we should in the face-to-face environments.

While I participate in other communities, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the main ones for me at this point in time.

My Social Media Policies:

LinkedIn and Facebook-

I see LinkedIn as the business / professional world, and Facebook as my personal / social world. However, in both cases I do not accept connections from people whom I have never met before.

I get a lot of requests from people who have read my books or have seen me give a speech. While I am honored that these folks want to get to know me and reach out via the online communities, I cannot accept links from anyone I do not know.

In my opinion having links to strangers dilutes the power of my network. I want everyone that I am connected to to be the type of contact who would take my telephone call should I ring them up.

Thus I have the "Beer, Coffee or Lunch Rule". I will not accept a connection request from anyone whom I have not sat down with face-to-face for an hour. After we spend an hour together I believe that we can both decide if there is a reason to build a friendship. It gives us a foundation.

Now, that is easy for people who live in my hometown of Austin, Texas. I realize that our world is not longer just centered on the local, and thus I have what I call "The Digital Equivilent". There comes a point when you get to know someone via email, blogging, Twitter, phone, etc... where you feel you know them as well as you might if you had breakfast together.

Old names from high school and college tend to pop up a lot on Facebook. I love reconnecting with those who were my friends, but my policy holds true. We had to really have spent time together way back when. If we did not really hang out or have classes together (or mutual close friends), then I will most likely not link to them now.

Former co-workers who show up on LinkedIn are subject to the same rule. Just having been employed by the same company does not make someone a contact. We had to have really worked together (would we know each one another if we saw each other in the airport? - would we care?)


Twitter is a different animal. People can follow each other on Twitter without mutual permission. But Twitter can also become unmanageable. While there are lots of Twitter Tools that can help you categorize and sort out the noise, I find it easier to simply only follow those whom I have a reason to follow.

This is controversial and some people get offended quickly if they follow you and you do not follow them. Umm, get over it. I only want followers who are interested in what I might have to say. If I am their "noise", for the love of God, I hope they un-follow me.

Twitter is not about the numbers. Many really worry if they do not have enough followers, but it is really about creating a community.

I follow back most everyone who lives in Austin, as the odds of meeting them around town (we do lots of Tweet Ups in Austin) are very high.

I also follow back business authors and professional speakers - or anyone whose description or website captivates me.

Those who regularly communicate with me directly via Twitter will most likely be added to my list too. And for sure those I meet in person at conferences, etc... I will follow back for sure.


There are billions of people in the world and we are not capable of having connections to everyone. Creating too many online connections takes away from the power of the real relationships you have developed.

My advice to others is that you need to have your own policies (I wont judge you as "right" or "wrong" if you wont judge others!). Having such policies makes it easy for you to decide with whom to have connections and how to communicate with others. Sure, there are those with whom you will link that do not meet your criteria - but you want to anyway - that is okay, as it is your rule, you can bend it when you see fit!

Have A Great Day


Friday, February 13, 2009

Monday - Feb 16th - Happy Hour Gathering for Brewster McCracken For Mayor

Hey Austinites -

Come to Happy Hour on Monday, February 16th at Momo's at 6 PM.

This is a special gathering of tech industry folks, entrepreneurs, musicians and artists who want to meet and hear from mayor candidate Brewster McCracken.

McCracken has been criticized by his opponents for the top city office for being "ambitious".

That's right, apparently some people running for office think it is a terrible thing to have ambition and a vision for the future of one of the country's most vibrant and energetic cities.

Here is what essayist Paul Graham says about ambition:

"Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder."

He adds:

"If you look at the historical evidence, most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time."

Well, I think Austin has proven itself as an ambitious city. I think that's why most of us live here. We want to do more. We want to work harder. We want to do great things. And if the worst thing Brewster McCracken's opponents can say about him is that he's "ambitious," then I think we've found our next Mayor!!

Our civic leaders in the past did not shy away from an ambitious vision of what Austin could be in the future, and today we all get to live in this great place because they saw that the "Technology Industries" would bring jobs and growth. They attracted companies like MCC, Motorola, IBM, Sematech, AMD and others to Central Texas - and created the thriving hub of innovation that we have today.

Michael Dell had ambition and vision when he started his company in a dorm room at the University of Texas. He did not say "the computer industry needs a steady hand over the next few years"- but instead he looked for new ways blaze the trail toward success.

We have to continue that search to make Austin the home of entrepreneurship and creativity in order to remain a competitive community. Clean energy, biotech, and other industries need to find their way to Austin's tomorrow. We cannot afford to stand still with a steady hand or look backwards at this critical time.

Please come out on Monday to listen to Brewster McCracken tell us why he is running for mayor. I would never tell anyone how to vote, but a chance to meet and listen to the candidate is a good thing.

It will be a lot of fun, and an eclectic crowd of cool people.

Oh, I have the honor of introducing Brewster at the event.... so you will have to listen to me for about four minutes. :)


Monday, February 16, 2009


618 W 6th St # 200
Austin, TX 78701


6:00 PM - 8:00 PM


FREE (Donations to the campaign are welcome!!!)

I hope to see you there...and bring friends.

Have A Great Day.


Economic Stimulus Package Needs To Focus On Entrepreneurial Spirit

In regards to the current economic situation package - I want to know why we are not hearing bup-squat about the entrepreneurial spirit which is the fire in the belly of the United States economy. This inner drive to create and grow new and better products and services has existed in our culture since the founding days of the 13 original colonies. Our Founding Fathers were entrepreneurs who created a "start-up country". Hello, this is at the very core of our culture.

It has NEVER been government programs that made America thrive, it was this "entrepreneurial spirit" that kick started our nation (and the world) and has kept us innovating ever since.

But nobody, I mean NOBODY, in the government or in the media is talking about power of the entrepreneur's creativity when it is unleashed. It is that "vision thing" that has always produced the greatness in our society (although some politicians think "that vision thing is over-rated". Yeah? If that is what you believe you are a OLD TURKEY and we need new leadership. Get out of the way!).

The stimulus package is full of pork. Yeah, yeah, I heard all the words about "no earmarks...blah, blah, blah". It was a Jedi Mind-trick. While no traditional earmarks, there is lots of random stuff included. Read parts of this package and you say "WHAT THE ....?"

Plus, it just does not encapsulate what we need, and that is a focus on real honest to God entrepreneurs. These are the people who create jobs. Government projects are nice, but are they sustainable if the money is pouring into dying industries and companies?

Instead of all the verbal vomit from the doom and gloom crowd, how about some oratory about the nature of the history of a people who are known to rise to any challenge and bootstrap our way to success? This is the America I believe in. One in which young men left their farms in places all over the world and risked it all to get to the shores of the New World.

My grandfather came to America as a teenager after his parents died in Ireland. His siblings ranged from ages 14 to four. They sold the farm and took a boat. There was nobody waiting for them at Ellis Island. He had no money, but he had a confidence that they were better off starting fresh in a new land. Talk tough economic times, there was not much for him in 1900. No stimulus packages.

All my grandfather had (and countless others just like him) was a belief in himself and the American Dream. I believe he had a hard life. He had to bootstrap a life. But his ten children and 26 grandchildren have had an easier life than he did because of his sacrifices. Where is that message today? Why is nobody talking about that inner spark that is deep in each of us to discover our own way?

I am not trying to make light of the economic crisis or ignore the good efforts that our elected officials are trying - but they are missing out on the key to success. The part they are missing is in the heart and soul of the individual who is seeking their own path to greatness.

For Congress to pass a $789 billion package and then act like they are great for being able to spend money that they do not have is ludicrous. We are not children and the government is not our mommy. To pull out of this mess we need the citizens to feel empowered. That is NOT the message we are getting from our elected officials.

Only a few hundred people read my blog on any given day, so not nearly enough of you will hear this message from me. ... But I will day it anyway:

Our future is in the hands of the entrepreneurial minded who will work all night to translate their dreams into reality. The stimulus package needs to include those in our midst who can build new businesses, products, services and empires. Look around you and encourage those who dream big, as they are the only way we can get this economy back on track.

Have A Great Day.