A Foolproof Method For Assessing Career Risks

How do you know if a job is worthy of your time and hard work? How will you know if another opportunity might have yielded a better return? How do you know whether you are being set up to be the proverbial canary in a coal mine by your new employer? They may be sending you into the mine to see if you live. They may be doing this to help themselves determine if they will live. It happens all the time in smaller companies. Many have been in business for awhile with some success but stalled for some reason. These firms may have tens of millions of dollars in revenue and some EBITDA. They provide jobs for employees and value for customers.
But
If the company has been around for five, ten years or more and has stalled, watch out. How many years a company has been in business is important. There are any number of firms that have been around for a dozen years who call themselves start-ups.
Ah, sorry. No way.
A start-up is a lab in search of a scalable business. If the company is pivoting to new markets or developing new products, it may still be new. But if the company is serving the same market with the same products and services, it isn’t a start-up.
There are many of these businesses out there; many are VC-backed. It is often because the investors have become married to their initial investment. They often are well beyond the life of the funds’ goal.
Time in business and the amount of revenue are key indicators. They speak to the health and future success of the firm. If a company is running at $20 million in sales and 20 years in business and calls itself a start-up, that’s bad. Be careful if you find yourself considering a job at a company like this. It’s ok if the company is moving its products to a new market. But I’d prefer it if the company had developed something new for the same market or a new market. If you start to hear that there is a need for new marketing and sales talent, look out. First, check the profiles of former employees on LinkedIn. How many came and went? Were they successful at other places they have worked? These are critical questions whose answers might prevent you from committing career suicide. At least you will avoid a situation where you would have little chance of being successful.
These companies have product problems. They have likely run out of market to sell to. They have taken their share of the addressable market. Or they may have poor products and services that don’t sell. It’s easier for the CEO, particularly if he or she is the founder, to blame it on the sales folks. They fire them, and the company goes and hires new talent. It happens all the time in sales. There are some important questions you can ask that can help you avoid a career mistake.
Look at the chart below. Imagine the rectangle is the market that the company’s products and services play in. It might be a $10s of millions market, a $100s of millions market, a billion, or more. Whatever it is, inside of the market I have put an S-curve. The S-curve is an environment where, early on, growth is slow. Over time growth increases rapidly before leveling off. The question you need to ask is this:
Where is the company on the S-curve?
You want to be on the bottom of the curve. If you are beyond the middle of the curve, you won’t be there for exponential growth. I was there for the ride while a member of the management team at Albridge Solutions. The first couple of years were tough sledding, and we almost didn’t make it. We had a $100 million market and no competitors. We experienced the growth part of the curve over the next five years. After some analysis we realized we were approaching the top of the curve. It is here where the nominal growth rate will kick in. The rate is usually in the single digits. You can make a living here, but it is not fun. We decided to sell Albridge to a strategic buyer for more than $300 million and move on.
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Once you know the size of the market and where the company is on the S-curve, you need to ask the next two questions.
How long has the company been selling its existing products and services? What is the company’s revenue?
I would argue that five years or more selling legacy products will start to tell a story. The founders may say they are at the bottom of the S-curve in a big market. Be careful here. In short, they may have sized the market wrong. Or they may have inferior products. Or both. If a company has been around for a long time selling “older” products with weak revenue growth, think twice. You will have limited upside hanging your hat there.
When assessing a new opportunity, always research the market size and where the company is on the S-curve. Combining this with revenue and years in business is a powerful way to assess a business.
My best, Chris

The Ultimate Career Irony: When You’re at Your Best, It’s Easy to be Forgotten.

I have worked in many places. Big companies, small companies, some thriving and some failing. Start-ups, turnarounds and places on cruise control. Years ago I worked in a business where my predecessors had gone on to commit career suicide, their graves scattered across the corporate minefield that is technology. Driving a company and millions of dollars into the ground does have benefits, though: millions more investment dollars. Others walked the plank, a sword in their back, fell, and drowned. When you work around and enable Wall Street, you are another hole in the same pincushion. Good luck trying to be different. I have scars on my back from doing that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are the tattoos I never got, but admired on others at the beach. My own tramp stamp.

We all have that “atta boy” or “atta girl” folder in our minds of past successes. I actually have a manila folder from back in the day with some career highlights in it. One is from my first real job in the early ’80s. There’s a deli napkin with the following words written on it: “Effective in September, your new base salary will be $32,000. Keep the fires burning.” This amounted to a $5,000 pay raise for me. While the inflation at the time was high, this was my biggest accomplishment in my young career. I also became an officer of the bank where I was working. Did I know what I was doing? No. I got by because I was enthusiastic and showed up each day. It is funny what can set you apart from the competition sometimes.

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Enthusiasm alone isn’t enough to sustain a long career or to bring you to new heights of success, though. I would learn that over time. Define it however you want: money, titles, free time and giving back are all measures of being successful. Having an impact, a lasting one, is important to me. I want to leave some corporate graffiti behind that is my version of “Kilroy was here.” It will be for others to experience or have a laugh at. Either is fine with me.

So you build on your experiences over time, over decades. You become an encyclopedia of business knowledge. These are the situations you have worked in, handled, or failed at. If a typical career is thirty-five to fifty-five years, one day you will close the book.

And be forgotten?

That sucks. If that is how it is ends for you, I refuse. I am going out in a blaze of glory on the back of wherever I am employed. I had never planned on working forever, but over the past five-plus years I have determined that is what I want to do. I tried not working for a long period, and it was a waste of my time. I wish I could have the time back. It won’t return for me.

So I am thirty-plus years into a career. I have done the math, and figure I will live an average man’s lifetime. Thinking I have another twenty-five years or so to go, I imagine what I can do with the time I have left.

My best opportunity to date arrived when I was thirty-nine. I would imagine there is quite a lot left to do. Believe me, I still want to travel and relax. Seeing the pyramids is on my list. I don’t want to go now for fear of not returning for whatever I am going to do next. I believe they will still be there when I am ready.

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I also know I will continue to add critical skills to my repertoire. I am not done learning. Believe in a lifetime of knowledge and experiences. Your final goodbye will be the last one, in my way of thinking.

I have passed through my career with strong relationships, a posse of men and women I have counted on over the years. They are at the core of my network. As I sit and ponder my next move to growing a business vs. turning one around from failure, I have some questions. How will my team change? Who are the new people who will teach me things I never knew? Who will be with me as we discover new experiences together? Will they pass them on to others following in our footsteps? Who will emerge as a beacon, a leader I will follow in my next chapter? That’s one of the true rewards of a body of work well done. Who you teach. What they learn. If they can change you from leader to follower. I am open to it. What will they pass on for the greater good, and will their followers have the guts to do the same?

Advancing life happens throughout a career. If you are performing meaningful work, that is where the reward comes from. The key is to be part of an organization that is more a movement than a business. Revenues and profits are important, and most important when they create an energy that feeds on itself for a reason other than numbers on a page. Want to make money? Be a trader; you create nothing formidable or real only money for yourself. Want to have an impact on society? Make something useful and teach others how to do it. The rewards? The impact you have on all who follow.

My best, Chris

 

Here Is The Here Here

Popular now is the saying “There is no there there.” According to Stackexchange: The original is from Gertrude Stein in a quote about her birthplace, Oakland CA. The meaning of the entire sentence is that she didn’t find a sense of place, a center, or anything substantial or important enough to warrant calling the town of Oakland some place by even a name. This statement got me thinking about a simple twist on the same word as it relates to a job choice.

 

If you accept a new opportunity, you must be able to answer the question. Is there a here here? If you can, then you might have something. The answer takes the form: Here is the here here.

 

The first here is a point in time

It’s now, 2017. You are at a stage in your life where you have made a decision to explore a new opportunity. People leave their current job six months to a year before they make the move. You’ve made the decision so the clock has started and the countdown has begun. Good luck because it will be a bumpy road. Navigating the job market and working your network to find that gem which gets you excited is hard work. Oh, and remember you have to hold down the fort at your current gig, so you don’t get shown the door. You have several balls to juggle but taking care how you manage your move is paramount.

 

CHRISSIE WELLINGTON

 

The second here is identifying the opportunity

It is the most important of the three here’s. It’s the opportunity. The reason you get up in the morning. You join a company to do something or perform a function. The opportunity drives you and is what gets you thinking. Your thinking drives your activities, which in turn has an impact on the business. Is it a turn-around opportunity? A growth opportunity? A chance to build a function? I have done all three and prefer building and growth over scaling back for a turn-around. When a company has poor performance, and you are a senior leader, it can be scary. You’re sitting in the cockpit and staring at the ground as it accelerates toward you. Pull on the yoke and close your eyes. Growth and building something are like the arrival of spring. Longer days, warmer weather make us all feel good and being in a growing business does too. Rapid growth is so much fun you may often forget about many things that are important to you. I remember my wife saying to me once “even when you’re home, you’re not here.” That hurt but she was right. I was having a ball at my job at a small technology company. It was around the time that we closed two, multi-million dollar deals, on the same day. We had changed the trajectory of the business. I knew I would have a stream of commission dollars coming my way. I also understood that we had increased the valuation of the VC-backed company. It was the goal I had hoped for and worked so hard to meet. I realized the second here.

 

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The third here is the company where the opportunity resides

Is it Snapchat, Betterment or a start-up (insert name). It might be Microsoft. You have identified the industry, sector and narrowed it down to the particular company. You have also determined the role, title, and your compensation. Here I am, Senior Vice President of Business Development at YouNameIt technology company. My compensation is X dollars, and my office is in Boston with global responsibilities. It is the place you have decided to hang your hat. You have agreed to become part of the company’s prevailing culture. It is super important you understand this. It will be a part of you and your personal brand for the rest of your career. We are all judged to some degree by where we work, so be careful. Think of the reputations ruined as a result of the financial crisis for those who worked on Wall Street. How about working for Volkswagen right now or Kmart? Strap in and welcome aboard.

 

SPACEX

 

Before you set out on your journey to find that next great opportunity, spend some time building a plan. You’ll want to understand where you are in your life and the conditions around you. It’s the point in time and your relation to those things which are vital to you. Next, work hard to identify that great opportunity which gets your blood flowing. Think about it and don’t settle. How many great opportunities are not realized by not sticking to it and accepting a lessor role? Join a reputable firm which has a solid culture and reputation in the marketplace. Work with people who are good at their jobs and who are good people when they aren’t working. This way you will be able to explain to someone else: Here is the here here.

 

My best, Chris

 

Originally posted on the Huffington Post

 

 

 

How A Toxic Culture Can Kill Your Company

A toxin is a form of poison created by, amongst other things, human beings. Toxic can describe the culture of a company too. I once worked at a company whose culture was so bad that……sounds like a I am putting a Henny Youngman one-liner on a tee, doesn’t it?

We hear about it all the time. Abusive bosses like Roger Ailes at Fox News created an old boys culture at his company. A culture of deceit at Wells Fargo ended with fraud. Cheating at Volkswagen is crushing a famous brand and ruining its legacy.

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But, we know some company cultures revolve around innovation, like Nike. Diversity and inclusion differentiate Starbucks in corporate America. Harley Davidson’s culture rests on its passionate customers.

Too bad all companies didn’t follow the latter examples. Unfortunately, good and bad cultures are prevalent in small and large businesses alike. It is surprising we don’t have a consistent measure for a company culture. Like a toxicity test. We verify the water for potability, the air we breathe for pollution and food for bacteria. We query our intelligence to determine where we can go to school. Then we test people (interview) to see if they can join our corporate culture. Imagine working at Wells, in the branch system, a few years ago. Welcome to the culture of sales via fraud at all costs. Congrats, you’re one of us whether you know it yet or not. Be sure to spend all the commissions before they close the cell door.

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I have been around for decades and have worked in all kinds of company cultures. One was fun, open in every way and had employees who obsessed about the product. I didn’t fit in well and moved on but am a happy ex-employee. I would consider it a good culture but not for me. Because you move on doesn’t mean the culture is weak. The culture worked for them, and they became successful.

At another company. The mantra was sales at all costs. The guy who ran the business in North America would jump up on the conference table and yell at the top of his lungs. It was bad behavior and permeated the whole office. Fear and intimidation became the culture. A culture of fear is a culture, but not a healthy one. The culture of fear caused high turnover and clients became frustrated. There was no consistency or secure vision for the future. The strategy changed daily as new people showed and then quit. I moved on, and the company sold in a fire sale.

I also worked in a company where the CEO wanted to change the company. After twenty years of doing things in a consistent though not optimal way, he had come to this conclusion. The culture was ok. The people were friendly and smart. After I was tarred and feathered in my first year, they accepted me for what I was. While so many said they wanted to see culture change, when it came to doing it, they resisted. It was more the “devil you know versus the devil you don’t know.” It was a challenge because this company had merged into a much bigger company. They were at odds with the parent. The cultures were different. The parent was conservative and staid. There was inherent tension. The smaller company continued to be successful regardless of the strife. Why? Because their core product is an industry leader and flat out works. There was a cost to the business. The fear of a new and different culture stymied development. Handcuffed employees put a lid on creativity. It resulted in a one product business serving one market. The result was nominal growth.

It is important to know that a toxic culture can destroy your employees, clients and personal relationships. I went through one of these in my career. Great relationships became strained and friends lost. Collateral damage from a listless work environment. The company limps along hoping something good will happen to it. Hope is not a strategy or a culture.

poison I recently had lunch with a friend who decided to move on from a culture of “saying one thing and doing another.” Self-preservation ruled the day. It had been prevalent across the firm. She became confused as a senior manager. Those who reported to her became lost in the dark atmosphere. She said, Chris how can they perform, if I can’t?”

I was a part of a great culture at one time. I was one of the early team who helped create it. I credit this as one of my biggest achievements in business. We didn’t have a plan at first. What we did have was a group of people with disparate backgrounds. I would argue this was one of the key elements of our success. There was a couple of consultants, engineers, a technology guy, three Wall Street folks, and an HR guy. We didn’t have consistent pedigree. We struggled at first and almost failed but got our house in order. It’s funny how staring at failure can motivate you. Desperation can do that. Almost failing forced us to focus, and reminded us of what hard work was. We also combined fun with hard work. This created more work and more fun. What a great cycle for a company. This made it easier once we had a functioning blue water product. The cycle continued. The results piled up, and the cycle continued. We rewarded the company, and the cycle continued. A culture of achievement and rewards works.

Lightening had struck

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We should develop a rating score for assessing a company’s culture. Employee and ex-employee reviews are not enough. Until we get there, my advice is to join a culture of integrity at all costs. A company that performs meaningful work. One that makes a difference for employees, customers, and the community. Find that, and you will have the foundation for a meaningful company culture.

My best, Chris

Key Elements of Successful Companies

I have been a senior-level executive at five companies over the past couple of decades. They have ranged from a couple of hundred people to 30,000. The management teams I was a part of ranged from dysfunctional to high performing. For those that were high performing, I have found the following consistencies.

Leadership

Each senior leader had a high leadership lid. John C. Maxwell’s first of his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership spells it out for us. Your leadership lid determines the level of effectiveness you will have. Have a low leadership lid, and you will never make it past the recreation team in business. If you have a high lid, you will play varsity for a long time. At Albridge Solutions, we built a management team of people that had high lids. It became evident in years four through six as we climbed the S curve. We all got along well enough and challenged each other’s assumptions and decisions. For us, a decision required data to back it up versus emotion. We took educated risks where we understood the consequences. That team broke up long ago. It is no surprise that each executive has moved on to further effectiveness and success.

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Focus

Sharp focus is a difficult thing to achieve, especially for us left brain folks. I pride myself on being creative. I bring new, different, and unusual solutions to business problems and opportunities. When you achieve success in your business, it becomes even harder. Many will tell what you should build next or add to your product or service. Resist this, as it will distract you from the unrelenting focus you need. Many firms get distracted by the new, shiny idea. They get away from the core offering that drives their business. I have seen companies spend millions of dollars on products without research. Later, they wonder why they don’t sell. A solution looking for a problem is a tough way to introduce a product. In the meantime, the core offering revenue sagged. The result of the attention being directed away from it. At Albridge Solutions, we consolidated financial data for our clients. Everyone told us to build a CRM or compliance system. We had a lot of pride doing one thing: being the best consolidation engine on the planet. Over time we achieved our goal. Being laser-focused allowed us to monetize the company for over $300 million back in 2008.

Strategy

First, you have to have a strategy. I have worked for businesses that had none or had many. Neither is good. The plan has to be simple. Why? So everyone understands it. I had one CEO tell me our strategy is to “sell.” Ok, I thought, that’s simple enough, but selling isn’t a strategy. Selling is an activity. A strategy is a plan for achieving the desired goal. It’s important for everyone in the company to understand where they are going and how to get there. Strategy starts within the management team. Next, the people who will perform the work to deliver on the plan get involved. Often the message gets lost in over-complicated PowerPoint slides. Or the message becomes confused in business garble. It often makes no sense to the people responsible for executing the work. Keep it simple, check in on how it is developing, and adjust course if needed. Next,  remember to reinforce it every chance you get.

Market

It is painful to see how little some companies know about the market or markets they serve. An addressable market the management team and board understand and agree on is a must. It will help Marketing, Sales, and Product perform. The CFO will be able to set reasonable and achievable revenue targets for the company. I once worked for a company that had been in a market for ten years. They didn’t know who their ideal customer was or how many there were in the market. We performed the analysis, and it turned out there were only a couple dozen potential firms left to sell. That is not a good place to be. In Peter Ducker’s parlance, it defies the purpose of the business. It was Drucker who said, “the purpose of a business is to create a customer.” So I say, if you are not creating a customer, you don’t have a good business.

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Product

Great products rule the day. All the marketing and sales in the world cannot hide flawed products for long. We all seem to want to be number one, or the best. It is also ok to be number two or to work for a good company. As an example, Home Depot’s revenue is 50% greater than Lowe’s’. Both might be good places to work depending on your desires. I have worked for companies whose products were great and also so poor our customers didn’t like us. They voiced their displeasure in our surveys. They said many bad things about us in the market that we had to remind them of an important fact. They were our customer and hurting our business, in turn, would hurt them. That’s a vicious circle if there ever was one in business. A company with great products stands on the shoulders of giants in the super competitive 2017 economy.

Culture

At the heart of any successful company I was at there was a defined culture. The culture supports what the business was trying to achieve. Words like fun, hard work, and results-driven come to mind. I know lifestyle companies where the employees go skiing when it snows and surfing when the waves roll in. At one company I was with, we had developed a reputation for delivering on expectations. Our customers said “you guys do what you say.” This is by far the best compliment I have received in business. Well, it’s not surprising that the culture we had built was one of delivering on expectations. Accountability and sound decision-making ruled the day. Over time it proved out in the form of value for our customers. It felt good to be part of, and this drove us to continue to deliver because it felt good.

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If you are thinking of joining a new company, look at the management team and ask yourself some questions. Are they people that you want to lead with? Or do they have high lids that you want to follow? Does the company know where they are going and have a laser focus on getting there? What markets do they serve? Why are they in business and do they have the products and services the market wants? Finally, is this a place you want to spend many hours at and think about? Can you have an impact and feel good about your effort and decision? These are tough questions to consider. But they are necessary if you want the best chance of work happiness and success.

 

My best, Chris

 

 

My Interview with Nazareth Qarbozian

This interview ran on LinkedIn last week. Naz interviewed me about how where I see sales in the future.

  1. As you know, Sales is now a primary aspect in any business large or small. My first question is how will Sales change in 5 years’ time?

Sales will continue to become harder over the next five years. Buyers are smarter and need a business case with a clear return on investment before they buy. Business case selling requires products and services to perform at a high level. The days of features, benefits and cool software are dead. There have to be tangible results that the technology delivers. More senior decision makers create a more complex sale. This often lengthens the sales cycle. Sellers must have experience dealing with more senior buyers. This is a good sign for an aging workforce. Grey hair is actually welcomed in the board room where big strategic deals get done.

  1. Professional business people are always trying to sell their products and services. What impact are sales going to bring from now until 2023?

Selling organizations will continue to work hard to keep their customers. They strive to sell them new, strategic solutions. The cost of selling a new logo can be 3 to 5 times the cost of keeping one.  The winners will be those companies that prove an understanding of their clients’ issues and opportunities. They will position their products to create value for them. At the end of the day, they are helping solve problems or growing market share. The losers will be those firms who are selling a commodity. They are a “me too” offering with little strategic value. So they are beat down on price. If you’re strategic and have good products and a sound business case, you actually will have pricing power in the new environment.

  1. How should one think of sales differently if they want to sell something for the future?

The best salesmen and women are business people first. They need to be adept at understanding their products and services as well as the businesses of their customers. Additionally, they must understand how the company they work for operates. It’s not running after a quota number only. The top salespeople understand the importance of selling good, profitable business. They need to appreciate the fact that their company needs them to sell good business. They must also understand the consequences of not performing. Salespeople need to understand all departments in their company. This includes Product, Operations, Marketing, Support and Finance. It is helpful if sales executives understand how to read a balance sheet. They can see first hand their impact on the company. 

  1. What can we learn from Sales when it comes to selling something now in the technocratic age we are living in?

One thing we can learn from sales is the general health of a business. I have developed a chart that you can use to assess an opportunity you might be considering at a new company.

I like to understand where the company is on the S-curve.

You want to be on the bottom of the curve. If you are beyond the middle of the curve, you won’t be there for exponential growth. I have been there for the ride while I was a member of the management team at Albridge Solutions. The first couple of years were tough sledding, and we almost didn’t make it. We had a $100 million market and no competitors. We experienced the growth part of the curve over the next five years. After some analysis we realized we were approaching the top of the curve. It is here where the nominal growth rate will kick in. The rate is usually in the single digits. You can make a living here, but it is not fun. We decided to sell Albridge to a strategic buyer for more than $300 million and move on.

s-curve-chartOnce you know the size of the market and where the company is on the S-curve, you need to ask the next two questions.

How long has the company been selling its existing products and services?
What is the company’s revenue?

I would argue that five years or more selling legacy products will start to tell a story. The founders may say they are at the bottom of the S-curve in a big market. Be careful here. In short, they may have sized the market wrong. Or they may have inferior products. Or both. If a company has been around for a long time selling “older” products with weak revenue growth, think twice. You will have limited upside hanging your hat there. Sales is teaching us how to evaluate new job whether you are a salesman or not.

  1. Sales will never disappear from a marketing perspective. But as automation occurs more and more, do you think the digital elements will have a huge impact in the way people sell their products and services?

Digital selling technology are aids that help move the deal through the sales process. Sales is a team sport and often requires the whole company to be successful. No amount of automation will replace the human elements required to sell effectively. I am describing large, enterprise technology deals. Automation like Salesforce.com are great tools that work as the glue to keep a deal together. They are helpful because these deals take long periods of time. These deals often have a high level of complexity. Sales automation helps keep the moving parts front and center for the salesperson.

About the author:

Christian J. Farber is married to Susan and lives in Tinton Falls, NJ. They live near the shore with their three boys. Chris is a featured and contributing author on many social media platforms including The Huffington Post. Chris has had a long career in Marketing and Sales. He is often described as a visionary thinker. Known for building high-performing marketing and sales teams, Chris has a unique management style. He focuses on the teams he leads and allows them to be the best they can be. Chris led many successful teams and performed transformation work at State Street. Further, he has had success at start-up companies like Albridge Solutions. At Albridge, Chris was an early employee and helped lead the company’s dramatic growth. Albridge was acquired by PNC Bank in 2008. Chris is currently the Chief Marketing Officer for a start-up technology company.

 

 

The Core of Your Network and Why it’s Important

The Core of Your Network and Why it’s Important

I have a big network. Approaching 50,000 followers on social media seems like a lot to me. I am not a Kardashian and don’t want to be. Money is not a motivating factor in my activities here. I have been clear on this from the beginning of this adventure, see my post on Raising Your Social Profile. I am pleased with every connection I make, and you should be too. Being helpful and educating with no expectation of a return is my mantra. Doing so will redouble your return from any effort expensed by you. It just works that way on social media. That is one reason why so many just don’t get it; it’s counter-intuitive.

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Your network is powerful, but the magic lies in the very center of it: the core connections. This is where old media and standards come into play. It is here where the new media and technological change we are living with today combine for results. Like a handshake and personal relationship, the core connections make all the difference. Chances are you have shaken hands or talked on the phone with many at the core of your network. I would guess you have not with those on the outskirts of your connections. These are the “long tail” connections, which have their own place and value proposition in your network. They are super special, but here we are talking about the core — the heart of your social experience.

Think hard about who is at the core of your network. Think more about how the list today compares to the list one year, three years, or five years ago.

Has it changed?

Next, consider your satisfaction with your career success. How is that going? Any dislocation between the two may provide a reason why things are going well, or not.

I believe having a growing network with a level of consistency of your core connections is critical. Over time your core should grow at a nominal rate. Your long tail connections should grow at an exponential rate. I connect with more than one hundred people a day on social media. They serve the outer edges of my network and over time feed the core, the core that is the magic of social networking.
At and near the core are the people who will help you solve personal problems or business issues. They will provide the one and only thing that is important after family: opportunity — the chance to help others, give back, make a difference. To make something, solve a problem, create an experience.  Experiences are lasting impressions we make on one another. We can remember and draw on them for a lifetime. They are so powerful that others will remember them and draw on them forever.

So here is the painful part. At some point you have to reconsider and reassess your core connections. If you believe in Jim Rohn’s premise that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” as I do, this exercise is critical. I don’t get hung up on the exact number being five. I favor a small percentage or fraction thereof as my core. Next, I think about how much time I am spending with them. Sometimes I pare my connections if I feel I am not giving and receiving what I expect from this area of my network. I know this is going to have some shaking their head. This has worked well for me. It served to strengthen my network in totality and the core, specifically. It follows Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory.

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I recently began writing less frequently on some large media platforms. I had been used to thousands and tens of thousands of views. I wanted to control my own content. So I launched my website and blog –    christianjfarber.com –  with the help of a friend. My social media mentor, John White from Social Marketing Solutions, added his expertise as well. We went live last month, and we’re basically starting from scratch. Today I have about 500 followers and I couldn’t be more pleased. Having a smaller audience allows me to be more intimate with them. It offers a way to talk about my work differently. The site is a combination of my career experiences and desires. It serves as a platform for me to teach from and to work out what I want to do next with my career.

I recently left my last employer as I had done all I could do for them. So, I am currently in transition. See, I give and get like I said earlier. The goal is to reach 1000 followers, which I expect in early summer. Of course, this will only happen if I continue to post quality content.

So I have made my network a little tighter and my reach much shorter. I hope to be closer to those I can help and who might help me. I have reviewed the roster of my followers, and there is a super strong core. I expect great results. Give it a try. Review your core, trim if you must, or change your audience and reach. It can be very rewarding.

My best, Chris

How To Make Tough Career Choices

I recently made a career choice. It took a year, but I made it. I decided I wanted to try something new. Sometimes your job becomes like chewing on fat. I had come to that point. I have been in Marketing and Sales for decades. I do love both disciplines and will continue along those roads as I move forward. It is what I do best. I have had success in large and small companies. Also, in high and low performing businesses as well. The key is how you measure your happiness with your work and your success.

What is success?

Money comes to mind. I have made a good bit along the way. Frankly, it is a hollow feeling to look at a W-2 with a big number on it. Black and white numbers on a page. They don’t make you any smarter, better looking or healthier. I would argue having money is better than being broke. I have been both and didn’t like being broke.

But the real feeling of enrichment comes from doing something meaningful. Something that has a positive impact on others. A job that is fun. I often say my greatest years were in a financial technology start-up, Albridge Solutions. I worked there from the beginning in 2000 until we sold it in 2008. But From 2004 to 2006 was a special time for me. I didn’t know how much money I made and didn’t care. I couldn’t wait to get to work each day.

Why? It was fun.

I worked with a great team of smart, entertaining people. We were destined to change the financial advisor world with our technology. And we did just that.

I had a good run State Street Bank in the earlier years of this decade. I had a great team of smart people who liked a good laugh and making a difference for clients.

Sound familiar?

I have tried other things and had some successes and some that didn’t go so well. But the unequivocal similarities were people, purpose and a sense of humor. I really believe it just might be that simple. I am on a hunt to find the next great team to lead. I can’t wait to meet them.

In the meantime, I am continuing to work on my personal brand. That is something that is super important. I recently had a conversation with John White from Social Marketing Solutions. We both write a lot on social media. I was looking for an idea and he suggested I tell my story. Talking about my brand and what I want to do next sounded reasonable. It inspired the post you are reading now. It serves two purposes. Someone who reads it just might learn something from my experiences. Also, writing is therapeutic for me. Thinking through what has made me successful and what I want to do is helpful to me too.

So I made a list of words that describe me. This is a really meaningful exercise I highly recommend.

Here they are: passionate, market focused, clients, sales, marketing, integrity, creative, storytelling, experience, writing, leadership, risk, emotional, relationships. I am sure there are more but this is a good sub-set to work from.

Why is the list important?

For one reason, I can use the list as I assess a new opportunity. Most important will be finding a company that has good people, a purpose for performing their work and doing so with a sense of humor. Next, I can apply my descriptive words to see if they fit in with the culture of the company.

I believe in this quote by Jim Rohn “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That is super smart. So I made my list and mapped it against different points in my life. And wouldn’t you know it. My list changed. I got away from the very people who had helped shape me into a successful executive. So the soul-searching has produced some things I like and want to do. We have also learned something to get back to.

Next is the job.

I have managed Marketing, Sales, Support, and Relationship Management. Certainly, my next role will be some combination of these disciplines. What I have learned through speaking with my coach is that I have found success in growth, high growth, reinvigorating and turn-around environments. It all depends on where the company is in the S-curve, how much revenue they have and the time it has been in business. To me, I can see myself managing one or any combination of these functions. That takes a back seat to two sets of requirements. The people, purpose and culture of the organization. Also, how I fit with them and the status of the company. I have decided growth and high growth are areas that I enjoy the most. So that is where I want to focus.

I will continue to chronicle my activities as my search for the next great growth opportunity unfolds. I will describe what is going right and what needs tweaking. I hope that I can share some practice experiences for others to use in their journey.

My best, Chris

Creativity Is Currency. Put It In The Bank.

Ideas flourish in the minds of all of us. We just need to have the balls to push them forward. Sometimes they work; most often they don’t. I actually like it when some of my ideas don’t work, because it means I am getting closer to one that will. Also, I try to be dogmatic to prove a point. I put myself out there and fail to teach someone a lesson. Sometimes it’s my staff; often, it’s me.

There is risk here; however, I have never cared about the downside. If you’re worried about failing, you will never stretch yourself and maximize your potential. You don’t want to be lying on your death bed thinking you should have done something or tried harder. I think it would be much more rewarding to feel good about your accomplishments, pass on some wisdom, and call it a day. I have come to the conclusion lately that when you die, it is over.

failure

It certainly feels great when you dream up an idea and see it through. It’s even better when you exceed your desired results. Particularly if the “No Storm” crowd was spending extra time pointing out why you shouldn’t waste your effort trying. Oh my – the perpetual “No” people drive me crazy. The only people worse are those that start a sentence with “You don’t understand…” I actually go out of my way to distance myself from these folks. I never hire them. I don’t expect YES woman and men; I just want to be affiliated with people who try. If we try and fail at something, so what. You gain from the experience and learn a thing or two, so when you try it again you improve your chances of success.

I like to perform in an enriched atmosphere that fosters creative thought. I once worked for a leader who said. “Chris, when I see you in the office with your feet up on this sill, music playing, and you staring out the window, I know you’re doing your best work for the company.”

He was right.

The culture, atmosphere, and people who created them allowed me to work at my absolute best. I do that work when I am comfortable. I wear jeans to work most every day. Shorts and tie-dyed Ts in the summer. When we’re visiting with clients, I match their dress but always tell them how I prefer to dress.  Most of the time they agree and say that’s how they dress on the weekends. I don’t like the separation. I am the same guy on Saturday and Sunday as I am Monday through Friday.

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One year I shaved my head, and I scared my wife when I came downstairs. I continued to do this for the next five years. It is not a coincidence that this was a period of dramatic growth at the company I worked for and where I was one of the early employees. We weren’t successful because I shaved my head, but we were successful because we created an atmosphere where you could be bald or have hair down to your shoulders. It was about being contented. We sold the business for several hundred million dollars during this period.  I was there when we received our first wire payment from ING for $2400 just seven years earlier. Over the years we created a culture of hard work, creativity, and fun. Culture is super important and building one from scratch, though not easy, is better than changing one.  Culture also supersedes strategy, as Peter Drucker is claimed to have said, or thought. See my article “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.”

I believe how you dress reflects how you feel about yourself. How secure you are in your own skin. The environments you work and play in affect how you feel, which, in turn, affects how you dress and how relaxed you are. Comfort enables creativity, in my experience.

Check on the environment you work in. Do you feel comfortable there? Do you get agita on Sundays knowing you have to go to that place on Monday? Worse, is the hangover from your experience from Friday bleeding into Saturday? If so, you are in a perpetual world of hurt from where you work. You have almost no chance to draw on your creative energy to develop and act on an idea. If you can, try working from home. We belong to a cabana club on the Jersey Shore. It is beautiful, and we are so lucky to be members. This year when it has been nice, I have been working from the club. When I need privacy, I close the door. If I don’t, I sit on the beach. I have Wi-Fi, two iPads, and two phones. I am connected to my company and staff. More important, I am in an atmosphere where I feel great. I can move from a contract negotiation call to dreamy thoughts about how we are going to develop a new lead development technique in minutes.

Let your freak flag fly, and create an environment where you enjoy spending time. You won’t realize you are working and your creativity will soar. In time, you won’t be surprised to see the results start to pile up.

My best, Chris.

What to do when your conscience shows up

Temptation by definition is, well, tempting. Every one of us has had the feeling. To take something we crave, that isn’t ours. Or to say something to convince someone to do something that benefits us more than themselves. There are any number of desires we can act on for our gratification. And even if we’re sure no one will find out about it, we resist.

That’s your conscience, and it is powerful. 

People without a conscience, or who ignore it, do cruel and hurtful things. If caught in the act, they risk permanent damage to their integrity and reputation. At some level, how others view your actions is all you have.

Charlie Sheen doesn’t have a conscience. Neither did Hitler or the gunman in the Pulse nightclub attack.  These guys could care less about the consequences of their actions.  Trump seems so preoccupied with what people think of him he is willing to do almost anything. His behavior includes ignoring his conscience to advance his agenda. I wonder about his commitment. Hillary seemed to want the highest office in our land. The problem is how she might have used it. Some of her actions define a lack of conscience. The email scandal is a perfect example.

The mere mention of the word conscience conjures up the word guilt. Freud and Nietzsche had their thoughts on guilt and conscience. I don’t want to go down the road of id, ego, and superego. I am just not educated enough to do that. What I can do though is show some practical examples of the use and misuse of conscience in business.

I am conscious of who I work and associate with in the corporate world and life. I take great care to curate a team that has high character. My teams have a conscience related to their business dealings. In short, they have to know the difference between right and wrong.

I often stress the importance of pricing integrity as clients and prospects talk to each other. If the devil pops up on your shoulder and whispers,”it’s ok to price inconsistently” that it wrong. Especially if the deal is similar to another, and you are charging a higher rate. You will get caught. Listen to the angel on your other shoulder. She knows what is best.

your-conscious

I have been around software sales and marketing for a long time. I have seen demos of real products that were in production. I also have seen fake demos that were slicker than the production offering. As long as there is disclosure, I have no problem with it. Many years ago I left a firm who demoed without setting this expectation. There was so much smoke and mirrors the pre-sales consultant believed his bullshit. Over time, the company was shut down.

Expense management is everyone’s responsibility in your business. For the past eight years, we have had an interest rate problem. Low rates make it harder to make money in the financial sector where I work. So, expenses are under a lot of scrutiny. If they are not it is only a matter of time for layoffs to start. I have seen guys get fired for booking their personal vacations and expensing them to the company. Are you kidding me? This cavalier entitlement attitude has to go. 

So how do you ensure you are running with the right crowd?

One option is to start a company from scratch. That is not easy. Also, you can only hire people you know and have worked with other places. While that is hard to it is what I do for critical positions. I keep my most trusted people in my network updated on what I am doing, then one day I pick up the phone with an opportunity.

I am doing this now as I search for the next place to hang my hat. However, I know that joining a new business always feels great in the beginning. When the honeymoon ends, you can assess the situation. What kind of shop did you join? Do they have a conscience?

Next, you have two and only two options, and they are to stay or go. If you aren’t comfortable with the company and how it does business, you have a chance to bring on change. Change is unlikely unless you are in a senior position and have the backing of the BOD, but it is an option. If successful in turning the company around you will have a hell of a business success story.  Your next employer will dole out the money to entice you to join them.

If you decide you are not a good fit for the company, it is likely you will choose to take your talents somewhere else. At the next place, you have the chance to fit in and be comfortable. Also, your likelihood of success will increase. Most importantly, you will be able to sleep at night, with a clear conscience. 

Like a fork is the road, when your conscience shows up. Take it. 

My best, Chris