REFERENTIAL TREATMENT

Wise advice when referring to such enterprises.

In my opinion references are not only a two way street, they are a multi-lane overpass leading in so many possible directions that you never know where the road might eventually end. If it does end.

References should be looked upon the same way you look upon clients and employees, as Human Capital.

 

5 Things Super-Smart People Do to Prepare Their References

Great references can help you clinch a job offer or new client. So why not help them help you?
IMAGE: Getty Images

You’ve applied for a job or pitched a new customer. Interest seemed high, and you’ve provided a list of references in hopes of closing the deal. But do you know exactly what those references will say, and whether–even inadvertently–they’re failing to make you seem like a top contender?

Before you give a reference, your best strategy is to know exactly what that reference will say. And while it can seem awkward to prepare a reference for questions he or she may receive, that’s exactly what you should do. That advice comes from career counselor Peter K. Studner, author of the book and website Super Job Search IV. Here’s the approach he recommends:

1. Choose your references carefully.

You want your reference to not only sing your praises, but also support any claims you’ve made about your skills, or the qualities of your product and service. So try to choose people who’ve had specific experiences that will show you and your work in the best light. If you’re referring customers, look for those who can tell a good story about how your product or service solved a problem in exactly the way you want to promote. If you’re applying for a job, consider former managers–but also people you’ve managed and helped to mentor, particularly if you’re looking for a managerial position.

“In addition, put some thought into how your references might present you to potential employers,” Studner advises. “Effective references are good communicators who can discuss you and your work in an objective manner without exaggerating.” A reference who’s bad at communication, impossible to reach, or will offer an unnecessarily long-winded tribute might do you more harm than good.

2. Figure out how each reference can best help you.

An innocent comment about your personality or approach can easily raise a red flag with a hiring manager or cautious customer, so try to have as good an idea as you can of what your reference might say. If you can, set the stage by letting each reference know the specific skills or benefits of your product you would like them to mention. This might be different from reference to reference, and depending on the customer or job you’re seeking.

3. Meet with your references.

Ideally, Studner says, this should be an in-person meeting, but you can also talk by phone or video chat if that’s impractical. Keep in mind that, both for the meeting and for the reference itself, you’re asking someone to sacrifice their time–the most precious commodity any professional has these days. So use that time wisely, and express your appreciation.

4. Ask the tough questions.

That is, the same tough questions that a prospective customer or employer is likely to ask. An employer might ask why you left the company, what your greatest areas for improvement were, and whether they would hire you again. If you’re applying for a managerial position, they will ask about your leadership skills. They are also likely to ask who else in the company managed you–and then also contact these others and ask for their thoughts as well, even if you did not list them as a reference. Both you and your reference should be prepared for this question.

A prospective customer may ask about anything that went wrong with your product or service, whether they would purchase it again, and may also ask if your reference can refer them to any other of your current or past customers. They may also ask about any price concessions you made. Your reference should be prepared to answer all of these.

5. Keep in touch.

Don’t think of your references as a one-time need. They’re an asset to your career just like your resume or branding materials. So keep them in the loop about jobs you’ve applied for or customers you’ve pitched so they’re not caught by surprise when these companies get in touch. If appropriate, ask the reference to let you know if they’ve been contacted and how the conversation went.

Going forward, nurture the relationship. Look for opportunities to send your reference useful articles or make introductions that might benefit him or her. Remember that references can make or break your career. “Don’t treat references as an afterthought,” Studner says.

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BUSINESS NARRATOR/BUSINESS NARRATION WRITER: Creative Non-Fiction to Help Your Business Grow

This article, which I shared with Launch Port, on business and corporate narration, has led me to the decision that I will now start offering my professional writing services for Business Narration. Or rather, to be more accurate and specific, that I will now add Business Narration to the list of business and writing services I offer my clients.

I am already an excellent storyteller and journalist, as well as a very good business and copy writer.

So combining those two capabilities and skills and fusing them into a single new service line only makes a great deal of sense to me.

So beginning in this year, 2015 AD, I will be offering my services as a Business Narrator to all of my clients, new and old. If you are an entrepreneur, a start-up venture, a company or corporation, or a long established business that would like to better communicate your story to the world then I will be happy to help you construct the Narrative of your business or venture so that you can effectively and profitably share it with others.

If you would like to see examples of my Work and Writings (including my Narrative Writings) then you may look here:

Launch Port

Wyrdwend

Tome and Tomb

The Missal

HOW TO KNOW

The Best Way To Know If A Business Prospect Is Worth Your Time

Ron is the CEO of a business services company. He has a team of people who regularly prospect for business by contacting potential clients. Ron’s company has some pretty compelling solutions for their industry. Their pitch is pretty good, so they set many meetings with executives who express interest in their services. The frustration for Ron is that he and his team have almost no sense of which opportunities will turn into good clients, and which ones are not worth their time to pursue.

During a workshop with Ron’s team, we evaluated the information each person collected when meeting with potential clients. Uh oh! It turns out that each team member was collecting their own set of information they thought might be important. None of the team members was collecting the same information as another team member. Ron’s team needed to discover the best way to know if a business prospect is worth your time .
Four Quadrants of Information

There are many systems that describe the information you should collect when meeting with potential customers. Many of these systems require a Venn Diagram, an Abacus, and a floating point calculator if you want to truly manage the process. I am a big believer that you need a simple process if you want people to follow it.

Of course, just knowing what to capture is nice, but here is a way to keep track of how you’re doing, and some sample questions you can use in that part of the discussion. First, take out a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line down the center from top to bottom creating two equal sides (left and right). Then Draw a line that splits the page horizontally into top and bottom. This will give you four equally-sized quadrants. In the corner of the upper left box, write the word “Issue”. In the upper right, write “Impact/Importance.” In the lower left box write “Results,” and write “Others Impacted“ in the lower right box.

The Best Way To Know If A Business Prospect Is Worth Your Time

Let me explain each one…

PROFITS AND THE PROPHETS OF PROFIT

My daughter is young and has recently had a few new jobs. These are her first jobs (entry-level) and we are letting her work some during her gap year between graduation and college. She was not allowed to work during the time she was homeschooled and prior to graduating High School.

(This is the way my parents did it as well, although I was not homeschooled. That is to say that I was not allowed to work a real job, except during the summers, before graduating High School although on the weekends as I got older I would often sneak off on my own and work secretly without them knowing of it.)

Anyway, that aside being what it is, my daughter has recently held a job at a deli preparing food. At the close of each business day any food not sold must be disposed of. And so they do. By throwing it away like garbage.

Now I fully understand as both a business and a health matter that any food that might be rotten or unsanitary in any way must be disposed of in this way. But what about the food that has simply gone unsold during the day’s normal business operations?

Many employees have written to the owner of this particular establishment asking, even begging, that this food not be disposed of meaninglessly but rather be donated to public shelters or to the homeless or the poor.

The owner’s answer to these requests has, so far at least, always been along these general lines, “I pay for the food and pay my employees to prepare and sell the food for a profit, if I give the left-over food away for nothing I make the same profit as if I just throw it away (that being none) so it is easier to just throw it away.”

Now I fully understand that as businessman this can be a somewhat complicated and even tricky issue for several different reasons. First of all, you have individuals, people who could easily work to make the money to buy their own food but choose not to harassing you all of the time for “free food,” especially at closing time. Many people nowadays feel as if they are owed something and will happily beg and live a life of outright dependency simply because they can, not because they must or should. They wish to be a consumer of society only, and never a real producer. How do you avoid encouraging or promoting this disastrous habit (and it is a disastrous and malignant habit – both individually and societally) by giving away free food to undeserving recipients?

Secondly you might very well end up with several organizations vying for your leftover food, and how do you determine who is truly needy or in the most need. (This might be the organizational equivalent of the undeserving individual, or it might simply be an honest contest between equally needy or equally responsible organizations.) Indeed nowadays you might even inspire bad publicity from one organization or another offended that you chose another cause over them in their quest to obtain your leftover foods.

Third, as a businessman (or as anyone who has ever started-up or run their own business or company) I know that there is the simple but sometimes daunting logistical problem(s) involved – how is this left-over food distributed, to whom, where, and when?

Finally there is the liability issue. Suppose some of your donated leftover food is consumed by someone who becomes ill, and regardless of whether it can be reliably and scientifically established that your organization was at fault, or not, you might still face a lawsuit or at least the threat of one at some point in the future?

Now, as I said above I am fully aware of the difficulties involved in giving away free and left-over food in this manner. I happen to agree that all of the points I addressed above are valid concerns and worth consideration. They are all liabilities arguing against the giving away of free and left-over food at the end of each business day. (And since food is an immediately perishable item it is difficult to store and properly retain, it is not like simply putting paper products into inventory. Food must be used and used quickly, or it will be wasted. Therefore it has a very short-lived half and shelf life.)

However, all of that being said and true, I am nevertheless both a Cristian and a Capitalist. In either case I do not believe in or find it to be a good business or personal or economic or even spiritual practice to needlessly waste perfectly good resources (even if those resources have a very short useful shelf-life).

And to be perfectly honest there are viable and workable solutions to each problem I listed above. You could rather easily (though it may take some time and experimentation) develop a relationship with reputable non-profit organizations that assist and feed the homeless, the helpless, the poor, the wounded veteran, or the medically disabled. You could develop contractual agreements with such organizations that state that they accept any left-over foods at their own risk and that you are free of liability.

(An unnecessary risk you say, and not worth the effort? Well, anyone who works with food knows that sooner or later, either through the food itself or through the employee handling it, you will make a customer or client ill, possibly even, though no fault of your own – such as undetected infection at a processing plant – kill someone with the food you serve. Tragic accidents such as those occur all of the time handling food, and although people don’t like to even honestly and realistically consider the idea, it is true. Sooner or later, whether the food be sold or given away as free leftovers, someone will be made sick or worse by consuming it.)

As for encouraging unnecessary and counterproductive dependence in the lazy and slothful, that will require a policy similar to that of determining the best organizations to work with in distributing the leftover food. You don’t want to give your leftover foods to the lazy and irresponsible but to the deserving, hard-working, truly indigent, and responsible end-user. But that can be done.

Finally, as regards the logistical problem(s) you can insist that anyone that takes the left-over food do so at their own expense, that they provide their own pick-up and transportation services so that this does not eat into your own profit or disrupt your own business operations. The risks might seem great at first glance, but each problem is soluble and just to be honest all of life and all of business is, by very nature, risk. Modern people might not like to hear that, they might do all they can to flee risk or to mitigate risk (and mitigating truly reckless risk is always wise, mitigating all risk always foolish) or to simply avoid risk, but the truth remains business and life itself is risk. That’s just the way life works. Many modern people don’t like that fact but it still remains, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a true and unavoidable fact. Business is risk. Life is risk.

Now let me return to the fact that I am both a Christian and a Capitalist.

As a Christian I am in no way in favor of unnecessarily wasting resources, especially resources that given our current national and world economy people are both in desperate need of, and which are perishable and not immediately replaceable or retainable (to many at least). As a Christian I do not want to encourage dependency but personal productivity, and the useful and vital employment of each individual’s particular talents. That is one reason we exist as human beings, to make best and most productive use of our individual human and God-given talents. Yet I am also fully aware by both simple observation and personal experience that individual people fall on hard times, become injured or ill on occasion, or become faced with some problem (sometimes unwittingly, sometimes through no fault of their own) that they cannot solve alone. That is exactly when charity is most needed and most effective. Therefore it behooves the Christian businessman, or any businessman, to remember those salient facts of human existence. And to assist others whenever and wherever and however they can. This is not only a business matter, it is a moral matter.

As a Capitalist I am also acutely aware of this Truth – the injured or ill man, the needy man, the indigent man, the man who yesterday or today was down on his luck or awash in unfortunate circumstances may very well tomorrow be the successful man, the profitable person, the businessman, a potential partner, or even a wealthy client or customer. Capitalism feeds itself in this way, as it should, for it is not a static and self-consuming economic system (when functioning properly and when properly applied) such as socialism, but a dynamic and vital system that continually makes millionaires of paupers, and sometimes paupers of the wealthy. Therefore as a Capitalist it is a reckless and entirely self-defeating act to ever senselessly waste vital and useful resources; especially much needed resources that perish quickly. Resources that could save and rebuild lives. Just to be honest to waste food is an entirely anti-Capitalistic idea because contrary to the current and popular misconception of Capitalism as a purely profit-driven (in the low sense of the term) and inhuman mechanism (it is definitely not) it is always actually an entirely voluntary exchange of free human motivations and drives seeking both best self-interest and the best self-interest of the other in commercial and social exchange. For if your client and customer always remains indigent and poor and ill and incapable then he is also too indigent and too poor and too incapable to purchase your own products and services. Especially your best products and services. In other words the poor client or customer is not a good client and customer, whereas the wealthy client and customer is a good client and customer (in a business and commercial sense). Therefore the Wise Capitalist seeks communal and mutual Profit, not just individual and personal Profit. The True and High Minded Capitalist is like the True and High-Minded Christian, he knows that the better off is the Other Person, then the better off is he himself. And it will always be that way. The profits lay in the margins of advantage between the Self and Other, not in the separating disadvantages between the self and the other.

Therefore my conclusions in this matter are that it is both a senseless and anti-Capitalistic act to dispose of and waste food such as my daughter’s employer and business owner does, and an immoral and un-Christian act to do so.

This is not even to mention the obverse of the equation: the possible enormous public relations advantages that might be gained by being widely known as a responsible, morally-driven, and socially beneficial company or corporation as well as a highly-profitable one, both now and in the future.

I am writing this article therefore, and this is far from all that might be said on the issue (as a matter of fact this might even become an Interactive Essay on the issue, and perhaps it should), so that currently operating companies and corporations can take a good and honest look at their own operations in this regard. Are you needlessly and senselessly wasting valuable customer, human, and property resources merely because you have a misguided conception of both Capitalism and Profit, or merely because you fear risk in making and developing your True and Foundational Profits?

Because if so then I say to you, my friend, “there are profits, and then there are Prophets of Profits.”

Be not a slave to mere profits, but rather a Great Prophet of High-Profits. And you will discover that as a result not only you, but the whole world will thrive.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND WORTH

An excellent article on product development and building trust with your client and customer base. Well worth a read.

However building trust in fields involving security risks takes a lot of vetting and qualification.

This Is How You Get People to Trust Your Product

Most new tech companies simply would not work without consumer trust. People wouldn’t get into an Uber, list their home on Airbnb, or even buy shoes on Zappos if they didn’t trust those companies to deliver a high quality, secure service. UrbanSitter sets the bar even higher: It connects families with babysitters on the Internet. There are few things that require more faith.

“In many ways, we’re tackling the service that requires the most trust in someone’s life,” says UrbanSitter CEO Lynn Perkins. “If companies can replicate what we’ve done in other sectors, they’ll knock it out of the park.”

So how did UrbanSitter pull this off? How did they build a product that convinces parents that strangers can safely watch their children? Perkins has become an expert in this area, pointing to a combination of product features, logistics, and customer service efforts that have allowed them to become a reliable solution for hundreds of thousands of households nationwide. In this exclusive interview, she shares how UrbanSitter has approached trust-building and how other companies can do the same to grow fast…

PROPER CLIENT TARGETING

A very good article on client-targeting for copywriters. But it has much wider applications to multiple fields of career and business pursuits.

How to Find Clients Who Will Pay You What You’re Worth

When you first hang out your copywriting shingle, you’re excited. You’re eager to show the world your new skills and start making money. Yet, many beginning copywriters lack a critical skill in these early days.

It’s the skill of “qualifying” your prospects. Developing this skill is crucial for your bank account, your enthusiasm, and your sanity. The faster you realize it, the sooner you’ll be profitable.

Why “People Who Eat” is a Not a Target Audience

A food and wine marketer I know said one of her clients described her target market as “people who eat.” Hmmm … what do you think? While everyone eats, everyone is not interested in taking gourmet-cooking classes. Even if they are interested, they may not have the time or the money. So “everyone who eats,” is not a prospect.

Do you see the difference?

Now, let’s turn to the beginning copywriter who thinks “everyone” is their prospect. Have you ever thought that every business around you needed your marketing help? Better yet, that they wanted your marketing help and were ready and willing to pay for it?

There was a time I believed this. Luckily, I got on board with reality fairly quickly.

But I hear this notion from my fellow freelancers all the time. Complaints from a graphic designer who keeps asking me how to get clients. Questions from a new copywriter who wants to know how to find clients to pay her.

I respond with the same parameters I’ve used to refine my business as I grow…

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