Monthly Archives: February 2009

PART V: Happy Feet; the success of standing out!


I was reading this enjoyable penguin tale (yes I have the kids book and the DVD) and it reminded me of a tough economy and how to succeed.

Let me break it down for you….

Our Hero Mumble is the embodiment of what (I think) it takes to succeed in the current world.

Our little hero was a little “different”. He was born into a world struggling with a poor economy… there was not enough fish to go around, the area was fished out, and Mumble stood out in his community for all the “wrong” reasons. In a world of singers, he was a dancer! He was shunned for his beliefs (“it just ain’t penguin”), for his passion, and shouldered the blame everyone placed upon him for his beliefs’ bringing this famine amongst them.

Mumble took this rejection on board, he tried to assimilate, yet struggled to find his core niche. So he set off on a journey of self discovery (OK he was made redundant… .sorry, banished, he was banished, definitely banished), with the goal of solving the problem.

On this journey he continued to learn. He was attacked by strange beasts (angry CEO’s taking a pay cut?) found a community that embraced him (for me that would be community 2.0.. ie RBC, Twitter and more recently Recruitment 2.0 Asia Pacific).
This community enabled him to find an idol, (Lovelace) someone who knew all the solutions, and would share that information for the sum of a pebble. (how many websites promise to make you a millionaire for a simple fee?) (Please note, not for one second am I suggesting these sites are the breeding grounds for false idols, lots of “marketing Web 2.0 guru’s”, but not false idols)

After being embraced by this community, our hero felt he had to go out on his own, he needed to rely only on himself to solve this problem. (look at the new businesses which started up in the last 3 years)

He found even more challenges in this, he was lost, lonely and eventually out of hope. He was found and “saved” in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately he was repatriated in a mind numbing, soul draining environment, vanilla environment. He lost himself here, just going through the motions and surviving, day in day out (Look at all those businesses which have been sold or bought during the last year!)

(I think we are currently at this point in the market)

Eventually, Mumble our hero, found himself again. His individualism started bubbling to the top in an irresistible manner, until it flowed uncontrollably from every part of his body. Yes he was dancing again! He was publicly displaying his unique value proposition, AND PEOPLE WERE TAKING NOTICE! People were “buying it”. Momentum was building.

The world was taking notice. The world was buying. The world did something! The world gave him what he needed. They took him home, colluded with each other to stop the fishing in the area (thus ending the famine) and our hero, became everyone’s! His individuality, his unique selling point, his value proposition had made him a success. He stood out in a sea of same, our hero STOOD OUT and became successful.

P.S, there may have been a love story running parallel to this, but seemingly unimportant to my tale, so I left it out

Why I blog?


This is an interesting question. Why is it that I find myself sitting in the dark, with the whole household asleep, punching something out on the keyboard? Writing something that will “disappear” onto the internet never to be seen again, maybe read, maybe not. Why bother? What’s in it for me or anyone? Word of my blogging has been building momentum in my social and professional circles, it is getting a mixed review, not so much the content, but the fact that I am actually doing it. When do you get the time? Aren’t you busy? are common questions I am facing. (In case you’re thinking the same thing.. answers are a) late night, b) yes I am.)

This is a hard question to contemplate unless you try it. I started blogging because I was reading lots and lots of articles, reading forums, and I needed to get involved. So I gave it a try… I wrote something for Recruitingblogs.com in April 2008 and never looked back. I’d always wanted to write, just never found a forum, after a few, I set up an account on Blogger.com who knows where this will go from here.

I have found it to be a great experience, cathartic in a way, a great release for me. I had fears at the start, I was nervous and a bit reluctant, I must have read, re-read and re-read again those first few posts hundreds of times before I meekly hit that scary “Publish” button. Here’s the thing viewers.. for those of you with publishing reluctance… NOTHING HAPPENED! the world didn’t explode, there wasn’t line after line of people pointing and laughing at me (that I could see anyway).

First one went well, so I thought I’d try another (took me a month to work myself up to do another). I was worried about running out of things to say or the core content (again those who know me… stop laughing!). You’ll be surprised where content can come from. Commenting on articles you read, conversations you had, meetings you were in, mistakes you made etc. (I recently learned about another phenomena “bloggers regret”, ie I wrote something, published and then wished I hadn’t, too late then.. it was out there)

Becoming actively involved by blogging and commenting on forums etc was amazing for my confidence, maybe I do know something, maybe I can add value to others. I was involved in a discussion recently about “lurkers” on sites, those who just hang out by the fringes, read the content, get the value but don’t offer any. If you are reading this, and you feel you could be considered a “lurker”, it’s OK, I understand, but forums, blogs well hey, Web2.0 etc works better when there is more involvement.

I have got a lot out of it. Personally and Professionally. I have “met”, well mingled and exchanged views with some great minds in my industry and am constantly in awe at their generosity at giving me some of their time and thoughts. I have learned more about Web2.0 tools and other Recruiting tools and techniques than I thought possible. (I honestly could not see the value in Twitter, then I tried it.. connected with some people and am amazed at the information I can get from those 140 characters. Yes I micro-blog too)

I read something the other day where someone stated that everyone has an agenda on these forums. I was initially offended.. I had no such thing. On reflection I was wrong… Of course I had an agenda… I really enjoy mixing and exchanging views with people of these forums.. that’s what I get out of it, that’s my agenda.

If you are reading this, (thanks) and you’ve got this far, (thanks again) I urge you to involve yourself in things. You will be better off for it, I’ll be better off for it, we all will. Write comments, add view points to discussions, and when you feel up to it… write something, I’m happy to proof read if you want.

It’s like most things, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. That is why I stay up late doing this, after my working day is done, it’ll make me better at what I do. That, and I suppose the fact I am a show off, like to see my name in writing, am a show off, struggle to keep quiet, am a show off, and am the youngest of 5 kids and expect to be the center of attention… did I mention I am a show off 🙂

I’ve finally made sense of "The Apprentice!"

So you’re over Agency work.. over the sales? Over the cold calls? over the rejection? over the financial expectations? the stats? the KPI’s? the managers looking over your shoulder? The feeling that no-one wants to talk to you? You’ve just got to get out of sales! I know the feeling. You think… I know Recruitment, I’ll go into Internal Recruitment, or try to move up to HR (I hate that thought, UP to HR…. Seriously?, but apparently it happens)

I have news for you… it’s all bad.

I used to watch “The Apprentice” and wonder why Donald Trump, Alan Sugar et al (OK the network executives and the producers of these shows) base the hiring of a high level executive based on their sales activities. Surely there is more to an executive than just leading and working in teams and selling stuff?

I have put a fair bit of thought into this over the last little while.

You know what? There isn’t.

I am a big fan of the KISS principle. (Keep it Simple Stupid) Taking business to its simplest form, you have something that people see as valuable, they give you something for it (money, rocks, beads, whatever). You try to get as many of these things as possible, they try to part with as little of aforementioned belonging for it, and BANG you are selling and in business.

Everyone is in sales. Everything is sales! And just to put it in perspective, no one actually gets paid unless someone sells something! Sounds cold doesn’t it. But it is true, if nothing is sold, how else will money come in. (I know there are exceptions, but in most occurrences, if nothing is sold, then no money is made).

But surely, working in HR isn’t sales?

Serious? I know of no other group in any organisation that has to work as hard to sell the vision of a company, some of the time to an unwilling or unreceptive audience. I mean what other group, can meet a group of employees, tell them extra hours may need to be done, but there cannot be any overtime! and still have people smiling as they walk out of the room?

Internal Recruitment surely isn’t sales?

Sorry. You are selling… all the time, just in a different way. You are selling your companies reputation, your Employee Value Proposition, your opportunity and yourself to a wider, unknown market. You still need to close, ie get someone to sign. You still get pressure from your managers to hit KPI’s, if you are “hunting” for people you still need to make cold calls. More people do want to talk to you though!

OK move into Finance.. surely not selling?

Sorry, these people look at the figures, the accounts, the in’s and out’s of a business, and ensure (well try to) that the story these numbers tell, is acceptable to the market as a whole, ie selling the story. Manipulating or being creative with the numbers etc.

Reception.. now that’s pretty safe for a sales free role isn’t it?

Not even close, how many of us make decisions on a company based on what it is like as soon as you walk in? How you are greeted and looked after whilst you wait for your appointment. Places don’t call receptionists the Directors of First impressions for nothing. I knew a place where the CEO sat at reception during a round of interview, just to see how the applicants treated the reception staff as opposed to her. I’ve also had people comment about our reception staff, how they relate to each other, and set the tone for the company, and may I add, we were a place they really wanted to join.

OK, the cleaners, surely they aren’t?

Sorry, wrong. Their job is to ensure that the environment is looking as nice as possible. Pre-sales if you will. To ensure that people are comfortable buying from you or your company. I have a mate who has a theory, he won’t buy a car from a car lot that is on gravel or unsealed. Why? He’s not sure they will be there tomorrow as it doesn’t look like it would be. No investment in the long term you see. Same theory is applicable.

I’m afraid through everything we do people make buying decisions based on what we do and how we do it. Just because you aren’t out there knocking on doors, making cold calls, writing tenders or closing those big deals doesn’t mean you aren’t selling.

You need to stop turning up your nose at the idea of sales. You need to embrace it, go with it, find a way to do it better. There may be aspects of the Sales cycle you don’t like and don’t want to get involved with… that’s fine. However, respect the idea that you are in sales. It will be better for both you and your company in the long run. No-one wants to The Donald in the Boardroom if he’s only got two words for you.

A weekend of Horror, A generation of Pain, A lifetime of Pride

I was asked in an interview recently by a Canadian, if I as an Australian, have (like Canadians apparently) an inferiority complex in regards to the USA. I replied, tongue firmly in my cheek, “that we are lucky here in Australia… we have New Zealand to make us feel good about ourselves.” A little flippant? Yes. Man am I disappointed that I said that now.

This last weekend has been a weekend of Hell here in Victoria, bush fires wiping towns off the map, dismantling communities, destroying families and taking property, animals and lives indiscriminately. The stories are astounding, the emotion felt through all forms of the media real, the tears wept by all are genuine, even by those seemingly unaffected, miles away just watching the television.

My wife asked me this afternoon how I felt about this, I really struggled for the words. I now know why, I’ve reflected more and there isn’t on emotion. They are mixed. Sadness and sorrow for that which is lost, joy at that which survived, pride at the action made to support and rebuild, confusion and helplessness as to how to assist.

The stories of heroism and lucky escapes are eroded by the vision of devastation and warlike remnants of what was until last weekend a beautiful part of the world.

The outpouring of emotion and support for those affected is something to behold. This is touching people deeply. Most people itching to help, to give what they can, money, food, toys, blankets etc.

It must be close to 20 years ago when my sister, lost her house in a house fire, through faulty electrics I think. I still remember the phone call in the middle of the night, or early morning. Jumping in the Ute with my Dad to go out and see what we could salvage and help. I won’t forget the smell, and how the house looked. (Please note I realise this will be nothing in comparison to what has been unfolding over the last few days) I also won’t forget, the support and help my sister received from her community, from friends, family and strangers alike. It blew me away, I was moved even (as a 14 year old I think) then to write an open thank you letter to the local newspaper to everyone.

This may sound jingoistic, and I suppose it is. I am so proud of being an Australian tonight, it is unbelievable. An inferiority complex? More like a Superiority complex at the moment. A country built around the legend of mateship, of helping out your neighbour, even if you’ve never met them, I truly believe we are all connected under this southern cross.

I am but a man, a husband, a father, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend, a colleague, an acquaintance, I cannot talk for the rest of the country, but I can talk for me.

Thank you Australia, and all of you Australians, for your efforts todate for those who are suffering through the fires.

For those who can donate money please logon to http://www.redcross.org.au/default.asp

For those who can donate clothes and toys please visit your local Salvation Army

For those of you who are religious, please add a few extra prayers for those who are suffering.

For everyone else, keep an eye out for opportunities to help, listen to the authorities, you don’t want your efforts to end up hindering the response teams.

We will mourn the losses, we will celebrate and support the survivors, we will rebuild.

I am PROUD. I am AUSTRALIAN.

"Greed is Good"

A catch cry of the 80’s! A time of opulence, bad style and probably even worse music. It was the predecessor of the last recession, a time most famously known in Australia as “the recession we had to have”. We may look back and snicker and scorn, but what will the next generation say about us? I think my hair and suit will stand the test of time, but who knows 🙂

Did “Greed is Good” make a comeback? Like the fashion? If not, what will people in the future see as the straw which broke this economy’s back. Is it the “I want, therefore I get it” attitude of consumerism? or is it leaders asleep at the wheel? Does the global corporate players burden the blame for this, or our leaders, for missing the indicators? Or will we await the movies to tell us what we were/are? Will we find the answer on LinkedIn, Youtube, Facebook or Twitter?

Thinking back 18 months ago… There was a cockiness about the world again, a swagger in business leaders step, share prices were skyrocketing, the next generation was assured. Was to world too confident and self impressed? I saw it in the tech wreck of the early 2000’s. Man IT in pre 2000 was great, BMW’s all round (well not for me unfortunately, I was just getting into it), long boozy lunches, claim them on expenses or not? And that was just the recruiters. IT was THE place to be. If you could spell IT you’d be a millionaire, or so it seemed. Then… BOOM, the old bubble burst as it will, Share options not worth the paper they were written on, IT people out of work, uni students bailing from IT courses, and the IT Recruiter community re-group, get rid of dead wood and wannabe’s and start again.

The last few years have been littered with stories of a “War for Talent”, heaps of attention given to attracting staff to your company, a prevailing feeling of good was in most places, the world seemed short staffed. If you had a bad day, had a disagreement with your boss, got a poor review or someone else you saw as inferior got more money… that was fine… there will be another job, that will pay more, and respect you more… just around the corner, or on the next job board you looked at. tick tick tick.. BOOM, what was that? Ouch.. that was 2009 biting you in the butt.

I wrote in my last blog post about my fear for Gen Y’s…. I wrote

Whilst you cannot discount Gen Y’s, you cannot build an organisation around just that demographic. You will need experience to get through the current climate, you need battle scars, people who have survived downturns in the past, and you need mentors for those entering the workforce. I think now is going to be more important than ever. We are going to have people entering the workforce, already confused as to their part in this world.

Gen Y’s have gone through university with a certain feeling of entitlement, there was a skills shortage remember, the war for talent was well and truly underway. Their career was already mapped out, one company as a stepping stone to the other, 20% increase min each new company, companies falling over themselves to hire them. Now, the world of 2009. Graduate programs getting scrapped, wages getting frozen, job losses everywhere… how did we get this surplus of people? (Recruiters must have been doing one hell of a job!) Their picture of self must have been challenged greatly.

It is not the time for employers to get too excited and get even with the talent market, no matter how tempting it is. We still need to nurture the talent of tomorrow, we still have to keep the stars of today and respect the greats of yesterday. Maybe this new world post 2009 will get rid of these tags, and will work together as survivors of 2009… until the next generation comes along that is.

What we do now is how we will be remembered I think. Take your time, consider everything and act accordingly. The most important word is ACT! Be bold, have conviction, and DELIVER. I know I want to make a difference. I want my kids to look at me as a representative of my generation, and say, “Wow, look at his cool hair, and amazing fashion sense. Boy I glad he did what he did in 2009, 2010, 2011 etc!” (Although realistically 2 of those three won’t happen.) I hope the right one does!

The art of being Wrong

This was a good week. I either learned something or crystallised a thought I had bubbling under the surface, depending on the hour and my ego will depend on which way that falls.

I have been with my company for almost 7 years now, and thought I had the whole place worked out, well I hoped I had. I know the IT industry, and how it works in my market, and I know the main players. I work for a company which provides IT services to tier one tier two companies, and my job is to hire everyone (permanent workforce) to achieve this.

We had a challenge at the start of the financial year, we needed to grow our Business Development team. We have a really strong and successful BD team, but we wanted to take it a different way. We had grown by repeat business and word of mouth for the last 16/17 years, which is a very strong and secure way to grow a business. However to get to the next stage, I needed to hire some hard core hunters.

There are a lot of similarities between our business and an Agency, and yet the differences are vast. My company had never hired anyone from an Agency (ie hired an ex TPR) to do sales for us, and I thought this was strange, as the BD people I had worked with in TPR were the hardest core sales people I have ever seen.

I put my case forward, to the Managers of BD and our Directors and was given the go ahead. Hunting Agency BD people I went.

As always finding the right sales person was a challenge, wading through the BS for the reality. I found a person who was dead set right, a phone warrior, a fearless hunter, a strong cultural fit and a great guy to go with it. Added to this he seemed to have his ego in check too. GOLD!

Unfortunately what I thought we needed… we really didn’t. Yes, he definitely opened doors, got new business and did what we thought we wanted.

I wanted the hard core hunter.. got it..
I wanted someone to build business… got it..

However, I needed someone to do this AND build on our core strengths…. our relationships, our non discounting, our ability to engage our people at all levels of the organisation, and the fact that those of us who don’t actually deliver a project or a solution, are there to support and develop those who do… We didn’t really get this.

I know that relationships are built in TPR’s at all levels of an organisation, that as sales people for these organisations you solve business problems, yet I’m not convinced we can call that solution selling. Which I really needed. The sales cycle is traditionally quicker in TPR world. More transactional if you will. It is one person, one problem normally.

Not saying one is better than the other, I have just seen the different skill sets, I’m sure people can and do make the transitions between both. Yet I have learned that it is not a simple transition like I initially thought. I was wrong.

This actually excites me, the outcome is unfortunate, and trust me.. I hate being wrong, however you don’t learn without failure. We took a risk, OK, it didn’t work out as we’d hoped.. but we had the (to quote WWE) intestinal fortitude to take it. (The fact that I was allowed to take this risk as my CEO was against this plan, encourages me as to the culture of my company, please note, I’m not sucking up, I’d be surprised if my Executive had time to read blogs). It was something different, the upside was compelling enough to give it a go.

Even in this economy, should we still be taking risks? Or if we don’t are we letting opportunities slip? Will I be allowed to take such a risk in 3 months time? Will conservatism take over and kill off the entrepreneur, especially as economists and accountants get more and more involved in decision making? It’ll be interesting to watch!

Part IV: "Guess how much I love you?" – Gen Y v Gen X and Baby boomers.

I can’t help it… I was going to write another blog tonight, but was given this book from my kids to read tonight and couldn’t resist.

“Guess how much I love you” is a charming little tale of a little Nutbrown hare and his older, bigger, wiser friend Big Nutbrown Hare. It does sound a little sucky really, and the language is simple and easy, the kind that is easy to read to my kids, and fun to hear them recite. Hit “play” above and you’ll see what I mean.

However, my take on this tail..oops I mean tale is based around the generation gap between Gen Y, and Gen X/Baby Boomers. It may be a long bow.. but a lesson to be learned anyway. No offense meant to those Gen Yers reading it.

Little Nutbrown Hare (our poster boy for Gen Y), needs to communicate with Big Nutbrown Hare’s (Gen Xer) and needs his undivided attention. He needs it so much he grabs his ears… .ouch! Why? He has a question, which will both try to suck up as well as try to prove he is smarter that his more experienced counterpart.

Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare, spends most of the book trying to out shine his older, larger counterpart. Trying to out jump and out think his more experienced mentor.

“I love you as high as I can jump” said Little Nutbrown Hare
“But I love you as high as I can jump” said Big Nutbrown Hare, almost hitting his ears on the tree branch.

How did I get the generation battle out of this?

I deal a lot with Gen Ys, and whilst I think the whole, “they are so much different to the rest of the workforce and thus need to be managed differently” mantra is a little over cooked, there definitely are truths.

You need to be prepared to both hear and listen to them. They are surrounded with information, so much more than most of us were when we started our careers, and they aren’t afraid the share it. You cannot fear it, shun it or ignore it. It is there. You have to follow Big Nutbrown Hare’s attitude. Listen to them, and if they are not right, or their idea is not so new or ground breaking, tell them. Bluntly, yet nicely, encourage allow them to keep thinking.

One of the proudest things I have been involved with over the last year was our Industry Based Learning Student. He arrived at our company wanting to run the world, requesting responsibility, people reporting to him etc… When he gave his presentation at the end of his tenure, he outlined that one of his biggest takeaways from this was the fact that he now knows, what he doesn’t know. (and I believe an increased level of respect that others already working may know a thing or two). There was a lot of work done in the middle.

Whilst you cannot discount Gen Y’s, you cannot build an organisation around just that demographic. You will need experience to get through the current climate, you need battle scars, people who have survived downturns in the past, and you need mentors for those entering the workforce. I think now is going to be more important than ever. We are going to have people entering the workforce, already confused as to their part in this world.

Gen Y’s have gone through university with a certain feeling of entitlement, there was a skills shortage remember, the war for talent was well and truly underway. Their career was already mapped out, one company as a stepping stone to the other, 20% increase min each new company, companies falling over themselves to hire them. Now, the world of 2009. Graduate programs getting scrapped, wages getting frozen, job losses everywhere… how did we get this surplus of people? (Recruiters must have been doing one hell of a job!) Their picture of self must have been challenged greatly.

It is not the time for employers to get too excited and get even with the talent market, no matter how tempting it is. We still need to nurture the talent of tomorrow, we still have to keep the stars of today and respect the greats of yesterday. Maybe this new world post 2009 will get rid of these tags, and will work together as survivors of 2009… until the next generation comes along that is.

Now, when I was a boy……….

Part III: Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack, forging that relationship!

I simply love this story for a number of reasons, a) my son was named from it. (as a Recruiter, we had a short list of names when my son was being born (2 for boys, 2 for girls). When he came out the doctor announced “It’s a boy! What’s his name?”. I mentioned our short list… the doctor said…”easy.. Zachary….. Zachary Quack”) b) the Onomatopoeia and c) The lessons you can relate to day to day life as s Recruiter, leading me into part III (one and two found earlier) of my series of children’s stories for success.

Here’s my take on the story….

Hairy Maclary (AKA the client) is trying to get some “me” time, unfortunately, for him (or so it seems) Zachary Quack, keeps trying to get together with him (maybe for a meeting?), this causes Hairy to continually be on the run, avoiding Zachary, by hiding in a variety of ways. Our tenacious friend won’t be denied though, he keeps turning up, offering his services.. Eventually Hairy Maclary, bites off a little more than he can chew, and dives into the water, and literally gets in over his head. He needs some help, he cannot get out of the water. Enter Zachary Quack, our never say die, never take no for an answer, Mr I know I can help you, Mr you need to know me, Mr Recruiter. Zachary Quack, arrives when needed and shows Hairy Maclary the way out of the mess he’d made. Sound familiar my Recruiter friends? Of course then ending sees our two main characters as best friends, enjoying each others company, with mutual respect.

How many times have you made calls into an organisation, only to be told your contact or client is unavailable? Tried the lunch time call, the before work call, the after hours call to avoid those that will lie for them, only to be told that essentially “Don’t call us… we’ll call you!” I’m thinking lots… I know I have.

Here is the question… Do you give up, never to make contact again? OR do you continually follow up, ready to help at any time? Ready to save your clients backside! Then deliver a service, a value add, a solution which blows the client away, and makes them a client for life! Even in these times of economic turmoil, don’t lose your tenacity, keep making those calls, (even if it feels like a waste of time, I was able to make money in the last IT Tech wreck from staying in touch with companies who had told me to go away… “we aren’t hiring, we just made a whole round of redundancies!” Guess what? They cut too hard, and were not able to deliver the IT solution to the business…. They needed contractors to help get the job done… who do you think they called? That’s right… me!) staying in touch, and continually be ready to grasp and deliver on any opportunity comes your way!