Thursday, January 29, 2009

Five Questions to Always Ask on an Interview

Judi Perkins on Net-Temps reminds me of five questions that I need to remember if I ever go on an interview again:

  1. What are the priorities that will need to be addressed immediately in this position?
  2. How long was the previous person here? Why did they leave?
  3. Tell me about your management style. How do you bring out the best in your employees?
  4. What types of people tend to excel here?
  5. How long have you been here? Why do you stay?

Those are great questions to ask for any business relationship situation, including consulting, contracting, strategic partners, mergers and acquisitions, key vendor deals, etc. It may not always make sense to ask them explicitly, but to at least contemplate and validate them privately so that you can be sure that you are getting into a situation that is going to work for you.

Variations of these same questions also apply to entrepreneurs considering a product or service for a target market.

-- Jack Krupansky

Motivational posters

Personally, I actually like those clever motivational posters, but I just stumbled on a Web site,, which is incredibly amusing. They turn all of these motivational pictures and quotes into demotivational posters:

Introducing Demotivators(R)

MOTIVATION. Psychology tells us that motivation- true, lasting motivation- can only come from within. Common sense tells us it can't be manufactured or productized. So how is it that a multi-billion dollar industry thrives through the sale of motivational commodities and services? Because, in our world of instant gratification, people desperately want to believe that there are simple solutions to complex problems. And when desperation has disposable income, market opportunities abound.

AT DESPAIR, INC., we believe motivational products create unrealistic expectations, raising hopes only to dash them. That's why we created our soul-crushingly depressing Demotivators(R) designs, so you can skip the delusions that motivational products induce and head straight for the disappointments that follow!

Actually, the scary thing is that some of these demotivators are dead-on accurate:

APATHY - If we don't take care of the customer, maybe they'll stop bugging us.

BEAUTY - If you're attractive enough on the outside, people will forgive you for being irritating to the core.

MISTAKES - It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

MEDIOCRITY - It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.

MEETINGS - None of us is as dumb as all of us.

FAILURE - When your best just isn't good enough.

IDIOCY - Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

LEADERS - Leaders are like eagles. We don't have either of them here.

VISION - How can the future be so hard to predict when all of my worst fears keep coming true?

The most "motivating" of all...

WINNERS - Because nothing says "you're a loser" more than owning a motivational poster about being a winner.

And finally...

BLOGGING - Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.

Oops, almost forgot this one...

INSPIRATION - Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99% perspiration, which is why engineers sometimes smell really bad.

Actually I do like a line from the initial blurb:

... when desperation has disposable income, market opportunities abound.

So, what motivates you? Or, what really demotivates you?

-- Jack Krupansky

Only eight weeks until EntConnect 2009

Time continues to pass quickly. It is only eight weeks until the annual Entrepreneurial Connections (EntConnect) conference, from Thursday, March 26, 2009 through Sunday, March 29, 2009. Traditionally the conference consists primarily of a reunion of former readers of Midnight Engineering magazine and a few newbies who have gotten suckered into trying it out, but each year we try to figure out new ways to attract fresh blood. This usually brings the discussion back to the question of what people feel they get out of the conference and how to increase its value to current attendees as well as potential attendees.

Check out the conference Web page for an idea of what the conference was like last year. Hopefully the page will be updated very soon for the details for this year. I do know that the hotel rate has jumped from $75 to $79, despite the fact that we are in an economic recession. It will be the same hotel (Sheraton Denver West in Lakewood, CO, with great views of both the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Denver skyline.) We hope to have a notable keynote speaker, but as usual the primary focus will be sessions led by your fellow entrepeneurs.

The conference planners are always looking for new ideas, for example:

  • What fun activities to plan for Friday before the conference begins.
  • Where to hold our traditional Friday kickoff dinner. Unfortunately, Valente's Italian restaurant has closed.
  • Suggestions for keynote speakers.
  • Should there be a "theme"?
  • Volunteers for Saturday and Sunday session speakers.
  • How to promote the conference better.
  • Any other suggestions for improving the conference.

I am sure that the effects of the current economic "difficulties" will be fodder for a lot of discussion. And probably at least a few of us will be wondering how we can make at least a little money from all of this fiscal stimulus that is about to come gushing out of Washington.

Oh, and please feel free to join the Midnight Engineers Yahoo discussion forum.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brand marketing and branding guidelines

I ran across these interesting marketing points in an email I received today from Tonnie Chamblee of Design Alliance:

To maintain visibility and market standing in today's economy, you need to remember these five key branding guidelines:

  1. Know your target market.
  2. Realign marketing strategies to match your businesses' changing objectives.
  3. Stand apart from the crowd and invest in innovation; define your distinguishers.
  4. Sustain brand marketing by maintaining frequency and consistency.
  5. Focus on longer-term marketing strategies. 

Sounds easy enough, but of course the devil is in the details.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Looking for work, again

I have not gotten any strong indication that my most recent software development contracting client will be needing my services in the near future, so now that the holidays are over I need to start looking for new work ASAP. I have not had any billable work since the middle of November, but I have enough cash saved from work over the previous six months to hold me over for at least a few more months.

There is still a chance that I may get some more work from my current client sometime this month or next, so I will not begin looking for work full-time until later this month, but I have already been looking around as a background task for the past few weeks. It will be my half-time task for the next few weeks.

I would like to find some work here in New York City, or at least remote work I can do at home, but I may have to relocate depending on what work is available. That's part of this business.

My recent client was lucky enough to get a substantial pile of venture capital cash in September just as Lehman Brothers was imploding, but now they, like most other VC-funded startups, are being ultra-hyper-cautious in their spending since they need current funds to last for who knows how long in this weakened economy.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Still not sure what to do with an extra $20 other than to save it

I still have an extra $20 bill from last week, with no new great ideas for something productive to do with it. My default is to save it (and earn 3% interest), but I would prefer to find something to do with it that would have some more substantial, longer term impact than, say, paying my electric bill.

I would like to find something that would make some noticeable difference a year from now.

Maybe the simple fact is that $20 is small change these days. But  that begs the question of what I would do with an extra $200 or $2,000 or even $20,000.

Two ideas that come to mind are that maybe I could attend some professional training seminar or trade conference.

Maybe the real question is not the money or financial cost per se, but what can I productively do with my time, how can I more productively use an hour or two or day or two of my time for a more significant, longer-term gain.

-- Jack Krupansky