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Why Colleges and Businesses Don’t Work Together.

You would think that if any two organizations were made for one another, it would be academic institutions and businesses. They have completely symmetrical goals after all. Colleges/Universities prepare their students to graduate as well-rounded people who are ready to dive into the workforce and achieve outstanding results immediately. Businesses are always looking for talented, well trained pools of qualified candidates to join their organization and make an immediate, pronounced positive impact on their organization’s success.

So why don’t these two organizations work more effectively together…especially in these turbulent times?

Granted some colleges have a fairly well developed network of contacts in business & industry that utilize their students on internship or co-operative education basis. Some schools can even claim that employers are hiring their students on a full-time basis in these trying times. But the relationship is built upon an underdeveloped, sporadic and non-continuous basis. Both fail miserably at developing any kind of a strategic partnership.

Most colleges seek organizations in their immediate market area, to serve as a pipeline for placing their students. Few schools bother to take the time or make the effort required to nurture a relationships with key businesses as a truly valued partner. Schools fail to become strategic partners of business and industry, when they fail to provide a significant level of service to the key businesses and organizations (trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, business solutions centers, etc.) They often do not invest he time and effort required to learn a business’s key products/services, the accounts that business manages, their business challenges, competitors, management team, etc.

A key issue in the approach that schools take in soliciting businesses is the nature in which they engage businesses in such a “decentralized” fashion. A university has many disparate departments all with differing goals and motivations that are soliciting businesses. The efforts made by these departments to reach out to business are often poorly coordinated and compete with each other.

A college may have its co-operative education department, alumni relations, career development center, business school, fundraising department, entrepreneurial center, and even different engineering departments solicit a business SEPERATELY. Rarely does the college or University target key businesses at the highest level. In fact, they hardly ever are aware how much at odds these departments are and the damaging mixed messages that this approach sends to the businesses they are attempting to partner with.

Even worse, colleges are myopically focused on applying poor metrics to determine their success in serving business & industry. They point to the graduation rates of their students in the aggregate as a measure of their success. Many academic institutions still subscribe to the outdated and erroneous belief that it is not their job to assist students in finding employment.

They hold to the outdated notion that their mandate is merely to deliver a “well-rounded” education for their students. Colleges and universities would be well served to perform a critical self-assessment as to their placement levels of students upon graduation in key timeframes within each field/major and concentration area of study.

Businesses also fail to leverage the relationship with academic institutions at the highest levels of strategic partnerships. They seek out college students as a source for cheap labor. They often fail to consider that schools can serve their long-term recruiting and staffing needs by providing excellent talent as a trial ground for making hiring decisions. They often provide poorly developed job descriptions, and bring in college students for highly glorified clerical work.

They see college students as a great source for labor to accomplish repetitive, administrative, and tactical work, but often fail to utilize student talent to help their grow their businesses. They fail to utilize the growing presence of entrepreneurial think tanks and business start up centers that many colleges and universities are now building, to serve small land mid-sized businesses in their launch efforts.

To overcome this tremendous lost opportunity, colleges should develop cross functional teams comprised of members from all the departments listed above. These cross-functional teams must be empowered to solicit long-term strategic relationship with businesses and trade associations. Businesses should view colleges and Universities as a tremendous resource for their strategic planning and new business development efforts. Open up their business plans, and engage the college across multiple levels to gain the maximum benefit of the relationship. They should have a strategic recruiting plan with a wide range of local area academic institutions that they strive to build strategic working relationships with.

How to "Unstick" Your Business in Turbulent Times

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, chances are you are struggling right now with ways to move your business forward. Clients have probably stopped buying your products and services, or drastically cut back on the business they were sending your way. You might be struggling to find new clients. You’re probably pulling out all the stops, to come up with creative ways to get your employees re-engaged and keep them motivated that things will turn around some time soon. Most likely, you yourself have doubts if things will turn around, in time to keep your business afloat.

Fear not! There are proactive steps you can take to move your business forward.

Take a cold, hard look at your client list. Identify those clients that are your most profitable. Build a “Best Customer Profile.” Be sure to write it down. That will become your target for identifying highly qualified SIMILAR contacts at organizations for you to aggressively target. Be as specific as possible to build a complete picture of your most profitable client.

While you’re at it, think about these clients that are your most profitable. Chances are, they are your most loyal customers. They always refer new business your way, speak well about the service you provide, and have provided you with testimonials. They are your “Apostles.” Now’s the perfect time to go on an apostle appreciation tour. Take these clients out to lunch. Let them know that in these trying times, you are here for them. DON’T ask for referrals. It’s a way for you to thank them for their support, and NOT a shakedown.

Next up…change your approach! When you do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome, it’s called “INSANITY.” Re-evaluate ALL of our systems, processes, and procedures. If the answer to why you are doing something a certain way is “that’s how we’ve always done it” then it’s probably time to tear that down and find a new approach. There are no SACRED cows…everything is fair game.

Create a networking plan. When you created a profile of your most profitable client you should have captured information on where these types of individuals met in professional Associations, clubs, organizations. You must identify these events and make a point of attending as many as you can.

Write! Write! Write! Become a subject matter expert on any and all topics that are near and dear to the hearts of your apostles and ideal customer profiles. Start by authoring blogs, articles, white papers, anything you can do to get your name in front of your ideal client profiles. While you’re at it…SHAKE THINGS UP! If you spend a lot of time in your office, GET OUT! Schedule as many meetings out of the (home) office as you possibly can. While you’re out, spoil yourself. Buy yourself something nice. Go to an afternoon matinee. Do something you wouldn’t normally do, just to say thank you to YOU!

Revisit your partner strategy. Which people that you know in your professional network have complementary products and services that fit nicely with your offerings. If you already have partners and there is no synergy then cut those relationships loose. While we on the subject of products and services.

Now is a great time to rethink your product and service offerings. Is there something you can offer that you aren’t? Ask your apostles on your appreciation tour.

Take an END-OF-YEAR look back NOW. Don’t wait for the holidays. You’ll be drowning in eggnog, Depression, and holiday distractions. Volunteer what little spare time you have to charitable organizations, not-for-profits, your local church, synagogue, homeless shelter, senior citizen center. Go back to school! Take a class, learn a new skill, or attend a Webinar. You should always find time to develop new skills.

Re-engage your industry trade Association, local Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Toastmasters…whatever! Get involved on a Committee to plan for their end-of-year gala.
Now is NOT the time to stick your head in the ground and hope the tornado blows past. Stay focused, re-evaluate your business, keep active but working aggressively. Channel your efforts towards re-discovering your clients and the reasons you started your business.

Time to Rethink Celebrating Labor Day?

Now more than ever seems a perfect time to question the relevance of Labor Day in America.
For most americans, Labor Day means little more than a calendar-imposed deadline signifying the end of summer and back to school. There is the mandatory end-of-summer barbecue of course, and the deluge of back to school sales.
But truly, what does Labor Day mean in these trying economic times with 9.4% of the population OFFICIALLY out of work.
The Unions that fueled the growth and expansion of our economy after WWII and the Industrial Revolution have lost much of their relevancy. This happened over decades, as our economy transitioned to a post-Industrial, technology and service-based workplace and we outsourced, off-shored, and sold off our ability to do most business functions.
Strong unions rose in many industries, from automobile manufacturing to retail, airlines, teaching, etc. This led to higher wages and compensation levels that forced american enterprise to fall behind other nations in their ability to compete in the 21st century global economy.
The two-way contract based on loyalty and trust between employees and employers, built on the promise of a hard days’ work for honest pay no longer exists. In today’s contract economy, workers have few rights. An economy drowning in an unofficial national unemployment rate close to 15% screams for a halt in the farce of “celebrating” this outdated holiday.
So, what does Labor Day truly mean? Most workers that have been downsized over the past two years have been forced to go at it alone. Many have been forced to attempt to start their own business. An entirely new industry called “accidental entreprenuers” has popped up featuring people that have gone into business for themselves.
College students that graduated at the start of this summer have witnessed companies lay off their parents and grandparents. Today’s graduates, with no real job prospects of their own to pursue, are themselves becoming entrepreneurs. They are keenly aware that there is no such thing as employer loyalty.
Small businesses, the key force that has fueled new jobs creation during past post-recession periods are suffering mightily. The Obama Administration has done precious little to help small business owners survive these trying economic times.
So, let’s not go through the bogus act of celebrating Labor Day another year. Just pass me the BBQ and give me another ice cold beer.

How Much Ill Will Have You Created?

How often do you say you are going to deliver something to someone, only to end up getting it to them late or not delivering what you promised at all?
When was the last time you showed up late to a meeting, or missed one altogether?
Do people wanting to speak with you have to leave you numerous voicemails and email messages, which you never respond to?
Have you ever joined a conference call in-progress or missed it completely?
When you are working on a project in a team do you often hold up the others by missing key deadlines?
Be honest. Did you find answer these questions with an emphatic YES?
If so, you can bet that you have burned bridges with your social and professional contacts, by creating A LOT of ill will. You are not the only one with tremendous time constraints these days. We all struggle to balance home and work life commitments. Many people are juggling not only their own jobs, but the jobs they inherited when their company laid off their peers and pushed the work onto them.
So everyone is running at 150mph. It’s time you thought about scaling back your commitments and focus on a more professional commitment to your key work and social relationships. Re-establish your high standards of professionalism, by exhibiting more courtesy and respect in your dealings with others.

Perhaps you have joined too many organizations. Start by scaling back your networking efforts.
Then, rethink all of the cross-functional Teams you joined at work. Maybe it is time to scale back some of the extra-curricular activities you committed to in your community?
The last thing you want is the reputation for being a flake, known for making false promises and not being trustworthy in your dealings with others. If that is the perception others have of you, it doesn’t matter whether it is just or unjust.
You need to begin working VERY hard to re-establish your personal brand. Build up your reputation for being someone that others can count on. Treat others with the highest level of respect that you would hope to receive. It’s an investment worth making.

Your Company Dirty Laundry Has Never Been MORE Public.

When they say the Internet is the great equalizer, they aren’t kidding. It has never been easier for potential employees to uncover your company’s background. This means the good…as well as the bad.

Employees have an entire arsenal of tools. One way they can find out what it is like to work for your organization is job vent websites, where your employees (ex-employees and current employees) can write about their experiences working there. Some websites include:
At a recent presentation that I gave in New York City to a group of entrepreneurs on how to start up a business in trying economic times, I struck up a conversation with a Business Analyst that worked for a consulting firm based outside Chicago, IL.
We got to talking about our beliefs in consulting. She suggested I have a dialog with the head of their recruiting team, in order to explore the prospect of contract work with them.

I scheduled a time to speak with that person, but first did some investigation…and here is what I found out:

· Their President was disbarred from practicing law in NY for soliciting a 16-year old prostitute;
· They had a class action lawsuit filed against them by 113 female employees claiming sexual harassment;
· They had a lawsuit filed against them by 400+ ex-clients they had bilked them out of money on bogus consulting services.

Armed with this information and other research, my one and only conversation with the head recruiter was very enlightening, to say the least.
If your company is interested in recruiting top-notch talent, it can no longer hope to hide behind its private company status. Lawsuits, liens, judgments, bankruptcies…none of this type of information can be swept under te rug and hidden from plain sight.

Gone are the days when proactive job seekers, potential partners, vendors, suppliers, etc. would have to go to a firm like Dun & Bradstreet to obtain this type of information on your company.

The information is publicly accessible and can be obtained in minutes with a quick search on Google. So you better be prepared to answer tough questions from job seekers looking to understand what ethics your company espouses, what it is REALLY like to work there and what sort o culture you have created.
What do you think?

Companies Ranked “Best to Work for” Not So Hot

You see the lists all the time in newspapers, trade publications, online…the supposed “Best Companies to Work for”.

Given the economy’s continued woes, I decided to put on my job seeker hat and see what it would be like to try to contact these supposed best of breed companies, as a potential employee.

Nothing speaks to greatness like having someone express a tremendous interest in joining your company…or so I thought. I wanted to see what it would take to establish a dialog with them. The results would make your head spin.

I used as my list the 2009 Society of Human Resource Management “Best Companies to Work for in New York State” in the Small/Medium Category (15-249 Employees.) Since most jobs are created by companies categorized as small companies and you would obviously assume that a “Best Company to Work for” would be worth targeting, these are the companies I decided to pursue.

Of the list of 20 companies in NY State, I excluded those that were outside of the NY Metro area (my target area.) That left me with nine companies. I then researched these company’s core businesses, including their products and services, competitors, management, recent financial performance, competitors, etc.

Then I developed a VERY targeted cover letter to each of them, in which I addressed their specific business challenges. I offered my twenty plus years of strategic planning, marketing management, and new business development experience in B2B business environments. I also spoke of my expertise in providing solutions as a consultant to small and mid-sized businesses.

The results were disappointing TO SAY THE LEAST! Not ONE of those nine companies responded to my initial inquiry seeking an audience with that member of the management team. Nor did they respond to any of my subsequent voicemails and email follow-ups.

These are the Best Companies to Work For”? Welcome to today’s lack of professional courtesy workplace, as evidenced by the best of the best.

No wonder so many disgruntled professionals are leaving Corporate America to start their own business ventures or are checking out of the workforce completely.