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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Case for Core Competencies

Simultaneously posted at “Dollars and Sense”

Whether large or small, what keeps a business going is its’ core competencies. Those one or two things the company does best that distinguish it from its competitors should be, with customers, its top focus. In three cases, Topps baseball cards, Quiksilver surf merchandise, and Dial-A-Mattress, straying from core competency either ruined, or nearly ruined a successful business.

Topps, a multi-generational, family-owned business, was known in the industry as one of the top two producers of baseball cards. It was successful in the business because it had exclusive rights with players and clubs to the images used on the cards. Additionally, they also were successful selling the formula and base materials for the chewing gum that went into the packs of cards. RingCentral Online - Free Trial plus 10% Off

However, as the founding members passed away and the younger generations took control, the company began to change. No longer satisfied with business as usual, it was decided the business should rapidly expand and begin competing with larger confectioners, such as Wrigley’s and Beech-Nut. This proved disastrous. As the expansion and new products, such as chocolate flavored gum failed, the company neared bankruptcy. In 1984, the firm was bought by the leveraged buy out firm of Forstmann Little & Co.

Quiksilver, a popular surfboard and surf merchandiser is currently suffering from its expansion into Rossignol skis and Cleveland Golf equipment. Rossignol was purchased in 2005. Its recognizable name in Europe and among ski aficionados appeared to fit with Quiksilver’s sports brands. However, the manufacture and marketing of skis and golf clubs proved radically difficult to integrate into the other product sets. Both units have been sold, and in 2009, according to multiple sources, is on Moody’s Bottom Rung list of companies unlikely to pay back their debt. Cheap? No. 100% Free. Trade stocks for free on The Free Trading Community.

Finally, Dial-A-Mattress, the firm started in 1976 allowing customers to order mattresses over telephone is being sold to it rival, Sleepy’s Inc. The Wall Street Journal reports in the July 14, 2009 print edition that “…the two major changes in his business were largely to blame: an expansion into brick-and-mortar sales and a culture clash brought on by new management.”

While the story from the Journal sheds light on how new, big company executives squashed the entrepreneurial, employee-input driven culture, the real story is that Dial-A-Mattress strayed from its direct sales model into competing with other established storefronts. Find high-end jobs on Doostang. It takes 30 seconds to join. JOIN TODAY.

In these three cases, failure to adhere to core competencies has ruined or nearly ruined the businesses. While many find a core competency approach too conservative and not growth-oriented, it can be clearly argued that in many cases, such a conservative approach rewards businesses and investors. While I don’t discourage risk taking, it should be done fully understanding the consequences. While Boeing was able to radically change air travel with the release of the 747, many other companies failed miserably. For companies, understand the risk and prepare for it. Investors, do the same. However, don’t be ashamed to make a profit from doing that at which you do best.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Are Pay Job Search Sites Worth It?

First, I apologize for taking so long to post a new article. I am now among the ranks of those who have lost their job. However, with a decent network, a solid education and experience, everybody tells me I should be all right. However, should I be using the pay-for-search sites?

There are several companies that offer recruitment services like MRI, Sterling-Hoffman, etc., at no charge. There are also companies like, Doostang, and RiseSmart that offer a fee for service. Does it make sense to use them? Executives & Professionals: Changing Jobs?

I have used in the past and found the information, particularly the names and contact info of recruiters excellent. targets job seekers whose salaries are above $100,000. I didn't particularly like to pay, however, the content was easily available and accessible. Additionally, if has a very strong search function for specific positions, though it can be very granular. A Better Way To Search for $100,000+ Jobs. Join!

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I have never used Doostang, because it is new to me. It has a particular niche, targeting "elite" universities. This is how they describe their service:

"Doostang is an exclusive career community for elite young professionals. Doostang has over 500,000 members, the majority of which come from elite educational backgrounds and are interested in the finance, consulting, media, entertainment and technology industries."

While is not specifically targeted like Doostang, both are focused on the higher income job seeker. Find high-end jobs on Doostang. It takes 30 seconds to join. JOIN TODAY.

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RiseSmart is another site which I haven't used personally, again, as it is a new site. Like and Doostang, RiseSmart targets the $100,000 job seekers.

From their site:

"The Human-Powered Job Search Portal Making $100K+ job searches easier than ever! RiseSmart is the first service of its kind: a human-powered job search portal that prescreens online search results for time-starved managers and executives. The RiseSmart team matches opportunities with jobseekers based on each member’s unique profile, saving our subscribers countless hours of Internet searching."

RiseSmart appears, at least according to their material, to have a slight edge of With, you have sort through the results. If you have a good search criteria, that may not be an issue, however, RiseSmart indicates they do the ordering and sorting for you. Top High Paying Jobs. Use our services and find your dream job fast. Register now!

Is it worth it? Should I spend my money on these sites? From my experience, they are worth investigating. I used, but probably not to the fullest. Doostang and RiseSmart appear to have capitalized on the things didn't do very well. If you are in the $100,000 salary range and looking for a new opportunity, check out the sites. See which ones are the best fit. If they meet your requirements, it could be the best money you have ever spent. Good Luck!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Create Your Story

We all have our personal story. However, when it comes to telling it in an interview, it is usually done horribly. We want to play it safe and minimize gaps in employment. Unfortunately, that makes for a very boring story.

Hermina Ibara and Kent Lineback published an article in the Harvard Business Review (January 2005) titled, "What's Your Story?" The article explains how as people, our attention is captured and focused by a good story. RingCentral Online - Free Trial plus 10% Off

A good story is one that has drama, structure, and follows some basic themes. Whether it is overcoming adversity or discovering your best self, your personal narrative has to be compelling, and most importantly, true.

Each of us has suffered ups and downs not just in life, but also in our careers. Sometimes things have gone terribly wrong and it has taken time to correct them. Other times, events outside of work have required us to make changes that have taken us down paths we would have never thought to go. These events are compelling! They are certainly more compelling than a resume recitation. Find high-end jobs on Doostang. It takes 30 seconds to join. JOIN TODAY.

Here are some common themes from the Ibara and Lineback:
  • A protagonist the listener cares about - a struggle we all can relate to
  • A catalyst requiring action - often found the first act of plays
  • Trials and tribulation - the struggles and questions we face
  • A turning point - When clarity is achieved and action is taken
  • Resolution - The results of our decisions
Like any good story, our personal narrative should explain our career in a way familiar to listeners. As our lives are full of twists and turns, so are our careers. There is no shame in being laid off or fired, so long as you learned from the event and are better prepared for the next step. Communicate how you had to make hard decisions, difficult changes, but are better for it. Your life is important, so is your career. Tell your story, people will like it!

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