How can I help you?

Hi.  I just wanted to take this opportunity to point you toward some new pages on this site.  Look up.  They’re right above the masthead on the blog.  These pages are designed to help you understand a bit more about me and how I might be able to be of assistance (beyond postings in this blog that may resonate with you from time to time).

I recently added an Consulting Business Overview that outlines some of the services that Bulldog Management Solutions provides (OK, I’m a one-man shop but know a lot of strong people to bring on board to help if your needs dictate it).  As my mission statement says, I help businesses (and individuals) sharpen their brand and strategic messages to increase sales and partner retention, improve RFP and negotiation “close” ratios, and drive higher employee engagement.   The Overview provides some specific ways I do that.  And I can also help you if you’re looking for a job but struggling to differentiate yourself from everyone else out there who’s also searching.

I’ve added a What I Believe page that is a work in progress.  Over the past 14 months, I’ve done a lot of reading and struggled a bit with my brand message and this encapsulates a philosophy that will give a potential employer or client a better idea of what drives me.  Beyond that, however, I hope it will lead readers to spend some time thinking about what’s important to them and perhaps take on a similar exercise.  Some great minds contributed to this page by providing me with some “ah ha” moments, putting things in a way that was much clearer than I might have.

There’s also a relatively new Reading List over there.  I’m adding to that every day.  Just this week someone asked me what books have meant something to me.  I should have pointed them toward the page but did suggest a few of the books on this list.  The newest member of the list? The Little BIG Things, by Tom Peters, which I’ll be blogging on soon. 

Come back every now and then and take a look at these pages.  I suspect I’ll be updating all of them as I learn more, read more, and develop new skills.  Thanks.



How shoveling in a blizzard can be used as a business metaphor

You may have heard that we’re getting a lot of snow here in the Northeast.

I don’t have a snow blower or a plow attached to my SUV, but I have a 17-year-old (although the concept of shoveling is more alien to teenagers today than it was when I was growing up in Buffalo).

Shoveling last week wasn’t much fun.  My neighbor offered me the use of his snow blower, but he got nervous about the sound of his motor in the face of so much heavy, wet snow that he asked if it was OK that I didn’t use it (metaphor for this post: dealing with a reduction in resources).  So I go inside and get the teenager (after the wife expresses reluctance to pay for a guy to plow).  The wife — for the purposes of this post — is the manager who has lost his or her mind, but that’s another story.

So this week, I decide to re-engineer the process. Recognizing that we’re looking at another 24 inches of snow — and the wife doesn’t seem to be budging on her “no paying for plowing” edict — I change my approach as the snowstorm kicked off Tuesday night around 6.

  • 9:45  p.m., Tuesday:  Went outside and got rid of the first 3-4 inches.  Went pretty quickly.  Used my Snowovel (a great invention combining wheels and a shovel) and the snow was light and fluffy.
  • 8:30 a.m., Wednesday:  Went outside with the 12-year-old to get the overnight snow (with the prospect of the big blizzard coming after 11 a.m.).  Nobody else outside, except one guy trying to move the wet snow with his undersized snow blower.  He gave up quickly.  Rest of neighborhood sleeps in.  Max needs lots of instruction (not a Buffalo native; he’s from this area where everyone is excited that we’re going to break the season record of 50-something inches, which is a light week of snow in Buffalo).  I just put on the iPod and get rid of another eight inches of wet, heavy snow.  Teenager comes out for last 30 minutes.  Wants to know why I let him sleep.  Told him I woke him up but he must have fallen back asleep.  He saves his life by apologizing in a believable manner.
  • 3 p.m., Wednesday.  Headed outdoors for the 12-14 inches we’ve gotten since 11 a.m.  Neighbors are working, looking irritated.  My task was easier than everyone else, but still pretty ugly.  My strategy appears to have saved me a heart issue and was a decent alternative to the EFX. 
  • 7 p.m., Wednesday.  Just looked outside.  Lots of blowing and drifting.  More snow.  Some people haven’t touched their driveways yet.  They’re pretty much screwed tomorrow.  Wife just told me she’s impressed with my effort and she’s OK with hiring a plow tomorrow.  Says I better use those negotiating skills I keep bragging about to keep the price down.  My wife doesn’t know it, but her 360-feedback just headed north.

Moral of the story.  When faced with a problem that involves a big hassle over time, Bulldog Simplicity says break it up into smaller pieces.  If the CEO sees that you’re working at it, good things might happen.  If he (or she) sees that you’re working at it and doesn’t much care, you’ve at least made your job easier over the longer term.  Leaving the problem until it’s really built up means you’re either looking at a really big problem or the need to throw a lot more money at the problem.

Take a journalist’s approach to your resume, elevator speech

Where's your focus when you look at this statue?

As I listened to a group of unemployed executives deliver their personal elevator speeches (i.e., their 30-second commercials), that little voice in the back of my head was working overtime.

“Don’t bury your lead,” it kept screaming at them as I had eerie flashbacks of my time as a newspaper editor talking to young reporters.  Time and again, the really interesting stuff — the great visual images, the jaw-dropping results — came at the end while the beginning was filled with standard phrases like “results-oriented” and “IT executive.”

In the newspaper business, the lead is normally the first paragraph that contains the essential elements of the story.  A well-written lead keeps the reader reading…rather than turning to another more interesting story.

When it comes to Simplicity, journalists have the roadmap.  Most of their stories are written in the inverted pyramid style, with the most important piece (the widest part of the pyramid) at the top and the rest of the information in decreasing order of importance.

Let’s face it.  As a reporter, a job-seeker, or someone presenting your important business idea at work, you’re competing for your audience’s attention…and they have lots of alternatives.  Time and again over the past few weeks, I’ve heard stories that a job posting had generated 200-300 responses within just a few hours.

Successful reporters agonize over their leads because it’s the most important investment they make in their stories.  A great lead makes the rest easy…and it makes their editors’ job easy because under pressure they can just cut from the bottom and print what’s left for their available space.

If you think of your boss or the recruiter as your editor, this concept becomes easier.  As they write and edit, reporters often find that their best stuff is in their third, fourth, or 10th paragraph (hence the phrase, bury the lead) so they move it up.

Think about what makes you or your idea memorable.  Now take a good look at your resume, your elevator speech or 30-second commercial, or your presentation.  If you’re making your reader work hard to find that special something, then odds are that your idea, your resume, or you are about to be placed on the No pile.

It’s not easy.  We often get so bogged down in the details that we lose our core message and bury our lead. 

Who are you?  What makes you different?  What value do you provide?  What problem can you solve?  Get that into your lead and you’ll be much closer to grabbing your audience’s full and undivided attention.

The benefits of an edgy brand

"Holy cow, the opportunity to mess with one of the most recognizable icons on Planet Earth," says Junction Point Creative Director Warren Spector, who's working on the Epic Mickey game.

Epic Mickey could be my new hero.  At the very least, he’s proof that redefining my brand in an edgier way is a good idea.

Here’s the back story.  Disney protects Mickey Mouse like a mother bear protects her cubs…if Mama Bear also had a battalion of lawyers at her beck and call.  But Disney is rethinking this approach…worried that Mickey has evolved from beloved character to corporate symbol, it’s taking the risky step of re-imagining him for the future.

They’ll start the tweaking next year with a video game, Epic Mickey, in which squeaky clean  Mickey shows traits like cunning and irritability — along with being heroic — as he travels a forbidding wasteland.  This is the first step in a bigger project to rethink Mickey’s personality — including the way he appears on the Disney Channel and how our kids interact with him on the Internet — and raise his appeal with edgier tweens and teens.

I’m not equating my brand with Mickey’s but there are some parallels.  I’ve struggled to define my brand as I look for work in an environment where hiring managers seek reasons to eliminate you rather than reasons to hire you.

In my previous job, I was known for my passion and intensity.  I was seen as someone who could get difficult tasks done.  I was once cautioned to keep the “body count” low, although in my defense that had more to do with my willingness to address bureaucracy head-on and my refusal to accept the status quo than it was a view that I had an “anything goes” mentality.

I was once described by MBNA’s chief marketing officer as a “bulldog” to a large group.  She meant it as a compliment.  I was the guy top management asked to fix the issues that came up in those annual “what keeps you awake at night” exercises.

But as I started my job search, I avoided that description.  I went vanilla, because I was worried that “bulldog” traits would cost me interviews and job opportunities.

But as time went on, I realized — thanks to the advice of friends and mentors — that I’d be wasting my time interviewing with companies that would feel my approach wouldn’t fit their culture.  In short, I needed to embrace my “inner bulldog.”

So I named my consulting company Bulldog Management Solutions.  I have built a brand focused on Bulldog Simplicity.  My LinkedIn profile doesn’t dance around the subject.

I’ve probably lost some interviews and consulting jobs.  But it makes it easier to talk about my strengths…and my weaknesses.  The approach hasn’t resulted in a full-time job yet, but I’m convinced that when it does, I’ll be happier and able to demonstrate the passion that has driven my success over the years.

What about you?  Have you taken an “edgier” approach to your personal brand?  If so, what have you done?