Name: Will, aka "Will Bachman"
Web Site: http://www.linkedin.com/in/willbachman
Bio: An independent management consultant with interests ranging from Business Process Redesign to running a hobby farm. The Bachman Group, LLC, of which Mr. Bachman is the Founder, has provided strategy and operations consulting services to businesses that range in size from $5 million to $50 billion in revenue. He makes observations or comes up with ideas that he posts regularly on his blog, and shares it.
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- Write a story that features your son or daughter (or whomever) in a leading role.
- Challenge your mind and allow your imagination to roam across the pages with a fearless plot or a surprising twist.
- Turn the story into a book or simply print out the pages and post them up. Then, read it together with your children, grandchildren, niece or nephew.
We’re getting a jump on the holidays with our guest blogger, Will Bachman, so you can have the lead time you need to get your creative engine working.
Is there a young child in your life? A son or daughter, niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter? Consider writing that child a story this holiday season instead of buying a gift. The suggestion applies especially if you do not consider yourself a writer. First we’ll talk about why, then how to do it.
Why write a story?
The world is full of children’s books, why write another children’s story? Four reasons:
1) If you write the story, you can include the child in the story, along with the names of her friends or family members. You can set the story in a location the child is familiar with. It is a real thrill for a child to be read a story in which she is a main character.
2) You’ll serve as a fantastic role model, giving the child a message that anybody can write, and that it is fun to write. There is a good chance the child who receives your story will want to tell her own. If she doesn’t know how to write yet, you can take a video of her telling the story, or offer to transcribe it. Then ask her to draw some pictures to accompany the text. If the child is older and already knows how to read, watch out for her to go off and try her hand at writing her own story.
3) As you challenge your mind, it will do wonders for your own creativity. If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, particularly as a fiction writer, you may surprise yourself at what happens if you allow your imagination to roam across a page. You could very well get some creative juices flowing that get you picking up an old hobby you once enjoyed, or coming up with more creative ideas at work. When you get your creative engine working in one area, it doesn’t observe boundaries.
4) The child gets the message that the best way to show your love with a gift is not to buy another gadget in a store, but to make something.
How to write a story for a child
1) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Try customizing a common story or fable. Think “Sophia and The Three Bears.” Or “Frog and Toad and Julia.” You’re not going to get prosecuted for non-commercial use of a story at home. So feel free to incorporate favorite characters from whatever source. Your daughter could join Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund on a trip back to Narnia. Or fly to Neverland with Peter Pan. Or head to Wonderland with Alice.
2) Younger children particularly seem to like stories with a refrain that gets repeated multiple times, because they can help recite the story. The Eric Carle books are a great example of how to challenge your mind.
3) For younger children, incorporate pictures. You don’t need to draw illustrations: you can use family photos, or perhaps postcards that you purchased on a trip.
4) As noted above, place the child in the story, along with her friends or brothers and sisters, or pets.
Once your creative engine has completed the plot line, added photos or artwork, and arranged the layout, here’s how to present the story.
1) If you want to keep it simple, and you are including both text and pictures, you can just tape it up and put the pages in page protectors in a binder.
Don’t worry about creating a Newbury Medal-winning masterpiece. The fact that you wrote a story will mean a lot more to your child than the literary quality. They’re almost certain to treasure the gift for longer than anything you could buy on Amazon.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, pedrosimoes and cesarastudillo
What do you think about this labor of love? Are you inspired to do it?
In last week’s post, I explained how you could dramatically increase your odds at an interview by bringing a document that shows your understanding of the challenges and opportunities that face the company (aka Golden Ticket). This week, it’s about how to create that document.
It bears mentioning that in addition to helping you get the job offer, the Golden Ticket will set the tone of your relationship with your future boss and help make you successful if you decide to take the job. You’ll have established that you can think and act independently, and so your new boss will feel less of an urge to micromanage you once you start.
Start by researching these resources
- Company’s website. Obvious yes but amazing some people don’t pore over it. Read all of its press releases for the past year at least. While the site isn’t a full picture of the company, it will help you understand how it wants to be perceived. Be sure to check out the company’s Facebook page, blog, and Twitter account if applicable.
- The interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, blog, and Twitter account. What articles does she find important? Not only can you get a feeling for her personality, she’ll be flattered when you casually mention something she wrote about.
- Securities filings. Relax – no advanced degree in accounting required. All the parts you will find most helpful are written in plain language. You can get the securities filings for any publicly listed U.S. company for free from the SEC’s website, . Download the 10-K, which is the annual filing. It has a lot less fluff and a lot more useful information than the annual report sent to shareholders. 10-Ks may have useful nuggets such as: a description of the business; a history of the company; significant risks facing the company; a list of key competitors; any major acquisitions or recent changes of ownership; and if you’re lucky, a list of strategic initiatives. You can skip over the financial part except do check the revenue of the company, its revenue growth over the past few years, and how profitable the company is.
- Analyst reports. While these typically cost fifty dollars a page or more if you buy them retail, many good public business libraries in major cities provide free access. In New York, for example, the Science, Industry, and Business Library provides free access to analyst reports as well as many other valuable subscription services – but you need to go in person and bring a USB drive. If your local public library doesn’t have access, see if you can pay for local resident privileges at the library of a nearby business school. You can ignore the “maintenance” type of analyst reports that give routine updates on quarterly earnings. Your best sources will be annual industry surveys, coverage bank initiating coverage, and the transcripts of quarterly earnings calls. Sort by page length and start with the longest reports. If you are bold, call the analyst. Their phone numbers are listed right on the reports.
- Industry journals. Find out the trade journal that covers the industry and flip through half a dozen issues. You’ll get a sense of the issues facing the industry, the specialized vocabulary and acronyms used, and who the leading players are. Many trade journals will publish an annual ranking of the top companies in the industry.
- Industry associations. Just about every industry has an association, and they will often have position papers on their website and a PR person who will answer a few questions.
- Factiva. Google is great, but when searching for news about a company, see if you can get access to Factiva, which does a full text search on thousands of periodicals.
- Specialized product comparison sites. Find out what people are saying about the company. If it produces consumer goods, check out the ratings at Consumer Reports. If it is a bank or insurance company, Google it to check out what people think of its customer service.
- LinkedIn Groups. After doing your homework with the secondary sources mentioned above, you can really get the best insight by talking to people in the industry. With LinkedIn, it is much easier than ever before. If you join a group, you can contact directly most of the people in that group. Reach out to folks who work at suppliers, competitors, or customers of the company you are interviewing with and just say that you’re trying to learn more about the industry. A surprisingly high number of people will actually be willing to chat with you for 20 minutes.
- Compete.com. If the company you are interviewing with relies heavily on its website, check out its web traffic as well as that of its competitors. It takes 15 seconds to do it on compete.com
How to set up your document so they ask to see it
When you sit down to the interview, set two copies of the document on the table – you don’t need to say anything about it. The interviewer owns the meeting, and you don’t want to try to assert control right off the bat.
If the interviewer asks about the document, then it is fair to say, “I’ve put together some thoughts on opportunities facing [name of company] and how I’d help address them. This is of course very preliminary based on my outside-in research, but I wanted to be able to give you a sense of how I’d get started in the role.”
At this point, the interviewer may be curious enough that she wants to see the pages right away, and from there, you own the meeting. If not, don’t be too eager to jump right into your pages.
If you don’t go through the pages right away, at some point you’re likely to get a question about how you see the role, or how you would address a certain challenge, or what opportunities you see. That’s your cue to say, “I can best answer that by using the chart on page five where I’ve laid out the four key issues and strategies to address each one of them…”
The goal isn’t to present these pages to your interviewer, they should be a basis for a conversation. Be sure to temper your language with plenty of self-effacing qualifiers like, “at least this is just a day zero perspective based on my external research.” Ask plenty of questions of your interviewer such as, “these are what seem like the critical challenges facing the industry in general, but to what degree are they relevant here?”
What if your ideas get “stolen”?
One potential objection to this suggestion of bringing your best thinking to the interview is that the company will “steal” your ideas and not end up hiring you for the role. Here are a few ways I think about this objection:
- If this happens, you’ve learned something valuable about the company. Be glad that you didn’t get hired. Do you want to work in a company where good ideas get taken without credit or note of thanks?
- Ideas are cheap. Execution is hard. The company may have already have thought of it. Don’t give yourself so much credit.
- Maybe the role wasn’t a perfect fit, but clearly they like your thinking. Nurture the relationship. Stay in touch. Don’t be angry, be flattered. Perhaps the interaction will lead to a consulting assignment. Maybe they will create a role specially designed for you. Maybe she’ll recommend you to a friend.
To those on the hiring side of the table
When you are interviewing candidates, consider asking them to put such a document together. By seeing their thinking in action, you’ll have a much better sense of how they might perform if hired. And you’ll quickly separate out those who are really serious about the role.
Photo courtesy of CosmicDiary
What else would you include in your golden document? What other resources would you use? Spill below.
What to bring to a job interview? The standard advice includes directions to the interview location, a notebook, a pen that works, and a clean copy of your resume printed on high-quality paper.
That’s what all the other candidates will bring too. So if you want to fit it, follow that advice and just show up with those.
Be a consultant not just an interviewee
I suggest a different approach. If you want to stand out and dramatically increase your chances of getting the job, treat the job interview as if you were a consultant on the first meeting with a potential client. That means bringing a document.
In this post, I’ll explain why to bring a document and what it should include. In a second post next week I’ll go into more detail on information sources useful for preparing your document and how to use the document in the interview.
This approach works. I use it myself when meeting with clients. When I’ve helped clients interview candidates to fill a key position, the one that follows this technique inevitably gets the job.
Why bring a document
It is easy to make fun of consultants for carrying around a deck of Powerpoint slides like a security blanket, but bringing a document will serve several purposes for you:
- The interviewer is naturally going to be curious at what is in your document. She will ask to see what you’ve put together. This gets the conversation away from questions like “Tell me about your greatest weakness”
- It shows that you are a self-starter who doesn’t wait for orders. Every boss wants people like that.
- It demonstrates that it won’t take long to get you up to speed.
- It is a relevant example of the quality of work you can do.
- It sticks around in a pile on the interviewer’s desk after you leave, so it is a little tougher to forget about you.
- It is a tangible product that the interviewer can show colleagues. In the best case, you might even get asked to stay past the interview to meet with other members of the team to discuss your observations
Most importantly, bringing a document increases your ability to get real work done during the interview itself. If you can engage the interviewer on content and start sketching out your first 100 days on the job, you’re well on your way to landing the role.
What goes in the document
OK, so what goes in your document? As a consultant in your first meeting with a client, this is what you want to demonstrate:
- I understand your industry
- I understand the position of your company in the industry and the products and/or services you provide
- I’m familiar with the latest news about your company such as recent acquisitions or a new CEO, as well as any publicly announced major strategic initiatives
- I have some outside-in sense of the issues your company is likely facing
- I have deep experience in addressing these types of issues
- I have a plan for what I would do to add value to your organization
The specifics of what charts to include will of course depend on the role you are seeking. Here are just a couple examples:
If you are applying for a marketing manager role, you might include a “Consumer Reports”-style chart showing the company’s major products or services compared to the competition. How do you evaluate the brand’s positioning? What social media marketing opportunities do you envision? What improvements would you suggest to the company’s website? Buy a product from the company and chart your customer journey.
If you are applying for a plant manager role at a manufacturing company you might create a chart showing all the components that the company uses. You might create a table showing the production issues companies in this industry typically face and how you would address them.
There are two pages that you should include whatever role you are applying for:
- List of the questions you would be asking and activities you would do in the first week on the job
- How you would go about creating a 100-day plan and 365-day plan within your first 2 weeks on the job
A reasonable length for your document would be about 10 pages. It will probably take at least a full work-day to create, but shouldn’t require more than three or four days. If this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. But how much time did you spend getting the interview in the first place?
In the second part of this post next week, I’ll discuss useful information sources and how to use your document in the interview.
graphic courtesy of grandciel.wordpress.com
Will Bachman is the president and founder of The Bachman Group, a strategy and operations consulting firm.
Got questions or comments for Will? Spill below.
Today’s guest blogger is Will Bachman, a management consultant with interests ranging from Business Process Redesign to running a hobby farm.
Working from an alcove off his bedroom, Salman Khan has created over 2,400 free educational videos that are viewed by over 1,000,000 students a month at www.khanacademy.org.
For this, he has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and Khan Academy took top prize in Google’s $10 million contest to identify which ideas would help the world the most.
Inspired by his example, this spring I created and delivered my own free training. I’ll describe that briefly, and then discuss the benefits and offer suggestions on how you can get started.
How teaching new hires at McKinsey got me started
During the five years that I worked at McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, I enjoyed teaching the one-week course on consulting skills to new hires. From that experience, I created a free, interactive, one-day Consulting Bootcamp [ http://www.innovationbootcamp.net/p/consulting-bootcamp.html ] targeted at post-MBA business professionals who had never worked in a consulting firm but were interested in getting an introduction to the consulting toolkit. It was easy to fill all the seats in the session by emailing an announcement to fellow alumni and posting it on my blog and LinkedIn.
It was a tremendous amount of fun preparing and delivering the training. I made some new friends, reconnected with old ones, and, I hope, helped a dozen people by teaching skills that will help them in their career.
The benefits of giving free training
- Revisit the basics. Teaching a topic helps you achieve true mastery. As you consider how to transfer your own knowledge or skills, you are forced to reflect on how you do what you do.
- Enjoy giving a gift. Pay it forward. If the attendees ask what they can do for you in return, you can say, “Teach something you know to someone else.” Start a cascade.
- Build connections. Allow serendipity to happen. I think it is best to release your expectations and not expect any particular result while being open to good things happening. In addition to expanding your own network, you’ll also be creating an environment where the attendees can build connections among each other.
- Improve your presentation skills. Teaching what you know in front of a non-paying group is relatively low-risk. If you are already used to speaking in front of an audience, push yourself to get outside your comfort zone to stretch your skills.
- Strengthen your own brand. All else being equal, would you rather hire a real estate agent who regularly gives training on how to buy a house, a plant manager who lectures on lean manufacturing, a web designer who has spoken to groups at three business schools, or ones who haven’t? It takes very little, other than initiative, to join that first group.
- Practice doing something without permission. Give training without the imprimatur of a school or the HR department.
How you can get started:
- Pick a topic. You are an expert on dozens of topics that would be a good basis for a training session. Some ideas to start your thinking:
- Technology (Getting the most out of your iPhone; Using PivotTables in Excel; The new PeopleSoft installation at your office; Web design; etc.)
- Hobbies (How to use all those features on your digital SLR; Knitting 101)
- Job search (Crafting a killer cover letter; Getting the most out of informational interviews; Negotiating your offer)
- Practical stuff they don’t teach in school (How to buy your first house; How to get your kids into a good public school in New York City; How to buy life insurance; How to negotiate with your elderly parent’s health insurance company)
- Pick an audience. You could offer the free training to fellow alumni of your college or graduate school, members of your community or religious organization, all of your contacts on LinkedIn. Offering training to other employees at your job is a great way to meet folks from other departments.
- Decide on the right length. Consider what potential attendees will be willing to commit to. Better to keep it shorter and leave them wanting more.
- Announce the training and get commitments. Pick a date and send out your announcement. Give people a deadline to respond and ask them to make a firm commitment to attend. You might even require a short application. Let people know that space is limited.
- Prepare your materials. Notice that this step comes after announcing the date of the training. Unless you were the one person in class who got term papers done the second week of the semester, I encourage you to schedule the training without waiting to develop all your materials. I had the idea of Consulting Bootcamp for over a year, but I only managed to do all the preparation when I had a firm deadline.
- Arrange for space. I announced Consulting Bootcamp without having lined up a conference room in Manhattan that could fit a dozen people. One of the attendees was able to let us use a conference room at his office for free.
- Create take-home materials. Including all of your training materials in a binder for each attendee makes it feel like a “real” training session. Not required, so don’t let this step stand in the way of doing the training.
- Get feedback. Give attendees the chance to give you anonymous feedback at the end of the session. With Consulting Bootcamp, I learned that attendees liked the role-playing training for interviews, but I needed to do more work on the session in which we outlined a presentation. I’ve posted a feedback form you can edit to use at your own presentation, below the deck for Consulting Bootcamp.
- Check out the KhanAcademy Intro video by Bill Gates and move down the elevator bar to watch a few of the 2400 instructional videos.
- Right now, write down 10 topics that you could teach. Share your list with your AW and some friends for feedback.
- Select your favorite topic, and using the Consulting Bootcamp as a starting point, begin putting a training seminar together.
I’d love to hear about your experience creating your own bootcamp, and I’d be happy to provide advice if you have a specific question. Either leave a comment below or email me at bootcamp at bachmangroup.net.