Thoughts on Networking

November 12, 2009

I promised a follow-up to my last post, how to get plugged-in to the local network after I spoke at NWEN‘s Entrepreneur University. It’s also a great follow-up to the last post about working less. So if you are looking for work, there are some things here that are good to learn. Thanks for everyone who sent feedback on their thoughts about the Seattle Startup community and networking in general. Here is half of the talk we gave at the NWEN EU event…

NWEN EU – Plugging-in

It was a lot of fun and interesting to learn from the attendees and co-panelists (Nathan Kaiser, Danielle Morrill, and Dave Schappell) what problems they had with networking and how hidden the local community appears when you are an outsider looking in.

The five points that I found most applicable were:

  1. Do more favors for people in the community than you get from the community. The quality of favors you get in return will be worth it.
  2. Ask for advice, not for assistance.
  3. There are always going to be too many places to network and too many events to go to. Network where it is most convenient for you as you.
  4. It’s ok to mix personal and business networking, it’s more fun when you are doing business with people you enjoy.
  5. Use tools and system to manage who you are networking with, when you are networking, and why. Things like LinkedIn, facebook, twitter, salesforce are all great to help manage all of the connections and conversations. They are all useless if you are not using them to network with the people who will add value to what you are doing.

(6) – bring some breath mints or gum or something – bad breath sucks :)

A few of the follow-up conversations I had were also interesting…

I spoke with an attendee about the power of LinkedIN and how to go about using it to plan a conversation with someone either online or in-person. We used a scenario of a connecting with a Sr. Researcher at a company of interest. For my brief demonstration, I’ll say that I have a startup where I am trying to build a new touch based device that includes components of augmented reality for a medical purpose. For this I would start with a good LinkedIN search such as:

LinkedIN_Search

From here, I would expect to get a few folks in the Microsoft Research team locally and perhaps get some success…

LinkedIN_Results

With 9 results, I may not have much luck, but there isn’t too far to go to find out if I have a shot at finding the person that I’m looking for or not. To start, I’ll drill into each of these, keeping in mind that 2nd leve connections are easier to get to than 3rd level connections. So I’ll drill into Patrick Baudisch and see what I can find.

LinkedIN_results_in-depth

It doesn’t appear Patrick keeps his LinkedIN profile up to date which may be the case for researcher types. Business types are usually different and have a lot of information about what they do on their profile. The important thing though, is that Patrick does point us to his personal website. So let’s have a look…

LinkedIN_results_in-depth_Success

ok, straight off of his website, this guy has done some projects with multi-touch at a nano level and blindsight (by the looks of the picture and name, I get the sense that he has figured out what is behind an object even though we can’t see it (kind of augmented reality). Hmm, sounds like a guy that may be up my alley, definitely worth following up with. Flipping back over to his profile, it’s time to see how easy I can make the introduction and if this guy would be interested in talking to me.

Looking back at the profile, I see that we are both connected to Scott Bright. I happen to be connected to Scott because of MindCamp (hence the need to attend a few good events, do some favors, so that you have the right connections to leverage when you need them).

LinkedIN_Connection

In this case, I would ask Scott for some advice on how to meet people in the space that I’m looking for. If he doesn’t offer Patrick as a connection, I would ask directly about an introduction in-person or online.

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Are we all working less?

November 6, 2009

That’s right, work less, good catchy title for a post about the job numbers released on Friday :)

According to the calculations of our friend Jake over at EconomPic, the current average of working hours in the US is the lowest it has ever been! (well the lowest it has ever been since we’ve been keeping track anyway.)

Employment/Population Ratio * Number of Hours Worked Per Week

That’s actually kind of amazing if you think about it this means that if you take the US as a group and looked at how many hours we are working, we are working the least amount of hours then we did at any other period in tracked history. Look at Oct. 99 – we were working the most and of course we all know about the internet bubble that was happening at that time. With so much less work

Interestingly a lot of people argue with me about the rate of job loss decreasing is a result of people getting new jobs and not a result of people dropping out of the job hunt or settling for lower quality work. This certainly has some truth to it, my friend Mish has some interesting numbers that he pulled out of the BLS data on this…

Highlights

  • 190,000 jobs were lost in total vs. 263,000 jobs last month.
  • 62,000 construction jobs were lost vs. 64,000 last month.
  • 61,000 manufacturing jobs were lost vs. 51,000 last month.
  • 61,000 service providing jobs were lost vs. 147,000 last month.
  • 40,000 retail trade jobs were lost vs. 39,000 last month.
  • 18,000 professional and business services jobs were added vs. 8,000 lost last month.
  • 45,000 education and health services jobs were added vs. 3,000 added last month.
  • 37,000 leisure and hospitality jobs were lost vs. 9,000 last month.
  • 00,000 government jobs were lost vs. 53,000 last month.

A total of 129,000 goods producing jobs were lost (higher paying jobs). Retail and professional services contributed to to the plus side.

So yes – there was some job growth… we added a lot more retail jobs, professional services jobs, education jobs, and healthcare jobs… In other words – the people who lost their jobs making products are now reporting that they are in a category that does not make products and usually requires less working hours, lower pay, etc. A great example of this is a friend of mine who lost their financial industry job some time ago and began a private professional service job out of their house. They are doing good with it, they have customers and are making money – yet the overall income they are taking in is drastically less and the contribution to the economy as a result is drastically less (their consumption is down, despite having a graduate degree they are not contributing to a company that is producing or investing anything, etc). Based on the overall data, this anecdote is likely true amongst a large number of the people making a similar change.

Mish summarizes this very well with this quote (he has the data to back it up on his site)

The chart shows there are 9.28 million people are working part time but want a full time job. A year ago the number was 6.8 million.

Yes, that is a huge difference – yes that is A LOT OF PEOPLE! Given all this information it is not amazing that the government is adding extensions to the unemployment insurance program. What does that mean for you and I – five simple thoughts?

  • If your a trader, trading will be choppy intra-day so follow trends.
  • If you are unemployed – try starting your own business (now’s the time to experiment while you have free time)
  • If you are employed – you should re-evaluate where and how you are saving your money, what your plan is for staying afloat when/if you are laid off.
  • If you are an entrepreneur – get scrappy – regardless of the funding you have, being scrappy and focused is important (did you read Andy Sack’s lessons on Seattle 2.0 today?).
  • Talk to your kids about what his going on.

How to get plugged-in to the local network

November 3, 2009

I am going to be on a panel about getting “plugged-in” to a local network of people. Obviously this has a lot of uses, from networking for a job, to networking to find business partners, to finding customers, to finding a significant other. There are loads of reasons to network and everyone has their own approach. I’ve had some success with it and built Seattle Lunch 2.0 in the process (btw, there is a lunch this Friday with some cool Demos and another next Friday over at Gist).

While I do have a lot of my own thoughts, I would be more interested in your thoughts about how to build a network and how to get plugged into a network where you previously have not been active. There are a lot of theories and methods for this sort of thing and of course every network is unique, I’d be interested in hearing your feedback on a couple of basic questions…

  • How do you go about networking?
  • In-Person, Virtual, or a mix?
  • Do you network at events, or one-on-one?
  • How do you decide which events to attend?
  • How do you ensure you have a solid reliable network?

I’ll share my thoughts post presentation (if you are interested in attending in person let me know)!!

The Bear Market Cometh?

October 27, 2009

Well now that we hit our magical 10k number (again) and the big market makers had a chance to take some profits, some wonder if we’re on the verge of a bear market, and others (like last time we hit 10k) think we’re on our way to 14k… Whether you are optimistic or not about the market, the next few weeks will be telling (probably a good time to take some profits if you’re in the market and wait)

We are starting to see the tails of housing not making the comeback we all were anticipating and consumer confidence eroding (now at the lowest point it’s been in 26yrs). This consumer confidence problem is a big deal, especially when combined with continued declines or stagnation in the job market. The consumer confidence is an attempt to measure what consumers think about the future outlook of their livelihoods. This means that if the general populous thinks the future is dim, they will react accordingly. In other words letting money out of their site will be a difficult thing to do.

Some argue, that keeping the money in savings is ok, considering banks have more in their coughers to lend out to big and small businesses alike. The problem with that theory (in relation to the current situation) is that consumer confidence in banks is eroding and banks are continuing to add more barriers to credit. The financial sector in general is struggling to make ends meet and the list of bank failures growing monthly. Banks need to find ways to make ends meet, the obvious source is the consumer. This is an odd problem all on it’s own though – Banks are taking more of the consumer funds to cover the taxes they borrowed in the first place – yes, we gave banks money through the government, so to pay us back, they are taking more of our money through assessing larger fees for using their services. This results in a lot of money poured down the drain on overhead (on both the government and financial organization sides), it also results in a deadweight loss as consumers choose to not partake in the new banking environment and keep their money out of the system.

So what does all this point to? Additional declines in the economy? A jobless recovery? The recession being over?

Well, I don’t think anyone can safely predict where things are going. There will always be controversy in the actions taken so far and what the correct actions should have been or are to fix the remaining problems. All I can say is that whether you’ve lost your job or 40% of your bank savings or not – Be cautious that the worst is not over and make the right decisions along the way. My favorite picture is of the 1932 timeframe of the stock market, after what looked like the worse decline ever…

 1929 Crash

There was a great recovery – see it there? Right at the end of 1929 – just before the rest of the fall halfway through 1930?

1930 Bear

Worse can happen – plan accordingly

UPDATE – A few more posts related to the topic today – Mish has a great review of David Waggoner’s technical chart of the current correction. Economicpicdata has a great graphic of current the thoughts of the public.

Educationalism

May 17, 2009

After participating in Gabriel’s School auction this weekend, I got to thinking about the purchases we made and how the money we spent will go to basic components of their school education (technology in the classroom, art, elementary school plays, supplemental math and reading curriculumn, etc, etc). Overall, our contributions (and the matches that we are getting from Microsoft) are in the thousands and so were many other families contributions. Amazing that it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to make a good public school work and even then they are still sub-par and prone to leave alumns of public education looking for a safety net.

While I was thinking about this I started to examine all this new safety net spending we are putting together and found a nice way to look at where we are at today (before the new spending). I found this federal spending calculator over at Know All Design and a calculator on the CEPR site to convert billions into per/capita spending per/year.

Unfortunately all of the traditional schools of thought overlook the importance of education and as such there are not pools of advocates inside of the think tanks and economic institutions where these policies are made. What I found though seems to lend itself to supporting the need for better thinking in this area, Educationalism?….

We spend 61.3B inside the Department of Agriculture on a group of spending called Food and Nutrition Service. This group of spending includes things like the Food Stamp Program, Child Nutrition Programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC), etc. At first glance, this seems fair – there are people in the US that need assistance getting food of any sort and kids who should be able to eat healthy. The problem is that if we think about why these families are in a situation where they need this assistance, we find a lack of knowledge to be a major source of the problem. People don’t know how to get and keep jobs, they were never trained on how to become motivated, how to stay away from crime and drugs, etc, etc. Clearly if a lack of knowledge is the problem, there should be at least double the amount spent on feeding people spent on educating them to feed themselves. Looking at the entire Department of Education, there is 63.5B outlaid for education. This is only two billion more than we are paying to give free food to those in need. Perhaps the assumption that we as a nation actually pass knowledge on and attempt to raise the level is a misconception.

Examining this issue a little further and thinking about what else the uneducated, unmotivated class of people need, a look at  the Department of Health and Human Services (where the Food and Nutrition Service spending should occur vs. the Department of Agriculture), there is 919B spent on Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid is for pregnant women and children who can’t afford services, in other words if you were not trained at a young age to make a sum of money that could support your medical needs – this service does that for you. I will admit, the Medicaid portion is much less than the group overall, there are only 215B in grants to states for Medicaid. That is still 314% more in medical services for people who could be taught to be smart/motivated enough to pay for the services themselves than we are paying to actually train these people.

Unemployment? Well you guessed it, nearly as much as the Department of Education. 40B to give unemployed people money, yet only 20B more than that to train everyone (employed and unemployed).

Obviously there are some flaws here, all of the traditional safety net items combined (food, health, and basic needs) total 316B. Meanwhile the only spending to ensure the safety net is not needed is 63.5B. Examining this from a per/capita per/yr perspective, we are paying $202.04/yr on Education and $1,005.41 on the Safety Net. This is drastically less then what we spend on defense per/capita per/yr ($2,119.00), but is a major cause for concern. The more money we put into the safety net, the easier it is to obtain those easy to use funds, and the higher the escape velocity becomes for people who have felt the net. This is in steep contrast to the capabilities being built to reach that escape velocity.

It appears we are working to make this problem worse by expanding the safety net and at the same time shrink the education budget. This is the reverse of what is truly needed. This is like taking the gas out of your engine to trade it for booze and telling everyone that walks by, you are trying to stop being an alcoholic but you just can’t drive away from the liquor store and you don’t know why.