Thirty Days of Thanks – Opportunity

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New York Stock Exchange

Two years ago I was just another college senior looking for a job when I got what seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. I was offered a job at Accenture to do technology consulting. In Manhattan, NY. I had visited NYC twice and loved it both times. The bustling city was full of energy, and soon I would be there.

Flash forward to just a year ago. NYC had been hit hard by the financial crisis, and I was not immune. Suddenly there were many people at my level without a current project. There was no doubt that cutbacks were coming. And unfortunately for me, they were coming to my neck of the woods.

My employment at that company ended, and most jobs were on hold everywhere in NYC. This was actually a great opportunity to come home, but not under the best circumstances. I was now on a job hunt in a truly bad time to be looking for work. To top it off, I had little experience, and none whatsoever in my degree area (Mechanical Engineering).

I liked the internet. I had my JMO website and a Twitter and a Facebook. And I had the Aggie 100 as my main source for finding a small company for a new job. That’s when I found Schipul.

I interviewed over the phone, and my enthusiasm made up for my lack in experience. I quickly learned that I was probably out of my league. But, things worked out better than expected. I got another interview, and finally an offer. Through some miracle I had won the opportunity to work at the place I now call ‘my awesome job’. When I started, the entire staff could fit in a single conference room. From my previous experience at large multi-national corporations, I had never experienced anything like this. Working with a small group of people on projects we are passionate about has been a very welcome change.

Many people are still in a situation similar to mine a year ago. You can view a video of the unemployment rate over the last two years as it grows. I think this is very scary to most people (especially considering the colors used). To me, though, this is a unique time when great things are born. People are pushed to their limits of creativity and forced to think an create things like never before. Many of us are not comfortable, and this discomfort can be the driving factor in invention and creation.

Below is a list of companies you may be familiar with. If you have never heard of them, check them out. I’ve used products or services from all of them in the past couple of years. They are all in different fields and are scattered around the country.

  • Publix – Grocery stores in the South East. Over 1,000 stores as of October 2009.
  • Texas Instruments – Makers of many tech gadgets, but the calculators are the real deal.
  • Tyson Foods – Had chicken recently? It was probably from Tyson, the largest meat producer in the world.
  • Zippo – Fantastic lighters, great styles, and there is an app for that.
  • Steak-n-Shake – A childhood favorite restaurant of mine. They have one in Houston.
  • Meijer – The original hypermarket, and still a private company.
  • Penguin Books – I listen to most books now, and quite a few are Penguin Audio Books.
  • Morgan Stanley – The bank has had the opportunity for change recently.
  • 20th Century Fox – I love a good movie, and these guys make great movies.
  • GEICO – love the commercials, and I use them for insurance.
  • Altec Lansing – They make the speakers on my desk at work and at home.
  • Pepperidge Farm – The Chessmen cookies are so sweet and delicious.
  • Harrah’s Entertainment – Nothing like a game of No-Limit Texas Hold’em.
  • Dillard’s – The bookend to many malls around the country, it’s a great place to shop.
  • Academy – Sports and Outdoors equipment at decent prices.
  • Columbia Sportswear – Nothing like a fleece pullover to keep you warm in a Texas winter.
  • Hewlett-Packard – PC and printer maker. I see this brand around my home and office.
  • Marvel Comics – I’m not a huge comic book reader, but I love a good superhero movie.
  • Dollar General – What’s not to love about a store filled with things for a dollar?
  • Sara Lee – What started off small now sells food products in over 180 nations.

This may look like a fairly hodge-podge list, but all of these companies have something in common. They were all founded in the 1930’s. During a time in our country where jobs among other things were very rare, 20 different groups found an opportunity for a new business. Surely many of them never could foresee the reach and size of their companies today.

And now today we are presented with the same chance at being able to build something new. For me, it was a new career in a field I am very excited and passionate about. For you, it could be starting the next great service company or electric car manufacturer or inventing a new technology that will change our lives. I urge you not to fear the state of things now, but to instead see this as a blank canvas, ready to be transformed at your hand. Great things rarely come easy, and now is the perfect chance to let your passion push you in a new direction.

(photo taken by Meg Pickert on a recent trip to NYC)

Have you checked the back door lately? “Re-marketing” is knocking.

by: Courtney Pemberton

Any professional woman that can make a large crowd chuckle uncontrollably with the mention of a plumbers’ crack is pretty much my hero. Who is this delightful woman you ask? Suzanne Penley, CEO of Customer Focused Systems, a full service consulting, management and training firm. She recently spoke at the monthly AMA luncheon about the power of “re-marketing,” and I have to say it has been my most enjoyable to date.

We all know what marketing is but are you familiar with “re-marketing?” I suggest you familiarize yourself fast. The term “re-marketing” has received its own page on Wikipedia…and we all know that once you’ve made it to Wikipedia, you have hit the big times. Suzanne summed it up quite nicely when she said:

“Do not worry about more customers…worry about more business.”

It’s so simple to do and yet we still have businesses lacing up their Superman Nike high-tops and racing to see who has the most clients at the end of the day. You spend tons of money marketing to possible clients that you forget about the ones that pay your salary…current clients. With that being said, I don’t think it would hurt to rent a mini-plane, fly it over Houston with a banner that reads, “Thank You Schipul Clients! If It Wasn’t For You, I Would Be A Hobo Under Highway 59 Right Now.”

Suzanne explained the fact that we are constantly trying to open new doors, but have you ever thought to check the back door? Personally, I think some of us are still spinning in the revolving door but that’s neither here nor there. “Checking the back door” can be as simple as calling a current client to see how they boded over at the “World Conker Championships.” That phone call had nothing to do with your product…but you have opened the back door to continued business. Do NOT underestimate the element of surprise…it’s a powerful tool and can often come down to whether you keep a client or not.

According to Suzanne, “re-marketing” exhibits 3 trends:

1.       Reliability: Take McDonald’s for example. You can go to a McDonald’s in Texas, Minnesota or even in Kiev, Ukraine and have the same exact meal. Granted, the happy meal toy and hamburger meat may vary depending on dining location, but the good news is…Ronald McDonald is still a ninja. The point I am trying to make here is McDonald’s has built their business around being reliable and it has worked. Suzanne put it in prospective when she said, “Don’t cut back on your main ingredients.” Continue to offer the same service that you offered in the beginning, don’t cut back…not even a little bit. What if I went to Starbucks everyday and ordered a caramel macchiato with whip cream on top, but one day they forgot the whip cream. That’s fine, it’s just one day. To my dismay, they continued to forget for an entire week…you better believe I am taking my business elsewhere…all I wanted was some whip cream people!

2.       Responsiveness: Clearly outline what customers can expect from you and stick to it. If you promised string cheese, a purple skip-it and a light saber, well by golly you better give them string cheese, a purple skip-it, a light saber AND a complimentary Dallas Cowboys key chain.

3.       Empathy: This was the most important trend and according to Suzanne, one of the leading sales and marketing techniques today. People enjoy doing business with people they like.   Stop telling people you are the best…show them that you are the best. Here’s an idea, be human! Nobody wants to discuss a business deal with a robot, and to be quite honest, I don’t trust anything that can’t perspire and enjoy a nice bubble bath.

Here’s the deal folks…existing clients are like your lovable grandma Camille…she’s old and repeats the same story about how she tooted trying to build a trampoline one Christmas, but if you listen to her and give her a call every now and then, she will always have fresh cookies waiting for you on the table.

Thank you for the awesome photo Jeremy Brooks!