The Best Company You Don’t Know You Need

I don’t shill for companies very often. And I am getting no benefit for this.

But I love RePC. (Google Map)

Now maybe you are one of those super careful people who never do anything dumb like accidentally back over your laptop bag after scraping the snow off your car, or accidentally have your laptop bag fall out of the back of an SUV. Maybe you never have a need to get your laptop screen replaced.

But maybe you do. And if you do, you want to take it to RePC. If they have the screen in stock (which they often do), the whole thing is less than $100. If they have to buy it from somewhere else, maybe $150. If you can find the right screen yourself somewhere, then they’ll do the install for like $40.

Of course, they do all kinds of other things for people have different kinds of laptop issues. So next time you have some computer calamity, give these guys a shot. They are just down by Safeco Field. Super nice, really helpful and really fair.

Advice for New Grads Seeking Those “Jobs” Things

Young people seem to like to ask me about how to get a job. Sometimes I think they don’t really want my advice and just want me to actually “give” them a job, but I get asked all the same.

So here are a few quick thoughts for you new grads. In no particular order.

1) No one wants to “give you a job.” People do want you to “work for them.” These are two completely different sentences and they mean totally different things. If you can’t figure out the difference, then you may want to ask someone.

2) Hiring Managers expect you to bring a skill to the role. It’s your first job. No one expects you to be an all-star. What they want is to see that you have some skill – or set of skills – that they can add to their team that makes the overall team better. Know what you are best at, and get even better. In an interview be able to clearly articulate that you are able to solve some sort of problem that the manager has, because your skill set enables you to do so.

3) If you want to work in a start-up for a career, there is a lot of value in working in a huge company first. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. But working in a large, successful company gets you the following: A nice large network of colleagues to call upon later in your career, experience doing things the right way, an understanding of how large companies work so you know how to sell to them later, a nice brand name on your resume that indicates you *could* work in a big company if you wanted, and finally, stable money that you can sock away in a savings account, so you can take a risk later. Side note: Nothing is more liberating than money in the bank. Nothing is more chilling than being forced to work for someone you don’t like because the rent is due.

4) Your first job is probably going to kind of suck. Here’s why. You’re the low pup on the totem pole. That means your boss is second lowest, and that it’s probably their first time managing people. They will have some managerial growing pains. They’ll also be worried about their own boss 90% of the time and trying to figure out how to get promoted. So you probably will end up flipping from being ignored to being micro-managed based on what your boss just got told by their boss. Accept that this is going to be part of the game, so look for a boss that you like, no matter what the company is like.

5) Interview EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to work there. Go practice. Nothing is more humbling than not getting an offer at a company you didn’t want to work for. But it will help you figure out how to nail the interview you really want.

6) Work for a product, customer base or marketplace you care about. It’s the natural truth. If you don’t like your customers, you can’t do your job. I once worked someplace where the customers were all rich, arrogant, conceited and hard to deal with. Do you know how little I felt like helping them? You can’t do good work unless you have an affinity for what you are doing. So at least identify early who it is that you want to be associated with.

In a nutshell – To “work” for someone, find a skill you are great at, optimize it, sell yourself everywhere, and try to find a manager you like in an industry you care about, no matter how large or small the company. Then save some money, build a nest egg, and never have to fear a lack of a job again.

What’s Up With the Mariners Spending Spree?

To get things started, let’s be clear that I have no insight, intelligence or idea why the Mariners are suddenly spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave. $100 million for Seeger, $60 million for Cruz, maybe more for Cabrera. This is very un-Mariner like. So let’s speculate on a few reasons this is happening.

1) They’ve saved up a war chest that we cannot even imagine.
The Mariners have been bad bad bad for a long long time. Sure they had a couple of years between 2004 and 2013 of relative mediocrity. But after winning 93 games in 2002 and 2003, they finished above .500 two years out of 10. Heck they finished under .400 three times. All told they won just 44$ of their games. And yet they still made money. Year after year of cash registers firing all season long. It’s possible that they have so much money saved up, that now they have a chance to win, they are going all in. Budgets be damned.

2) There’s a new sheriff in Japan.
Mariners savior, long time owner and Safeco Field no-show Hiroshi Yamauchi died in Sept 2013. According to Wikipedia, he sold his shares to Nintendo in 2004, stayed on the Nintendo board and was tasked with running the team while he was alive. Of course, we know that the Operations were run by Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong (since retired). But maybe this non-baseball fan was just managing to the bottom line. I don’t know how the transition process worked after his death, but we can make a pretty safe assumption that someone new on the Nintendo board is in charge. Maybe they like baseball? Or coming to Seattle? Or coming to baseball games in Seattle? Or meeting baseball players? Or meeting Jay-z and Beyonce? Who knows.

3) Howard Lincoln is retiring soon?
If I was the long-time CEO of the Mariners, I would not want my Wikipedia profile to read, “Boyer ran the Mariners for 15 years, the longest tenure of any CEO to not make a World Series.” Let’s say that Lincoln has an expiration date on his Mariners tenure. That would accelerate his will to win in the next 2 years, not keep building the war chest.

Chuck Armstrong was the one who refused to spend any money?
Armstrong retired last year. Maybe he was the guy hiding all the money under the mattress.

4) Felix handed down an ultimatum?
We all wondered why the best pitcher in baseball would sign a long-term deal that pretty much eliminates him from ever being qualified for the Hall of Fame. I’m not going to go ALL stats geek here but from 2006-2013, the Mariners went 586-710 (.452). Felix was 106-82 (.563) with a ridiculous ERA of 3.22. So in the games Felix DIDN’T get a decision, the Mariners were 480-628 (.433). Let’s make up some calculations. Pretend the Mariners could be .500 in games Felix didn’t pitch. That would get them another 71 wins, or 15% more. So let’s do the same thing with Felix. Give him 15% more wins. Now instead of 106-82, he’s 122-66. The Mariners ineptitude for 8 years basically cost him 16 wins – or 2 wins a year. If he pitches for 18 years at that pace it takes him from a 239 win pitching version of Edgar to a 275 win pitcher with HoF aspirations.

5) All of the above
Is it unreasonable to think that the Mariners are a franchise with buckets and buckets and buckets of $1000 bills buried under 2nd base, a new TV deal that will make them even MORE money, an “owner” in Japan who is younger and more interested in the fun part of winning baseball games, an outgoing CEO who wants a legacy, a void in the front office where a penny pincher used to sit and a superstar “face of the franchise” who demanded they make some changes for him to stay a few years ago? That’s where I fall on this. We may have a super fun run from 2015-2017. I wonder what happens when the Perfect Storm subsides…

A Quick Thought About A Common Dilemma

I don’t think I’m the only person who regularly gets asked for money by homeless people. On any given day, I can be hit up by one when I get on I-5, one when I get off I-5 and anywhere between 1 and 3 within 20 yards of the Wallingford QFC. So long ago I drew a line in the sand and just decided not to give out dollar bills to guys who may simply take my dollar bill and buy some cheap booze.

So here’s what I’d like to have. I’d like to be able to donate $100, $200, $300, however much to a shelter. I’d like them to mail me a bunch of $1 “gift cards” that can only be redeemed at that shelter. And I’d like the shelter to make the recipient do something to redeem it. Work in the kitchen, take a skills class, whatever. And then I’d like all the “gift cards” they’ve collected to be put towards something they need. Or let the shelter act as a bank and hold the cards for them. In fact, I’d even have the cards contain a # to a taxi company where the person could ride to the Mission for free and have the ride paid for as part of this program.

I know, this can’t work for a hundred reasons. But I’d like it to. I’d feel way more comfortable giving a card to someone than 1/2 the money he needs for a 40.

Join Me With a Bunch of Ad Folks Thursday

Thursday, September 25 will be a busy evening for advertising professionals.

You *could* go drink free beer and play bocce ball up on Capitol Hill. But for those of you who like some education with your alcohol, and prefer a more refined audience, I invite you up to Pike Place Market’s Atrium for the AAF Seattle panel entitled: MARKET INSIGHTS: MOBILE FIRST.

Here’s how they describe the content:

With Twitter machines in every pocket, mobile is key to consumers’ experiences today. How are you incorporating it into you clients’ brands—and into yours? We dialed up a bunch of experts in the mobile biz and asked them to share their secrets, strategies and insights on the topic.

We’ll look into what customers expect from mobile interactions with a brand, when you need an app (and when you don’t), thinking beyond responsive design, and plenty more.

Oh, and I’ll be moderating this group of experts. I’m not an expert myself, and I’ll have as many questions as you do, so it should be a fun time.

MKTG 555 Students – Here’s What You Need to Know

One difference between graduate school today and 10 years ago is that you can go to Google (or Bing) and find out a little about your instructors before you show up for class. And when your instructor pays his mortgage by helping clients with their marketing strategies, then he’ll probably be pretty easy to find.

So excellent work in finding this blog. This is the kind of entrepreneurial drive that will make you successful in the class. If you read enough, I bet there are some things that can be helpful. Like, you’ll probably learn that the quickest way to a low grade is to say anything positive about the Oklahoma City Thunder in my class.*

*Legal Disclaimer – This is not a true statement. I will not alter your grade based on which NBA team you support. It’s more correlation than causation.

It’s should be another fun quarter. I’ll do what I can to introduce you to the people and events that make Seattle a vibrant scene for start-ups. And we’ll all look at a ton of entrepreneurial marketing strategies that can be emulated. I’m looking forward to meeting all of you.

PS – Here’s a reward for being proactive. The first trivia question for determining group priority is this: What is the name of the City of Seattle’s Startup Liason?

Calling All Startups

It’s that time of the year again – almost the beginning of school.

Once again, I’ll be teaching the Entrepreneurial Marketing Class, MKTG 555, at the UW Foster School of Business. While I’m switching up the curriculum a good deal, I’m still incorporating hands on work for students.

If you work with a start-up and have an interesting problem for an MBA student to solve, or just want to have your company profiled, let me know. I’d love to have your company involved.

A Visit to MakerBot

Everyone has different ways to enjoy time visiting a foreign city. Some people love trying restaurants. Some like museums and sightseeing. I like going to cool companies I have heard about and talking with the people who work there.

I think 3D Printing is one of the next big things and will eventually have a huge effect on the global supply chain and how we produce and purchase everyday materials. Sure, it’s still in its infancy today, but the potential opportunities are limitless.

Makerbot Screenshot

So when I was in New York and found out an old colleague of mine worked at Makerbot, a leader in 3D printing, it was like someone else hearing they could get a private tour of the Louvre.

Makerbot Prototype

I was under NDA when I was there, but I think I’m allowed to say that there are now more than 600 Makerbot employees (and they’re hiring a ton more.)

Makerbot 3D Printer

I think I’m also allowed to say that people are doing more than just printing little toys. People are designing and printing their own iPhone cases at home, theatre companies are printing custom masks, architects are printing full scale models and industries across the board are coming up with their own ideas.

Makerbot Spool

So if you are a doubter in the technology, I’d ask you think about 3D printing the way people looked at cell phones in 1980. Back then it may have been big, slow and only apply to a few people. But look at how the world has changed now that everyone in the world can have a mobile broadcasting and computing device in their pocket.

Makerbot Large Machine

Thanks for the tour of the office. Lots of cool stuff is coming from them soon.

Looking for Some Teachers to Give Insight on a Website to Help Teachers

There’s a little company based in New Jersey called PortfolioGen. Started by a teacher and a Vice-Principal, its mission is simple – To make it easier for teachers looking for jobs to find employment with schools who need their skills and expertise.

Traditionally, teachers have had to lug around an offline portfolio when they go interview. Teachers don’t always have the web expertise of a marketer, so they don’t all know how to build a blog or social presence. Plus, they may not want to be easily found by students and parents. PortfolioGen is a safe and secure place for teachers to create an online presence, upload their portfolio and lesson plans, and one day, communicate with schools who are hiring.

PortfolioGen Screenshot

The site is still in in infancy, but does have more than 14,000 teachers on board. If you’re a teacher or administrator, we’d love to get your feedback and insight. You can help the founders shape the site into something that is tailor made for teachers. Just email me for info.  Thanks.