Sunday, October 21, 2007

Encore careers

I had not heard the term 'encore careers' until I read a commentary by Marc Freedman in the Nov. 2007 Ode magazine.

Marc is the founder and CEO of the think tank, Civic Ventures (Helping society achieve the greatest return on experience) has written a book called Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life. I have it on hold at the library but judging from the commentary piece in Ode, this looks to be a great premise.

I'd like to use this post to highlight some quotes from Marc's commentary...

After setting up shots of dreamy seniors on sailboats and golf courses...

"But wait a minute: Who looks forward to endless retirement anymore, 30 years of R and R? Who can afford it - even with the most diligent savings plan? For reasons of money and meaning, the golden-years vision being peddled by the financial and real estate industries is already obsolete. Stretched from a justified period of relaxation after the mid-life years into a phase lasting just as long, this version of retirement has been distorted into something grotesque, something that no longer works, for individuals - or for society."

"But this troubling conclusion amounts to scenario-planning through the rear-view mirror. Retirement as we've known it is far from an eternal verity. In fact it is already being displaced as the central institution of the second half of life, soon to be supplanted by a new stage of life and work opening up between the end of mid-life and the eventual arrival of true old age. Indeed four out of five boomers consistently tell researchers they expect to work well into what used to be known as the retirement years."

Here's the part that I find most inspiring and I see it clearly in the wonderful boomer launches I work with...

"...boomers should be encouraged not only to continue contributing, but to rethink the purpose of that work - in short, to dust off their idealism of the '60s and '70s, and get to work making the world a better place. It is the perfect opportunity for the generation that set out to change the world and got lost along the way. Now, as tens of millions of boomers careen toward what were once the golden years, I believe more and more people are interested in living out a distinct and compelling vision of contribution in the second half of adult life, one built around an 'encore career' at the intersection of continued income, new meaning and significant contribution to the greater good."

Good words from Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures.

The service economy is growing without pause through all kinds of economic turmoil. The wisdom accumulated by older workers can be applied in unlimited creative and valuable ways.

I see small, smart, self-funded, boomer enterprises emerging everywhere to fill this need and to take advantage of this growing opportunity to serve.

These new enterprises do not have to fit anyone's model but our own. They can operate at a pace and scale we choose. I've written before about the slow startup movement, and I think it's a perfect fit for boomer entrepreneurs and this enormous opportunity. Start early and start slow. Plan carefully and launch at your own speed. What's important my friends, is that you start.

You should consider this more than just an interesting idea. It's a big, big social trend. Welcome aboard!

Civic Ventures

Ode Magazine

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New networking course

Commercial social networking has a tawdry history.

Many of us who have been in the game for long enough have memories of walking into a room full of self-certified financial planners and 'business brokers' drinking cheap beer in a stale hotel banquet room all looking for the keys to your money.

The misery that these events brought on was deep. Mostly because of all the time you'd wasted by falling for another come-on for business development socializing.

The Small Business Center at the Technical College (WCTC) I've been teaching through has done a very nice job of bringing these events into the 21st century. If anyone reading this wants some good suggestions for what I think works here, send me a note.

When a new course at the college opened up called 'The Art of Networking' I was asked to teach it. My first inclination is that I didn't want to do it because of the memories from the old days.

But when I watch new - and seasoned - entrepreneurs feeling their way through the newer, better versions of networking events put on by the Small Business Center, I sense a need for some one-on-one, interactive training for the way these things work in the age of Tom Peters and web 2.0

WCTC gave me a blank sheet of paper. I can't wait, the more I think about this. For anyone who has read these posts for a while, you'll know my approach to networking is finding ways to help your network. That's what I'm quickly filling in on those blank sheets of paper.

A good primer on my approach was summarized by Guy Kawasaki who I link to on these posts regularly. Always good stuff. Guy quoted author Darcy Rezac as someone he thought had the best definition of schmoozing: "'Discovering what you can do for someone else.' Herein lies eighty percent of the battle: great schmoozers want to know what they can do for you, not what the you can do for them. If you understand this, the rest is just mechanics."

These courses are the classroom variety and will be taught in Waukesha, WI from Mid November through Mid December, once per week on Wednesday evenings. There will even be a large group networking 'Connections' meeting sponsored by the Small Business Center on one of the class nights that we'll all immerse ourselves in.

If anyone comes looking for short term, easy money strategies we'll have a dunce cap on hand.

For everyone who comes looking for ways to work with a wildly changing and diverse marketplace in an honorable and valued way, I'll have extra gold stars.

The link for information and enrollment is below.

Thanks to the Small Business Center and WCTC for the opportunity and the blank sheets of paper. This will be fun for all involved.

Info about Networking Course at WCTC

Guy Kawasaki's blog on The Art of Schmoozing

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Turning down new clients

Your life as a new entrepreneur will bring you to the crossroads of 'I need the money' and 'I don't want to do this work', more often than you think in the early days.

When we started SmartSkim my first year's income was well below the poverty line, a statistic my daughters now wear as badges of honor because they lived through it with us as young people old enough to recognize what was going on. Startups can be financially challenging, but you don't need me to tell you that.

What you may need me to tell you is that as a new entrepreneur you don't have to take every job or every client that appears. The goal of smart startups is just the opposite.

I turned down a potential client this week even though the money would have been great. As Business Diligence rolls out, all new additions to the client list are helpful.

My problem was the client. He was a new economy guy who wanted to start a business in such a way that he could 'monitize it' by automating a web site to generate income. He assured me he'd read all the articles about gaming Google and been to several 'keyword seminars'.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge believer in using the web to communicate the stories and values of small enterprises. There has never been a more powerful tool in the history of the world of entrepreneurship. Back at SmartSkim, we were a very small manufacturing company, yet we had devoted customers on 6 continents. We did it with only four people on the payroll, due largely to our ability to leverage the web.

But this new world of monitizing web sites by generating keyword searches and selling Google ads while having very little content of value leaves me cold.

Small business startups are like making meat loaf. You've got to plunge in. You've got to commit to mixing up improbable ingredients. You've got to clean up the resulting mess. The process is not automated or done without effort. Yet the results can be wonderful and nourish you well beyond the event.

I turned down this potential client. He will not be the last.

The way to make Google work for you is to choose a truly great name that Google can find quickly and then build out your site with great content and a great offering to your end users. It's your job as a marketer and a salesperson to then make that name known. I helped several new clients pick names and launch last month. Within 2 weeks Google had found them and put every one of them at the top of searches with hits numbering in the millions because they had a unique name that served their offering well.

It's not keywords. It's content.

The world needs startups that solve real problems, not ones that are launched to scam Google algorithms.

SmartSkim™, my last startup

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Favre alone in the shotgun

I've tried to keep these posts tied to entrepreneurship and will continue to do that.

But I'm a Wisconsin guy and one of us, Brett Favre, last weekend set an NFL career touchdown record. 422 Touchdown passes. Bret has many other notable records embedded in this statistic.

What is most impressive is what those of us in Wisconsin have known to love about the guy. When all hell is breaking loose, when nothing is going right, when everything is lined up against the Green Bay Packers, they call one play.

It's the most dangerous offense any competitors could face for the last decade or so, and your thinly veiled entrepreneurship lesson.

The play they call... Brett Favre alone in the shotgun.

They tell everyone on the team to support the playmaker, and let him do his thing.

The playmaker accepts maximum personal risk for the right to move the game forward at their disgression.

Favre alone in the shotgun.

That's you.

Records are there for your taking, so long as you work and train like a fanatic and show up for every detail and follow up on every possibility in real time.

Brett was typically humble in breaking this records, as you need to be for every accomplishment you achieve.

But while being humble and doing everything right, please think of yourself as an entrepreneur in this picture....

Favre alone in the shotgun.

Congratulations from all of us on a great carreer and great mentoring Brett.