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Archive for January, 2010

Ken Tudhope: Return On Investment….

January 29th, 2010 Comments off

     Recently a client told me at lunch that there was no real return on investment for networking.  Can you imagine saying that to a fellow like me?!  I am the guy with 5 Rolodexes and I write the Networking Notes articles.  So of course I begin to launch into my value of connections, and the importance of rich relationships speeches, but then I stopped myself because I figured that maybe this thing which I’m so passionate about isn’t for everyone. 

     Then on a morning not long after, I had coffee with someone in a really tough situation, someone I had met awhile back at the Harvard Business School Networking breakfast.  He called me and asked for a meeting.  When we met he told me he wanted to make a career change and he asked me to help.  I reviewed his resume and told him it would be tough considering he’d been in management consulting for many years.  My clients hire me to find people with specific, recent experience in finance & accounting.  I encouraged him to reach out to his network and reminded him that most jobs are found through referrals, not recruiters.  He mumbled that he didn’t really have a network for referrals.  I smiled as I thought, “He does have a network but he just doesn’t know it.”  Professional consultants with years of experience know many people because they go from engagement to engagement, meeting clients along the way.  What’s even better is that consultants are viewed as experts in their field and their former clients already know their work.  When I recommended that he contact this network, he said he could not because his colleagues knew all the same client contacts. 

This made me think about what kind of return on investment networking really has.

    If you don’t get out and meet people outside your company and even your industry, it’s pretty tough to conduct a confidential job search.  Given that jobs are getting shorter and turnover is more common, we are all going to have to be in a search at some point.  If everyone you know knows your manager and coworkers, then you will have to wait to get let go before you can start the job search.  That will delay your search, cost you money, and decrease your options. 

I think there is a high ROI on networking, and I encourage you to invest in yourself!

Taking Charge of Your Career….It’s Your Responsibility.

January 22nd, 2010 Comments off

            It seems like my career has taken so many different twists over the last 20-years that sometimes I wonder if I’ve been a victim to the constant upheaval cast in my direction or if, more often than not, I have just been prepared to deal with the change as it comes. In my most recent round of interviews we discussed my career path and I discussed how I felt as though I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to bring my career to the point it’s at.  Very simply, I’ve gone through multiple acquisitions, multiple recessions, the death of a company founder, and more. Through it all, I’ve managed to secure some great opportunities, all of which, in some way, contributed to my most recent position.

            For me, all along the way, it has always been about how one takes charge of their career and avoids going stale in an uninspiring and complacent company. It has never been about working for a sexy company or brand name, although Quiksilver/DC Shoes does fit that bill. Take MGE UPS Systems as an example. It doesn’t get much duller than steel boxes with transformers and batteries. Whoa….hold onto your hat!  But what was so interesting is that they had three distinct elements of the business (custom project, flow goods, and Service), all of which required a different level of reporting, and ultimately, a consolidation into our French parent company. They were constantly innovating, open to change, driven by performance, and we had a team that worked great together…at least until the merger. Great stuff. But what happens when you work for what would be perceived as a “sexy” company, but you have complacent staff or management, an uninspiring product line, no long-term vision, and a general lack of support for your functional area? It’s time to take charge of your career.

            I can’t say that I have always taken charge of my career, at least entirely. When my North American CFO position was eliminated in the merger at MGE, I was left without a cell phone, personal email account, and even a laptop. I had placed the trust of my career in a company that I was completely dedicated to. I was not networking, I was not attending professional events, nor was I even signed up on LinkedIn. Digital footprint….what is that? Yes, I was pretty much kicked to the curb without any resources. Fortunately, with the guidance of some very supportive people, I started networking pretty darn quick. The problem was, the elimination of my position happened in Oct-07. This was right when the recession started kicking into gear and everything came to a screeching halt. So what you do….?

·         Networking became priority number one. As many events as I could.

·         Made contact with as many recruiters as possible. Although only a handful have shown the test of time and integrity.

·         Established my profile on LinkedIn.

·         Developed the strategy for my blog, which was intended to be a resume complement.

·         Started working consulting projects, some free, to stay sharp on the skills.

·         Volunteered to mentor those younger and starting their careers.

 

            Although I finally dug out from what was a pretty tough period, it’s hard to say exactly what it might have been specifically attributed to. What I can say is that many of these initiatives, which started out as survival tactics, have now turned into habits after 2-years of constant commitment. While I am fully committed to my current company, love what I do, and can’t wait to get into the office, I am a much more balanced professional than I was 2-years ago. I feel that the path I have been walked down in my career, while difficult, has provided me with the competitiveness to not be complacent in any aspect of my work. You can never blame your company or industry for a lack of inspiration or growth….you can only blame yourself.

 

Thanks for reading . . . .

 

Jeffrey Ishmael

Houston….We Have a Problem!

January 13th, 2010 Comments off

            Houston, we have a problem!  I’m now 12-days into the 2010 year, and almost 3-weeks since my last half-ass blog post, and a full 2-months since my last serious posting. Granted, there’s been a lot going in those two months. 2-months ago I started the interview process for a new CFO position, which I am escatic to report….I secured! Then we rolled into the Holidays, which meant some much needed downtime and decompressing after an incredibly hectic 2009, and really, the first real chance to kick back and relax a bit since my merger turmoil of 2007. Yes, it was a VERY enjoyable Christmas this year.

 

            However, it’s time to get back to business and there’s not better way to do that than with a little old-fashioned accountability and peer pressure, which is exactly what a public posting of goals will do. Although I mentioned in my last posting that I was going to have to throttle back a bit on posting info relative to my current position (public company….), there are so many other topics that I look forward to addressing this year. Over the break I put together a listing of blog topics that I will be drafting in the coming weeks and months.  Some of these topics include:

 

Ø  Are you securing true value from your published reporting or just assembling volumes of historical data?

Ø  Can you really perform an honest introspective on your skills & abilities relative to the opportunity currently on the table?

Ø  How do you drive change within a company that is so entrenched with the old armada & “the way it’s always been done…”?

Ø  Taking charge of your career and ensuring you don’t go stale in a stale & uninspiring environment.

Ø  Driving improved financial performance in the face of non-existent staffing resources.

Ø  How do you ensure consistency in your financial reporting when the “East”, “West”, and “Russia” are all coming to the table with different reporting formats?

Ø  Are you telling me the only way to increase your corporate valuation is through mergers, reorganizations, & fancy new ERP systems?

 

            As Finance professionals, we all have an obligation to not only create and increase value within our respective companies, but to increase our knowledge base as individuals. It’s that curiousity and enhanced knowledge that will keep us ahead of our competition and to deliver results that will increase our individual “commodity value”.  Perhaps if you don’t enjoy the career you’ve chosen then this is a difficult task. However, I do love what I do and embrace the opportunity to increase my knowledge in this area. I don’t ever want to be put in a position where I feel like I’m going stale, where I have no career options, or I’m failing to create value for the company I’m working for.

 

            So here’s to a fantastic 2010! I look forward to what I feel is Volume II of this blog after having a nice 2-month break and the chance to recharge. It starts here today and let’s see where we wind up at the end of the year.

 

Thanks for reading . . . .

 

Jeffrey Ishmael