Friday, September 24, 2010

How do I find a good electromechanical technician?

I'm working to help one of my clients hire an electromechanical technician. An ideal candidate would be an electrician or electronics technician, E-6 or above, with six years or more military experience. Military experience isn't required, but the client is looking for someone who can both do hands-on corrective and preventive maintenance as well as manage a preventive maintenance schedule, research and order parts, research new equipment, document processes.

We'd love introductions to military recruiters who specialize in placing candidates E-6 or above who are electricians or electronics technicians.

Here are the job responsibilities. The position is in the New York metro area. If you know anyone who might be a good fit, or could help us find a good candidate, please leave a comment.


Perform electrical and mechanical corrective maintenance for Production

Draft quarterly and weekly preventive maintenance schedule

Perform daily and routine preventive maintenance activities

Update preventive maintenance plan when new equipment is purchased

Identify and develop mechanical process improvements

Sourcing replacement parts and equipment

Documenting equipment repairs and preventive maintenance activities

Diagnosis and repair of plant production equipment such as liquid vial fillers, cappers and labelers, etc.

Design, implement, maintain and improve electrical equipment and facilities

Candidate must have excellent mechanical skills, verbal and written communication skills

Prepare specifications for purchase of parts, materials, and equipment

Compile data and write reports regarding existing and potential engineering projects

Work to improve the safety, quality, and performance of production

Monday, September 20, 2010

The power of the default choice

Seth Godin had a post over the weekend on the importance of buttons, defaults, and cues (with the example of credit cards on taxis in NYC, where the lowest default tip is $2.)

I encountered another example today when I was ordering some new checks from Deluxe.

The rep asked me, "Would you like two boxes, or would you like to save money on shipping by ordering four boxes?"

Me: "Is two boxes the minimum order?" I asked?

Deluxe: "No, you can order one box."

Me: "Do I get a volume discount by buying two boxes instead of one?"

Deluxe: "No."

Me: "How many checks come in a box?"

Deluxe: "150"

Me: "OK, that's about a three year supply. I'll take one box."

And then the default style of check I was offered cost $10 more than plain checks, which are perfectly fine with me. And I'm comfortable with non-expedited shipping. So a $120 order became a $35 order.

Next step: ask my bank to absorb this fee since I'm such a good customer. (They did last time I asked.)

What default choices do you offer your customers?

The only way to have is to give

“The only way to have is to give, the only way to keep is to share, the only thing worth finding is opportunity.” - George Booth

I first heard the above quote in a commencement speech delivered by Walt Person at Potomac College in 2008, and the phrase has stuck with me.

The wisdom is perhaps even more relevant today than when it was first uttered. (George Booth was a publisher and philanthropist who lived from 1864-1949)

The only way to have a talent is to use that talent to give a gift. A talented musician who doesn't play for others can hardly be called a musician.

The only way to have knowledge is to give that knowledge away, because it is the giving of knowledge that affirms the fact of its possession.

The only way to keep a memory is to share it with others, or that memory degrades and is lost. The act of sharing the memory is what allows it to be retained through reinforcement.

The only thing worth finding is opportunity. One could say that money is worth finding, but what is money but a sort of crystallized or distilled form of opportunity?

How would your business operate differently if you governed every interaction by this philosophy?

Friday, September 17, 2010

If you want to learn marketing, do marketing

In a blog post this month, Seth Godin writes:

If you want to learn to do marketing... then do marketing.

You can learn finance and accounting and media buying from a book. But the best way to truly learn how to do marketing is to market.

There is nothing like putting theory to practice. The past couple years I've been putting my ideas to the test while trying to rent out a family property. Some things have worked, and many ideas haven't.

I started by just listing the house on Craigslist, but didn't get real traction through that avenue until I also build a website for the house. The website was worth the time investment - it seems to give people confidence that we are legitimate.

That has been about the only success I've had so far; most of our rentals have come through Craigslist.

I tried listing the house through various vacation rental sites. While they promise millions of visitors to their site, it didn't result in any inquiries that panned out.

I tried search engine marketing, with paid Google ads. I got a few hits this way, but no rentals, and mainly succeeded in making Google just a little bit richer. One mistake I made was allowing my paid ads to get put on websites as well as show up on the right hand side of organic search. I think there must have been some click fraud, because the organic search ads at least resulted in some inquiries, but with the ads that appeared on other websites, my budget always got used up but no inquiries even came through.

I tried advertising in the local newspaper. This was expensive and resulted in exactly zero inquiries.

I tried printing up a thousand business cards and putting them on windshields during a football game (my target audience.) I thought surely, these are people who will probably come back this fall and normally stay in a hotel. Perhaps they haven't thought of renting a house instead of a hotel room, so they don't even see my ads on Craigslist. After $100 of cards, and three hours walking up and down the rows of cars parked in a cow field, no inquiries.

I've kept the contact info of every person that expresses an interest in our place, and then sent out an email newsletter via Constant Contact. I thought, surely people that have been interested enough in the past to submit an inquiry on my very own website will be a great resource. But so far, even though I've built up a list of 100 names, none of those that expressed an interest in the past have expressed an interest this year when I reached out to them.

Still, Craigslist keeps working. I've learned that I need to keep reposting the house regularly, because many others have discovered that Craigslist works well, so it is a bit of an arms race. Last year, in State College, PA, there were perhaps 5 houses listed per day as available for Penn State game weekends. This year there could be 20 or more listings per day. If you aren't in the most recent 20 or so listings, I've found, potential renters won't reach out to you.

This is all very valuable learning for a consultant. It is one thing to recommend obvious solutions. It is a different thing to find solutions that actually work.

As an aside, I'd suggest that you can't actually learn finance or accounting from a book either. Yes, of course you can learn the rules of accounting in class, but learning to apply those principles in the messy real world requires mentorship and practice just as marketing does. In the Navy we called it "time on the pond."

The essential point of Seth's post is that you don't need to wait to get a job to start professional training. Seth suggests, if you want to do marketing, then sell some books or concert tickets.

As a corollary, I'd add, "If you want to do consulting... then start doing consulting."

If you want to be a management consultant, then find someone who will accept your advice for free. Find a local restaurant owner and help her staff more efficiently or reduce her purchasing costs. Help a doctor improve the patient experience by streamlining the number of forms patients fill out. Develop a list of target customers for the small business of a relative.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's your name?

The actress Amy Ryan ("Gone Baby, Gone" [Oscar nomination], "Changeling," "Green Zone") was interviewed on stage for an hour last night at a screening of "Jack Goes Boating" sponsored by the Museum of the Moving Image.

She told this story, which I paraphrase from memory:

Before the Oscars, Miramax graciously put me up in the Four Seasons for a couple weeks, and every day it was,
"Good morning, Miss Ryan,"
"Would you like something to eat, Miss Ryan?"
"Can we get you anything, Miss Ryan?"

Then, the day after the Oscars, I was downstairs with my luggage, waiting in line for a taxi (no limo to the airport!). It was early in the morning - Tilda Swinton was probably still drinking champagne, and I was exhausted, catching an early flight to the East Coast. The bellman whistled a cab for me and as he was helping me with my luggage he asked, "And what's your name?"

At first I was pissed! What's my name? Didn't you see the Oscars?

And then I cooled off, and I thought, that's right. Fly back East, go back to your family and your friends, get out of this crazy city, go back and do what you love. It's not about having everyone on the street know your name, and that bellman did me a big favor by reminding me of that, and I'm grateful to him for it.

Thanks to Amy Ryan for sharing this story of how a humbling moment helped her gain some healthy perspective.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Timing of a mailing

I just got a mailing from my 401K plan informing me that I'll need to make my annual allocation decision.

This is a two-minute task, one that I'd like to knock out right away and then be done with it.

Unfortunately, the window in which I can make my allocation decision doesn't start for another two weeks. So I need to keep the mailer in my "to-do" folder, and the 401K administrator will need to email me 2-3 times to remind me.

Maybe next year they can time the mailing so that when it arrives I can do the task immediately.

Make it easy on your customers. If you are going to ask them to do something, let them do it.

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