erinalbert.com

books    •    bio    •    blog    •    store

                 

 




Archive for September, 2010

Cooking, Baking, Stewing in the Juices

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I don’t cook.  I could bake if someone held a gun to my head.  But this type of title doesn’t really reference food.  Despite that, if you’re creative, you might want to read on.

When I’m writing a book, it cooks.  It brews.  The ideas kind of need to marinate, or age, like a fine wine.  In a lot of ways, writing a book IS like cooking!  Ideas don’t always just randomly pop into my head as a writer.  (Sometimes I get lucky and they do, but it is rare.)  Instead, sometimes, an idea has to evolve.

Right now, I’m thinking about this very process while I’m writing my next book on entrepreneurs.  It is kind of difficult for me, because some of what I’m unearthing I think is changing right in front of my eyes, as I analyze the complex mind of the feminine entrepreneur.  Anyway, as a writer, I also think it is my job to not only look at what is, but also–what could be.  Thus, this leads to more marination, stewing, cooking, baking, etc., of the ideas in my mind.  Hopefully, this one doesn’t get overcooked!

I’m just posting this to reassure all of us that the creative process isn’t instant or automatic.  It evolves and morphs into something from the original idea.  And that’s OK.  In fact, that’s better than OK, because hopefully – like a fine wine or a marinated dinner, the work we’re creating just gets better with time.

Careerpath: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Tonight, I’m talking to around 100+ students about my career.  Thought I’d share with the wider world my advice when it comes to career development here.  If you’re a student attending the panel tonight, this info might help you think through your own career.  Here goes.

1.  Of all the things that have been most important to me, I think the most important is knowing who you are, what your strengths are, what you want, and most important of all–what you personally value.  I’ve been reading a new book on leadership, and it actually shows a table in it – that the most satisfied people with their careers are the ones who know their personal values AND their values align tightly with the organization they work for’s values (bad English aside). If you don’t know what you value, google “value card sort” and cut the cards out and rank them.  Get your top 3-5 values, stat.  Also, these change over time, so hold on to the cards and reshuffle them every few years just to double check.

2.  As for cons – the big con about my personal career (at least to others, seemingly,) is the “jack of all trades master of some” phenomenon.  It is perceived when you have multiple careers going on simultaneously, you’re less good at either or both.  I totally disagree with this, and in fact, view this external “con” instead as a “pro”.  Being a multiple career person, my employers get two professional heads in one, so to speak.  That’s a plus.  That’s a good thing.

3.  The pros – I think the pro, other than #3, for me has been in forging your own path.  Be your own unique person.  If you have a choice between a ‘safe’ well worn career path, and to go off the beaten path and try your own thing, take the off road experience.  Off-roading leads you to create your very own path, and that gets you to your unique selling proposition, or what you can uniquely offer the world.  Besides, while it might be a little scary, there’s a lot of excitement in creating your own thing.

4.  I’d be remiss in not mentioning one other thing relative to one’s careerpath, which as I’ve ranted here before, I think is monumentally important.  It is this: network.  Network.  Network.  Network.  I know, broken record, but I can’t emphasize this enough.  You need to have a strong network inside AND outside your profession.  You need mentors, peers, people like you and people unlike you in your network to bounce ideas and call upon from time to time.  Now, don’t be greedy, you have to bring something back to your network as well, it can’t be one sided.  But your social capital is just as important, maybe even more important, than the knowledge in your head.  Keep this in mind, because the earlier you start your network, the better off and higher your social capital will be.

That’s my career advice.  And NO, I’m not offering this as a lawyer OR even as a law student (that would be wrong, I’m not a lawyer)…instead, I’m offering this career advice in general, as a ‘professional’, who has been-there and done-that.

The Phosita & Healthcare

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Ok, I learned in professional responsibility on Saturday I CANNOT give advice in any law sphere.  But, I’m going to send this message out into the universe as a question for the courts AS A HEALTHCARE professional for consideration.

Here goes.

I’m learning in patent law there is a person called the “PHOSITA” or a person having ordinary skill in the art–which from my understanding is the ‘standard’ as the point of view by which patents are reviewed (kind of like a reasonable person in tort law, etc.)

Now, switch to healthcare and antitrust – and law review, and we’re talking a LOT about things like malpractice and who gets in a hospital to determine whether or not a doc gets privileges to practice in a particular hospital.  Dude–guess who’s making the call on these things?  A LOT of people making these decisions are NOT healthcare professionals.

As a healthcare professional, that bothers me.  I don’t even think I could make the call on some of the malpractice issues, so if I couldn’t as a healthcare professional, how the heck could a jury or even a judge with zero healthcare background?

In comes the PHOSITA.  Why not have a PHOSITA standard for healthcare issues in court?  That might raise the standards in some way, and it could get people who are more educated in the healthcare realm making the calls, rather than the lay public and judges.  (And no offense to the judges, but I just don’t think a judge without healthcare background could make the call in all med mal cases, for instance, easily.)

I’ll just leave this out as a question – is it time to have a PHOSITA in healthcare cases, rather than just lay people making these calls?

I’m sure this will irritate some people, but it’s worth asking the question….

What To Do When You…Can’t

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

As a writer, prof, and business owner, I get asked for advice and referrals all the time.

When someone asks about a vendor, another business or someone I’ve worked with in the past who simply rocks, I’m happy to give the endorsement and referral – I LOVE to help out rock stars, and they’re probably going to need a muzzle to shut me up about how awesome these people and companies truly are.

Where I struggle is when I’m asked for a referral and I can’t.  That is, I can’t comfortably recommend that business, person, or work–when I have worked with that business, person, or work.

We all have bad days, challenges, and better work product some days than others, but when I start seeing a pattern in a vendor or person’s work that takes the work downhill, and it stays there, there’s just no way that I’m ever going to put my stamp of approval on their work.  Because, if and when I do, and this person or company lets my referral down, they’re also taking me and my reputation down with them.  That’s bad. That referral person now doesn’t trust my recommendations…and that referred person also doesn’t trust me.

So, how do you handle the bad vendor?  Take mom’s approach – if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything – or do you shout it from the rooftops (their grand suckiness)?  I don’t have all the answers here.  I view it more of my job to merely ask the questions…

(Yeah, I know, right?  Way to weasel out of this one!  Law student in training….)

Competition: It’s Gone Grave, and Global

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Sometimes I wonder, as an educator, whether or not I get across with enough urgency the absolute gravity of the current economic and professional situation we are in–in that I’m not sure if those around me who I have a responsibility to educate truly understand that they are not only competing with the person sitting next to them, but they’re also competing with people in other countries…for future professional jobs.  And, these people in other countries are willing to work even harder than we are, longer than we will, with less benefits than we have become used to (borderline entitled to) in this country.

So, I’ll try and kick it up a notch here, in hopes that if this just reaches one person who needs the info, it will have been worth the post.  Here goes.

1.  It is absolutely CRITICAL to have a PERFECT resume or CV these days, period.  Normally, I’m not a rabid perfectionist (I wince at the word ‘perfect’), but this is one area that is just truly not even negotiable.  I’m not only talking about perfect spelling and grammar, but I’m also talking about perfect formatting of a resume.  DO NOT GIVE THE READER any reason to pitch your resume, when there’s a HUGE stack of them on their desk; trust me, they are looking for reasons to pitch it–don’t help them out.  Even as much as a one space bump on a margin could make or break you at this point–as much as I hate to say it.  There is ABSOLUTELY NO MARGIN for error here.  I cannot stress this enough.  The solution?  Get as many friends and family as you can to review your resume before you turn it in ANYWHERE to ANY potential employer, period.  Spell checker isn’t enough.  Your eyeballs are not enough.  Seriously.

2.  Same with follow up.  Sorry, six figure jobs don’t just fall out of the sky anymore, folks, even with a fancy education.  Be religious and rabid about your follow up.  If someone helps you out, be sure to thank them…profusely…for the help.  When I talk to employers and hiring managers, I’m still shocked by the fact that they only receive a written thank you note from appx. 2-5% of the candidates they interview.  This is such a simple thing, costs 44 cents, and is a total no-brainer; yet, people aren’t doing it.  WHY? Oh, and an email thank you?  It doesn’t cut it.

3.  You went to a great school, graduated, maybe even got a professional license…?  Great!  But honestly, I’m here to tell you that shockingly: NOBODY CARES.  That’s an absolute MINIMUM you need to get into the professional game anymore, and it really doesn’t guarantee you much anymore–including an interview.  Even in healthcare, I see pharmacists and other healthcare professionals that think they’re entitled to an interview and/or a job JUST BECAUSE they passed the professional exams and graduated from pharmacy school.  THIS IS NO LONGER ENOUGH.  I’m here to give you tough love when I say – you’re going to have to step up and give more–much more–in order to get hired and earn great work.

I’m sorry, but when I’m giving my peeps tough love, they’re getting what they’re paying me for: to give them honest advice.  This is my honest advice.  We’ve all got to do more with less, and with it comes a much higher bar for all of us, now that we’re in a global economy.  I even spell checked my own CV today when I was updating it with my recent talks.  I implore you to consider this advice, and again, if I’ve helped just one person, AWESOME!

My Prediction on C Suite Executives of the Future

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I have a prediction, but I’m not psychic.  So, take it with a grain of salt.  Here goes.

I predict that from this day forward, and more importantly far into the future, the companies who are successful will return to customer service, all the way up to the top of the company.  Or, I think they’ll pretty much have to if they want to survive and better yet, thrive.

Case in point: doing research on gathering guest speakers for my spring entrepreneurship elective this week, I’ve noticed some companies try to hide behind flashy websites in order to cover up who they really are…or who their senior management is.  Furthermore, when companies get so big that I have no idea where to start with them in order to get the attention of senior management, that gives me the impression that they’re trying to hide something.  What is it that you’re hiding?  Oh yeah, the people who run the company.

That’s bad.

Do I really want to work with/become a customer of/invest in a company when I don’t even know who runs it?

On the other side, some of the coolest, most down to earth CEOs and leaders that I’ve asked to speak…?  They’re easily and most readily accessible.  They want to help.  In fact, they’ll go out of their way to help.  They think it’s an honor to come in and speak to potential future leaders of this country.  And…?  They have kick butt companies…that are doing well…DESPITE this travesty of an economy.

While certainly, not every CEO can address every request from every lowly assistant professor to speak, nor even take a question from a….(dare I say) customer, I challenge back to them with this question: Why?  What are you trying to hide?  What are you so scared of?

The best leaders are transparent, authentic, and accessible, which I’m seeing the pattern and path toward success.  Not only do I want them to come and speak in my class, but I want to invest in them.  I want to buy their product.  I want to give them feedback on how they can be better, and I want them to actually listen to my advice when I am their customer or investor.  I want them to succeed, because I have a relationship with them.

So, to the rest of you, out there, hiding behind your flashy company websites and floors upon floors of receptionists/administrative assistants and layers of bureacracy…you’re cordially invited to come out come out come out from wherever you are.  Otherwise, you’ll be even further hidden, because you’ll be out of a job, and your company will be in obsolescence.

Government to Gordon Gekko: A Rant from Somewhere in Between

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I’m perturbed.

I found out today that Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad platforms’ royalty cuts on a book are…let’s just say, closer to Gordon Gekko than the Govt.

Let me explain.

I’ve been studying Social Business for now (yes, I meant the caps) for a year.  On one side of the spectrum, you’ve got government–big, bureaucratic, and supposedly working for no profit and for the people.  On the other side of the business spectrum, you’ve got pure profit maximization for-profit businesses–what I like to call, the Gordon Gekkos of the world.

Don’t get me wrong.  As a business owner, making money is nice, even essential to keep businesses going….but NOT at all costs.  Not at the costs whereby you compromise your personal integrity or your values just to make money.

Case in point: online paperless books.  I found out today something disturbing…as a writer.  Did you know that if you publish a book and distribute a eBook, Amazon takes 65% of the total retail charge (for a Kindle version), and Apple takes 50% if it is an iPad eBook?  (At least it is with my former publisher.)

Now, while I’m not ALL about profit with my books, I am about some.  But I can tell you that these percentages are absolutely INSANE.  WAY TOO HIGH.  It takes me hundreds of hours to write a book, and although I never make a killing on them, I would like to make more than 5% on each book I sell (after Amazon and Apple take their cuts, your publisher will then be taking his cut too…and on average, it isn’t leaving you with much.)  Now, I get that Amazon and Apple need to make a buck or two as well, because they have to recoup losses on their R&D for their readers.  But, don’t they get enough on the front end who buys the reader?  Do they really need to gouge the writers on the back end too?

Look, I’m all for social business.  I view some of my writing as such–it is less about making money and truly more about sharing cool ideas with others in order to help them.  I also truly believe it is an honor and a privilege to have others read my written words.  BUT, I also like to get paid SOMETHING for the effort.  And while I don’t need to be Gordon Gekko and take the entire pie, if I’m supplying the creative flavor for that pie, I should get more than a 5% slice.

After all, isn’t it the flavor that makes the pie great to begin with…?

Resolution…Making $ v. Changing the World

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

On one side, I see the Gordon Gekkos of the world who might say:

I start a business to make as much money as possible.

On the other side, I see people like Blake Mycoskie and Muhammad Yunus who say:

I start a business in order to make the world a better place.

Then, I see the Delaware Chancery Court telling craigslist they HAVE to maximize profits as a corporation rather than committing to their company culture (of giving away most of their classified ads) – here’s the opinion that came out 9/9 if you’re interested in reading it.

I’m trying to resolve all three of these items in my head.

I don’t think in this day and age the Gordons have it right.  I think a lot of Gordon greed led us here in the states to get where we are right now – massive unemployment, businesses shutting their doors, and other businesses shipping jobs overseas. Honestly, I don’t think the DE Chancery court had any options here either (even though as an entrepreneur I totally don’t dig their opinion).  I don’t think there is a good enough business model out there to address social need, mission, etc., before profit maximization.

I think the L3C is probably the closest we can get to for now.  I’m also trying to be a student of Toms shoes’ model in order to understand how it was set up using existing business models.  (If, by the way, you happen to be a business or entrepreneurship professor, I highly recommend Tom’s professors kit, which they’ll give to you for free and you can use in your classroom.)

My only objective with this post is to ask the question: is it time to think about valuing the social good of a business, rather than just pure profit maximization?

Writing Your First, or 31st, Book

Monday, September 20th, 2010

For all my friends who keep telling me they have a book in them, this post is just for you. Maybe I’ll even see you there!

Risk Taking 101

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Once upon a time, I took a risk.

Actually, it was about a year ago now.

Here’s what I did.  I applied for the IU Indianapolis School of Law’s 10th Annual Program on Law and State Government as a fellow. Each year, this unique fellowship program only selects 2 students in the entire student body at IU Indy law to study a selected topic by the program and the fellows.

Here’s the risky part: when I interviewed for it, I shared that I only really wanted to explore one topic.  That topic?  Economic development/entrepreneurship.  Kind of a no-brainer in this day and age, but law and entrepreneurship don’t always play nicely in the sandbox together.  And, being an entrepreneur long before I was ever anything else professionally (pharmacist, writer, teacher, etc.), I was an still am focused on this as a topic to get our city, state, and country out of the hole it is currently in.

So, my risk paid off.  On October 1st, I along with my fellow fellow, Melissa Stuart, will be discussing public and private entrepreneurship.  Not only entrepreneurial education in this state and how it can be enhanced, but also new forms of business, like L3Cs or low profit limited liability companies, that I think could offer a solution to traditional media, like radio and newspapers.  (And no, Indiana doesn’t offer L3Cs as a business entity type, even though states around us do or have pending legislation on them.)  Last but not least, we’re going to talk about performance based governance.  Imagine–that local and state government actually set benchmarks for itself and show us the numbers to see if they’re performing like they said they would.  Shocking!

Bottom line?  My risk paid off.  But maybe I didn’t really view it as a risk.  I just thought it was important and I am personally passionate about it.  (And I’ve ranted several times on this blog and recently on one of my other blogs about the importance of understanding what you value as it relates to your leadership style.)

This week, consider taking a risk.  Who knows?  Not only might it help you out personally…but maybe, it might just change the world around you too!