With newspapers closing and magazines thinning as readership and advertisers dry up due to the global recession, on-line media, e-books, etc. – how we can the print industry reinvent itself? One idea from the Internet age which might transfer back to the print medium is individually targeted advertising and content. Imagine a premium monthly magazine where the content and advertising are tailored for just your interests. If you love golf, heart healthy recipes, para-sailing, California politics, and fast Italian cars, the stories in the magazine would only be about golf, heart healthy recipes, para-sailing, California politics, and fast Italian cars. The content is available from providers around the globe and could be syndicated for the magazine. To help pay for the magazine, advertisers would pay a premium since the magazine is going to a paying customer with very specific interests and known demographics.  The print business would shift to a lower volume, customized product from today’s high volume mass market product. If you just want all your news fast – there’s no better medium than on-line whether it’s your Yahoo! or Google homepage. By editing your preferences, you can get all the information you want about the subjects you want delivered right to your desktop. But if you are reading for pleasure, why not enjoy a beautiful magazine in your hands where every article is about the things you care about and where even the advertisements are something you want to read!

cad-escalade-truckAs a former employee and long time automotive industry veteran, it pains me to see General Motors continue to slowly disintegrate.  The causes are many -ranging from falsely believing they are building what Americans want, to thinking that all their brands are relevant in the market. As a result of years and years of market leadership, Generous Motors has grown old and crotchety.  GM has been unable to recognize that the world is changing around them and unwilling to change with it. How else can you explain the optimism expressed each year as their market share has declined? How strange it is to hear one executive after another brag about the virtues of their overlapping products and brands? And how odd it is that the largest company has done the least to address it’s own overgrown bureaucracy? But the old ship GM which has taken too long to change course has hit an iceberg and is taking on water fast. Can ships this big be steered faster? They have no choice but to do so, and doing so requires drastic measures which are foreign concepts to a large, ponderous corporate culture.

But automotive manufacturing is critical to the U.S. economy because it’s a high technology, high value product that creates wealth and security. Without GM, the domestic auto industry might see Ford and/or Chrysler gain some share but overall domestic make share would certainly drop as some GM defectors will choose import brands. 

So here are a few ideas that might help GM survive more than the next few months (and stop asking for tax payer money!):

  1. Focus on products, not brands. Brands are built from, and are a direct result of great products. Great products make great brands – not the other way around. Things start to go downhill fast when companies start trying to create products to build a brand. The product should come first. A lot of people don’t know this but most Lexus and Scion products are just rebadged Toyotas.  Toyota had the boxy Scion already on the market in Japan and could easily bring it in the U.S.  The Lexus SUVs are also existing Toyotas in other markets. Lexus itself only recently launched in Japan and people there are wondering why they should pay more for a Toyota. Of course once you have a product, it may make sense to sell it under a different brand as Toyota has done in the U.S.  And Toyota with such a wide range of capable core products, they can re-brand as local markets desire with minimal investment and development.
  2. Eliminate the conglomerate of General Motors. The GM entity only dilutes and confuses customers, employees, engineers. Am I buying a GM or a Chevy? Is Saab a GM or Ford? Is Pontiac a Ford or GM? How is GMC different from GM? How does Chevy fit within GM? Asking and answering these types of questions is a complete waste of effort and money. Chevy should be asking how can we make great cars. And if the car turns out great – it will be a great Chevy – making Chevy a great brand. The name GM or General Motors should be invisible to the customer.
  3. Right size the company from an engineering perspective first. Build up a zero based model to support a full line of cars and trucks. Do not try to fill existing plant capacity, keep workers busy, and discount prices to move excess inventory.  Figure out how many cars you can design and develop into products of world class quality and performance, and then see how many brands this product development factory can support.  I figure this means a full line of Chevy cars and trucks, Cadillac luxury products, and perhaps 1 or 2 low effort, low engineering and investment lines (Buick or Pontiac or Saturn or GMC or SAAB, or Opel or Vauxhall or Holden or Hummer but NOT all of them!  This is similar to Mercury for Ford which really doesn’t cost very much to keep and only 1 badge engineered brand doesn’t confuse customers. Toyota has Scion (where the products were already there). BMW has Mini. Honda has Acura (Acuras’ are also Hondas in other markets much like). 
  4. Benchmark employee efficiency with other companies and be better than them.  With so many brands and similar models, GM has too many people, too much indirect cost, too much infrastructure, etc supporting them all.  With fewer brands and models, there is a great opportunity to right size the employee and company base.
  5. I’ll add more as I think of them but feel free to comment with your own!

Here are some good resume writing tips that I’ve gathered from outplacement consultants and executive recruiters.  I can’t promise they will work but they all make sense and I’ve been getting consistently positive feedback on these ideas…

  1. Set up in reverse chronological order starting with your most recent position.  You may have heard of the ‘functional resume’ that lists your skills by function.  This approach is risky as recruiters don’t like surprises might automatically assume your are hiding something. If you aren’t going through a recruiter and want to tell your own story and the functional resume feels like a better fit – then it might be worth a try.
  2. Explain a little about each employer unless it’s a Fortune 100 company.  One line about how big the company is and what business it’s in should suffice.
  3. Explain the scope and role you had in each position.  Again, a single line explaining your responsibilities, level, how many people you managed, what your budget was, etc. This is not one of your accomplishments but just framing what you did at each job.
  4. List several accomplishments including what the problem was, what you did to solve it, and what the result was of your actions. This is a similar approach to how you should answer interview questions – situation, action, result.
  5. List your education at the end unless you recently graduated. Although a recruiter recently told me that the first thing he does when reviewing a resume is to flip to the second page to see where you went to school!
  6. For jobs 15-20 years ago, just state the position – that should be enough.
  7. Avoid objective statements since your objective is to get the job you have written the resume for!
  8. Have a summary statement but keep it brief.
  9. Try to keep it to 2 pages but make it easy to read.  If you have to go to 3 pages or more, then do so but the most important thing is keeping it easy to read.
  10. Avoid gimmicks like neon colored paper unless you are going for a creative marketing/sales job.
  11. Ensure there are no typos, speling or grammatical, errors.  Have several people proof read your resume.
  12. And finally, ensure that all your claims and statements are truthful.

While waiting for my flight to a conference in Atlanta, I noticed none other than General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner sitting a few rows down from me – busily thumbing his Blackberry. As a former employee of his, I walked over and introduced myself and wished him good luck with GM’s recovery. A joke about private jets seems somehow inappropriate so I restrained myself and just smiled and shook his hand.  As an unemployed autoworker, I couldn’t think of much to say to him that would be useful to either of us so I kept our conversation short.  As it turns out, he was traveling with his wife (I think) to North Carolina  – flying commercial like the rest of us.  I can tell you that he boarded early with 1st class and a gentleman from the airline personally escorted him from his seat in the waiting area onto the plane. Rick always seems like such a great guy – maybe he’s too nice…

I was recently reminded of the importance of having your own personal calling or business card.  At a conference where I was helping coach public speaking skills, one of the participants asked me for a business card to do some work for him. I didn’t have one and wrote my information down on piece of paper.  Needless to say, I missed an excellent opportunity to present myself more professionally. Next time, I’ll be armed with my personal business card for moments like this as I navigate the recession pools of unemployment.  To get your own business card, you can use one of the many on-line printing companies like Vistaprint or any local print shop. It’s a great way to show people that you are serious, care about details, and want them to remember you.

bridge11With jobs scarce  – and jobs that actually utilize your skills and experience and fit with your interests even scarcer, many people are looking at “Bridge Jobs” as a better alternative to no job at all and worse than being underemployed. Perhaps this term builds off of the Bridge to Nowhere from last year’s Presidential campaign.  Or maybe it was the bailout or bridge loans that the government has been giving out.  Or perhaps with news words like “Staycation”, it was just naturally going to happen with the changing world around us.  Wherever the origin of the term “Bridge Job”, it’s a job and something that people are looking at in the harsh light of today’s economic reality. 

It’s been seven days since that one fateful day when my boss informed me that I would be losing my job.  Within the next 30 minutes, I had cleared out my desk and driven off the premises for the last time. I did have some inside information that my 8 years on the job would be ending soon so it wasn’t a complete surprise. Ironically, my time at the company coincided perfectly with GWBs time in office – almost to the day!

After 7 days, I must admit I don’t miss the job that much and am actually feeling pretty positive and energetic – almost enthusiastic.  We’ll see how long this lasts…   My diet has improved, my weight is down, my spirits are flying.  perhaps my job was too constraining mentally and physically – especially with the perpetual threat of downsizing.  So leaving was the best thing for me I believe.

I’ve been spending my days working for my wife in Real Estate doing everything from photographing properties to installing lawn signs to shovelling walks.  I’ve reconnected to old friends and classmates.  And I’ve spent quality time with my son by taking him sledding after school and even builidng a snow tunnel in the backyard.  If it were up to my son, I should have been laid off a lot sooner!

We are looking at cutting costs of course and many of these actions are probably long overdue.  That is, getting rid of things and services which we really didn’t need such as 100 different channels on TV.  Broadband wireless access is gone too now that I’m essentially working from the home wireless network.  Of course, the money won’t last forever and either I need to find a job or my wife will have to sell a lot more houses.

On the job front, I’ve started networking and refining my resume but I will focus the next weeks on setting a direction for the job search.  I want to find job that will truly challenge me and keep me going for years to come. Losing my job has become my life’s greatest opportunity and I want to make the most of it!