Why Every Solopreneur Needs an Intern from the Slash Generation

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This is a post that I recently wrote for MENG.

I am a consultant and have used paid interns for the last ten years.  First my kids, then their friends and recently graduates who are looking for their first real career job but need to get some real world experience.

I don’t like the term intern.  It’s from the Old Normal.  I prefer to call them Assistants.  I wish I could come up with a catchier name.  In the New Normal, Assistants are part of the Slash Generation.  In the Old Normal the availability of intern positions is dead as a doormat.

I have written about this from their perspective in an article called Why Graduates Are Looking for Jobs in All The Wrong Places.  In it I wrote that recent graduates who need experience could cross that goal line by working for Solopreneurs like me.  Many of my interns are now in the corporate world.  One of my Assistants recently got married and his wife works for my first Assistant that I hired ten years ago.

They are all different.  Some have their own podcasts, some love YouTube, some Tweet others don’t.   Some love music and play in bands.  All text and use Facebook. They all PowerPoint better than you.  They are all unique.  They are all valuable.

Since I am a Marketer I have found that I have had the best success with Assistants that came out of the PR, Advertising or Marketing school programs.  They know the basics and they know the jargon.  If you are in Washington I know somebody that speaks four languages.

My assistants help me with tasks. These are the things that we need to do but shouldn’t do as consultants as you can’t bill for your time.  For instance repurposing my thought leadership. They don’t write my blogs but they certainly can think of places to post my content.  I could spend time posting my blogs on my fifty Linkedin groups but why should I?  Should I go to the UPS store to send out packages or should they? I would rather pay somebody $12 an hour and pursue initiatives that could monetize me more.

I often speak on Networking, New Business Development, and Social Media.   Many organizations do not pay for speakers.  Should I use my time to chase non paying gigs or use my Assistants for the initial outreach?  We all have too many things to do with less time.

Most Millenials came out of their womb texting.  They were born into technology.  My current Assistant built her own computer.  Why would I sync my iPad and iPhone when they can do it?  Who knows more about Apps?

I love it when my Assistants come to me and ask have your ever thought of doing it this way?  No I say but let’s start. We all need a little realignment.

In the end it is a win win for everybody.   They need you and you need them.

They improve my productivity and I can go back to what I like doing best.  Being an Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

You can watch a video by Hank on Networking Tips for Young People.

You can also read some other blogs that may be able to help you.

Why Graduates are Looking for Jobs in All the Wrong Places.

Are Solopreneurs the Future in the New Normal?

How to Create a Job By Creating a Consulting Career.

Advertising Agencies Need to Focus on Things that Clients Can’t Do.

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I went to a very interesting New Business Conference this week sponsored by Think LA and Mirren.

A number of speakers from different agencies focused on the common problems facing the industry.  The move to more project based assignments versus AOR relationships, declining revenues, the shift to clients having multiple agency relationships, etc, etc, etc.  It wasn’t pretty.  A sea of laments.

There was a very interesting presentation by Tim Williams from Ignition Consulting on New Emerging Business Models for Agencies.  He outlined the days when agencies did things that clients couldn’t do.  Setting type, preparing mechanicals, producing TV commercials. Yes agencies did things that seemed like magic potients for clients.  Elixirs of creativity. Then came the computer which changed the playing field.

Certainly agencies very quickly jumped on the benefits of technology and the new creative software that accompanied it.  But clients could also buy computers and do many of the same commodity things in house.  Maybe not originally with the same degree of creativity but how many clients really want creativity?  It is more a platitude than an attitude? Most companies aren’t Nike or Apple.

The next day I had an early morning coffee with the CMO of a pretty significant company in Orange County.  He had started his long and successful marketing career in the advertising industry.  He felt that he could do in house most of the things that agencies could do and do it better.  He could do social media, videos, produce ads, hire photographers for product shoots, and update his web site. The 22 year old AE wasn’t going to take him to the next Marketing Valhalla. He really didn’t need to pay an agency to resize ads. Then he said one thing that stopped me.

He said the one thing that had great value for him was ideas. That sounded good for agencies.  Then he said something else that wasn’t good.  He said that agencies gave their ideas away for free.  Now I don’t know what agencies he had talked to or what his agency experiences were but he was right that agencies often give things away for free.  I wrote about this recently in a blog called Why Agencies Need to Stop Giving it Away.  I have painfully learned in my business that giving away your knowledge for free is not a great way to pay the mortgage.

The conference and my breakfast left me with the conclusion that to grow agencies really need to focus their future services on the things that clients can’t do.  I think that menu may change based on the clients you encounter.  There is a good chance that what many clients can’t do is to live at the forefront of today’s dynamically changing technology.  Many clients don’t have centers of innovation for instance.  I certainly believe that agencies have the creative fire power to develop these services and productize them.  The scale of agency innovation surpasses most client organizations in my opinion.  I still hear plenty of client ahs when I do agency searches.

The problem is that many agencies have commoditized their offerings and can offer little more than their clients can do at less cost and probably with more insight. It’s time to stop billing for low hanging fruit and go to a higher level and get paid for it.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

You can watch a video by Hank on Networking Tips for Young People.

You may also enjoy these articles.

How Many Agencies Are Submitting.

Why Small and Smart is the New Agency Model.

How Agencies Can Get More New Business

Are Solopreneurs the Future in the New Normal?

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I read an interesting article by Jan Norman in the OC Register today on Solopreneurs.  Yes, I get the OC Register and the LA Times delivered.  I read the article after I scanned the New York Times and the Globe and Mail on my iPad.  Yes there is still a hockey strike.

Now I have written about How to Create a Job by starting a Consulting Career in the past, but there were a number of items in Jan Norman’s article that resonated with me.  I was not really familiar with the term solopreneur.  Guess I should read more.  There are almost 17 million Solopreneurs in the country.  That’s half the population of Canada. The army of Americans working independently grew by nearly one million in 2011.  That is not surprising when the unemployment rate in California is 10.7%.

The solopreneurs straddle every age group and live everywhere.  That seems to make sense.

Many Solopreneurs trekked out on their own because they got fed up with the bad bosses, the archaic workplace rules, the dysfunctional workplaces, and the false promises.  I know a number of people that are stuck in the wheels of Metropolis.  They work very long hours in a demanding workplace where the attitude can be if you don’t like it there is somebody in line to take your place. The New Modern Times. Some employers are stepping on toes in the New Employer Employee Dance.  Being s solopreneur allows you to break the company yoke.

The burdens are high for a solopreneurs.  They work very long hours, and over half of them worry about the lack of predictable income, the ability to retire and the absence of security. Many of these concerns sound pretty much like the same worries of the working class.  I have always said that having to create a job for yourself every day is like being perpetually unemployed.  It also makes you extremely grateful and close to the pulse of life.  You notice different things. The people with signs at every shopping strip exit asking for work and food. The weary in people’s faces when the search has been too long.  When somebody tells you to have a good weekend on a Friday it doesn’t feel the same as when you are employed because you will probably work on the weekend.  The calendar moves differently for you.

What caught me in the end was that the majority of solopreneurs are happy.  Over 70% were highly satisfied with their independent work style.  I don’t think that employers at most companies would get those marks on their company’s employee satisfaction surveys.

I think I am going back to work and listen to some Bobby McFerrin.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

You can watch a video by Hank on How to Create a Job.

Why Reinvention is a Virtual Necessity.

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I recently wrote a blog called Out of the Game which outlined the importance of staying current and connected on your career path and personal development.

There used to be an expression I would hear quite often.  “They are a dinosaur.”  It was really a description of a person or a company who was not current on emerging trends.  For instance, agencies that were slow to adopt digital solutions versus traditional advertising.

The iPhone is about five years old and more than 75 million have been sold.  Kodak is going into bankruptcy protection.  The Olympics are coming up soon and not too many people will be capturing magic moments using Kodachrome.  A decade ago, Kodak may have been sponsoring the Olympics.

I know a friend who was recently in transition.  They shared with me that the last job they found was in the newspaper ten years ago.  If you told somebody today that you were job hunting in the newspaper they would think that you were pretty much out of touch.

I started blogging two years ago after I heard Tony Heish from Zappos speak at a combined Harvard/USC event in May.  During his presentation he said “Follow Your Dream and the Money Will Come.” That May wasn’t a particularly robust time and I thought to myself that is easy for you to say because you made $100 million on your first deal.

After two years of blogging I have had thousands of people read my blog.  In fact more people read my blog some days than visit my site in a month.

Things change and we need to reinvent and change.  Today your Linkedin profile is more important than your resume.  Your first impression is not created by your Elevator Speech but by your Google presence.

There are two catalysts for reinvention based on my personal experience.  Networking and Youth.

Today’s youth surrounds technology.  You want to be immersed in technology.  Surround yourself with youth.  Ten years ago I started using college students or recent graduates as paid interns to help me with tasks.  They can’t write a blog but they can certainly find places to repurpose it in discussion groups.

I love it when some approach me and ask,” Have you ever thought of doing it this way?”  We generally start doing it that way.

Currently the look of my Word Press blog is being updated by Dalip Jaggi who is 22 year old. He recently developed a couple of mobile apps.  My YouTube videos are shot by SparkHouse in Costa Mesa.  Their CEO, Torrey Tayenaka is 25.  I make a call on my iPhone with a local 949 number.  One of my creative partners Dante Fiorini answers it.  He is in Argentina.

How did I meet Dalip and Torrey?  By networking.  Your network is your engine of reinvention.  The more diverse it is, the more opportunities for growth it can provide.  A constant pattern of networking regenerates you and puts you on new roads of discovery.

The dinosaurs that emerged from the Ice Age weren’t the ones that were the biggest or the strongest.  They were the ones that were the quickest to adapt.  Nothing’s changed.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch his video on YouTube on How to Rise Above the Crowd.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkO7efleWX4

The Currencies of Networking.

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I listened to a webinar today put on by Keith Ferrazi a master networker.  He wrote a book published in 2005 called Never Eat Alone. I think I bought it at Borders. That was before the world melted and we moved to the New Normal except for Borders.  That was a very long and short time ago.

On his Webinar he had Reid Hoffman the Founder of Linkedin.  I enjoy using Linkedin.  It is my primary social media channel.  When Social Media was getting launched my peers embraced Facebook but I loved Linkedin.  Anyway it became my preferred social media channel although I engage with many others.

During the webinar Ferrazi and Hoffman defined the various currencies of networking. They talked about professional currency for instance. I related to that because I talk about the various benefits of networking in my networking presentations.

Networking provides a variety of currencies. One of the primary benefits of networking is financial Currency. It is the most obvious and what most people really want.   Over the course of time I have read about other definitions of financial currency.  One is that your network equals your net worth.

The oldest one I know is that it is not what you know but who you know.  That’s the top down theory and it works.

The problem with reaping the benefits of financial currency is that it takes time and we all want the quick fix.   Financial currency will come if you plant the seeds and wait for the bounty to come.  You have to realize that one event is a stepping stone to other people, other events and future opportunities.

Somebody long ago or about 3 or 4 years ago sent me a quote saying that “The Opposite of Networking Is Not Working.”  They must have been a prophet.

I also learned very quickly that one of the primary benefits of networking is Social Currency.

What the heck is social currency? Well it starts with understanding that money isn’t meaning

Success is not significance. The Great Recession has equally taught everyone no matter how rich or poor that financial currency can be fleeting.  Even millionaires clip coupons these days.

People with a lot of social currency realize you are not defined by how much money you have or where you work. A key of a person’s success and overall value is their relationships.  You are defined by your character and who you help in life in the New Normal.  That currency is deposited in a different way but it has a high level of return immediately upon deposit.

Often social currency and financial currency go hand in hand.  People who have a lot of social currency are often involved in mentoring, philanthropy and similar activities.  Often I find that they appear to also be very financially successful.

If you have strong relationships people become your apostles and advocates and become your business development people.

Social currency becomes most valuable when financial currency is a little weak and we may be surrounded by the worries inherent in the New Normal. That is when its value truly comes to the forefront.

What kind of networking currency are you depositing today?

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch his video on the Power of Networking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-dSNVAN9FU&list=UUEigDTyDiFGXVfyg7sRErOg&index=10&feature=plcp