Why Every Solopreneur Needs an Intern from the Slash Generation


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.

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Watch:  Networking Tips for Young People.

Read: Are Solopreneurs the Future in the New Normal?

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

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


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


Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

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

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How Many Agencies Are Submitting.

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Are Solopreneurs the Future in the New Normal?


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.

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 a 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.

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Watch: How to Create a Job.

Why Reinvention is a Virtual Necessity.


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.


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Watch: How to Rise Above the Crowd.


The Currencies of Networking.


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. Continue reading

Hot and Cold Networking Doesn’t Work


Hot and Cold Networking Doesn’t Work.

The new Jobs Report came out yesterday and the report wasn’t too cheerful. Very tepid job growth. That’s life in the New Normal. We live in a world with an unemployment rate of 8.2% in the U.S. My friend Lynn Marie Hammond reminded me that the Euro Zone’s stagnant economy has left 17.4 million people out of an active population of around 156 million people without a job.

I read in this month’s issue of OC Metro that even the well educated and diverse Orange County, the land of desperate and over indulged housewives only added 12,600 jobs in the last year. Not much growth for a county of three million people. Continue reading

The New Employer Employee Dance.


While travelling recently I read a new survey in USA Today Snapshots on Loyalty Gap perceptions between Employers and Employees.  It shared that 59% of employers in 2011 felt that they were very loyal to their employees and that percentage had increased from 52% in 2010.

At the same time, only 32% of employees believed that their employer was very loyal to them and that percentage had declined from 40% in 2010.

Clearly employers and employees are not on the same page.

When I share these stats with some of my peers virtually no one feels that employers are loyal.  I don’t think that anyone who has been through the great recession wouldn’t be skeptical about those findings.  We live in times in the New Normal where companies are cash rich and employee lean.

In one generation of working we have moved from an employer-employee relationships where thirty years ago it was the norm for a person to be hired into an organization out of school and then remain for the next 20 or 25 years or longer with that company and then retire.  The term gold watch has disappeared from the work lexicon.

But now we are at a Mexican Standoff so to speak where employers need top talent and people want jobs but at the same time employees don’t trust their employer and would move to a better opportunity at the drop of the hat because they know that employer would fire them at the sign of any economic downturn.  They have shared many beers with friends and associates or spouses who texted them that they had just been let go a month after being told by their boss they were great.  I know of many Millennials who have had three jobs already.

I also recently read a very interesting blog by Sarah Miller Caldicott on the definition of progress for Gen Y’s. She outlines that Gen Y’s are looking for flexibility in their work environment including access to social networks.  She wrote that “Gen Y seeks participation in collaborative activity that involves sweeps of people including-but also lying beyond-those co-habiting their office space.”

I share the same belief and have posted some blogs recently on my belief that the most successful companies in the future will be the ones who train their employees to be the best networked.

Smart companies will foster smarter employees and make them more marketable.

Recently I heard about one Fortune 500 company who was actively training their employees to have optimized profiles on Linkedin and had implemented a four week training program with prizes such as iPads.  I have heard whispers of similar activities with other companies.

Here is the New Employer -Employee Win Win.  Smart companies will start by training all their employees to rock on Linkedin because of its business focus and allow them to access to social networks during working hours.  They will provide them with Linkedin recommendations for their employee profiles.

Employers will also work hard to make their employees more marketable while they are with them.  That will be today’s curriculum of professional development and a definition of a company that is best to work for.  They will also train them how to network.  Employees will appreciate that and as a result they will be better equipped to do their jobs and if things should change, more marketable, and it will be quicker to find a new job.

In return employees will recognize that to a degree their employer has their back to a degree and will channel their network to help them and their employer succeed.  A tenuous dance and new employer-employee contract perhaps but better than the Employer blah blah outlined in the USA Snapshot.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin


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Watch his video called How to Rise Above the Crowd.