If you start me up, I’ll never stop. Blueprint how to manage your career.

The Start-Up of You

If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop

The Rolling Stones-  (1981)

‘The Start-Up of You’ written by Reid Hoffman (co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn) & Ben Casnocha (start-up entrepreneur) is an interesting read on the importance of developing an entrepreneurial mindset to thrive professionally in today’s fast-moving, connected and competitive economy.

There was a time when people who graduated from university/college smoothly rode to the top of the professional escalator and just as smoothly exited at 60 years of age into comfortable retirement.  For most people, that dream is no longer an option. Now both young and seasoned professionals alike need to develop new models to take charge of their career futures. That sobering message is probably one of the reasons the book made the New York Times Best Seller list earlier this year.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ben Casnocha speak in Toronto last week as he laid out the required skill and mindset for succeeding in today’s modern marketplace.  Casnocha is a very engaging speaker.  That said, I did have a problem with both the book and Casnocha’s presentation because all the successful examples and insights culled were from Silicon Valley.  It is hard to imagine transferring those same entrepreneurial lessons directly to traditional “mortar and bricks” companies because of the vast difference in business culture, worker skills, fixed assets and economic realities. We hear with increasing frequency about companies such as Blockbuster Video, Borders, or Kodak closing their doors, or filling for Chapter 11 because they could no longer adapt or compete. And we need to remember the Detroit Big Three did not change their business practices until the government economic bailout required them to do so.

This book is not a book about looking for a new job, BUT the book is still an excellent read because it reminds you to find time to do things we only do when looking for a job.  As the subtitle says  “Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career.”

Here are some of the blueprint highlights the authors hope will give you an edge.

We are all born as entrepreneurs. Develop your competitive edge and formulate a plan.

Develop your competitive advantage. Combine your assets, values/aspirations and the market realities to understand your opportunities. Fit these 3 puzzle pieces together to chart your next course of action. As an example, one strategy might be to “pick a hill” that has less competition and will allow you to shine.

ABZ Planning.  Adapt and have several career plans in your back pocket because no matter what you do for a living you will always be planning and adapting. Plan A is the ideal target you are aiming shooting for.  Plan B involves being ready for “pivot” ideas or new opportunities to change your path.  And since the best laid plans of men can go awry “Plan Z ” is your fallback strategy that will allow you to stay afloat and regroup.

Build Real, Lasting Relationships. Create your own professional network composed of a select number of “Professional Allies” with similar experiences and mix them along hundreds of “Acquaintances” you can tap into and learn from each other. And no surprise due to Hoffman’s tie to LinkedIn, learn how to maximize LinkedIn’s full potential to develop and accelerate your career to the next level.

Invest In You. You can no longer rely on a company to hire and train you. Find and learn from Mentors from both inside and outside your company. Follow companies you are interested in, travel, attend conferences and seminars.  Find the time and build skills that will allow you to take advantage of these external resources.

Find And Create Opportunities. Learn to run your career like a small business and stay focused on planning and adapting on an ongoing basis. Find a way to add value in a way no one else can. See opportunities instead of obstacles, take calculated risks and have impact.

Take Risks. Risk is the flip side of every opportunity and career move. If you are not concerned about the risk involved in a career opportunity, it is probably not the discovery  you were looking for.

Avoid Using Words Like “Finished”. Treat your career like a start-up and always be in Beta Testing. We are all works in progress with the opportunity to constantly improve personally and professionally.

The book offers many practical things we should all be doing every day/week/month to learn, grow and be satisfied in our careers. Now the challenge is to do them.  The Rolling Stones often use the song “Start Me Up” to kickoff their live shows and get things started.  Read “The Start-Up of You” and get your entrepreneurial Mojo started.

If you have read the book please share your thoughts.


Smart business decision or a blatant brand exploitation?

Have you noticed yet again a reoccurring trend of recycling ideas in advertising and entertainment? A wobbly economy is enticing many companies to bring back old brands, old commercials and old ideas instead of creating new products and concepts. Is it a smart business decision or a blatant brand/idea exploitation?

I am a storyteller at heart. So, forgive me for idealizing ‘Advertising Folk” and “Film Makers” as modern cave dwellers creating abstract wall drawings that capture society for posterity.  Can you successfully revisit the past and teach old brands new tricks?  Don’t forget a brand stands for something in the minds of consumers and is perhaps linked to a certain stage of life or time.  And when you bring an old brand or an idea back to life, you run the risk of exploitation.

Now, not all brands fail because they were inferior. Failure could be  linked to other reasons such as management and not the brands themselves.  Take a look at the latest social media darling, Instagram. Two years ago it was just an idea and this past April Facebook purchased the company  for $1 billion. Instagram is now on track to attract 40 million users to its site. And Kodak, the pioneer of snapshot photography for over a century, has filed for Chapter 11 protection.  It failed to adapt with the digital times.

Our willingness to embrace “2.0 versions” of  old brands may depend on our emotionally investment with original concepts. According to Nigel Hollis of global research agency Millward Brown “marketers provide a sense of what the brand stands for; a collective meaning. And then consumers add their own unique interpretation; a layer of meaning that is more motivating to them than the collective one.”  Here are some recent successes where what is old has become new and successful yet again: Mini Cooper, VW Beetle, Old Spice and Dove.  A recognized brand name is a starting point when rising from the ashes, but you still need be a relevant storyteller in order to connect with your audience.  And case in point is the various movie adaptations and franchises Hollywood film studios release.  Although movies like  ‘Jump Street 21’ and ‘Mirror, Mirror’ have strong brand recognition they do not always deliver Box Office success.

And perhaps the more interesting revival is Pepsi’s planned use of the late Michael Jackson to shore declining sales. Nearly three years after his death, the late King of Pop will appear in TV ads and on soft drink cans under the campaign ‘Live For Now’.  Pepsi is now counting on ads using a deceased performer  to be successful with consumers living today.  Until the story is told, the jury is still out on this one.

All of the above examples may become bankable business decisions, but are they smart? People’s emotional triggers and impressions about brands are complicated.  We mess with them at our own risk.