Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's better to be part of the "in" crowd

One of the biggest pieces of advice I always have for students as they enter the workforce is to do their best to spend as much time as they can around senior management.  Ideally, you will get to interact with your CEO or C-level executives and when you do, be very attentive to what they do and how they act because obviously, they are doing something right and there is always something you can learn from them.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting the CEO of a Canadian biotech company at an industry function.  Having not had much prior experience in biotech, it was great getting his perspective on the business.  I was also interested to hear about how he allocates his time and for companies in their earlier stages means lots of time spent searching for financing.  

His biggest piece of advice was that you have to work hard to be part of the "in" crowd.  

This advice is sure to draw many reactions from people and I'm sure some of them will be negative.  What is this, high school?  Who wants to be part of the "in" crowd anymore?  Who wants to be part of a crowd when you can be different?  I'm already part of the "in" crowd!

Personally, I was a little taken aback at this advice but then I started to think about what I have been reading in Seth Godin's book "The Dip".  To sum up what I have read so far: Anything worth doing is worth doing to be the best at because being the best has advantages that are exponentially greater than being second best, or worse.  To be the best at something means that you have to persevere through "The Dip" which is that long trough on the results/effort scale where you start to realize diminishing returns but this Dip is only temporary and happens after your initial success and before the remarkable long term success that comes with being the best at something.

Now that we have that out of the way, here's how I connected the two.  If everybody was part of the "in" crowd then it wouldn't exist because it would just be "the crowd" or more simply, everybody.  One of the most classic rules in business and one that is echoed in "The Dip" is that scarcity breeds value.  Therefore, there are advantages to being part of the "in" crowd and for people trying to come up in the world, whether it be to get a better job or grow their business, being part of the "in" crowd has many of the advantages that come with being the best at something.

For small companies, these advantages might mean an easier access to financing.  For young employees looking to move up in the world, it might mean faster promotions.  I'm sure that we all work with people that we feel spend more time schmoozing than working and while I think that is never a good situation, I think that you need to be actively working to make sure you're part of the "in" crowd at your workplace and your industry.

Let go of any negative associations you might have about the "in" crowd and embrace what membership might be able to do for your or your company.

Great advice indeed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Something I never knew, and I bet you didn't either!

I recently picked up some contract work with BIOTECanada, an association that represents the biotechnology industry here in Canada.  There is lots to be done here and things are even busier now that National Biotechnology Week is starting up on September 17.

One of the most interesting things I have learned so far is that biotechnology is big business in Canada.  I should say that I always knew it wasn't small business... but I really had no clue until I started this position that in Canada, biotechnology is worth over $84 billion annually or 6.5% of our GDP.

However, I will have to say that I often find a number like that really doesn't have any meaning unless you put it in perspective.  So here it is: our bio-based economy is worth more than the automotive industry and is just about equal with oil and gas (according to 2008 numbers).  That's pretty impressive when you think about it.  In fact, I bet if you asked 100 people in the street to name our top industry sectors, biotech wouldn't be in the list and both oil and cars would be.

Perhaps even more impressive are some of Canada's accomplishments in the field of biotechnology.  Some of these I knew but most I have to admit I didn't:

  1. In 1922, Banting and Best discover insulin.
  2. In 1974, Stefansson and Downey developed an early form of canola (the first biotech crop)
  3. In 2003, we were the first to sequence the SARS genome.  

The biotechnology industry industry sure has lots of challenges ahead of it.  For one, many foreign countries are pouring money into biotech as they see it as the way of the future.  The best course I took in my MBA program was on intellectual property and I know from that course that we need to ensure that we have both a well funded and well managed strategy for developing intellectual property.  Plus, there are many image issues that apply when talking about biotech and those will only intensify as more genetically modified products pass regulatory approval.

But the purpose of this post is more to share something I have learned about an industry that I think is really fascinating and dynamic.  It's also an industry that is more important to our daily lives than we care to think about.  I'm looking forward to learning more, that's for sure!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Taylor Swift and Her Team are Brilliant at PR

I read this story on Perez Hilton's site today about Taylor Swift doing a marathon 14 hour meet and greet with her fans.  I really think the video is something to be seen:

I couldn't help but think that this was an absolutely brilliant PR move.  Here's why:

1) I doesn't come off as a PR stunt:  Everyone is there to meet Taylor Swift and she is there to meet her fans but if you really think about it, it is a PR event.

2) It was interactive: More than just a star sitting at a table, she stood and talked to her fans and even more important, they got to talk to her.  They also got to see costumes and sets from her tour.

3) It was personal: she took the time to connect with everyone as best she could on a personal level.  She signed almost everything imaginable and seemed genuinely interested to be there.  It seems like she was supposed to only be there for 13 hours but at the end of the video she says she was actually there 14.5 hours.

4) Earned media: I am sure that fans are going to put pictures on Flickr, upload videos on Youtube, talk about it like crazy and share their experience anyway they can.  I'm sure the dollar value of that media would in the millions of dollars.

I have often said that companies should always keep their eyes and ears open to what they can learn from other people/companies/industries and I think this is an perfect example of something that could be used by even the smallest of companies.

It's about about being a real person, going the extra mile and giving people something that is interactive and unique.

Doesn't that sound like fun?