Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Featured in Seattle Weekly!

We are featured in this weeks copy of Seattle Weekly!!  :)

A better link is here: Seattle Weekly Article

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dunn & Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database

This post was written by Michael Casey. He is one of the folks working with NFJS and a salesman with a terrific track record who has committed to moving into a role that allows him to drive resource sustainability within a company.Note that the rest of this blog would look a lot better if Blogspot supported imbeded tables or allowed me to simply attach a document, etc. but it doesn't. I'm going to try to be as clear as I can without them. If you follow carefully, it will work. When you go to D&B/KCLS you will find it much more user friendly.

From Michael:
Assuming that you have decided to develop a “value proposition” based job search, one of the first steps is identifying potential employers. What companies look like good potential employers?

If you allow yourself to approach this in a disorganized way, it is pretty darn intimidating. One tool that can greatly reduce this is the Dunn & Bradstreet Million Dollar Database. Normally access to this is very expensive, fortunately there are some very convenient ways to avoid the expense. If you are local to the Seattle area, the King County Library (www.kcls.org) provides this as one of their normal services. My assumption is that in other areas, the first place to check is your local library as well. The following description assumes you have a King County Library Card then becomes a “how to” for accessing via the King County Library. Most of this is how to use the DB.

• Go to www.kcls.org

• Click on "DataBases" (top of page, left side)

• Go to "Subject List of Databases" scroll down to

• Click on "Business Economics and Investing"  (Note that under this tab, you will see more than a dozen options which may be helpful to you. This is a very comprehensive list of the best tools available for researching companies, so explore!)

• Click on "D & B Million Dollar Database"

Congratulations! You are in.....now go get a cup of coffee or a beer, walk outside and get some fresh air, then return to your JOB SEARCH.


We are going to look for some companies that might help someone who is a CAD designer with considerable talent, and look for metal fabrication companies, who have clients that design and then send their product to be fabricated--they obviously have or need to have CAD people designing their stuff.


• Find a company, then put it in the fields and search.
• We will choose a company we know, entering Name, City & State

Company Name:    Magic Metals
City:                       Union Gap
State:                     Washington

This is what is returned:

Magic Metals Inc

SIC Code:       7692
City:                Union Gap
State:              WA USA
Locations:       Single Location
Annual Sales:  $11,887,260
Number Emp   146

We see that the SIC code is 7692....but we want more information, so click on the "Magic Metals Inc".  What comes back is more than a page of information specific to Magic Metals including what their DUNS Number is, what they do, who the President is, how many locations, etc. 

Now look at their SIC codes, they are listed as 7692 welding repair but also 3440 sheet metal work.

“Sheet Metal Work” is also known as “Metal Fabrication” so we have found the SIC code we will use in the next step.

Now we want to go and look for other companies with the 3440 SIC code, because that may lead us to companies that are similar and these are companies we know will use CAD drafting.

Go back to the top of the page, yellow box, and click on SIC and then type in 3444, then eliminate the city, or keep it local, then put your state name in and hit search...:  and we come up with !!!!!! 254 companies.  Too many for practical reasons, so let's limit the search and just put a city back in, like Seattle Wa for the search, see what we come up with---i.e., re-enter SIC code 3444, Seattle for city, Washington for state, then hit search and voila; 34 companies, much more manageable.

1: Lighthouse For The Blind Inc
8331 Seattle WA USA Headquarters $37,597,000 350

2: Ellstrom Manufacturing Inc
2431 Seattle WA USA Single Location $11,500,000 85

3: Pioneer Human Services
8331 Seattle WA USA Branch $9,487,600 200

4: Qual Fab Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $6,600,000 45

5: Pacific Aircraft Welders
3581 Seattle WA USA Single Location $5,000,000 10

6: Queen City Sheet Metal
1761 Seattle WA USA Single Location $4,345,596 25

7: David Gulassa & Co Inc
2514 Seattle WA USA Single Location $3,200,000 26

8: Ballard Sheet Metal Works Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $3,000,000 20

9: Pacific Sheet Metal Inc
1761 Seattle WA USA Single Location $2,900,000 20

10: Park North Heating Co Inc
1711 Seattle WA USA Single Location $2,200,000 16

11: Global Inc
3443 Seattle WA USA Single Location $2,000,000 15

12: Central Fabricators Inc
5051 Seattle WA USA Single Location $900,000 10

13: Williams Form Engineering Corp
3444 Seattle WA USA Branch $737,508 6

14: All Metals Fabricators Inc
1791 Seattle WA USA Single Location $730,000 6

15: Precision Fabricators LLC
3444 Seattle WA USA Headquarters $625,000 8

16: B & D Sheet Metal LLC
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $610,000 6

17: Decorative Metal Arts
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $570,000 8

18: Apex Metal Fabricators Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $550,000 5

19: Canopy World Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Branch $491,672 4

20: Mutual Industries Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $480,000 5

21: North Industries Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $410,000 3

22: A Quality Sheet Metal Co
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $270,000 4

23: Whitehead Manufacturing
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $250,000 3

24: Form Factor Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $210,000 2

25: Kenneth A Edleman
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $200,000 2

26: Pacific Northwest
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $160,000 2

27: J R Grantham Inc
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $140,000 1

28: DK Works
3444 Seattle WA USA Single Location $130,000 2

29: Dockside Repair
3449 Seattle WA USA Single Location $100,000 18

30: McKinstry Co LLC
1711 Seattle WA USA Headquarters 500

Choosing one, say #4, Qual Fab Inc., click on that and once again, we have tons of information:  Location, Sales, CEO, start date, etc.

This tool works for any industry and location. in addition, Dunn & Bradstreet is the tool companies use to check out each other, so it is the most up-to-date available (although it can be as much as six months out of date). It will normally provide the name of at least one senior executive; probably the CEO.  What you end up with is the address of the company, the name of a senior exec, a clear idea of what the company makes, etc. This is a great start.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Value Proposition Campaigns

Pretty much all of my posts so far have been about how to get a “job”, as in an existing, defined role in an existing, defined company. You know the drill, create resume, find an opportunity, then apply or try to identify who the hiring influence is etc. A second process would be to work your network until someone tells you about an opportunity that hasn’t been advertised and follow up with the person who needs the new help. Both of these can work and for many roles those are the two most effective ways for finding a new job. There is another approach and for some kinds of opportunities it’s especially useful.

Smaller companies, say less than $20m in yearly revenue, simply can’t afford hiring one of the big search firms to find their most senior executives, and frankly putting an ad on Craig’s List for a new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is pretty tacky and simply not going to net an interesting candidate. So how is this new CFO found?

There are a few ways, but only one of them is the subject of this post. This isn’t especially original, but it seems difficult for people to do; it’s the creation of a “value proposition campaign”. Using the above example, you are a Stanford MBA, CPA and have the requisite experience. For whatever reason you are now looking for your next opportunity and your target is CFO of a medical manufacturing company with between $5m and $20m in revenue.

The theory is very straight forward: Identify the 2 or 3 things you are sure will be needed by every company in this sector and that you have done well and look forward to doing again, write them down (on paper) and snail mail them to the CEO. Follow up 2 or 3 days later asking the CEO if you can sit down over coffee to discuss how this might benefit his/her company. Pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, the devil is in the details.

Trying to cover the various parts of this process in a single post is pretty hopeless, so I’ll break it into parts:

• This is the intro (of course) and covers the concept and what to expect the next few entries to entail.

• Market research/identification, how do you find the companies you want to send these letters to? What about the name of the CEO? What about whether a company even has a CFO currently?

• Creating the letter

• Getting the interview

• Asking for the sale

This is going to be interesting.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sustaining your job search

What does it take to continue something when you get no feedback? No complaints, no compliments, no objections, no heckling, nothing. I ask this because that’s what happens with 90% of your job search. It is also true if you are a blogger. So while I’m not looking for a job, the thing I’m most responsible for (this blog) has at least one element that is the same. I have to admit that I struggle with it. I want someone to comment and tell me how effective and smart I am and how my blog is the very best on the whole web. Having a PBS crew show up to do a special on my blog writing would be pretty cool, too. And it makes no difference at all that intellectually and emotionally I know my wish is both based on false assumptions and impossible.

When you are looking for a job, the problem is really similar. You send out one or two or three applications a week, you set up one or two informational interviews a week, you go to the “networking” events, but no job offer ever seems to appear. Heck, it’s like there is no reaction at all. Most weeks you don’t even get an automated response from the applications. And then the “informationals” feel mostly like you’re just talking to people and the “networking” feels more like a middle school mixer than anything else you can remember!...

How to sustain? What I finally did was join a group of reluctant bloggers. We meet once a week and exchange ideas and support each other’s efforts. It’s a way to get feedback. A little skepticism would be fine to go with this, I get better faster when people tell me what isn’t working as well as what is, but at least I get feedback.

If you are in the Seattle area, there are a variety of groups around. We have the two NFJS groups, look up Job Club at http://www.meetup.com/ etc. The point is to find some support.  I really don't know of a tougher job than Job Search, so allow youself to find that support.  Allow yourself to learn how to get better. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

How to answer (sometimes dumb) questions in an interview

Seems pretty straightforward and simple, but there is art here. Ask any successful salesperson. I’ve quoted Richard Bolles (What Color is Your Parachute) as saying there are only five questions that count, yet somehow interviewers seem to ask a lot more than that! Why?
Most interviewers haven’t articulated in nearly as concise a way what’s important. For example: In technology, we can get totally focused on knowledge around some particular tool and forget about everything else. That doesn’t mean the other information is less useful or important, just that we’ve failed to develop questions that appropriately address everything that matters.

The five questions are:

1. Why are you here? (Why are you applying for this job rather than somewhere else.)
2. What can you do for us? (Will you be able to solve this problem?)
3. What kind of person are you? (Will you fit with us?)
4. What makes you special? (What distinguishes you from the other xxxx people lined up to apply for this job?)
5. Can I afford you? (just what it says)

Mapping those to questions that are commonly asked is not especially straightforward. The only one you are likely to be asked in a clear way is, “Can I afford you?” And even that one can get murky in practice. At some point, though, there will be a discussion of salary and that will answer their question.

Seems like a dumb question, but it has hidden value

So the answers they are looking for are often hidden in seeming innocuous (sometimes called dumb) questions such as, “Tell me about yourself?” I’ve asked that question and here is why.

• Partly I was stalling for time (I just wanted to hear the candidate talk and to get some emotional reaction to them).
• Partly I wanted them to focus on themselves and not on the job description.
• Partly I wanted to see if they understood the job description and if they could translate that into language describing their experience.

In terms of the five questions, it was a starting attempt to answer questions 2, 3 and 4. If I asked, “What is your greatest strength?” then I probably wanted the candidate to tell me how his/her strengths might solve my problem (question 2). If I asked about weaknesses (“What is your greatest weakness?”), then I wanted to know whether the weakness would impact the rest of the team or the project (question 3).

The important take away from this is that I wasn’t especially interested in you “the person”. I wanted to know how you would help me. If you think that is unfair to ask you how you might fit without telling you what you need to fit into, I agree. But for that to happen, you need to ask me about the position/company. As a hiring manager, I actively created questions that didn’t include sufficient information for some definitive answer to be provided because I wanted you to ask.

My point here is that the questions you bring to the interview are just as important as the questions the potential employer brings. In fact if you have done a good job with yours, then translating these into a focused, productive interview is much easier.

Have your stories well practiced

Equally important in your prep is identifying and practicing stories that address the specifics of common questions and illustrate how you can help a company. Stories give you a much better shot in the interview. It is very possible that when you get to the interview, none of the stories apply, yet simply having them ready reminds you of the stories you might use.

I’ll use myself as an example again. If I am interviewing for a job as an IT Director, there are many stories I can tell. If I know their problem is high turnover, I provide one set of stories. If their problem is unstable infrastructure, it’s a different set.

If they ask me what my greatest strength is, then pretty much the worst answer I can think of is “Ideation”. It is my greatest strength but in every interview context I can think of, it would be a show stopper. Telling a story about how my penchant for understanding the underlying theory of network design allowed me to design a new network using tools I had not previously worked with, and how that design was economical and extensible, yada yada, now that’s a good story.

Key to choosing an applicable story is asking enough questions so I know what matters to my audience. One way to do this is simply asking more questions. If you are asked, “What is your greatest strength?” Rather than blurting out the first story that comes to mind (which I have done in the past), pause and ask specifically what kinds of problems they are working on. Something like, “I can provide a variety of stories that illustrate my strengths, perhaps if I understood more about what you are working on, I could choose an appropriate one. So what is it that you expect this new person to do? What is a key problem that you hope to solve?”

The point of all of this:
  • Preparation is key.
  • Use stories (well practiced stories) to illustrate your answer, rather than just blurting out an answer.
  • Ask questions throughout the interview.
  • Cliche questions are our friends because they allow us to prepare.