Tuesday, January 31, 2006


*I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the majority of women who complain men are overly superficial and only care about a woman’s physical attractiveness are not, on the average, all that hot.

Also going out on a limb, I’m going to guess that most of the men who complain about women being money-grubbing gold diggers concerned only with how much money is in a man’s bank account or how nice of a car he drives generally don’t have a whole lot of money or drive a very nice car.

*A joke that has reached its “Sell-by” date: Any joke involving a person who orders an extremely fattening meal and then orders a diet cola

*Regarding the James Frey controversy – I find it ironic how people get up in arms because an author embellished some facts to make his book more entertaining, yet nobody seems to care that the majority of those notoriously bad auditions you see on “American Idol” are obvious plants or that many of the supposedly trailer-trash, inbred folks who appear on “Jerry Springer” are actors. And to think people used to make fun of me for watching wrestling.

*Portrait of the Misogynist as a Young Man: I got a Princess Leah action figure for Chanukah once and started crying because I didn’t want an action figure of a girl

*My Proudest Moments Since Becoming A Father:
2. When my son learned to walk
1. (tie) A. When my son started requesting to be read to by throwing books at my wife or I and saying, “BOOK!”
B. When my son walked over to the baby gate in front of the stairs and said, “Poop?” and it turned out he had, in fact, crapped his pants.
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Friday, January 27, 2006

...Interviewing Tips (Sales Edition)

We’ve been conducting interviews over the past couple of weeks for an outside sales position. I try to be sympathetic towards the candidates, seeing as how I’m only a few years removed from being on their side of the desk myself. I’m also well aware of the worst-case scenario of being a small business owner - knowing I could very well be back on the job interview circuit someday too.

Still, I can’t think of a single interview we’ve conducted where I didn’t have to suppress the urge to roll my eyes. With that in mind, here are my unsolicited, but hopefully helpful tips to anyone seeking a position in outside sales.

Don’t Look Like a Freak

I’m aware people often go through experimental phases with their appearance, especially during their formative years. I had a mohawk when I was 14, long hair throughout college, multiple ear piercings until my early 20s. The nice thing about all these expressions of my non-conformity is they were all easy to ditch when I was ready to conform to the role of a professional business person. All I had to do was take out the earrings and get a haircut.

I realize tattoos are all the rage now, almost to the point where getting one ironically makes you seem less like a counter-culture individualist and more like a blind crowd follower. I’m not opposed to tattoos, but I would strongly recommend, if you are considering one, to think long and hard about placement and the inherent consequences thereof. Because no matter how hard you try to cover it up with an expensive suit and tie, I can clearly see if there is a tattoo protruding out of your dress shirt and continuing its way up your neck. Seeing as this is a business to business sales position where you will come into contact with CEO’s of corporations, principals of high schools, college professors and high-ranking military officers, it is probably best your appearance not remind them of the guy who stole their car at knifepoint.

Don’t Tell Me Some Ridiculous Minimum Amount I Need to Pay You As a Guarantee Before You Could Even *Consider* Taking This Position

We are hiring a salesperson. By definition, that would imply the person who takes this position has far better than average skill at selling things. One of the reasons most sales positions are largely commission based is it tends to be a classic “win-win” situation for both parties involved. It’s good for the salesperson because he or she can continually increase his or her income the more he or she sells, giving him or her limitless income potential. It is good for the company because if a salesperson is getting rich as a result of earning high commissions, by extension the company is making a lot of money as well.

When you come into an interview for a sales position and say upfront you would be unable to accept any offer that doesn’t include a substantial guaranteed salary, all we hear is, “I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to sell anything, so what I’m going to do is try to bilk you out of as much cash as I can before you realize I suck at selling and fire me”.

Any reasonable business owner is cognizant of the fact it takes a few months for any professional salesperson, no matter how good they are, to build up a sales funnel and start closing orders. We are also aware that during this process you still have bills to pay and would need some form of income to do so. No reputable company would expect you to work strictly on 100% commission from day one. We would be more than happy to work out some sort of reasonable base salary to get you through those first few months so you don’t go into foreclosure on your house or get your car repossessed while you’re waiting for your first batch of orders to come through.

But if you tell me you absolutely, positively, in no way, shape, or form would be able to survive on anything less than $80,000 (or more) a year in guaranteed salary, all you are saying is you have serious doubts about whether or not you possess the skills required to earn that dollar amount in commission based on your sales. Therefore hiring you to sell for my company, while quite nice for *YOU* financially, will actually come out as a net loss to the corporation, which would just be dumb. Plus, if you are really, truly earning such a healthy income at your current job, why are you looking to leave? See, you’re probably a liar too.

Don’t Advertise the Fact You’re “Just Seeing What’s Out There”

My business partners and I sacrificed everything we had and took the biggest risk of our lives by starting this company. You are not going to endear yourself to us by acting blase at the opportunity to work for the company we built from the ground up.

If you are mostly happy at your current job and just sent out a few resumes to see what other kind of opportunities are floating about, that’s fine. I did this with some frequency when I worked for other people. It’s good not to be complacent. But consider our position: We are conducting interviews with several different candidates. Who do you think is going to interest us the most - the person who genuinely seems to buy into our company vision and really wants to be part of the team, or the person who stares at us blankly throughout the interview waiting for us to get to the pay and benefits part, then asks three-quarters of the way through, "So, what is it you guys do exactly?"

Don’t Think Any Employer Is Going To Fall For The “I’m Considering Other Offers” or “I Have a Lot of Other Interviews Lined Up” Line

Think of going out on a job interview as dating. If you were out on a date with a young lady you were hoping to end up in bed with, would you at any point during the evening say, “Just so you’re aware, I have several dates with other women lined up this week” or “Before you make me an offer to come up to your apartment, I should let you know another woman I’m dating has offered me anal and a blow job and is just waiting for me to accept”? Of course not. Why? Because a woman wants to feel special. She wants to feel like you are genuinely interested in her, not like she is just one of a few dozen women you’re playing the field with. By advertising the large number of women you are casually pursuing, you are not going to make this woman feel pressured into sleeping with you any faster to head off the competition, you are going to cause her lose interest in you and search for someone who is more interested in her specifically.

Same concept applies here. Of course we know you didn’t put all of your eggs in one basket and may have sent out resumes to other companies and may have even received a few callbacks. Your fallacy is thinking our desire to hire you is going to increase based on your rubbing our face in this fact. Trust me, our company would not be where it is today if any of us were of the intelligence level to where we would actually fall for this classic high-pressure, faux sense of urgency sales tactic.
That's all for now. I’m sure I’ll have more advice to offer as the process continues.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

...Being a Member of the Club

Several years ago I shared a flirtation with the black receptionist at the office I was working in at the time. Nothing too serious ever came out of it; no secret trysts in the supply closet, no magical movie moment where passion overcame us to the point where I dramatically swiped all papers and documents onto the floor so I could take her right then and there on top of my desk. At the time it all seemed very exciting - she was married and we often seemed right on the verge of taking the relationship to next level if only one of us would have the guts to make the suggestion, so there were always those all-important plot elements of danger and suspense. With many years of hindsight to reflect back on this time it is now clear to me we were just a couple of people who had fairly mundane, boring jobs we weren’t especially enthused about and this was as much of a way to make coming into work every day more interesting as anything else.

Yvonne constantly made comments about me being an “honorary black man” or how I had been born the wrong color. How she came to this conclusion, I’m not sure. Though I was born in ethnically diverse San Francisco, the majority of my childhood was spent in the whitebread suburban community of Walnut Creek, graduating from a high school where blacks represented 2% of the student population. At the time I met Yvonne I was living in Laguna Beach, itself not exactly a melting pot of racial diversity.

To Yvonne my credibility was earned entirely because of my, if I can toot my own horn for a second, very impressive grasp of the characters and plotlines of various 1970s black sitcoms. Not only the more well-known programs like Good Times, The Jeffersons, Diff’Rent Strokes or What’s Happening!, but also some of the more obscure shows of the era - That’s My Mama, anyone? Far from giving me any sort of street credibility, I would think if anything all it shows is I very likely wasted my entire childhood in front of the TV and probably would have benefitted from getting outside more often. I think it also impressed her that I had a pretty good working knowledge of Stevie Wonder’s catalog, having purchased his greatest hits collection, The Original Musiquarium not too long before I met her.

Going out to lunch with Yvonne one day, she asked me if I knew what the term, “Scrub” meant, to which I replied in the negative. “It’s a black term”, she informed me. “It’s a guy who doesn’t really have a good job or any money, who spends all his time hanging out on the passenger side of his friend’s car hollering at girls on the street trying to get them to hook up with him”.

I felt as if I had been granted access to some elusive club with an exclusive membership. I was ecstatic at the prospect of being on the cutting edge of pop culture, being able to use a new term in conversation before it became mainstream. For an equivalent, think about how cool it would have been if you had been able to casually drop the term, “YOU GO, GIRL!” long before it was appropriated by every uncool white girl on the planet.

On my drive home that evening, I heard a brand-new TLC song playing on the radio entitled “No Scrubs”.

Ancient black secret, huh?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

...Explaining My Absence

It’s not that I’ve become burnt out with blogging, it’s just that I don’t want to become a bore. No offense, and I don’t want anyone to think this is a thinly-veiled criticism of anyone in particular, but as an avid blog reader, I have to confess I always find a blog a little less interesting the moment the blogger in question goes through a *MAJOR LIFE EVENT*, like having a baby, becoming engaged, getting a new job or anything else of that nature, because inevitably the *MAJOR LIFE EVENT* becomes the dominant topic of the blog and 99% of the time it is the type of thing that A) most other people have already gone through at some point so it isn’t exactly revelatory or enlightening information and B) is the sort of thing that is infinitely more interesting to the writer than the reader.

I am fully aware that other bloggers need not check in with me for approval before coming up with topics, and hell, for all I know it might just be a personal taste thing with me. Other readers might really enjoy hearing about the lack of Sweet `n’ Low in the coffee room at somebody else’s new office or whether or not somebody they’ve never met is going to have a sit-down dinner at his or her wedding reception or go for buffet-style.

To be fair, I feel the same way about my real-life friends when they go through a similar event. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve lost to the home-improvement craze. Formerly fun and interesting friends who upon purchasing a new house can talk about nothing except what color they’re thinking about painting the bathroom or how exactly they plan on having their kitchen cabinets redone with a different finish. A good friend of mine is about to become a father for the first time, as in possibly within the next couple of hours. I’m extremely happy for him and his wife, who have been great friends to me for a long time, but I’m sure I’ll get just as bored listening to the daily tales of changing diapers and how his kid sort of made what appeared to be a smile today as I notice he and others get when I share similar tales of how cute and clever my own kid is. I mean, let’s be honest: don’t a lot of people tend to think that their life experiences are somehow universally interesting when in truth they are never going to be as interesting to anyone else as they are to themselves?

Not wanting to be hypocritical, i.e. creating the very kind of posts that bore me to tears, I have spared you for the past few months because as the move-in date to our new house gets closer and closer (beginning of February), my life has become full with things like picking out tile patterns, debating the virtues of various carpet fibers, deciding if we want all stainless steel appliances or all black ones, deciding on loan structures, hoping buying a new car this past Summer isn’t going to screw up my credit report and throw the whole deal off the table, wondering if we should spend a little more on window coverings now and have the price worked into the loan or if it’s worth spending a little less but paying cash, driving by every week to see how the building is coming along, dealing with the disappointment of learning about the inevitable delays that pushed our original move in date back over a month, etc.

I will be sure to check back in when my life allows me to get back to being the monumentally fascinating individual you’ve all come to expect.
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