If Only It Was So Easy

On May 25, 2017, the Wall Street Journal’s tech column was about how almost all of us have personal information exposed online, much more than we realize. The June 1 column had more on how to reduce information exposure.

It’s shocking how much of what we do on a daily basis, because of our use of technology, is available to so many companies and people within those companies. And how it’s used to bombard us with targeted messages, or, in worst case scenarios, how others can use it to terrorize people.

I mention these articles because it’s not nearly so easy for the rest of us. Here are three situations where it would be incredibly valuable to have more information than we normally get.

Job search – wouldn’t it be nice if prospective employees knew about the company’s culture before accepting the job? Yes, I know there are websites like Glass Door but just like Amazon reviews you don’t know if you’re getting phony reviews glorifying the company or product or if someone ripped something to shreds because one screw was missing, the color was slightly different than expected, etc.

A friend feels she recently dodged a bullet during an interview. Here’s what happened. When arriving at the company the first person she met said, “Oh, you’re here to interview for my job.” They talked for a while and the topics included why the person was leaving.

It appears the interviewer overheard at least some of the conversation, didn’t say anything, and then told the recruiter how she didn’t like that conversation. She didn’t get the job and feels relieved about it as it appears (not verified) there’s a culture of backstabbing. Being the fly on the wall before accepting the job would be like having all the online data others have on us.

Vendors and customers – we can do credit checks, background checks, etc. but just think if as (B2B) customers we knew in advance how vendors treat their customers, if their billing is timely and accurate, if delivery schedules are met, and more. Yes, we can do reference checks but, as with the abovementioned job interview, we’re really not seeing inside the company.

“What a great business this would be if it wasn’t for the customers” is an old saying that really means how great it would be without the bad customers. It’s why we should all screen customers and not just take the order (this refers to ongoing relationship business not transactional business like buying a sandwich, although retail sees enough bad customers also).

During a recent meeting, someone was talking about how they were firing a customer. The customer wanted discounts, complimentary work, and unreasonable timelines (as if the service providing firm doesn’t have other customers). My usual policy is at least two meetings before I’ll even propose how we can work together. And, there’s a lot of discussion about life so we can get to know each other (and it works as I only have clients who are nice people).

Business Buy-Sell – my initial disclaimer is it’s rare when there’s a major surprise post-sale. In fact, I’d say there are more good surprises (opportunities, meaning poor processes, unexploited markets, weak sales efforts, etc.) than bad surprises.

While a buyer can sense what the culture is as he or she gets to know the seller, what happens day-to-day can be different. Plus, culture can take many forms and here are three types buyers look out for:

  • The micro-manager owner who has a hard time giving others responsibility. The buyer worries the employees are so used to this they won’t accept delegation as they’re fearful of making a mistake.
  • The lean and mean culture with people working long and hard hours “getting the job done,” which doesn’t allow for innovation, creativity, or strategy changes. Often it’s as simple as one more employee that solves the issue but the problem is the seller expects to be paid based on the profits from a burn-out culture.
  • Coasting, aka lazy, being the name of the game can be a concern and I’ve had a few deals collapse as the buyer passed on the company because he figured it would be too tough to get the employee base to give up their easy job style and work harder to grow the company.

Conclusion

I used the term “fly on the wall” and it’s what technology has allowed companies to do to us, which is why there’s a market for ad-blocker programs and similar. As I mentioned, wouldn’t it be nice to have these insights in our daily lives. Since we don’t, it comes down to good old fashion research, investigation, and gut feel.

 

 

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