Thursday, August 28, 2008

Waterbury, VT

Waterbury, Vermont is small, unassuming town about two hours from our home in Keene. Yesterday Marty and I took a drive up there, through the beautiful Green Mountains that are just beginning to show fall colors here and there. Despite its size, Waterbury is home to three similar and enterprising businesses that are favorites of the green and socially responsible set: Ben and Jerry's, Green Mountain Coffee, and Cabot Cheese. Ben and Jerry's is world famous, and Green Mountain is giving Starbucks a run for its money, especially in New England. And Cabot just makes the most divine cheese you can imagine--especially the 3 year old cheddar and horseradish varieties....
Ben and Jerry's got a lot of publicity several years ago for advertising for a new CEO. They made a marketing campaign out of it and got something like 20,000 applications--ranging from schoolchildren to even family pets sponsored by their owners. Now, the company is owned by Unilever, but the brand identity and involvement in the local community remains.
Amazing that a single small town could produce such giants as these, and still retain its character.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tales from the Front

I've met a lot of people in the past few weeks. Some of them, like me, are also looking for employment. Today, I heard a story for the third time in less than a couple of months--the job that vanishes. This is where someone is offered a position, may even have a contract or a start date, and then at the last minute the company decides not to proceed.

One person was asked to start work on specific day, told that the contract was "in the mail" and then got a call from the organization's headquarters that same afternoon that they would not be offering the job after all! Another person was told the day before he was to start work that the company had decided not to fill the opening. And a person I talked to today had two offers about the same time, and accepted the one he thought was the more stable, secure company. A few days before he was to begin work, the company asked to delay the start date by a month. Then, when that date came, he was told that the board had decided to delay again--it could be September. Meanwhile, the other position he had turned down was, of course, no longer available.

There are enough of these stories floating around that the common wisdom is not to stop networking, going on interviews, and talking to recruiters about your availability, until you have actually started at the new position and are officially on their rolls. It's kind of the reverse of the phenomena I wrote about in India ("No Shows")--where candidates may not turn up for work despite having a signed offer because something better has come along. Where executive recruiters are used, the company would still be on the hook to pay the recruiter, since a lot of work goes into identifying, vetting, and presenting candidates. But unless there's a sudden and serious downturn in the company's business that couldn't have been foreseen, it seems like especially bad behavior. And the worst part is that in none of the cases I've mentioned could the person have reasonably predicted that the rug would be pulled out from under them at the last minute--the organizations seemed solid and reputable--else the person wouldn't have been interested in joining in the first place.

Well, at least forewarned is forearmed....and meditation helps, too.....

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Vignettes from the Big Apple

My networking adventure took me to New York City this past week, where in addition to meeting some business contacts I caught up with a couple of old friends (one of whom I hadn't seen in 26 years....) Manhattan is not for everyone, though I think the city gets a bad rap for being unfriendly--people really are quite nice and helpful for the most part. A lot of the fun is just in watching the scene--as I walked from where my sister-in-law lives on the upper west side to midtown (roughly 4 miles), I probably heard close to ten different languages. Some vignettes:

  • New York is a city for walkers of all kinds, but especially for dog walkers. It is highly entertaining to see the improbable combinations of human and canine--ranging from fat old ladies walking tiny chihuahuas dressed in sequins and (yes) tiny booties to anorexically thin young women dressed to the nines in platform heels dragging along old and tired sheepdogs. And, of course, there are the paid dog walkers with pooches of various breeding and vintages--the logistics of picking up the poop alone worth the viewing.
  • I don't see how Starbucks makes any money in New York, despite having a cafe on every other corner. At each one I stopped at, there were several people camped in with latte and laptop--some of whom were clearly there for the duration. Apparently Starbucks now charges for wifi in some places, but one helpful counter attendant told me that if you sit by the window you can pick up a connection for free....
  • The day I left, I took the subway to Penn Station to catch the Amtrak train to Albany, where I'd left my car. On the platform where I got on the #2 train, an enterprising--though probably impoverished--violinist was playing classical music with his instrument case open for contributions. By the time I arrived, around 8:30 a.m., he already had several dollars. The thundering approach of the train sometimes drowned him out, but the strains of Madame Butterfly's "Un Bel Dia" were a peaceful contrast to the stress and bustle of the morning commute--people smiling and nodding, taking pictures or just listening with eyes closed to the beautiful music.