Monday, February 24, 2014

How not to get lost in the Twitter ocean

Navigating social media without analytics is like crossing the ocean without stars.

No self respecting ancient mariner, or night-migrating bird for that matter, would try to cross from Knossos to Delos without use of the stars. The ocean is too large, and full, and dark.

But sales people are trying to follow their B2B customers on Twitter without the stars. They load up users and keywords into excellent B2C support apps like Hootsuite or Radian6, but still miss their destination because they can't navigate the business developments by following people. To understand how your customer's business, and so your target, is changing you need to be navigating through all of Twitter and extracting out the B2B business trends buffeting your prospect.

That takes analytics. Analytics that process every tweet and figure out it's meaning. Real time.That figure out whether it is relevant to You. Does it match your personal interests, does it have meaning to Your business, and Your strategy whether or not the keywords you put in are matched?

That's what we're doing at FirstRain. Analyzing Twitter the way a Minoan navigator would study the stars 10,000 years ago. It's all very personal. Finding you the path through Twitter's ocean to get to your ultimate destination - revenue growth.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Three things you can do to hire women and change your company forever

Posted in the Huffington Post

Our world is changing very fast, and the role of women is changing fast with it -- and, mostly, for the positive. We have more women in power, more women in the workforce, more women in control of their lives but there still aren't representative numbers of women at the top of companies.

And yet, we now know that diverse teams make better decisions. We know women make 85 percent of consumer buying decisions, and so, if you sell anything to them, you probably want women in your decision structure. As a CEO, if you're making strategy decisions, and hiring decisions, you want a diverse set of opinions around you to advise you. It's time to pro-actively bring women into your workforce.

So why would any company build an all-male leadership team now, or an all male board, or a board that is mostly male with one token female? The most often-cited reason is that there are no qualified candidates -- what baloney! When Twitter filed for its IPO with no women on the board (despite the dominance of women on social media) the reason given was: "The issue isn't the intention, the issue is just the paucity of candidates."

It's just not the truth (as the NYT kindly pointed out to Twitter at the time). There are women available to hire, but you have to be determined to build a diverse leadership team to make it happen because the easier path (less work) is to hire people just like you: men. You have to be willing to do the extra work, find the diverse candidates, and open up your job spec to change your company for the future -- and for the better. It's just good business.

Here are three roles where you can change the numbers:

Board of Directors: Mostly male still. Women hold only 16.9 percent of board seats, 10 percent of boards have no women on them and those numbers are barely changing. If, as many boards do, you set your search criteria narrowly... for example, must have been a CEO (that cuts most women out), must have prior board experience (that cuts most women out), must be retired (the women in the workforce are newer and so less likely to be retired) then, presto! all you see are male candidates.

The solution here is to open your search up to operating executives who are not CEOs. They are in related industries in powerful operating positions like CIO, GM or CFO and probably have no prior board experience. But everyone starts somewhere, and there are excellent training programs you can go to to learn how to be a public company director.

Software Engineers: Mostly male still. And with hiring practices like the "Bromance Chamber" at DropBox not surprisingly! Twenty percent of CS majors are girls, and the best technology companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel et al) both compete to hire them and invest in programs like the Anita Borg Institute to learn how to both recruit them, and retain them. But the best companies also reach outside the rigid spec of pure computer science.

Again the solution is to be open to a wider set of candidates, without compromising quality. Open up to girls (and boys) with math majors, or double majors in math and computer science -- those who wouldn't make it through the narrow filter of typical CS hiring processes, but who are likely smarter, harder working, and need just a small amount of training to be fully effective for your company. Facebook even runs a summer intern program for students without technical degrees, knowing they can train them and wanting the very best brains for their engineering teams.

Sales People: Mostly (white) male still. A lingering bastion of the smart, golf-playing male in a crisp white shirt. When challenged on the limited number of female candidates being presented, most recruiters will whine and complain about the limited pool.

The solution: Deliberately ask your recruiter to do the extra work to find the diverse candidates. At my company our sales recruiter did, and we found excellent female candidates immediately. It's been my experience that women sell just as well as men, so why not get a mixed team in place so you see the selling challenges from more than one perspective?

In all these cases, you are not trying to hire women. I'd never compromise the quality of the hire for race or gender. Many women would (quite rightly) be offended if they thought they were only being hired because of their gender. What you are doing is insisting on a diverse candidate pool and a level playing field for those candidates. And, in my experience, that leads to stronger candidates, to gender balanced teams and, as a result, to better decisions.

At my own company, FirstRain, where I am CEO, our board is 50 percent women. My senior leadership team is half men, half women. That's no accident. If you are determined to see diverse candidates you will -- and have absolutely no compromise on quality -- quite the reverse!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hey Mr Waiter! Don't insult me at the table

Insult can be about blindness as much as it can be overt.

Case #1: My husband and I are at a lovely restaurant. The wine list is put in front of him. He hands me the wine list, I chose a wine, and I tell the waiter when he comes. The waiter returns with the unopened wine, opens it and asks my husband if he wants to taste it. Bret has seen this movie before. He usually smiles at the waiter and says "My wife ordered the wine, if you want a tip I suggest you let her taste it".

This scenario used to happen every time we went out to dinner. But after 30 years of marriage it happens about 1 time in 20 in California now, but still almost always when we are in Italy. Waiters of Italy take note - my husband knows how to say it in Italian too.

Case #2: I am out to dinner with a friend, who happens to be male. When you work in a male dominated industry like tech, and you make most of your friends through work, this happens often. We're at the end of the meal, I signal to the waiter that I'd like the check, and the waiter brings the check to my male friend. We tussle over who's going to pay and, if I win, I place down my card. If the waiter isn't on the ball (or checking the name) he still brings the check back to my male friend.

This second scenario is a source of great amusement to one of my friends who thinks I shouldn't be allowed to pay anyway because I am "a girl". He, of course, says it just to get a rise out of me. But I win enough times with him, but when I do it, and the waiter returns the check to him, it makes his teasing laughter that much more annoying.

Ah, but life is short. I've now become skilled at gently telling the waiter his (or her!) mistake and letting it go. But I look forward to the day when waiters are trained to be gender-blind.

Image: Agent-Hope on Deviant Art

Friday, February 14, 2014

When do chocolate, diamonds and STDs go together?

It's Valentine's Day. The media is advertising flowers and movies, Facebook is filled with sweet sentiments but me, I'm working and, in a moment of curiosity I plug "Valentine" into FirstRain.

Now, in case you don't know, FirstRain is a personal business analytics system. For the companies and markets you care about - your customers, your markets, your competition, the market trends impacting your go-to-market. Powerful, insightful, real-time ... everything I tell my customers.

And more...

Behind all our powerful data science are the fun use cases too. Wine, vacation trends and now Love.

Key market drivers on Valentine's Day? Weddings, flowers, gold, diamonds, chocolate and... STDs!

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