I’m Hearing from more colleagues than ever before

There’s been a definite upswing in the number of ex-colleagues who are reaching out to me via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or via good old fashioned email lately. I’m glad to hear from them as I believe that is one of inherent values in social networking, re-connecting with people you have lost touch with over the years and multiple moves.

The problem is, the common thread of many of these re-connections is that they have been laid off or in some other fashion, find themselves actively looking for new career opportunities. And these are not the grade B people you knew, who while likeable enough, you knew were never going to be ready for the “big time”. Today, it is the A list just as likely to be out searching for something new. The economy has picked stripped the fat and is now eating into the meat and muscle itself.
Last week I attend Forrester’s Marketing Forum and the theme was that it was time to invest in the future. And that is what the smart companies are going to do. But there are still many, many companies who are afraid to invest, the risk is too high where sheer existence seems to hang by such a thin thread. But it seems such a shame to waste the brilliant talent that’s out there right now, filling their days searching Monster.com and cleaning out the basement.

So I’d like to propose that all those companies who are faced with declining revenues and uncertain futures, reach out to the very smart people who have been sidelined and figure out a way you can work together to map out a future that will serve everyone’s best interests and get the ball rolling again.

Razorfish and Crispin Porter & Bugusky Layoffs, When Strong Reputations are no long enough

I just read a few minutes ago that Razorfish, one of the top digital agencies, and one my company, Ascentium’s, chief competitors, announced layoffs of 70 people. This is hours after I heard about Crispin, Porter, & Bugusky, one of the brightest shining stars in the advertising agency world, and a partner of Ascentium, announced layoffs of 60 people this morning. Both companies are considered at the top of the industry. Both excel at creative ideas, well-executed and yet both are taking pretty big hits on the same day. And personally, I know people at both companies from our work together at Microsoft. So what does this mean?

The deep answer is I don’t know yet, but it will make me take a look in the mirror and make sure I’m doing everything at my company so that we don’t suffer the same fate. However the more immediate answer is that this sends a clear signal about the progression of this economic downturn. When good companies make cuts, it’s a sure sign that even in the new digital world of marketing, most of the fat must already be gone, because the industry is cutting into the muscle.
My heart goes out to everyone at these two organizations who is out of a job. They say it’s not personal, it’s just business, but having personally been on both sides of the axe. It’s a lot more personal if you’re the one without a job. Good luck to everyone and let’s hope for the change sooner rather than later.

Microsoft, it’s not about layoffs, it’s communication

With all the buzz and rumors about layoffs at Microsoft, most of the pundits are missing the point.  Yesterday President Obama said about government, “it’s not how big or small that matters, it how it works.”  The same idea applies for Microsoft.  It’s not about how many employees they have, it’s about how well they work together and what they produce.

Microsoft is one of the great companies of our age.  Despite all the naysayers, I know that if it wasn’t for Microsoft, we probably all wouldn’t be tapping away on our keyboards and instantly being a part of a new global community.  The same can be said for Google, Apple and the many other game changing enterprises that have created the Web2.0 world we live in.

But, it’s also been said the Microsoft has lost its groove (although actually, Groove is a great product).  Next generations of its flagship products come out slower than expected and without any new “killer apps” in the features.   Again, the same can be said for most of the others.  Apple is an example of brand and aesthetics, not technology and Google is worth what it is because it’s replacing the TV set as the place to see commercials (which they call search results, but they ultimately are still ads).

So what is Microsoft’s real problem?  Instead of selling a hundred projects in various suites, bundles or packages and marketing each separately, they need to get very focused on what they actually are.  And to my mind, what Microsoft actually is, is a communications company.

We use Word to communicate via the written word.  We use Excel to communicate numbers.  We use SharePoint to communicate among ourselves.  We use Atlas to communicate to complete strangers and we use Windows to communicate with our technology.  And since communication is the key to commerce, education and perhaps world peace, Microsoft should lift itself to the same level of Bill Gates’, Gates Foundation, by trying to ensure that each individual life has equal worth.  By facilitating communication, Microsoft can approach the same goal.

So forget about layoffs or re-organizations.  Focus on what really matters, what Microsoft is delivering to the world around us.  Let us all communicate.