Called a "leadership and learning conference," the 2007 Outdoor Industry Rendezvous, hosted by Outdoor Industry Association in Vancouver, Wash., was per tradition filled with breakout sessions hitting the year's top-of-mind topics, including sustainability and improving corporate practices.
"The educational seminar topics resonated well with me as a retailer and person involved in this industry as a whole," said Jennifer Mull, president of retailer Backwoods.
Continuing our coverage of the Rendezvous, here is the first part of two parts of select SNEWS® summaries, this one recounting four of the 12 breakout sessions: the future of employee recruitment, protecting your brand from trademark counterfeiting, hiring in alignment with corporate culture, and finding your inner CEO:
>> The Future of Hiring: Five Ways to Enhance the Sustainability of Your Recruiting Function
Roy Notowitz, Generator Group
How does a company consistently hire good people and hold on to them? It creates a sustainable recruiting system by communicating its "employment brand," leading to the development of its talent ecosystem. It sounds esoteric, but the Generator Group's Roy Notowitz used these terms to explain how to build these systems and put them to use.
When it takes 345 leads to generate one hire, there needs to be an effective system for finding and selecting talent. Believe it or not, Notowitz follows a similar model used by the American Idol TV show:
• Cast a wide net.
• Use a consistent selection process.
• Utilize multiple judges that are experts in their fields.
• Know what to look for.
• Provide second chances. A bad audition does not necessarily mean a bad performance.
• Employ the feedback of outside evaluators.
• Realize that two of four contestants make up for a lack of raw talent with drive, attitude, effort and adaptability.
Employing this model requires creativity to cast that wide net and execute effective hiring systems. Thinking globally, utilizing web tools, developing meaningful relationships, fostering your employment brand equity, and being a steward of your "talent ecosystem," as Notowitz calls it, are the steps to building sustainable hiring practices.
Thinking globally: Seek out what Notowitz calls global talent clusters. These are regions with dense populations of specific talents. Silicone Valley was quickly cited as an example, as were Portland and Seattle for an outdoor-specific cluster.
Web tools: Notowitz said 2007 is the age of virtual recruiting and his company uses 20 different websites to cast its nets, including Linked In, Quiet Agent, Jobster, Facebook and MySpace. There are also virtual markets on the web, which include various blogs, Jigsaw and SNEWS®. He sees a near future of virtual job fairs with avatars meeting avatars on 3-D websites such as Second Life. Build a career website for your business, one that goes beyond mere job postings.
Develop meaningful relationships: Networking is the most effective way to build relationships, so look for connectors and reach out to targeted contacts. Search firms, niche job boards and your company's website will also build this pool. Instituting a program rewarding employees for referrals is an effective way to attract talent that fits your company.
Build your employment brand equity: Your employment brand is not exactly the brand your company puts out to consumers, but it does need to reflect it and convey your corporate culture. By finding and communicating what Notowitz calls "your inner-ness, your vibe," you create a situation that draws and eliminates candidates because they can determine whether or not the "ness" is right for them.
Talent eco-system stewardship: Realize that recruiting continues even after the hire. Like any ecosystem, drawing and keeping talent depends on company stewardship -- attention to all of the components noted above. With awareness, there will be balance and the system will begin to sustain itself by eliminating brain drain and attracting more talent.
>> Keeping it Real – Protecting Your Brand from Trademark Counterfeiting
Andrea Anderson and David Glynn, Holland & Hart
The $20 Rolex bought on a street corner, the cheap Callaway golf clubs found on eBay, and pirated DVDs and CDs -- all are examples of trademark counterfeiting. According to Andrea Anderson, the outdoor industry is the next target, adding, "It will hit everyone in this room in one way or another."
Not to be confused with trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting is "the intentional duplication of a product down to its brand name."
Estimates put the amount of counterfeited goods sold worldwide as high as $600 billion, representing about 5 percent to 7 percent of all world trade. The figure is rising and the fakes are improving all the time.
China represents 81 percent of the problem -- although, Anderson noted, this number may be inflated due to the intense focus on it as a source of counterfeited goods. Hong Kong accounts for 6 percent of the goods, and other regions are beginning to increase. Plus, new players -- including Russia, Nigeria, Egypt, India and Mexico -- are popping up.
Why the boom? Globalization has helped spur the production of counterfeited products, so it pays to know your overseas manufacturers. "We gave them the technology," Anderson said. Factories will run a third shift to create intentional overruns they will sell on the open market. The rise of the Internet as a marketplace and resource center, especially international trade sites such as Tradekey.com and Alibaba.com, provide the distribution.
eBay is the "single largest venue for counterfeit sales in the United States," according to Anderson. To thwart counterfeiting, monitor eBay and international trade sites. If you see counterfeits, contact the sites, have them remove the products and shut down the auction, then get the data to trace the counterfeits to the source.
The problem goes beyond finished goods. There is a thriving counterfeit component market. Bogus YKK zippers, for example, have ended up in legitimate finished goods. These counterfeit components diminish overall quality, hurt consumer confidence and cut into profits.
Practical and legal measures exist to thwart counterfeiters. Contract factories represent the greatest threat. Get a tightly drafted agreement and examine it carefully. Anderson and Glynn suggested the following protection measures when working with factories:
• Make it clear that you own the intellectual property (IP) and not the contractor.
• Set limits on the contractor's right to use the IP.
• Set a termination date after which they cannot use the IP at all.
• Request contractors source directly from component manufacturers.
• Centralize your distribution.
• And remember the words of Ronald Reagan: "Trust but verify."
Unfortunately, product markers have mixed success. Holograms are inexpensive, but easy to duplicate. Embedded fibers and RFID systems are effective, but costly. Intentional flaws, i.e. hidden cosmetic anomalies purposefully built into products, are relatively inexpensive, easy to execute and effective.
Register your trademarks in the United States, every country in which you manufacture, and any country in which you plan to sell in the next five to six years. Then record your trademarks with U.S. and foreign customs officials. If you are a small company with limited legal dollars, Anderson said clearly: Register in China before you register anywhere else. Including in the United States.
Glynn reassured the group that the government is taking counterfeiting as seriously as a threat to the U.S. economy and security. According to the Department of Homeland Security, seizures of counterfeit goods were up 87 percent in 2006. Arrests are being made, as are convictions. But the U.S. Government Accountability Office sees a less rosy picture. Glynn pointed out, "Customs helps but does not solve the problem."
>> Hiring in Alignment with Corporate Culture
Enrique Washington, Generator Group; Steven Hunt, Kronos Talent Management; Trever Cartwright, Coraggio Group
Kicking off the panel discussion, Generator Group's Enrique Washington offered a brief overview of organizational culture and these two thoughts: "People succeed or fail not because of their technical capabilities, but because of how well they integrate." And, "Good culture overcomes bad managing." He then passed the torch to Kronos Talent Management's Steven Hunt who outlined three steps to determining and utilizing corporate culture to find hires that integrate and fit the culture:
1. Define your culture: Hunt uses a simple tool to start the path of cultural definition. Take a pencil and paper and finish this sentence using three adjectives: "Compared to other companies, we are more ____, ____, ____ and less ____, ____, ____." Take a look at the adjectives and ask, "Why?" By doing this exercise, you will learn what your company's behaviors are and whether you want to keep and foster them, or jettison them.
2. Communicate your culture: This is your employer branding, which is not to be confused with brand marketing. Employer branding focus on these questions:
• How do candidates hear about you?
• Are you reaching the right people?
• Are your candidates your customers? Should they be?
• Does your employer brand reflect your corporate culture?
Knowing where you stand with these questions will help you determine the values you want to communicate. Hunt utilized website hiring pages from Chaco, Timberland and Nau to illustrate effective employer communication. Each site has a specific feel, a call to action, use of imagery (or lack thereof in Nau's case) and verbiage that reflects its corporate culture and employment brand. By effectively communicating who they are, the companies not only attract the right cultural fit, but also dissuade those that may not work out well.
3. Assess for fit: Now that your culture is working for you, you need to make sure the people you bring in work with it. Hunt said to use a systematic and structured approach with every candidate and to "know what you're looking for."
Trever Cartwright of the Coraggio Group then took the podium and stressed that a company's most valuable asset is "the integrated brand strategy and culture. This includes people." Embrace in-the-box thinking, but only after you have created your own box. "Humans need structure," he said, because without a box, things can get messy.
Now that the brand strategy and culture are aligned, and your box is created, it becomes important to keep the story alive. Cartwright added, "Don't forget where you came from; it keeps you humble." At this point, you begin to fill your culture with people that appreciate accountability and take responsibility. All must be true to the "truth of the culture," he said. This leads to a disciplined, but not stifling, environment where all activities map to the brand, strategy and culture -- and those that do not are jettisoned.
>> The Rise of Your Inner CEO
Dr. Rob Eubanks, Bridge to Solutions
It was conventional wisdom that the four-minute mile could not be run. The human body was not capable of the feat. In 1954, Roger Bannister proved the pundits wrong and defeated the barrier. By doing so, he created a new reality and very quickly the barrier ceased to be.
Speaking to a crowded room, Ron Eubanks started his presentation with this example to point out that barriers and perceptions limit people's ability to perform and impair the rise of what he calls their "inner CEO."
According to Eubanks, awareness and objectivity are two key qualities of the highly successful. They allow one, he said, to "step out of existing beliefs and assumptions and consider another reality." This allows us to create a framework from which to operate, to take us beyond intention and find the "Roger Bannister within each of us."
He provided a concept, a way of looking at things based on what he dubs "You Inc." that consists of three components: the CEO, the manager and the technician. He noted that people tend to get bogged down in technician and manager modes -- answering emails and voice mails, putting out fires, etc. -- and lose time for their CEO's strategic vision. Problems requiring an intellectual response often get reacted to emotionally. This bogs us down and crowds out our time to effectively operate You Inc.
So how can we spend, as he suggested, one-third of our time as that CEO? He offered five steps:
1. Commit – Commit at least 30 minutes a week, making it daily if possible, to "higher order thinking."
2. Create – Visualize your CEO by asking, "What does it take to get my business where I want to go?" and then create an agenda based on the answers.
3. Eliminate distractions – Take control of your environment and set boundaries with others so that you rid yourself of distractions.
4. Get clear – Improved clarity leads to heightened creativity.
5. Add support and accountability – Share your goals and create peer groups to help keep you focused and honest.
Executing these steps is not easy, he said. But with patience and persistence, they can become habit. As Eubanks suggested, "Be relentless."