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Debbie McGrath
October 14, 2002) - We often discuss "our industry" as if it were a living, breathing thing that you can touch. From here, it looks like that. From the customer's perspective, it looks like that. It doesn't always feel that way when you are a vendor. When we began our work 10 years ago, we were told "no industry can exist without someone to notice". Since we started, a number of other pundits and organizations have joined us in the process of noticing what's going on.

There seems to be some sort of unwritten rule amongst the various pundits and commentators that they don't talk about each other. They certainly don't point out the strengths of their competitors. That's a shame, really. The industry, which is going to undergo explosive growth over the next several years is constrained by the cliquishness.

We understand, in some ways, that we're a part of the problem. Our mission was never to win friends, only to influence people. We're capable of strong opinion, arrogance, dismissive of fools and prone to thinking that we know where things are headed. In other settings, that's called a 'strong editorial perspective'. In our industry it's called provocative, at best.

Well, we're going to try to do something about the cliquishness. There are some amazing things being done around the industry and we're going to take some time to point them out and praise them.

We wanted to start with Debbie McGrath who may well be our most vocal critic. Debbie, whose Job Fair business was purchased by BrassRing, used the proceeds of that sale to start HR.com. While we think that required registration and bulk email advertising are preventing the firm's growth, there is no denying that Debbie and her team have made a powerful contribution to the ongoing conversation that constitutes our business.

In many ways, HR.com competes with SHRM for readership and involvement. While a stronger anti-SHRM posture would give their marketing more kick, HR.com  has stayed the course, focusing on the production of valuable content on a regular basis. Over time, McGrath and company have built a solid vault of material that contributes massively to the education of our industry members. 

One of the most interesting things about McGrath's operational style is her willingness to field and experiment with new products. Figuring out how to make money in the space while trying to provide perspective is no easy challenge. HR.com  routinely tries things, keeps the ones that work and routinely jettisons the failures. It's the mark of an executive who is familiar with running an innovative business.

Many of the people who pass through our greenhouse also find themselves in the HR.com  offices. While McGrath and her team are more subtle about it, they seem to share our distaste for bad ideas and fools. Debbie is far more comfortable than we are at balancing the needs of the audience and the advertisers.

Beginning January 1, 2003, our industry is going to experience an interesting sort of growth. With layoffs in the range of 40% over the past couple of years, we are going to see  a powerful stream of newcomers. HR.com is extremely well positioned to be an educational gateway for those new entrants. A couple of introductory seminars coupled with access to the large inventory of educational material should make her finances move to strong profitability in the coming years.

Part of the reason that our industry is strong is as simple as the hard work done by the McGrath troops. If you haven't visited HR.com  recently, take a look.

-John Sumser

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