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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall

It's better to
do a few things
really well than
than to do
a lot of things
If you can't
make the necessary
commitments of
time and energy
to your
scale back
your plan.
John Sumser

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Materials written
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© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

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  • Video Update

    (May 07, 1999) We've been plowing ahead with our video experiments. The offices now include an array of digital video cameras, a couple of video editing work stations and lots of new software. We've investigated a variety of forms of videoconferencing.

    SearchLinc, the company we mentioned a few weeks ago seems like a possible winner. Although we have not had the chance to experience their installation and customer support processes, the technology is real and the price point is interesting. Essentially, they are building a business model that resembles the cell phone industry. They give you the equipment, you guarantee $3,000 in usage per month. With interviewing sites scheduled for all of the North American (and some global) Radisson hotels (and a hotel rate of $150/hr), the numbers make sense for large staffing operations.

    We're having less luck with our trusty Connectix Camcorders. At local phone speeds, they are relatively useless for videoconferencing (although they may be useful in some corporate/mid-size company settings). We can still imagine that a video taped screening process utilizing these inexpensive little wonders. NetMeeting, Microsoft's conference product, has a way to go before it is reliable in public. It does, we've discovered, make economic sense to give away these $100 items as a way of building a relationship. You just have to get used to video that looks like it was shot on the space shuttle.

    More complex video production is another thing entirely. Editing an hours worth of video is similar, in scope, to editing a 110,000 page book. Each frame of a video (30 per second) can be sliced, diced, polished, distorted and tweaked. Video capture, vastly improved through the use of digital film and Sony's i-link system, is a laborious and error prone process. Capturing the video onto a computer for editing is the foundation of everything else. Once finished with the time consuming capture process, editing is the next step.

    Adobe's Premiere stands head and shoulders above other video editing tools. It offers a broad range of flexibility. The only shortcoming we've discovered is that the tools required to make video ready for the web is not included in the basic package. Called "video compression" or media cleaning software, the additional licenses can easily quadruple the cost of Premiere (about $500)). With each additional piece of software comes another layer of complexity.

    Our conclusions at this point are that video is not quite ready for prime time. It's coming and it's coming fast. But, today's tools require full time professionals. The learning curve involved in delivering video from your office is staggering. We're hoping that our complaints are just symptoms of the steep learning curve and will keep you posted.

    In the meantime, if you want to include video in your Recruiting operation, try SearchLinc. It's a cost saver if you pay travel expenses for more than 10 interviews a month.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    What's It All About, Ralfie?

    (May 06, 1999) We don't pander (at least not very often).In moments of humility, we see our mistakes and move to fix them. In more megalomaniacal moments, we imagine that we're at the forefront of a new way of doing business. We live for the days when inspiration drives the analysis. We deliver on the days that it does and the days that it doesn't.

    We experiment, about ten steps in front of everyone else, and report the results. We don't recommend things we haven't screwed up a couple of times. It's at the heart of our business model which is less about traditional reporting than it is about journaling our laboratory results. Like early explorers, we send back reports about what we see and hear.

    Journalism, in its ungainly post-Watergate puritan form, is one of the first casualties of the web. A generation of pretending that broadcast opinion is somehow bias free is disintegrating in the face of a mosaic of opinion. The question in web journalism is "Who helps you most?" It's not "Who is right?" Anyone who claims a permanent handle on the truth is liable to be suffering from a Prozac overdose.

    We passionately believe that the web fosters a climate in which real organizational change is possible. The technology offers a radical form of decentralized decision making. It represents, in our way of thinking, a return to a smaller way of doing things. It's simply impossible to have a secretary do your email for you. The imperial baggage of industrial forms of management fall apart when exposed to an environment that allows a junior employee to communicate directly and intimately with the CEO. Webmasters and CIOs have developed an extraordinary organizational influence in a short time.

    In this new environment, thinking for yourself is more important than ever. Our goal is to provoke that thought. Every story is simultaneously about the story itself and some larger issue. We don't work very hard at separating the two. We trust our readers to chew on the ideas we present and draw their own conclusions. There are plenty of places to find predigested pabulum. We prefer to work for the crowd who are busy trying to figure this thing out for themselves.

    This week, we made a couple of mistakes.

    The easiest to correct is the name of the employment service at Dow Jones. It's called We always get it wrong. The venture, led by Tony Lee, is a classic example of how to do it right.

    The other error is somewhat more problematic. Restrac, one of our advertisers, is working hard to overcome its service reputation. They spend more time and energy that any other player in the game measuring and assessing customer satisfaction. They, with some justification, complained about our characterizations earlier this week.

    Apparently, our article spawned a telephone campaign to check on customer satisfaction. According to Restrac, none of the newspapers and job boards who use the Junglee service had any complaints about the work that Restrac does for them. While we can't verify that one way or another, we thought you should know.

    In the same article, we opined harshly about shoddy service and its consequences. While our opinion was directed at the large bulk of suppliers of "one size fits all" solutions, Restrac took offense. We meant to praise CareerCast's business approach and suggest that it is a model worth discovering in your suppliers. We understand that it might have been confusing to a casual reader.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    Tortoise - Hare

    (May 05, 1999) Hectic. Hurried. Urgent. Internet Time. Moore's Law. First Mover Advantage. Market Share Acquisition. Features Rollout. Time to Market. Competitive Advantage. Industry Intelligence.

    It's easy to forget, in the chase for Internet Billions, that business is about producing results for customers. While the high flyers grab the headlines, the tortoises seem to be coming into their own. The relentless pace at the front end of the game is wearing for the players on those teams. Constancy and consistency, the hallmarks of more reliable performers, is beginning to make a difference.

    CareerCast's move into newspaper advertising distribution, as we noted yesterday, is a great example of a modest company focused on the basics. CareerSite, mentioned a week or so ago, devoted its energies to winning a single, large account over a multi year period. Westech (Virtual Job Fair) has patiently built itself into one of the most trafficked sites in the business. Infoworks is quietly building a wide network of delighted customers. ITTA just keeps rolling out features that define the market. Net Temps keeps on delivering. 4Work keeps its head in the clouds. After years of struggle, CareerPath seems to be turning a corner and becoming productive.

    We believe that it's fair to say that none of these companies are trying to be the biggest. With the care of specialty craftspeople, they relentlessly pursue their vision of quality. While the faster paced "hares" sprint into the spotlight claiming impending consolidation and chasing IPO Billions, these more reliable firms simply deliver consistent results with an abiding concern for customer satisfaction.

    Maybe we're overly romantic. Too many years of rooting for the underdog may have addled our brains. But, what we think we're seeing in the second generation of Electronic Recruiting is a flowering in the Tortoise category. After all, do you want to be a part of the success story of the biggest and brightest player? Or, do you want a smaller company to be at the root of your success?

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    Career Cast Wins A Big One

    (May 04, 1999) Anyone who thinks that near term consolidation is a piece of our Industry's future ought to pay close attention to today's news. As of this morning, CareerCast has taken over as the data-collection service for the Wall Street Journal's employment advertising operation. The account, once a part of Junglee's bright future, was won through a combination of customer service and technical excellence.

    Junglee's Employment Services, as you probably remember, was purchased by Restrac in the late fall of last year. At its core, the Junglee service allowed its customers (who are generally newspapers and large employment websites) to offer "do nothing recruiting". In other words, the Junglee service allowed large employment websites to "spider" content from their customers. All that an employer had to do, in theory, was to post job openings on the company website and Junglee would take care of the distribution details. The theory is fantastic, allowing recruiters to focus on recruiting, not on learning the details of posting to a variety of sites. Unfortunately, Junglee was more hype than reality.

    Over the months since the Restrac acquisition, we've heard increasingly loud complaints from customers. In order to deliver on the promise of their Junglee relationship, job boards and newspapers have been forced to set up internal shops that accomplished the work that Junglee left undone. To say that the customer base is unhappy is to seriously understate the circumstances. The Wall Street Journal account, and its win by CareerCast is just the first in a series of dominoes.

    Much is made of the "first mover" advantage in our marketplace. The theory goes that the first company to the market has an unquestionable and enduring edge, over time. Simply being first, it seems, is considered a guarantee of long term success. While this may make good copy in annual reports or as a pitch to investment bankers, the truth is that our customers depend on a constant stream of useful results. Services that increase costs by delivering shoddy quality are always easy prey for smaller and more nimble competitors. Integrating pieces or acquiring first movers is a recipe for success only when there is a constant and visible commitment to delivering quality results and focusing on customer service.

    CareerCast bears a close look. As a company, the culture is built on delivering the feeling that each customer is the most important. The technical team is committed to delivering increasingly simple interfaces that generate increasingly powerful results. If there is a quality problem, you can bet that you'll find Rick Miller (the company's CEO) working late that night to fix it. CareerCast embodies the strengths and agility of a "from-scratch" web enterprise. The management is low key and involved. A customer problem is the concern of everyone in the company. It's easy to reach Rick by phone.

    This direct customer service model is hard for an older company to mimic. It's hard for an engineering oriented company to get right. It's not a part of an acquisition strategy. Rather, the CareerCast model assumes that the kind of intimacy that the web fosters is a necessary component of a web business.

    Were we the owners of any of the large companies who are entering the market (or any of the established forms making an IPO play), we'd think very, very carefully about today's win by CareerCast. It's a real recognition that quality and focused customer service make the ultimate difference in the marketplace. Size may matter. But as Maria Muldaur was fond of saying in the 70s, "It ain't the meat, it's the motion".

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    IPO Fever Strikes Again

    (May 03, 1999) There's a new interface for reviewing IPOs on Edgar (the SEC database). Take a look at CareerBuilder's IPO (filed in early March) for example. Available at, the service cuts directly to the meat of IPO filings.

    For instance, without wading through reams of data, it's easy to discover that CareerBuilder had a loss of $13M on $7M of revenue during 1998. Each of their 550 customers produced an average annual stream of nearly $13K. While that's nearly double the industry average, the fundamentals mean that CareerBuilder has to find an additional 1100 accounts of that size (with no additional staffing) just to break even.

    The IPO trumpets the CareerBuilder Network (18 media properties running a Career Builder job board). The company's other major asset is its alliance with ADP (including an ADP manager on the board of Directors). While both of these facets of the business are interesting, we're about to see major turmoil in the structure of online relationships.

    If you think an offering from CareerBuilder is a bit of a stretch, how about one from Top Jobs on the Net (a UK firm). With losses of $5.3M on revenues of $1.7M, they must be betting that being good at losing money is a recipe for Internet riches.

    Meanwhile, Technisource, a non-internet Recruiting Firm, has announced its intention to go public. Technisource places "consultants" in IT positions. With over $22M in revenue, the company forecasts a post-tax profit of 3%.

    As a way of demonstrating the current potential of staffing industry stocks, both Heidrik and Struggles and Korn Ferry have languished near their opening prices. It's not a good time for stock offerings in our business. What's most interesting to us is the fact that the really interesting companies in our space are in no danger of moving out to the market any time soon.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    What's Up?

    (Spring, 1999) If you look back at the top of this page, you'll notice a couple of little changes. Our March '99 print newsletter is now available for downloading. The print newsletter has an interesting circulation and tends to get passed around a wide variety of offices. This issue features a detailed look at one company's complex web strategy and the person behind it. It also covers some useful sites, a range of people finding tools, marketing tips, our current Top 100 Recruiting sites, and the usual tidbits.

    Along the road to publishing this edition of the print newsletter, we've undergone some changes here at IBN.

    After two solid years of bouncing around the North American continent delivering classroom seminars, a couple of simple things dawned on us. First of all, it became increasingly clear that many job boards were going to be delivering free seminars as a part of their marketing strategy. It's a natural and important evolution. Internet Recruiting tools currently require a heavy dose of education before customers can effectively use them. Secondly, it became clear to us that classrooms are not effective in delivering the sorts of advanced techniques that we've pioneered.

    As a result, we've split our training product line into two separate components. For the past couple of months, you've probably noticed the piece at the bottom of this page offering our onsite individualized training. By focusing on the specific needs of a specific company, we've been able to leave our customers glowing, effective and ready to move full tilt into the online recruiting game. We're convinced that this customized approach is a necessary part of building a solid online recruiting team. With a dozen, of these engagements under our belts, we can assure you that our customers end up extremely satisfied.

    In the print newsletter, we're announcing the second part of our training initiative. Seminar In A Box, our CD based training program, will begin shipping on June 1, 1999. The idea is simple. Rather than taking a full day out of the workplace to digest relatively foreign ideas, we're building a day long training program that can be constantly reviewed by all of the people in an office. The courseware is built around our day long Advanced Searching and Sourcing Techniques seminar and includes video, text, testing and a completion certificate.

    We are convinced that solid Electronic Recruiting can only happen in a work environment that shares a base level of competence. With a CD based training program, the workforce can be trained during slack hours. Because the material is reusable and repeatable, it's now possible to create a solid foundation of expertise within a company. We're proud of the fact that we're the first (as usual) to use the technology to reduce costs, increase benefits and further expand the capabilities of our customers.

    We're offering the course at $295 for prepublication orders (through June 1, 1999). After that point, the package will sell for $395. Given the fact that similar seminars, held in hotel classrooms away from the workplace, retail for $995 per person (and more), we're sure that you'll agree that the offering is a bargain.

    You can learn more about Seminar in a Box and get a copy of the order form by downloading the print newsletter. It's a great way to bring your entire office up the learning curve.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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