Monthly Archives: July 2009

UniFlame understands the value of customer experience

As a former technical writer, it’s always disappointing to see the sad state of virtually any kind of instruction manual or guide. These documents are literally afterthoughts, included I’m sure, simply because laws require assembly instructions or usage manuals.

In fact, too often with goods made in non-English speaking countries, you end with documents like this.

So, when I come across a set of instructions that is clear, unambiguous and easy to understand, it’s worth a positive shout out.

Recently, I bought a rather inexpensive charcoal grill. It looks like this grill to the right.

Nothing fancy. It’s not from a major name brand. But whomever created the assembly instructions knew what they were doing.

First, here is a shot of the COMPLETE assembly instructions


(click image to enlarge)

What’s great about this?

  • 8 simple panels, shown clearly on a 2 page spread
  • All parts clearly drawn and all assembly pieces identified and labeled with a letter
  • Minimal text to read and (mis)interpret – i.e. no tab A in slot B silliness

Yes, this particular photo shows the French instructions (it came with similar English instructions as well), but to be honest, the words could have been in any language and it wouldn’t have affected the clarity of the diagrams.

Here’s a close up look at one of the panels.


(click image to enlarge)

Note the letters associated with each of the 4 items in the diagram (bolt, 2 different washers, and a nut). Why is this important. Well take a look at the next two pictures.


(click image to enlarge)

Every item required for assembly is clearly packed and labeled (!!!) for easy access and identification. How easy? Notice that items B, G, K, F (used in the 2nd image above) are actually packaged together in the picture!

They could have just put everything into little plastic bags, tossed them into the box,  and let me figure out what was what, like many manufacturers do. But someone (I don’t know if Uniflame has Product Managers) decided that would not be acceptable. And on top of that, they included the tools I’d needed — screwdriver and small wrench — to put everything together.

But that’s not all. Whomever designed this little package of assembly parts, went one step further. Here’s the back of the package.


(click image to enlarge)

Yup. The letters are also printed on the back. So why is this important? Because the back is where someone assembling the barbecue is going to access the parts. Note the serrations in the cardboard.

Someone actually thought through this little detail and decided to print the part letters on the back and serrate it for easy access. And believe me, it saved me a lot of flipping the package over and back to figure out where the parts were that I needed.

Now, this is not a complicated grill to put together. It could be done with poor instructions, but it does say to me that someone at Uniflame actually cares about customer experience.  None of the points listed above are big things, nor are they costly to implement, but in most cases, companies bypass the extra effort altogether, looking at them as expenses and not as value-add.

And because UniFlame chose the latter, I’m telling all of you.  So, if any of you are  looking for a good charcoal grill, go and get this one from your local retailer. It’s about 1/2 the price of the comparable big name brand, and it works really well.

So, hats off to you Uniflame. You’ve impressed one product geek enough that he decided to let a lot of other people know.


Upcoming ProductCamps

ProductCamp New York was last weekend and it appears to have been quite successful. Alan attended and wrote up this post about it.

If you missed the New York session and want another chance to attend one, there are 4 5 more in the works in the coming months, starting with ProductCamp Austin in only a few weeks.

ProductCamp Austin
Date: Saturday August 15, 2009
Location: The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, Austin
More details: click here.

Followed by one in September.

ProductCamp RTP2
Date: Saturday September 26, 2009
Location: Cambria Suites, Raleigh-Durham Airport
More details. click here.

And 2 ProductCamps in October.

ProductCamp Toronto 2009
Date: Sunday October 4, 2009
Location: Ted Rogers School of Business @ Ryerson University
More details: click here.

ProductCamp Seattle
Date: Saturday October 10, 2009
Location: Amdocs, 2211 Elliott Ave, Seattle WA
More details: click here.

And to round the year off, Boston is holding their camp in November.

ProductCamp Boston
Date: November 7, 2009
Location: Microsoft New England R&D Center, Boston MA
More details: click here.

For information on these events as well as other events relevant to the Product Management, Product Marketing and Product Development communities, check out our Events page. And if you know of an event we should list, let us know in the comments of that page.


pCampNYC: Kudos, controversy, and ideas for future pCamps

Well I have half recovered from PCampNYC. In a sentence: 8am start, an energizing day of meeting, interacting, presenting,facilitating, and … yes, eating. I give huge kidos to the event organizers, especially for the following heroic accomplishments:

  • Keynote by Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO of Kodak. I personally found his talk inspiring. Some notes below. Congratulations to Debra Albert of Sequent Learning for scoring his speech.
  • Excellent Venue – the Down Town Association. Very old school club. For example, the mens’ washroom was about the size of your average restaurant in NYC, while the womens’ washroom (so I hear) was a single stall. I imagined I could still smell the pipe and cigar smoke.
  • Unconference done professionally: This team was very well organized. They had done their homework by talking to previous pCamp organizers.
  • 150 attendees: For an 8am on a Saturday in mid July, the turnout was great.
  • Great sessions. My personal favorite was Rich Mironov’s session on how Agile impacts Product Management. However there were several great looking topics that I check out to, but simply couldn’t because I was presenting or facilitating.
  • Lots of time and space for networking and digging into individual conversations
  • Drinks post conference.

Congratulations guys… well done. I give a lot of credit to Steven Haines and his team at Sequent Learning. As Hayzlett preached, they became “part of the story”, which helps their company without directly advertising. And they provided real value to an engaged group of people.


I was glad to hear that not everyone agreed with me about the points above, and had some interesting discussion/debate about certain aspects of the conference:

  • Structure vs. UNstructure: I heard the desire from a few people to have even less presentation material and more facilitated discussion. One of my fellow panelists in a session on innovation mentioned this desire. So we adjusted mid-stream in that session and turned it into a full-blown discussion. We solicited questions and issues from the audience, and tackled the topics together. There wasn’t really a defined “panel” or “audience” anymore, just a facilitated discussion among many smart people.
  • Keynote Content vs. Inspiration: IMO the keynote was awesome. Jeff Hayzlett was like a mix of Bill Clinton (ability to connect) and Lewis Black (dark humor and willing to say it). At dinner in the evening, we had a table-wide debate about the keynote. Several people said they found his talk to be “content-free”. Too oriented to PR. Too much about him and his ego. I disagreed and will write up what I took away from his talk.

Take-aways for future:

  • Always UNremember the UNconference UNstructure: We product and marketing types are used to actual conferences. We have to continually work at “UN”conferencing the conference. I thought pCampNYC did well at that. I heard others pushing for even less structure.
  • Forget great presenters: get great Facilitators! If you remove structure, you need GREAT facilitators. Group discussions without facilitation can be frustrating and lead nowhere. Great facilitators know how to set up the discussion, when to shift the topic, how to limit dominators, and when to get out of the way.
  • Keynote speaker matters: For me, the keynote speaker got things fired up. He was irreverant and high-profile. The stuff he talked about was larger than most people have dealt with before, but perhaps because Kodak is so visible as a company, I could relate.
  • Wifi and Twitter Tags: I was surprised that the twitter traffic was fairly low at the event. The organizers could have leveraged twitter. For example, if you are bored in a session but not ready to walk yet, check in on what’s going on in other rooms by checking the event feed … if others are tweeting, go find a session that sounds more interesting.
  • Session pitches: Word was that pCampNYC organizers heard from other pCamp organizers to NOT have session pitches… they drag out and consume valuable time. On the other hand, I am sure I missed some great sessions and presenters/facilitators because their topic wasn’t catchy enough. I also found myself in rooms with catchy title where the session leader was less than I expected. My advice: Have session pitches, but enforce a strict 30- or 60-second pitch policy. This would keep the time low but give people a sense of the session leader and the topic.
  • Food matters: Feed people and they will be happy.
  • Start time: This event started at 8am. Initially I found that to be rude. Some people were forced to come in from the suburbs on a 6:45am train. Ouch! However we had a lot of time for the event … so the early start had some advantages. In retrospect I’m mixed about start time, but I will confess that I was cursing all night Friday, and then moreso when my alarm went off Saturday morning. Maybe that’s why I liked Hayzlett so much … he cheered me up. I didn’t want content at that point … I wanted to wake up.
  • Cash bar after the event. ‘Nuff said.

OK Folks. I’m only in the city for about 6 more hours, so I’m going to get out and absorb some culture. I will write about some of the sessions in the next few days.

- Alan

Announcing ProductCamp Toronto 2009

The time and place for the next ProductCamp Toronto has been set.

It’s Sunday October 4, 2009 @ the Ted Rogers School of Business at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto.

This is the same location as the very successful first Product Camp in November of last year.

It’s a chance to come and meet, brainstorm, learn and network from your peers in a casual and engaging setting.

Here are some links to provide you with more information

We’ll keep you updated as things progress. Look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in October.


OnPM speaking @ pcamp NYC

Hi folks, Alan here. I can’t actually promise that I will be speaking at Product Camp NYC. Why? Because this is an unconference, and the participants will choose the topics and vote with their feet. I love the concept. How many conferences have you attended and wondered why you paid to hear these people speak? In this case, the conference content is determined by those who show up, not conference organizers trying to gauge interest months in advance.

I’ve pasted my abstract below. If you are not attending this event but would like to discuss this topic, please let me know and I will host a webinar in the future.

If you want to check in on what’s happening, there are a few ways to do so:

If you are attending, come find me and say hello.

- Alan

Presentation Abstract

You can’t fix what you don’t understand: A Practical Guide to Win/Loss Interviews

Buyers (wins and losses) hold keys that can help you diagnose and improve many of the most vexing problems in your business. Yet 90% of your peers – and your competitors – ignore this powerful source of market information.

In this session I will present some practical tools that you can use as soon as you return to work. Attendees will determine the specific topics, but I will be ready to discuss practical topics such as:

  • Where to start? How to focus your analysis by picking a high-impact problem to solve. Bigger Deals? Discounting? Competitive Intelligence?
  • Why sales should be banned from win/loss reporting
  • The final answer vs. Replaying the interaction
  • Discounting and Pricing Analysis
  • Selling to the whole buying circle
  • Who cares about Win Analysis?
  • What to do if you are not allowed to call accounts.
  • How to get lost accounts on the phone.
  • How to gain management support.
  • Competitive Intelligence using lost deals

Bring your questions!

Guest Post: Triangle Offense and Scrum Mania

NOTE: The following is a guest post by anonymous blogger GeekMBA360, author of the blog by the same name.  If you feel inspired to write a guest post of your own, click here to find out how to submit it to us.

- – – – – – – – – – – – -
Phil Jackson has won more NBA championships than any other coach in history. He won six championships with the Chicago Bulls, and then won another four championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.

If you’re a basketball fan like myself, you probably know that Phil Jackson utilizes a unique offensive system called the Triangle Offense.

The Triangle Offense has been around for a long time. According to Wikipedia:

“the triangle offense’s most important feature is the sideline triangle created between the center, who stands at the low post; the forward, at the wing, and the guard at the corner. The team’s other guard stands at the top of the key and the weak-side forward is on the weak-side high post — together forming the “two-man game”.

The goal of the offense is to fill those five spots, which creates good spacing between players and allows each one to pass to four teammates. Every pass and cut has a purpose and everything is dictated by the defense.”

I’d like to make a few observations about Phil Jackson’s success and his use of the Triangle Offense.

First, Triangle Offense is neither sufficient nor necessary for winning a championship. It’s true that both the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers had great successes with the system. However, there are also many other teams who had been very successful by employing other offensive systems.

For example, the San Antonio Spurs has won four championships between 1999 and 2007 (the most in the NBA during that period) by having a totally different system. Other championship teams such as the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rocket also had very different offensive systems.

A good team implements whatever system fits it the best. It doesn’t try to impose a system on a group of players.

Second, triangle offense requires the right combination of players. Because it is such a fluid system, it requires the players to be very flexible. For example, the systems prefers a big-man center who can pass the ball well, and a small forward who can defend and shoot the 3-pointer. It’s a complex system. The players must have the patience to learn and practice in order to play effectively in the system.

It’s not a system that could be retrofitted to any team. Some players are simply not good fit for the system.

Third, Triangle Offense requires an excellent personnel manager and a solid X’s & O’s guy. According to this ESPN article:

“Being a great NBA coach is about managing egos, earning your players’ respect, developing team chemistry, making (in-game and off-day) adjustments, and emphasizing the right things. And no one’s ever done all that better than Jackson.”

Phil Jackson has Tex Winter as his assistant coach. Tex Winter literally wrote the textbook on triangle offense, and is an expert in teaching the X’s and O’s of Triangle Offense. Clearly having the right supporting cast is incredibly important.

The relationship to Product Management

Now, let’s move to our professional world of product management and software development.

In the past few years, I think our industry has had a “Scrum mania” — there are armies of consultants and trainers who tout the merits of the Scrum methodology. Company executives send people to get “Scrum Master” training and assume that their products would be shipped on-time.

An example from real life

I worked for a start-up company that provided a hosted data mining product. It had about 30 clients. Each client had a separate instance of the application.

Because of the amount of customization for each client and complexity of the software, it would take a couple of weeks to deploy a new version of the software since the new software had to be tested for each client. The deployment process was a little bit different for each client due to customized settings and configurations.

The development team had been doing a good job. But, one day, the big boss attended a seminar on Scrum. He wanted the company to adopt Scrum methodology. He sent two Program Managers to get certified.

He even brought in a trainer to give all of the developers a one-day Scrum training session. His rationale is that instead of shipping a new release every three months, we’ll get something done and ship product every month.

It was a disaster.

Most developers on the team used to work for large packaged software companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, etc. They were excellent developers who were used to the waterfall development model. And most of them had been working at this start-up for a long time.

They rebelled against the Scrum process. Instead of daily Scrum updates, they’d much prefered spending the time on design and coding. They also hated to update their tasks using the Scrum software.

Because of the complexity of the software, each developer got very little done during each 3-week scrum cycle. And then they have to attend another several hours of scrum planning. It became very inefficient.

The morale was low. Scrum Masters and developers spent hours debating the right way to do Scrum during each Scrum planning session.

You could argue that this company implemented Scrum incorrectly. There is nothing wrong with Scrum itself.

However, I think this is an example of a company that probably should not have implemented Scrum at first place. Just like the Triangle Offense, Scrum is a methodology, a system.

Scrum is neither sufficient nor necessary for running successful software projects.

Scrum requires the right combination of personnel: Developers must buy into the new systems, and be willing to adapt. In this example, the company had a group of very experienced, senior developers who were used to a waterfall development model that had worked well in the past. It was very hard to get their buy-ins, especially given the nature of the products they were building.

Running successful Scrum requires a excellent personnel manager and a solid X’s & O’s guy. In this particular company, the Scrum Masters were well trained. However, the development manager and senior management team didn’t fully understand the cultural and organizational challenges of implementing a new system. And this was what led to the downfall.

Are you thinking about putting a new system in place? Think and plan carefully. You want to put in the best system for your organization. Simply adopting systems used by other organizations won’t work.

GeekMBA360 is a product management executive with over a decade of experience in e-commerce, online advertising and enterprise software. His blog,, offers career insights at the intersection of business and technology. He also publishes the popular Great Depression 2.0 Survival Guide for High Tech Professionals.

Go to school, get an education, create a job!

By Saeed Khan

As my kids are getting older – my eldest is now entering high school – I’m turning into one of those dads who tries to impart wordly advice on them. Most of the time they wonder what planet I’m from.

Often times, I find myself repeating advice my own parents gave to me. It’s an odd feeling because when I first heard those words from my parents, I’m pretty sure I wondered what planet they were from.

Recursion in the real world!

One piece of advice that I’m trying to instill in my kids,  but which is very different than what I was told by my parents, forms the title of this post.

Go to school, get an education, create a job!

The fact that we’re in a recession makes it even more poignant given the layoffs that are happening. The old school way of thinking had a similar phrase, but ended with “get a job” instead of “create a job”. That one word difference is incredibly significant.

Who’s your employer?

The employer-employee relationship has fundamentally changed over the last generation. My father-in-law worked for the same company for almost 25 years before retiring. I know a number of people who were in that same situation. There used to be an unwritten social contract between many companies and their employees.

If you did  your job and did it well, you would be rewarded with regular promotions and pay increases by your employer. Internal politics aside, there were many examples of people who “worked their way” up the ranks to become CXO executives. The current President and CEO of Intel, Paul Otellini is an example of this.

And, for many employees who remained with a company for 20 or 25 years, there was the pension plan. While not a princely sum, the employer had a pension plan that paid out a good supplemental income for a number of years after you left the company.

That scenario is far less common these days.   How many of you reading this expect to work for the same company for 20 or 25 years? How many of you reading this work in a company that actually has a pension plan?

The most recent economic slump has shown that even the (seemingly) mightiest companies are not immune to complete and massive restructuring. i.e. huge layoffs, pay and benefit cuts, plant closures, mergers, bankruptcy protection, and even complete collapse (a la Bear Stearns). And those most impacted are the individual workers who have little say or control over the machinations of the companies they work for.

Self-reliance is on the rise

While the employer-employee relationship has never been a level one, the disruption of tens of millions of people’s lives and incomes because of the mismanagement of a few has shown many people that one of the most important lessons for the next generation is financial and employment self-reliance. Ralph Waldo Emerson would be proud.

When corporations ship jobs (and people) across the globe, or view people as “human capital”, whose interests are they looking out for?

A recent report came out indicating that in the US alone, 6.5 million jobs have been lost in the current economic downturn. That is equal to all jobs created in the US in the last 10 years. As I overheard someone say — we’re employed like it’s 1999!

It’s about creating value

Now there are some clear macro-economic benefits in teaching kids to create jobs instead of getting jobs. If we tell people to get a job, we are teaching them to be consumers and to be dependent on others for their financial livelihood and security.

If we tell people to create a job, they are producers, and think and act very differently. In fact, the supply/demand curve for jobs and employment would shift dramatically if only an additional 5% of people implemented this advice.

And think about the impact that would have on the (un)employment rate! Even if someone only creates a single job for themselves, that has a positive ripple effect in the economy. They are creating value, and that is the key. And while everyone won’t create a job for themselves, those that do will likely (directly or indirectly) create jobs for others as well.

One of the big problems in the most recent economic cycle is that a lot of the “wealth” that people saw, was not from value creation IN the economy, but value extraction FROM the economy. A few got rich by making a lot of other people poor.  There was little actual value creation.  Someone gained because someone else lost. At best it became a zero sum game in many parts of the economy. And we won’t get to the impact of criminals like Bernie Madoff.

There’s a great piece on Paul Graham’s site entitled “How to Make Wealth“. While a lot of it is focused on programmers and the value they can create, Paul makes the following statement midway in the article:

Someone graduating from college thinks, and is told, that he needs to get a job, as if the important thing were becoming a member of an institution. A more direct way to put it would be: you need to start doing something people want. You don’t need to join a company to do that. All a company is is a group of people working together to do something people want. It’s doing something people want that matters, not joining the group.

So there you have it. Paul Graham totally agrees with me! :-)

The times, they are a changin’

We are entering a time where communication channels are almost frictionless. People in distant places can easily coordinate, collaborate and create products or services of real value. Someone in Eastern Russia can set up a service business and have customers in Europe, North America and Asia and never meet or directly speak with those customers.

Technological barriers are dropping. Capital requirements for many businesses are dropping. Supply chains are opening up. Today a 12 year old boy can start an online business and raise millions in VC money.

I hate to sound “old”, but as my kids are growing up, I see a future of great opportunities, if they are equipped to seize them. And I’m going to do my best to help them think and understand the meaning of value creation, about being a producer instead of a consumer, and about creating something instead of simply getting it.

I don’t want to turn my kids into little product managers, but there are certainly a lot of things about Product Management that I know will help my kids as they go forward in their careers. And while this is certainly a personal point of view, I honestly believe that there is tremendous benefit for society if we truly take those words:

Go to school, get an education, create a job

and instill them along with the necessary knowledge and skills into our next generation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing

A mentor of mine used to repeat this line fairly often to me: The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing. The quote comes originally from Stephen Covey.

Like many of Covey’s aphorisms, this one sounds simple, yet is hard to put into practice.

There are (at least) two reasons for this:

  1. You don’t know what your main thing is
  2. Other people drag you in to their main thing

The main thing for Product Management

Product Managers can find it difficult to define their main thing. Is there only one? Some PMs focus on development, and view product requirements as their main thing. Others focus on sales, and view sales support as theirs.

I don’t subscribe to either of these extremes. Yes, at times, we must cater to one department or the other.

But the main thing for a Product Manager on my team breaks down into three categories. It’s my article, so I get to name three main things:

  1. Know thy business: Attending to the health of the product line as a business.
  2. Know thy buyer: Understanding the experience, context, and needs of buyers before, during, and after a purchase.
  3. Now Lead: You must enable and empower others in the company to carry out the detailed tasks.

Yes, R&D needs requirements, and yes, of course, sales people need training. And quite often, you will be the one to provide both.

But if you are doing either of these and cannot tell me how they connect to the main things, we will have a problem. And if others won’t follow your lead, you’re doomed.

Things that distract you from the main things

The problem with the definition above is its breadth. To truly attend to the business and the buyers is a huge job and can lead to burn-out. What’s worse, it you spread yourself too thinly, you will fail at everything rather than succeeding at something.

It is crucial, then, that you circumscribe your activities. Put boundaries around what you can do. There are two ways to get distracted:

  1. Corporate work:  Executive off-sites, special projects for the CEO, portfolio reviews, corporate budget meetings.
  2. Line-work: Working the booth at a trade-show, writing copy, detailed requirements or product design, sales calls, product demos.

Which one of these traps do you or your staff fall into? I think it must depend on personality. Some people are more naturally drawn to one or the other.

Keeping the main thing the main thing

Fixing this problem is not easy. Product Management is by its nature a cross-functional job that almost never ends. It will never be easy, but some tips might help:

  1. You need support: You need marcom to write copy. You need creative support. You need a product designer to create detailed requirements. You need a development manager to understand the business to assist you with feature triage.
  2. Let them do their jobs: Perhaps more than anything, you need to let others do their job. You need to lead them, empower them, but stop short of doing their job. You must to allow others to succeed or fail under their own steam. You might imagine that you can do it better than they can do it. But if you do it, you’re missing the main thing.
  3. Narrow the concept of your job: Few companies staff to do Product Management properly. Saeed has argued in the past that you can never have too many product managers. :-)  And while this may be true in theory, few companies invest sufficiently in product management. If this is the case for you, figure out the one or two areas where you need to make an impact. It may be in the product, but it may equally be in sales. It may switch from time to time depending on the cycle you are in. This is very difficult, but try planning things out with your boss.
  4. Organize and staff for effective Product Management: If you are in a position of leadership, your main thing may be to bring the company into line organizationally. To be successful, product management needs design execution, time and money to study buyers, and support from the rest of the organization.

Homework assignment
Questions to consider for you, your team, and individuals on your team:

  1. What is your main thing?
  2. How does your main thing align with my suggestions? (Know the business, Know the buyer, Now Lead.)
  3. What kind of distractions are you prone to? (Corporate work? Line work?) List them. Talk them over with your staff or your management. Make these a point of development for each member of your staff and for yourself.
  4. Do you need to narrow your job? If so, what tactics will you use?
  5. How can you get buy-in to focus on your main thing?

Final remarks
The trouble with the main thing, as with so many other of Stephen Covey’s ideas, is that they require you to ignore, or de-prioritize tasks that would normally give you great satisfaction or immediate praise. You may need to recuse yourself from some Executive Work that strokes your ego. Or you may need to put up with product design that is lower than your own standard.

Whatever your temptation may be, start by knowing that you have it. Decide when to wade in to a distraction … sometimes you must.

Perhaps there is one more main thing: Know thyself. If you know your own temptations, you can start to overcome them.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes.

- Alan

Summer’s here: Do something different

Yes, summer is here, and the vacations are beginning.

Many of your co-workers are using this time to check out of their responsibilities, take a slower pace, to take some time off. Expectations are often lower in the summer, and your boss may also be checking out to some degree.

I am in favor of vacations, and you must take time to relax and be with friends and family.

But you should also use the summer strategically. Deliberately lower expectations of specific deliverables, and work on something for the fall. My suggestion: start a campaign of calling and visiting buyers. Kick off a series of win/loss analysis calls. Design and conduct a customer survey. Set a goal of writing a whitepaper or an ebook.

Use this time to do something different.

Use this time to tee things up for September.

When everyone returns to reality in September, what would really impress your executives or your team? Focus on that and slow-roll other projects.

Oh, and take some time off.

- Alan

PS: If you want some tips on conducting win/loss analysis, here are a couple of articles that will help:

Reference customers for YOU, Inc.

Do you have reference customers?

Think about that question again. I’m not asking about your company. I’m asking about you personally. The next time you are interviewing for a job, I want you to be able to say that your references are at Fortune 500 companies, not just previous employers.

Yes, it is important that previous employers will refer you. But think how valuable it would be to say in your next interviews – right out of the gate – that your references are at Wells Fargo. Or Bank of America. Or AOL. Or Facebook. Or … name your customer.

Imagine that you are hiring, and you interview 5 candidates from a list of 25 resumes. Three of them look about the same, two are marginal but you interview them anyway. In the interview, one of the candidate says that she has 3 customer references. Which person would you hire? The one who talks a good game, or the one with customer references?

Make it a priority to develop reference customers for you personally. Introduce yourself. Make a difference for them. Cultivate the contact. The difference for you at your next job change will be incredible.