@ Clayton Kendall for a day

I’d like to thank the good folks at Clayton Kendall, who had me in for a “work-for-a-day” kind of second interview. I’ve applied for an Email Marketing Manager position with them, and I was one of three candidates to be invited back for a day. I was given several “tasks” to do, which involved providing some marketing strategies and other written tests. I think I did well.

I’ll let you know!

@johnbugay

Out of a corner: “Learning a lot”

Jim Fixx's Second Book of Running
Getting out of a corner
I used to be a runner. I don’t run anymore, but I still walk, because I’m a lot heavier now than I was when I was 20. I’ve still got good, pain-free knees, and I’d like to try to keep them that way. But one part of my methodology seems to be the same now as it was then: whenever I wanted to learn how to do something, I bought a book about it.

That’s how it worked when I started running. I wanted to know “the right way” to do things.

Back then, there was a “Complete Book of Running”, by a writer named Jim Fixx. As the graphic nearby shows, Fixx then went on to write a “Second Book of Running”. Here’s the problem, though, as he stated it. If you’re going to write a “complete book” of something, there ought not to be a need for a “second book”. Thus, his foreword carried the title “Out of a Corner”.

He needed to explain the need for this second book in the light of his first. That’s how it worked then, and that’s how it works now. I need to explain my way out of a corner.

One of the first things I did, upon entering the ranks of the “available” (in a business sense), was to start a blog, “Learning Eloqua”. After all, that’s what I do. In another part of my world, I’m a team-member of a highly-regarded and widely-read theology blog, Triablogue. I’m accustomed to waking up at 3:00 AM and pumping out a fully-developed, well-thought-out blog article by 4:30 AM.

But in the process of “Learning Eloqua”, I stumbled upon (can’t get away from it) a lot of other things that I needed to learn. I stumbled upon Twitter, and through Twitter, I have been tripping over things left and right.

One of my deepest sorrows (in a business sense) is that, by the time I figured out that I needed an Eloqua certification, I was no longer in a position to get one. So it was to my great joy that a similar kind of certification, a HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification was available for free through Hubspot’s website. (HT: Brenda Stoltz at Ariad Partners).

Now, in this case, “free” doesn’t mean “cheap”. There are nine hour-long video lessons, and a 50-question test (which I have not yet attempted) in order to become certified.

So far, I’ve been able to bring myself up-to-date with web (keyword) optimization, blogging (in a business sense), and as I write this, “social media”. On tap are “content with a purpose”, “the anatomy of a landing page”, “the conversion process”, “closing” and “cultivating delighted customers”.

Looking at Eloqua’s Topliners community, I can still see that there are many gaps in what I (and apparently many others) still need to know. But I’m nudging things forward.

The bottom line is, I’m still “Learning Eloqua”, and I still hope to work with that blog. Lord willing, I’ll have an opportunity to work for an Eloqua-using company, on an Eloqua-using team. But if not, wherever I go will find me “learning a lot”, in a mode of continuous improvement.

Back when I was learning to run, there were a couple of “running” songs that would go through my mind. “Running on Empty” and “Running Against the Wind”. Sometimes it still seems like that. Some things don’t change.

Keep on moving forward, in spite of the obstacles.

Moments we’ve been waiting for

While we’ve been seeing some signals that the economy is trending upward, I think there were some bigger signs that the economic growth is gaining enough traction to be able to sustain a period of growth and employment.

The first, last week, was the passage by the Senate, of the “health care bill.” While many small business owners were not in favor of that particular bill, the mere passage of it means that there are some contours beyond which the bill will not go — and that affords stability to the business climate.

The second, of course, came in the form of reports that Christmas shopping sales were higher than expected.

A late boost from procrastinating consumers and an extra day of shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas increased total retail sales, excluding automobiles and gas, 3.6% over the year-earlier period through Christmas Eve, according to MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse unit.

It seems to me that “retail is the new heavy industry.” That is, whereas some writers have lamented that the US has lost its “manufacturing base,” the new and genuine symbol of the economy is retail, where money and goods change hands. (And “goods” now including a lot of things like software — produce them once, distribute them anywhere). Given that retail sales account for 2/3 of the economy, a 3.6% rise is not insignificant in the current climate.

And a third (that I have seen) suggests that corporate optimism was at the highest level in six years.

Britain’s business leaders are more optimistic about the UK economy improving than at any point in the past six years, according to an annual survey of captains of industry. In the yearly Ipsos Mori Captains of Industry poll of 100 company bosses, 36 per cent thought that the economic situation would improve, compared with just 4 per cent last year.

The FT story goes on to suggest that most business leaders think government policies will not be helpful to the economy. But again, even though these policies may not be helpful, folks know what they are, and can plan for them.

These three signs seem to indicate that most people will go into the new year with the expectation of an improving year — that the recession is behind us. There may still be some bumps in the road, and even some significant ones. But on balance, things are moving forward.

U.S. Productivity Leaps

Full article here. (Subscription may be required; let me know if it’s not.)

U.S. productivity staged its biggest gain in nearly six years in the second quarter despite the contraction in the overall economy, suggesting companies have adjusted to the recession by cutting jobs and workers’ hours. … The data help explain why companies have been able to post good earnings figures, having moved quickly to slash jobs and cut costs.

“In short, good macro news, but it reflects painful job losses,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd., said in a note to clients.

Over the long run, productivity is key to improved living standards by spurring rising output, employment, incomes and asset values. While the jump in productivity could suggest that the economy is poised for a strong recovery once it reaches bottom, that could be offset by the negative impact on consumer demand from job losses.

Labor market conditions are expected to remain difficult, though the 247,000 drop in nonfarm payrolls in July was the smallest decline since August 2008. The economy has also shown signs of stabilization, with gross domestic product registering a 1% contraction in the second quarter. …

Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc., said that despite signs of improvement in the economy, the job market will likely remain tight. “Looking ahead, stabilizing output ought to prompt a less aggressive approach to cost-cutting on the labor front, hence a commensurately slower rate of decline in hours worked,” he said in a note. “However, we do expect efforts to boost productivity to continue, and therefore any labor market recovery to be late in arriving and tepid when it does begin.”

Are we in for a robust economy?

Poised for a rapid job rebound?
Poised for a rapid job rebound?

Robust not only in the sense of a growing GDP, but in the sense of rapid job creation? The WSJ’s Outlook column today seems to be projecting that very thing.

“Firms were unusually aggressive in cutting costs and cutting employment,” said James O’Sullivan, an economist with UBS. “The flip side of that remains to be seen, but it could mean that companies will be quicker to bring back people because they were more aggressive about getting rid of them.”

… To be sure, even as more companies begin to hire as the economy recovers, it could take years before payrolls reach their prerecession level. With Americans spending more cautiously in response to the massive losses in wealth associated with this recession, some jobs may simply never come back.

That said, one thing different about this recession — and one more reason the job market may come back more quickly than in the downturns of 2001 and 1990-91 — is that so many of the job losses have been at the service-related companies that have come to dominate U.S employment. Since the recession began, 3.3 million service-sector jobs have been lost, a 2.9% decline that is the largest in data going back to 1939. In comparison, the previous two recessions each saw service-sector jobs fall by 0.5%. …

But the biggest reason jobs might bounce back quicker from this downturn than the past two recessions, said Comerica Bank economist Dana Johnson, is that the economy looks likely to see a much bigger bounce as it recovers.

Gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced by the economy — has fallen by 3.9% since economic output peaked last year, marking the steepest decline since the end of World War II. In contrast, the 2001 and 1990-91 recessions were among the shallowest on record.

History says that given the depth of the downturn, GDP should grow at a 6% to 8% rate over the next year, according to Mr. Johnson. But because of the financial stress that has come with this recession, he expects it will grow at a 4% rate.

Corroborating that notion, the Journal this morning carried stories that car sales have been very strong in both India and China over the last six months. In fact, General Motors set a new monthly sales record in China in July.