Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Describing a Business

I imagine that most people that have started businesses in the past did so without concerning themselves about theories. They just 'knew what to do' in general terms and then worked out the remaining details. Of course some of these businesses floundered or failed but some succeeded and some flourished.

We have now entered an age when more of us seem to have to think of ourselves as small businesses. Whether or not we welcome this is not really important. For a great many of us who are not 'natural' business owners the bigger issue is how we can structure the problem of describing a business that might provide income.

Someone on LinkedIn just asked for a definition of the term business model. I responded with a link to the corresponding wikipedia article from which I have drawn the following paragraph.

Whenever a business is established, it either explicitly or implicitly employs a particular business model that describes the design or architecture of the value creation, delivery, and capture mechanisms employed by the business enterprise. The essence of a business model is that it defines the manner by which the business enterprise delivers value to customers, entices customers to pay for value, and converts those payments to profit: it thus reflects management’s hypothesis about what customers want, how they want it, and how an enterprise can organize to best meet those needs, get paid for doing so, and make a profit.

I am not by any stretch a business person. Perhaps that's why I find this paragraph so useful. For instance, not every new service or gadget that you might invent will lead to a business; it has to match some perceived need for a customer. Or, you may provide great services but if you can't find an effective way of capturing customers for them you will never be paid for them. Or, is there an effective way of making customers pay for what you have done? By using this single paragraph you can verify the principal characteristics of a viable business.

That business might often be just alone you in an economy where permanent jobs are fewer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Laura Penny on North American Education

This is the worst book interview I've ever watched but it's on a topic that's near to my heart so I stayed to the end of it. Laura Penny is a Canadian university academic.

I could not agree with her more that people should avoid getting into careers for any narrow set of reasons such as the current apparent health of part of the job market, especially when there is doubt that they will enjoy those careers, or whether those careers will fit other aspects of their lives, or whether the careers make good use of their available talents and aptitudes.

Since most of us still have to find jobs eventually, however, and most of us would find quite a number of subjects that are taught at university interesting I don't see why a person could not try to choose a subject that would be a best fit for him/herself and also marketable. When Penny says that education in the humanities confers certain skills and abilities how can she know that these are in any sense more valuable than those that could be obtained by study in some other subject?

Let me admit that, if I hadn't been so socially backward, I might have been one of those students who would have asked why I was obliged to study English Literature along with certain other topics. I still question that. A teacher can be sarcastic about the need to study what one does not want to study but I doubt it does any good. We learn best when we are a state of readiness to learn and I'm not happy with Penny's suggestion that you are either ready to learn the 'university way' or you should go to community college. I'd be willing to bet that they're just as prescriptive in general.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Know the Workplace"

By MisterSharp.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Overqualified Employee Might Try Harder

Are we wrong to treat overqualified employees as 'too much of a good thing'?: This article from Occupational Digest mentions that overqualified applicants are often turned down because they would probably become dissatisfied employees. However, there are good psychological reasons to expect them to turn into good performers when they are allowed to use their additional skills. In essence, if such a person understands that over-qualification makes them less desirable in a particular job then they could very well work harder to meet the levels that would be expected from their qualifications and to meet the general performance level of colleagues.

Clearly, as career developers, we can use conversations based on this idea to convince employers to give so-called overqualified candidates more careful consideration.

How Business Execs View Contacts

Contacts and Contracts is a programme in the BBC Radio 4 "The Bottom Line" series. In this one business executives discuss the importance of informal contacts and recommendations from existing staff for recruiting, why it's important to get to know business contacts, how they allocate internships, and various other related matters. Definitely worth hearing for the business person's point of view.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Labour Market Trends: Ontario & Toronto

Sheila Block, Director, Economic Analysis at the Wellesley Institute, gave a talk about this topic today, focusing on where jobs have disappeared from the economy and the people most likely to be obliged to turn to Ontario Works support, namely the people in precarious jobs.